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Linguistic Distance: A Quantitative Measure of the Distance Between English and Other Languages

Author

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  • Chiswick, Barry R.

    () (George Washington University)

  • Miller, Paul W.

    (Curtin University)

Abstract

This paper develops a scalar or quantitative measure of the “distance” between English and a myriad of other (non-native American) languages. This measure is based on the difficulty Americans have learning other languages. The linguistic distance measure is then used in an analysis of the determinants of English language proficiency among adult immigrants in the United States and Canada. It is shown that, when other determinants of English language proficiency are the same, the greater the measure of linguistic distance, the poorer is the respondent’s English language proficiency. This measure can be used in research, evaluation and practitioner analyses, and for diagnostic purposes regarding linguistic minorities in English-speaking countries. The methodology can also be applied to develop linguistic distance measures for other languages.

Suggested Citation

  • Chiswick, Barry R. & Miller, Paul W., 2004. "Linguistic Distance: A Quantitative Measure of the Distance Between English and Other Languages," IZA Discussion Papers 1246, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp1246
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. McCloskey, Donald N, 1983. "The Rhetoric of Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 481-517, June.
    2. Michael A. Shields & Stephen Wheatley Price, 2002. "The English language fluency and occupational success of ethnic minority immigrant men living in English metropolitan areas," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, pages 137-160.
    3. Dustmann, Christian, 1997. "The effects of education, parental background and ethnic concentration on language," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(Supplemen), pages 245-262.
    4. Barry R. Chiswick, 1998. "Hebrew language usage: Determinants and effects on earnings among immigrants in Israel," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 11(2), pages 253-271.
    5. Barry Chiswick & Paul Miller, 2001. "A model of destination-language acquisition: Application to male immigrants in Canada," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 38(3), pages 391-409, August.
    6. Chiswick, Barry R & Miller, Paul W, 1994. "Language Choice among Immigrants in a Multi-lingual Destination," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 7(2), pages 119-131.
    7. Barry R. Chiswick, 2000. "A Model of Immigrant Language Acquisition: Application to Male Immigrants in Canada," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 149, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Melitz, Jacques & Toubal, Farid, 2014. "Native language, spoken language, translation and trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(2), pages 351-363.
    2. Chiswick, Barry R. & Miller, Paul W., 2005. "Computer Skills, Destination Language Proficiency and the Earnings of Natives and Immigrants," IZA Discussion Papers 1755, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Barry Chiswick & Christina Houseworth, 2011. "Ethnic intermarriage among immigrants: human capital and assortative mating," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 9(2), pages 149-180, June.
    4. Katia Angué & Ulrike Mayrhofer, 2010. "Coopérer avec des partenaires localisés dans les PECO : Rupture ou continuité ?," Post-Print halshs-00690211, HAL.
    5. Chiswick, Barry R. & Miller, Paul W., 2004. "Language Skills and Immigrant Adjustment: What Immigration Policy Can Do!," IZA Discussion Papers 1419, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Barry R. Chiswick & Paul W. Miller, 2012. "Negative and Positive Assimilation, Skill Transferability, and Linguistic Distance," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 6(1), pages 35-55.
    7. Alicia Adsera & Mariola Pytlikova, 2012. "The role of language in shaping international migration," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 1206, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
    8. repec:bla:ijethy:v:13:y:2017:i:1:p:95-111 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Barry Chiswick & Paul Miller, 2007. "Computer usage, destination language proficiency and the earnings of natives and immigrants," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 5(2), pages 129-157, June.
    10. Jain, Tarun, 2011. "Common tongue: The impact of language on economic performance," MPRA Paper 34423, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Philipp Maier, 2005. "A global village without borders? international price differentials at eBay," Proceedings, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    12. Katia Angué & Ulrike Mayrhofer, 2010. "Coopérer avec des partenaires localisés dans les PECO : Rupture ou continuité ?," Post-Print hal-00957181, HAL.
    13. Chiswick, Barry R. & Miller, Paul W., 2007. "The Critical Period Hypothesis for Language Learning: What the 2000 US Census Says," IZA Discussion Papers 2575, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    14. Ku, Hyejin & Zussman, Asaf, 2010. "Lingua franca: The role of English in international trade," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 75(2), pages 250-260, August.
    15. Donald R. Williams, 2011. "Multiple language usage and earnings in Western Europe," International Journal of Manpower, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 32(4), pages 372-393, July.
    16. repec:eee:phsmap:v:484:y:2017:i:c:p:152-162 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. George J. Borjas, 2013. "The Slowdown in the Economic Assimilation of Immigrants: Aging and Cohort Effects Revisited Again," NBER Working Papers 19116, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Chiswick, Barry R. & Taengnoi, Sarinda, 2007. "Occupational Choice of High Skilled Immigrants in the United States," IZA Discussion Papers 2969, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    19. Lien, Donald & Oh, Chang Hoon, 2014. "Determinants of the Confucius Institute establishment," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 54(3), pages 437-441.
    20. Chiswick, Barry R., 2008. "The Economics of Language: An Introduction and Overview," IZA Discussion Papers 3568, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    21. Chiswick, Barry R. & Miller, Paul W., 2007. "Modeling Immigrants' Language Skills," IZA Discussion Papers 2974, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    22. Bris, Arturo & Cantale, Salvatore & Hrnjić, Emir & Nishiotis, George P., 2012. "The value of information in cross-listing," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 207-220.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    language proficiency; linguistic distance; immigrants;

    JEL classification:

    • I29 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Other
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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