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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 of Labor Economics (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, vol. 15(1), 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. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. Melitz, Jacques & Toubal, Farid, 2014. "Native language, spoken language, translation and trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(2), pages 351-363.
    4. Jain, Tarun, 2011. "Common tongue: The impact of language on economic performance," MPRA Paper 34423, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. repec:wly:econjl:v:125:y:2015:i:586:p:f49-f81 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. 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.
    7. Gamallo, Pablo & Pichel, José Ramom & Alegria, Iñaki, 2017. "From language identification to language distance," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 484(C), pages 152-162.
    8. Alícia Adserà & Mariola Pytliková, 2015. "The Role of Language in Shaping International Migration," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 125(586), pages 49-81, August.
    9. Barry R. Chiswick & Paul W. Miller, 2007. "Modeling Immigrants’ Language Skills," Research in Labor Economics, in: Barry R. Chiswick (ed.), Immigration, volume 27, pages 75-128, Emerald Publishing Ltd.
    10. Chiswick, Barry R. & Miller, Paul W., 2005. "Computer Skills, Destination Language Proficiency and the Earnings of Natives and Immigrants," IZA Discussion Papers 1755, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    11. Katia Angué & Ulrike Mayrhofer, 2010. "Coopérer avec des partenaires localisés dans les PECO : Rupture ou continuité ?," Post-Print halshs-00690211, HAL.
    12. 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.
    13. 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.
    14. Chiswick, Barry R. & Taengnoi, Sarinda, 2007. "Occupational Choice of High Skilled Immigrants in the United States," IZA Discussion Papers 2969, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    15. Chiswick, Barry R., 2008. "The Economics of Language: An Introduction and Overview," IZA Discussion Papers 3568, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    16. 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.
    17. Philipp Maier, 2005. "A global village without borders? international price differentials at eBay," Proceedings, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    18. Katia Angué & Ulrike Mayrhofer, 2010. "Coopérer avec des partenaires localisés dans les PECO : Rupture ou continuité ?," Post-Print hal-00957181, HAL.
    19. 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.
    20. 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 of Labor Economics (IZA).
    21. 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.
    22. Chiswick, Barry R. & Miller, Paul W., 2004. "Language Skills and Immigrant Adjustment: What Immigration Policy Can Do!," IZA Discussion Papers 1419, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    23. repec:bla:ijethy:v:13:y:2017:i:1:p:95-111 is not listed on IDEAS

    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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