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Language and foreign trade

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  • Melitz, Jacques

Abstract

While language plays an important role in gravity models, there has been little attention to the channels through which a common language promotes bilateral trade. This work proposes separate series for a common language depending upon whether ease of communication facilitates trade through translation or the ability to communicate directly. The series related to direct communication is far more important in explaining bilateral trade, but the other series, based on translation, makes a distinct contribution as well. Either measure of a common language outperforms the measure in popular use, which is implicitly related to translation, and a combination of the two does far better. In addition, the paper examines the effect of two country-specific linguistic influences on trade: Literacy and linguistic diversity at home. Both of these influences promote foreign relative to domestic trade. Finally, the article studies the separate roles of English and network externalities.

Suggested Citation

  • Melitz, Jacques, 2008. "Language and foreign trade," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 52(4), pages 667-699, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:eecrev:v:52:y:2008:i:4:p:667-699
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    JEL classification:

    • F10 - International Economics - - Trade - - - General
    • F40 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - General

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