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The Evolution of Egalitarian Sociolinguistic Conventions

Suresh Naidu, Sung-Ha Hwang and Samuel Bowles

American Economic Review, 2017, vol. 107, issue 5, 572-77

Abstract: Motivated by historical examples and ideas from socio-linguistics, in particular the "non-reciprocal power semantic" of Brown and Gilman (1960), we extend evolutionary models of language to incorporate intentional linguistic innovations among conventions that may convey social superiority and inferiority, despite being ambiguous, in the sense of less efficiency in communicating information. We show that egalitarian and unambiguous linguistic conventions can be stochastically stable but also identify conditions under which ambiguous linguistic conventions that are imperfect signals of status differences may be stochastically stable.

JEL-codes: D02 D63 J15 Z13 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.p20171089
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