The Record of Global Economic Development
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The Record of Global Economic Development

Eric Jones

The Record of Global Economic Development analyses the long-term and current economic forces which promote or impede globalisation, drawing on the experience of economic history to help interpret major trends in modern economies.
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Chapter 6: The Costs of Language Diversity

Eric Jones


INTRODUCTION Efforts to promote particular languages and hamper others are being made today by a number of national authorities and cultural producers. The aim of these moves is mainly to counter the influence of English, despite or rather because of the fact that people in almost every country are selecting it as the world’s lingua franca. The grounds for resisting the spread of English include the threat that it is thought to pose to other cultures and national identities. Some of the individuals engaged in these campaigns may genuinely fear such a threat. Academic specialists in linguistics do tend to believe in a slightly outdated cultural relativism that makes all languages equal and treats the death of any single one of them as a tragedy. But much of the motive and the reason some governments take the issue seriously is Protectionist, as the extremely rhetorical nature of many pronouncements unintentionally reveals.1 The pronouncements sound like any others designed to protect special interests and, where they differ, do so only in the vehemence of the language used. They are inspired by the rents that accrue from choosing one language rather than another for international purposes now that the world economy is steadily integrating. This motive may not be admitted or even understood by the protagonists of minority languages, who tend to take as axiomatic the infinite value of each language and culture (they conflate the two). Media discussion of globalization has persuaded many non-economists that international economic integration is occurring faster...

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