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The Language Game: A Game-Theoretic Approach to Language Contact

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  • Iriberri Etxebeste, Nagore
  • Uriarte Ayo, José Ramón

Abstract

We study a society inside which two official languages, the majority language A and the minority language B, are in contact and compete for the same social functions. We propose a non-cooperative game to capture some features of this competitive situation. In the game, there are two types of players: the bilingual one who speaks both A and B and the monolingual one who speaks only A. The information about which type is each player is private. A real life situation captured by the game is that in many interactions bilingual players must decide under incomplete information about which language to use. One implication of this information structure is that while A satisfies the main properties of a public good, B does not. Another implication is that it may have dangerous consequences on the language diversity of the society. We show that in many equilibria bilingual players fail to coordinate in their preferred language and end up using the majority language A.

Suggested Citation

  • Iriberri Etxebeste, Nagore & Uriarte Ayo, José Ramón, 2006. "The Language Game: A Game-Theoretic Approach to Language Contact," IKERLANAK 2006-24, Universidad del País Vasco - Departamento de Fundamentos del Análisis Económico I.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehu:ikerla:6232
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    1. Farrell Joseph, 1993. "Meaning and Credibility in Cheap-Talk Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 5(4), pages 514-531, October.
    2. Crawford, Vincent P & Sobel, Joel, 1982. "Strategic Information Transmission," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(6), pages 1431-1451, November.
    3. Uriarte, Jose Ramon, 2007. "A behavioural foundation for models of evolutionary drift," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 63(3), pages 497-513, July.
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