Discussion paper

DP15770 The measurement of the value of a language

We address the problem of assessing the value of a language. We consider a stylized model of multilingual societies in which we introduce axioms formalizing the principles of impartiality, monotonicity, invariance and consistency. We show that the combination of these axioms characterizes a family of communicative benefit functions which assign a value to each language in the society. The functions within the family involve a two-step procedure. First, they identify the groups of agents that can communicate in each language. Second, each group is assigned an aggregate (size-dependent) value, which is evenly divided among the languages in which the group can communicate. Our novel approach could be useful in a wide range of empirical applications and policy decisions.


Alcalde Unzu, J, J Moreno-Tenero and S Weber (2021), ‘DP15770 The measurement of the value of a language‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 15770. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp15770