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How Cultures Converge: An Empirical Investigation of Trade and Linguistic Exchange

Arthur Blouin and Julian Dyer

Working Papers from University of Toronto, Department of Economics

Abstract: This paper empirically investigates whether potential gains from trade influence cultural convergence. We develop a model of linguistic convergence where individuals adopt another language to facilitate trade with that group, and diffuse elements of the language throughout their own culture. The model maps to a dataset of linguistic adoption, featuring nearly all words in all languages. We construct a society-pair measure of language adoption that we show is related to welfare gains from agricultural trade. In particular, we show empirically that (1) improved trade-partner quality can cause cultural convergence; (2) adoption is inverse-U shaped in the quantity of trade-partners; (3) economic leverage determines the direction of convergence. We also provide evidence that the language adoption we identify is cultural rather than purely functional by showing that religious and social organization word-types (amongst others) are heavily adopted.

Keywords: Language Evolution; Linguistic Distance; Linguistic Exchange; Loanwords; Trade Incentives (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: O11 O12 O13 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: Unknown pages
Date: 2021-02-25
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cul, nep-cwa, nep-evo, nep-int and nep-soc
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