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How Many Languages Do We Need?The Economics of Linguistic Diversity$
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Victor Ginsburgh and Shiomo Weber

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691136899

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691136899.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
How Many Languages Do We Need?

Victor Ginsburgh

Shlomo Weber

Princeton University Press

This introductory chapter sets out the book's purpose, which is to analyze the trade-off between the quest for efficiency that a small number of languages is thought to foster and a reduction in disenfranchisement, which calls for more languages. It does so by using economic and to some extent linguistic and sociological reasoning to balance the benefits and costs of various linguistic situations and policies. While extolling diversity, we must recognize that it may come with institutional wastefulness and inefficiency, corruption, legal and communication barriers, and lack of interest on the part of citizens about what happens in their country or region, or may lead to unrest, riots, and even wars. So also does restricting diversity, which results in disenfranchisement. It is a difficult challenge to decide on a “sensible” number of languages.

Keywords:   linguistic diversity, multilingualism, language, linguistic policy, efficiency, disenfranchisement

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