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The Economics of Language Policy$
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Michele Gazzola and Bengt-Arne Wickström

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780262034708

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262034708.001.0001

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Linguistic Diversity, Standardization, and Disenfranchisement: Measurement and Consequences

Linguistic Diversity, Standardization, and Disenfranchisement: Measurement and Consequences

(p.95) 3 Linguistic Diversity, Standardization, and Disenfranchisement: Measurement and Consequences
The Economics of Language Policy

Victor Ginsburgh

Shlomo Weber

The MIT Press

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.

Keywords:   Linguistic diversity, Distances between languages, Fractionalization, Disenfranchisement, Conflicts

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