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languageseltenpool - The Distribution of Foreign Language...

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The Distribution of Foreign Language Skills as a Game Equilibrium Reinhard Selten Jonathan Pool Originally published in, and reprinted with corrections with kind permission of Springer Science and Business Media from: Reinhard Selten (ed.), Game Equilibrium Models IV: Social and Political Interaction (Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1991), pp. 64-87. © Springer-Verlag Berlin · Heidelberg 1991 Utilika Foundation 914 NW 57th Street Seattle, Washington 98107-2847 Telephone (206) 801-1906 http://utilika.org
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The Distribution of Foreign Language Skills as a Game Equilibrium Reinhard Selten Jonathan Pool 1. Introduction The birth, death, growth, and shrinkage of languages over millennia has given us a world containing about three thousand living languages, whose speakers number from 1 up to several hundred million. Our current knowledge of what causes a language to gain more speakers than it loses or lose more speakers than it gains is limited to a few generalizations about bivariate, more–less effects (see Dressler, 1982; Laponce, 1984; Lieberson, 1982). One important generalization is that the children of two native speakers of the same language tend to acquire that native language unless outside the home the language is rarely used or is despised. In addition, persons who spend a few years or more in a milieu (e.g., neighborhood, school, or workplace) where a language other than their native language is the main language tend to add the other language to their repertoire. Persons tend to learn a language through deliberate study (in contrast with immersion in its milieu) when the language is spoken by many persons, has widely distributed speakers, has wealthy and powerful speakers, and has a prestigious literature, art, and history. Languages tend to lose speakers through death, of course, but also through forgetting by their native and nonnative speakers. Forgetting tends to take place among persons who are not in contact with other speakers of the language or whose rewards for using the language are small or negative. There is little evidence as to whether the dif culty of a language or its effectiveness as an instrument of thought and communication in uences its acquisition of new speakers or its loss of former speakers. As Vaillancourt (1985, p. 18) points out, almost all attempts to model aspects of the distribution of language skills in a population have started with the assumption that this distribution is xed. Given a population distribution of language skills and some mechanism whereby costs of production or bene ts of consumption depend on this distribution, one can derive predictions about the production and consumption of linguistically specialized products (Ho ± evar, 1975; Vaillancourt, 1985a), the earnings of persons with different repertoires of language skills (Sabourin, 1985; Vaillancourt & Lacroix, 1985), and the distributions of language skills within labor markets and rms (Breton & Mieskowski, 1975; Sabourin, 1985).
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65 In the short term, this assumption of a xed language-skill distribution in a population
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languageseltenpool - The Distribution of Foreign Language...

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