Language Choices: Political and Economic Factors in Three European States

  • Sue Wright


Language has first and foremost an information-carrying function. Being able to express ideas in language allows human beings to remember the past, organize the present and plan the future. Language allows individuals to negotiate with each other, to cooperate and to live in groups. The utility of language is thus its fundamental attribute. However, the fact that this human skill has developed as languages rather than language has added another very important function: the use of a language variety within a group defines the parameters of the group; it includes as members all those who are speakers and excludes all those who cannot speak the language. Language thus has a role to play in the construction of political/social identity as communication takes place and social interaction cements relationships among members of the language community. This second function, the role of language in creating group identity, has been the major focus of sociolinguistics and applied linguistics. There has not been the same volume of literature on language and utility. In a rare book on language and economics, Grin and his co-authors criticize this deficiency, noting that the applied linguistics literature does not habitually concern itself with ‘economic variables like productivity, costs and profits, and [that] the causal links through which they might be connected with linguistic variables such as workers’ linguistic repertoires are never investigated’ (Grin et al., 2010, p. 3).


Language Policy National Language Language Variety Language Planning Regional Language 


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© Sue Wright 2016

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  • Sue Wright

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