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

  • Sperlich, Stefan
  • Uriarte Ayo, José Ramón

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

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10810/11641
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Paper provided by Universidad del País Vasco - Departamento de Fundamentos del Análisis Económico I in its series IKERLANAK with number 11641.

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Date of creation: Feb 2014
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Handle: RePEc:ehu:ikerla:11641
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Order Information: Postal: Dpto. de Fundamentos del Análisis Económico I, Facultad de CC. Económicas y Empresariales, Universidad del País Vasco, Avda. Lehendakari Aguirre 83, 48015 Bilbao, Spain
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  1. Ginsburgh, Victor & Ortuño-Ortín, Ignacio & Weber, Shlomo, 2005. "Learning Foreign Languages.Theoretical and Empirical Implications of the Selten and Pool Model," CEPR Discussion Papers 4942, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  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. 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.
  4. Jeffrey Church & Ian King, 1993. "Bilingualism and Network Externalities," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 26(2), pages 337-45, May.
  5. M. Patriarca & X. Castelló & J. R. Uriarte & V. M. Eguíluz & M. San Miguel, 2012. "Modeling Two-Language Competition Dynamics," Advances in Complex Systems (ACS), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 15(03), pages 1250048-1-1.
  6. Victor Ginsburgh & Shlomo Weber, 2011. "How many languages do we need? The economics of Linguistic Diversity," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/152424, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
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