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A Framework for Analyzing Language and Welfare

Jacques Melitz

No 1212, Heriot-Watt University Economics Discussion Papers from Department of Economics, School of Management and Languages, Heriot Watt University

Abstract: The paper proposes a general model that will encompass trade and social benefits of a common language, a preference for a variety of languages, the fundamental role of translators, an emo-tional attachment to maternal language, and the threat that globalization poses to the vast ma-jority of languages. With respect to people’s emotional attachment, the model considers minor-ities to suffer losses from the subordinate status of their language. In addition, the model treats the threat to minority language as coming from the failure of the parents in the minority to transmit their maternal language (durably) to their children. Some familiar results occur. In particular, we encounter the usual social inefficiencies of decentralized solutions to language learning when the sole benefits of the learning are communicative benefits (though translation intervenes). However, these social inefficiencies assume a totally different air when the con-sumer gains of variety are brought in. One fundamental aim of the paper is to bring together contributions to the economics of language from labor economics, network externalities and international trade that are typically treated separately.

Date: 2012
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-net
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Citations: View citations in EconPapers (4)

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