Since I published the article ‘My adventures in 10 languages‘ nearly a week ago, I received quite a few questions about one of the paragraphs. This mysterious paragraph was written in a constructed language called Lingua Franca Nova, which I would like to write about in this article. So around two years ago, while searching for simple conlangs on the internet, I found an article about LFN and – as I expected – it gained my interest in the language. At this point I began to look through everything related to the subject that I could find on the internet (and surprisingly, there was a wide variety of available materials). Despite my great enthusiasm, it was only last week that I decided to have a go at using the language without being able to speak it. And, believe it or not, it seems to have worked.
When thinking of constructed languages, most people have Esperanto on their mind, possibly Volapük or any of Tolkien’s artlangs. But this is clearly not all you can find. Thousands of slightly bored people, including me, have found joy in the building of their own languages (I will soon publish an article about my project, Neo-Ugric). Lingua Franca Nova was first introduced in 1998 by Dr. C. George Boeree, an American psychologist and professor from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania. Today, it has an incredible number of users, as you may see in its official Yahoo group or on the LFN Wiki. This article would end up being quite lengthy if I went into detail on why LFN is different to most other constructed languages. Therefore, I will only write about the most exciting features of this wonderful creation.
Firstly, anyone who knows at least a bit in one of the Romance languages (such as French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, or even Latin) will find understanding Lingua Franca Nova incredibly simple. It’s vocabulary and grammar are based entirely on those of natural Romance languages, therefore recognising known words should not be a challenge. This characteristic is even more helpful than you would imagine, as LFN is spelt phonetically (using similar rules to Spanish or Romanian). Also, it has a nice melody when pronounced, as opposed to Esperanto.
Secondly, its grammar in unbelievably easy. There’s no such thing as conjugation, so “I go, you go, he go”. Well, for English-speakers this doesn’t mean such a relief, but compare it to “je vais, tu vas, il va, nous allons, vous allez, ils vont” and you will know straight away that LFN is amazing. Oh, and there’s no “he or she” in third person, you only have to remember el for a person and lo for the equivalent of the English ‘it’. One other fact about personal pronouns: there are no subject-object-possessive distinctions, so me (pronounced /mɛ/) could be used for ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘my’, ‘mine’ or ‘to me’ equally. This makes it quite obvious that LFN has a very strict word order, which also implies that there is no need for the annoying accusative suffix. A verb (for instance, ‘to dance’) could be a noun (‘dance’); an adjective (e.g. ‘wise’) could also be a noun (‘the wise one’); and adverbs are indentical to adjectives. We use the suffixes -nte, to make the the active participle of a verb (donante means ‘giving’ or ‘giver’), and -da for the passive participle (donada means ‘given’ or ‘gift’). Placing ia before a verb forms the past tense, va forms the future and ta is often used for conditional. In a nutshell, this is it.
And thirdly, let me tell you a secret. Although my paragraph in the article had quite a few weird mistakes in it due the fact that I was silly enough to write it before I read through the detailed grammar booklet, since then I often have LFN conversations on Facebook and even translate song lyrics into Lingua Franca Nova. I do this without speaking the language, thanks to the searchable dictionary. To show you what I mean, I’ll let you have a look at my translation of the song “La guerra di Piero” by Fabrizio De André – or at least its first two verses:
Su un campo de orzo, enterada, tu resta,
No ave rosa, no violeta,
Ci garda tu per sempre de la ombra,
Ma ave mil papaveras roja.
Longo la riva de la me rieta,
Me vole vide lusios arjento,
Car los nada plu bon a la fondo
Ca soldatas xutada en la testa.
If you speak LFN, please correct my mistakes before I get arrested for publishing fake material on the internet! Or in case you are interested in the Italian and English versions of the song, you’ll find the lyrics here. I’ve just reminded myself that I’ll have to publish a new version of my paragraph in ‘My adventures in 10 languages‘. Anyway, if you are interested in learning the language, I suggest you have a look at the official website or the beginners’ tutorial. Overall, Lingua Franca Nova is – in my view – the simplest stable constructed language. However, this statement is nothing more than my personal opinion. Feel free to prove me wrong if you want to!