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Language and the Theory of the Firm

  • Jacques Crémer
  • Luis Garicano
  • Andrea Prat

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. Copyright by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Article provided by MIT Press in its journal The Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 122 (2007)
Issue (Month): 1 (02)
Pages: 373-407

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:qjecon:v:122:y:2007:i:1:p:373-407
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  1. Bolton, Patrick & Dewatripont, Mathias, 1994. "The Firm as a Communication Network," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(4), pages 809-39, November.
  2. Raghuram G. Rajan & Julie Wulf, 2006. "The Flattening Firm: Evidence from Panel Data on the Changing Nature of Corporate Hierarchies," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(4), pages 759-773, November.
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  7. Duncan Simester & Marc Knez, 2002. "Direct and Indirect Bargaining Costs and the Scope of the Firm," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 75(2), pages 283-304, April.
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