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The Economics of Language Policy

Bengt-Arne Wickström and Michele Gazzola

Keynote Speakers:
Victor Ginsburgh, Université Libre de Bruxelles
François Grin, Université de Genève
Stephen May, University of Auckland

Date: 26 - 27 July 2013

The language policy of international bodies or individual countries is a complex and often controversial issue in today’s world, as we can witness in multilingual countries like Belgium, Spain, or the Ukraine. Also the language policies of international entities like the European Union involve many complex problems.

Relevant issues are effective and efficient communication, possible alienation of (parts) of the population, as well as fairness. Language policy, hence, covers issues as different as management of multilingual communication in international organizations and human rights of ethnic minorities.
It raises a number of questions related both to justice and to the efficient allocation of material and symbolic resources among people speaking different languages. Also here we encounter the traditional trade-off between equity and efficiency.

Since the issues involved are interdisciplinary in their nature, the intention of the workshop is to bring together economists with sociolinguists, political scientists and sociologists, as well as scientists from other disciplines without removing the focus of the workshop from economics. The aim of the conference is a scientific exchange on language-policy issues from different methodological perspectives, furthering the development of the field of economics and language and strengthening its theoretical and empirical connections to research on language policy and language planning based in other disciplines.

Papers from economists and researches from other disciplines working on issues of language policy are solicited.
The following is a non-exhaustive list of possible specific themes of individual contributions:
• languages and economic efficiency (e.g. languages in the labor market, language as a public good,
   linguistic diversity and trade, languages and firms)
• language dynamics and network-externality properties
• language and ethnic and social identity
• language and economic and social power
• evaluation of the costs and distributive consequences of alternative language policies
• normative evaluation of official-language policies
• techniques to evaluate the material and symbolic value of languages (e.g. tools adapted from 
   environmental economics)

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