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The Economics of "Why is it so hard to save a threatened Language?"

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  • Sperlich, Stefan
  • Uriarte Ayo, José Ramón

Abstract

We study the language choice behavior of bilingual speakers in modern societies, such as the Basque Country, Ireland andWales. These countries have two o cial languages:A, spoken by all, and B, spoken by a minority. We think of the bilinguals in those societies as a population playing repeatedly a Bayesian game in which, they must choose strategically the language, A or B, that might be used in the interaction. The choice has to be made under imperfect information about the linguistic type of the interlocutors. We take the Nash equilibrium of the language use game as a model for real life language choice behavior. It is shown that the predictions made with this model t very well the data about the actual use, contained in the censuses, of Basque, Irish and Welsh languages. Then the question posed by Fishman (2001),which appears in the title, is answered as follows: it is hard, mainly, because bilingual speakers have reached an equilibrium which is evolutionary stable. This means that to solve fast and in a re ex manner their frequent language coordination problem, bilinguals have developed linguistic conventions based chie y on the strategy 'Use the same language as your interlocutor', which weakens the actual use of B.1

Suggested Citation

  • Sperlich, Stefan & Uriarte Ayo, José Ramón, 2014. "The Economics of "Why is it so hard to save a threatened Language?"," IKERLANAK Ikerlanak;2014-77, Universidad del País Vasco - Departamento de Fundamentos del Análisis Económico I.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehu:ikerla:11641
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    File URL: https://addi.ehu.es/handle/10810/11641
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Victor Ginsburgh & Shlomo Weber, 2011. "How Many Languages Do We Need? The Economics of Linguistic Diversity," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 9481.
    2. David Albouy, 2008. "The wage gap between Francophones and Anglophones: a Canadian perspective, 1970-2000," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 41(4), pages 1211-1238, November.
    3. Ginsburgh, Victor & Ortuño-Ortín, Ignacio & Weber, Shlomo, 2007. "Learning foreign languages: Theoretical and empirical implications of the Selten and Pool model," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 64(3-4), pages 337-347.
    4. Jeffrey Church & Ian King, 1993. "Bilingualism and Network Externalities," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 26(2), pages 337-345, May.
    5. M. Keith Chen, 2011. "The Effect of Language on Economic Behavior: Evidence from Savings Rates, Health Behaviors, and Retirement Assets," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1820, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University, revised Dec 2012.
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    Cited by:

    1. Uriarte Ayo, José Ramón, 2015. "A Game-Theoreteic Analysis of Minority Language Use in Multilingual Societies," IKERLANAK Ikerlanak;2015-93, Universidad del País Vasco - Departamento de Fundamentos del Análisis Económico I.
    2. Barañano Mentxaka, Ilaski & Kovarik, Jaromir & Uriarte Ayo, José Ramón, 2014. "Experimental Economics Meets Language Choice," IKERLANAK Ikerlanak;2014-82, Universidad del País Vasco - Departamento de Fundamentos del Análisis Económico I.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    economics of language; language conversation game; threatened languages;

    JEL classification:

    • A14 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Sociology of Economics
    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • D20 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - General

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