Lingua Franca in West Africa? An evaluation of the sociohistorical and metalinguistic evidence
This article investigates the nature of 15th - 18th century Afro-European linguistic contacts on the Lower Guinea Coast of Africa with the aim of establishing whether the Portuguese could have spread the Mediterranean Lingua Franca to Lower Guinea. There is solid evidence that a Portuguese-lexified contact language, referred to as ‘(broken) Portuguese’ and/or ‘Lingua Franca’ in historical sources, was used as a trade pidgin in West Africa until the second half of the 18th century. I will argue that interpreting these terms as referring to two distinct but gradually converging varieties, a locally formed Pidgin Portuguese and an offshoot of the Mediterranean Lingua Franca, is consistent with the historical evidence. The question of gradual structural expansion and creolization of West African Pidgin Portuguese will also be addressed.