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Language and the Theory of the Firm

  • Jacques Cremer
  • 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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Paper provided by UCLA Department of Economics in its series Levine's Bibliography with number 784828000000000373.

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Date of creation: 11 Aug 2006
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Handle: RePEc:cla:levrem:784828000000000373
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  1. Mathias Dewatripont & Patrick Bolton, 1994. "The firm as a communication network," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/9595, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  2. 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.
  3. Van Reenen, John & Caroli, Eve, 2001. "Skill-Biased Organizational Change? Evidence from a panel of British and French establishments," Economics Papers from University Paris Dauphine 123456789/10093, Paris Dauphine University.
  4. Pierpaolo Battigalli & Giovanni Maggi, 2002. "Rigidity, Discretion, and the Costs of Writing Contracts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 798-817, September.
  5. Erik Brynjolfsson & Lorin M. Hitt, 2000. "Beyond Computation: Information Technology, Organizational Transformation and Business Performance," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(4), pages 23-48, Fall.
  6. Luis Garicano & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2005. "Organization and Inequality in a Knowledge Economy," NBER Working Papers 11458, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Raghuram Rajan & Julie Wulf, 2003. "The Flattening Firm: Evidence from Panel Data on the Changing Nature of Corporate Hierarchies," NBER Working Papers 9633, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Wernerfelt, Birger, 2003. "Organizational Languages," Working papers 4278-03, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  11. Radner, Roy, 1993. "The Organization of Decentralized Information Processing," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 61(5), pages 1109-46, September.
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