DP6432 Economics of Literary Translation: A Simple Theory and Evidence

Author(s): Victor Ginsburgh, Shlomo Weber, Sheila Weyers
Publication Date: August 2007
Keyword(s): cultural and linguistic distances, languages, translations
JEL(s): L82, Z11
Programme Areas: Public Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=6432

Books are an important factor of cultural transmission, but need, in most cases, to be translated. According to some authors, this may lead to a form of cultural domination, in particular of English, on other languages. All these papers ignore that the population speaking English as a first language is, with the exception of Mandarin, the largest in the world. It is therefore not surprising that English produces more fiction (and much more scientific literature, as scientists from all countries write more and more in English) than any other language. We develop a theoretical model of translation, which is estimated on the basis of UNESCO translation data. We show that translations from English are dominated by translations from other languages, including Scandinavian ones and French.