Economics: does linguistics matter? (Part 1)

Language: communication of thoughts and feelings through a system of arbitrary signs, such as voice sounds, gestures or written symbols; such a system as used by a nation, people, or other distinct community; often contrasted with dialiect.


Idiom: the specific grammatical, syntactic, and structural character of a given language; regional speech or dialect.


Dialect: a particular form of language or – of a language – which is specific to a specific region or social group.


Differences among societies exist both in time and space. Distinct language forms are born from and evolved with different values, societies, histories and cultures; we can therefore expect idioms or dialects to differ in sense and transmit different considerations according to the contexts they evolved from. Such thought states the basis for this post: (1) idioms evolve from and depend on social contexts and – more than communication vehicles – (2) work as an implicit matrix of analysis for all social scientists’ work.

One can say that a specific idiom is probably particularly fit to study and write about the specific society it came from; meaning that when I write about the portuguese economy/society (can you really make any distinction between the two?) I should write in portuguese in order to catch and transmit properly its particular features. That’s probably true, social studies must always depart from an inside-out perspective if they want to be effective. Such issues gain particular importance if you want your fellow citizens to understand and profit from your writings.

Good governance, government expenditure, austerity, government failures, market failures, rent-seeking, moral-hazard, asymmetric information, transaction costs, corporate finance, structural adjustement, poverty, capabilities expansion, theory of second-best, general equilibrium, human development, human capital, austerity, export-driven growth, import substitution; the list goes on. We are not adopting the english language: in fact, we are adopting its concepts; pre-determined, pre-fabricated concepts to analyse specific realities. Such concepts – and here’s the real danger! – limit our perception, our creative thinking and our ability to see. If we fail to see, we fail to analyse. If we chronically fail to analyise, we have no use.

Those who lack imagination cannot imagine what is lacking.

May 1968 slogan, unkown author

I believe I do that, to adopt such concepts I mean, to feel less stupid; to feel like I know something. I the end, we all do that when we accept dogmatic constructions, paradigms and all kinds of theoretical or political frameworks. However, we can only become good social scientists after deconstructing all such beliefs and assuming how limited our perception is and how stupid we are. Creativity, honesty and humility and pre-conditions for good social research and for good social contributions.

I love these days when I feel that I don’t know shit; too bad arrogance will come back in no time.


2 responses to “Economics: does linguistics matter? (Part 1)

  1. Pingback: Economics: does linguistics matters? (Part 1) | theweatherforecaster « Economics Info

  2. Pingback: Africa, linguistics and neo-colonialism: in search of the “right” path? | theweatherforecaster

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