What Is A Vernacular Language? How Is It Different From A Lingua Franca?

The term "vernacular language" refers to the native language of a specific language in a specific place.
The term "vernacular language" refers to the native language of a specific language in a specific place.
  • Vernacular language is a native dialect of specific culture or a specific region.
  • It is the everyday language, including slang, that's used by the people.
  • As populations grow and societies become more diverse, languages also keep on evolving.

The word vernacular originates from the Latin word, vernāculus, meaning native or indigenous. Ideally, vernacular is the way ordinary people talk with each other in nonformal settings like at home. A vernacular language (non-standard dialect) is a native dialect or form of speech of specific people or a specific region. These languages are also known as ethnic languages, and they are more spoken than formally written and are endemic in specific societies. During the Roman Empire, non-natives from different parts of the world spoke Latin because they could not learn each of the many languages that the natives spoke in the empire, and therefore, this situation made Latin a lingua franca and all other languages vernacular.

Key Differences Between A Vernacular Language And A Lingua Franca

Unlike vernacular, a lingua franca (vehicular languages) is a language used when people speaking different vernacular dialects want to communicate with each other. This language is also known as a bridge language, ‘language of the Franks,’ common language or a trade language because it provides a way for different ethnicities to communicate. For instance, in a country like Kenya, there are many vernacular languages that people from different ethnic groups use, but English and Swahili represents official third-party languages (a lingua franca) that all ethnic groups use to communicate. The use of a lingua franca to represent a language can be traced to the mid-1600s. The development and spread of a lingua franca provide economic, political, and social communication convenience. Vernacular language usually represents a community’s native language while a lingua franca often has a widespread use, beyond borders of the original community.This spread makes a lingua franca to be used as a second language for cross-cultural communications. However, it is important to note that international constructed languages like Esperanto cannot be classified as a lingua franca because of the limited global adoption.

Spread Of Vernacular Languages

As populations grow and societies become more diverse, languages also keep on evolving. Reformation period Christians played a key role in spreading the use of vernacular languages through translating the Bible from Latin into the then vernacular languages like Dutch, French, Spanish, German, and English among other languages. However, it is important to note that most, if not all, of these languages, are today used as a lingua franca in most parts of the world due to colonization, militarization, and globalization. Galileo Galilei was one of the earliest documented users of vernacular languages when, in the 1600s, he wrote in Italian though Latin was the official language. Isaac Newton, in 1704, wrote Opticks in English, then considered as a vernacular. As people continued to interact in commerce, religion and even conquest, vernacular languages in Europe and other parts of the world spread to different regions and became a Lingua franca while maintaining their ‘vernacular status’ in their home communities.

The Future Of Languages In The World

Currently, there exist two major schools of thought regarding the future of languages. Proponents of the first theory argue in favor of a New World Order using one official global language and a single government system. The second proponents argue for the preservation of language diversity as it is today. As of now, the outcome of this debate can only be correctly predicted through a comprehensive scientific research and analysis.


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