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Linguistic Diversity, Standardization, and Disenfranchisement: Measurement and Consequences

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  • Victor Ginsburgh
  • Shlomo Weber

Abstract

In this chapter we examine the notion of linguistic and other types of societal diversity that have become an important factor in evaluating economic, political and societal progress. While most of the existing research on the measurement of diversity has been focused either on the number and size of different groups, this approach fails to take into account the degree of their distinctiveness. Thus, it is important to incorporate the notion of distances or dissimilarity between groups which should help resolving the difficult group identification problem. We discuss various ways of measuring similarity between groups, the wide range of fractionalization and polarization indices and their impact (positive or negative) on various economic and political outcomes. To mitigate the negative impact of linguistic fractionalization, societies has often chosen to standardize by reducing the number of official languages. The numerous examples of such standardization policies (in the Russian Empire, India, Sri Lanka, among many others, including the European Union) lead to the feeling of disenfranchisement experienced by some population groups, and often end up failing. The search for a compromise between efficiency and the sentiment of being disenfranchised represents a serious challenge for any multi-lingual country or union; we examine this problem in the context of the European Union for which good data are available.

Suggested Citation

  • Victor Ginsburgh & Shlomo Weber, 2016. "Linguistic Diversity, Standardization, and Disenfranchisement: Measurement and Consequences," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/277407, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  • Handle: RePEc:ulb:ulbeco:2013/277407
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    References listed on IDEAS

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