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Language and the Theory of the Firm

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  • Jacques Crémer
  • Luis Garicano
  • Andrea Prat

Abstract

We characterize efficient technical languages and study their interaction with the scope and structure of organizations. Efficient languages use precise words for frequent events and vague words for unusual ones. A broader organizational scope allows for more synergies to be captured, but reduces within-unit efficiency, since it requires a more generic language. A manager working as specialized translator may also be used to achieve between-unit coordination while maintaining separate languages. Our theory reconciles two recent well-documented phenomena within organizations: the recent increase in information centralization and the reduction in hierarchical centralization.

Suggested Citation

  • Jacques Crémer & Luis Garicano & Andrea Prat, 2007. "Language and the Theory of the Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(1), pages 373-407.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:122:y:2007:i:1:p:373-407.
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1162/qjec.122.1.373
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Patrick Bolton & Mathias Dewatripont, 1994. "The Firm as a Communication Network," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(4), pages 809-839.
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    7. Jacques Cremer, 1980. "A Partial Theory of the Optimal Organization of a Bureaucracy," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 11(2), pages 683-693, Autumn.
    8. Birger Wernerfelt, 2004. "Organizational Languages," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 13(3), pages 461-472, September.
    9. Luis Garicano, 2000. "Hierarchies and the Organization of Knowledge in Production," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(5), pages 874-904, October.
    10. Radner, Roy, 1993. "The Organization of Decentralized Information Processing," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 61(5), pages 1109-1146, September.
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