Language and economy

 


 

Head of the project: Sonja Novak-Lukanovič, Ph.D. (IES)

Cooperators: Sara Brezigar, Ph.D. (IES), Lucija Čok, Ph.D. (University of Primorska), Boris Jesih, Ph.D. (IES), Jana Kranjec Menaše (IES), David Limon, Ph.D. (Faculty of Art, University of Ljubljana), Mojca Medvešek, Ph.D. (IES), Katalin Munda Hirnök, Ph.D. (IES)

Duration of the project: February 2008 January 2011

 

 

Scientific background:

 

Considering the syntagm 'language-economy' can from the very start mean on the one hand focusing on the effect of language on various fields of economic activity or on the other hand the effect of economics on language, especially on the formation of specific modes of expression or on its use or choice of language in specific economic categories denoted by the situation. In this context the language has a specific value which is marked by the economic variables. Bourdieu's standpoint (Bourdieu, P. (1991), Language and Symbolic Power. Cambridge: Polity Press.) on the value of language includes the economic aspect – the language is like a treasure, it can not stand alone, in isolation, it is always a part of a broader social context. 

In spite of this there exist various approaches for considering the link between language and economy, although it would be wrong to imply there is a unified theoretical concept, which would encompass the link between language and economy in a complex or systematic manner. Marschak (see more Economics of Language, Behavioral Science,1965, 10, 135-140) was one of the first to pose the questions why the use of language changes, why certain languages are better preserved than others and what the effectiveness of language means. Language for him was the object of choice directed to achieving certain goals. The choice of language in communications or the choice to learn a certain language he attributed to standards of microeconomics, and linked them in the same manner as all other economic decisions of the individual, from purchasing a product to investment, which always represent a result for the individual – the best choice in a given moment.

In an ethnically mixed setting the linking of economic and language processes at both the micro and the macro levels is expressed in the mutual acceptance or non-acceptance of different language groups. In considering language and economy it is necessary to take into account the course of the interaction between language and economy in both directions and transfer the results (positive or negative) to individuals in society. Economic factors influence the ethno-linguistic vitality of communities and contribute to the evaluation of diversity and to the promotion of minority languages. In certain multicultural settings the effects of economic processes are linked to the position of a minority, especially in the context of bilingualism as a value at the national and local levels, and not at wider international level.   

Language linked to economy means that it has a commercial potential and it is necessary to take into account that various social and personal lines of force influence the question whether or not a language is capitalised on. In addition to the necessity of knowledge of a language in order to communicate, it is also important in behaviour and denotes the importance of language and cultural diversity contributing to the prevention of xenophobia and prejudice.

Economy in the widest meaning indirectly and directly influences various language processes – from the maintenance to the loss of language and to various strategies of language adaptation. Language is linked to the individual and society. Economy, however, is a part of society. Language and culture are two important ingredients influencing the economic growth of the individual and society, they represent an important indicator of the satisfaction of the individual and affect the quality of life of the individual. So, in a multicultural society language planning and language policies serve as tools to direct society in the social and economic sense. The experience of “living together” in a multilingual world has brought new, different scenarios – it does not only mean the right of the individual to speak his/her own language, but also the obligation of society to include the possibility of communicating in another language in its programme.

 

Presenting the problem:

 

In today’s multicultural and global society, more than in the past, the interaction between economy and language is a reality. People are more aware that it is due to processes of globalisation that the lines of force influencing geographic, cultural and social diversity and links deviate from or lose their original meaning. This is particularly evident in the sphere of economy where capital plays the leading role. The currents of global economy are denoted in two dimensions – on the one hand the development of processes of global organisation of economy and capital, and on the other hand the appearance in these processes of people and organisation, which must communicate between themselves quickly and well to achieve success and goals set by he capital. In these communications new information technology is not the only important thing also important is language, which differs from goods and services, and funding, as managing goods and services without language does not exist. Managing the language means managing the users ( more Cameron, D., 2005: Communication and Commodification. Global economic change in sociolinguistic perspective. In: Erreygers, G., Jacobs G. (eds.) Language, Communication and the Economy. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 9-23.). From this perspective the role of and attitude to language become specific. Language becomes an important communicative agent aiding the individual in a competitive environment. The Lisbon strategy (Lisbon Action Plan for Growth and Jobs, Guideline no. 23) includes language diversity in the goal of promoting social cohesion and economic development. Multilingualism and multiculturalism are of key importance to successful cooperation and are closely linked to the labour market and the common European market, which dictates the free flow of capital, goods and labour. Within the framework of this dynamics language plays a specific role, as the importance of language and culture in society changes and acquires a new dimension. The knowledge of a language is not only of academic value, but language in the wider sense also integrates and combines other disciplines. Various socio-economic factors have an impact on changes in the meaning of knowledge of one, two or more languages and on changes meaning language is not only to be considered within the framework of one discipline, but is to be considered in an interdisciplinary manner.

 

Objectives:

 

The study is based on the hypothesis that language in a multicultural setting has value. The value variable is multi-layered (symbolic, recognition value, applicative value, use value, exchange value). Using various methods the study will attempt to define individual values, and which dimension of individual or social values is established in an ethnically mixed setting in Slovenia, as well as the presence of an economical variable. Values are objectively and subjectively measurable. The value is, for an individual, his/her subjective reaction to changes in the world. In the objective sense the value of language means that knowledge of and speaking a language represent a product to the individual, having a price and creating income and also profit where the value of the language approaches an economic category. The price a language has and indirectly the individual is placed on an open and competitive language market.

The second hypothesis set in the study is that the language market is denoted by society, and specially by the political economy of language and the policy of language planning, creating “a production of languages”, and in the case of a multilingual society (setting) also creating a hierarchy of languages, where each language has a different place in the hierarchical pyramid. Agents of political economy promote specific types of language practice or language patterns (language exchange) between different social actors (meaning the wider context, not only the level of the individual). Language in this context operates as a powerful instrument to connect diversity, build trust and improve communication in the widest sense. The political economy of language determines the role of the dominant group in different social/language processes in the multicultural setting where the national language plays an important role. Every other language, even if official, is linked to the national language in the setting. The national language is that representing some kind of basic norm, which allows all other languages in the setting to be used and objectively measured. In this manner a language market is created which provides “supply and demand” for a language and directs the distribution, determines a language's value and creates direct or indirect profit.

      The goal of the research project is to determine from both the theoretical and empiric standpoint to determine the economical variables which mark the role and position of an individual language in ethnically mixed area in Slovenia, to understand the perception of management structures (selected sample) of the role of a language/language diversity and certainly to influence the development of human resources and social cohesion of the environment. Results will also show us:

 


© IES Ljubljana. Last Update: May, 23 2008