Language in the world-system

Authored by: Gary Coyne

Routledge Handbook of World-Systems Analysis

Print publication date:  May  2012
Online publication date:  May  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415563642
eBook ISBN: 9780203863428
Adobe ISBN: 9781135179151


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This article makes the case that there is a place within world-systems analysis for research focused on language. The various fields that study language have produced a large amount of material that could be brought into productive dialogue with the world-systems perspective. Given limited space, an attempt will be made to make this case in a single point. Namely, there is a highly significant correlation between a state’s strength and the linguistic diversity found within it; the stronger, resource rich, states of the core display less linguistic diversity than the relatively weaker, resource poor, states of the periphery. Specifically, when linguistic diversity is the probability that two randomly selected people from the country would have a different primary language (Lewis 2009) and state strength is tax revenue as percent of GDP (World Bank World Development Indicators 2010), this author finds a highly significant negative relationship between state strength and linguistic diversity in a large, diverse sample of countries for the year 2000.

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