Book reviewHow Many Languages Do We Need? The Economics of Linguistic Diversity Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011. ix + 232 pp. ISBN 9780691136899 $35.00.
Reviewed by Anthony Pym
Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Spain
So as to allay suspense, the answer to “how many languages do we need?” is four (181), or perhaps six (186), if you are talking about how many core official languages the European Union really needs. That is indeed the topic of most of the second half of the book, where the authors repeatedly demonstrate the economic consequences and political context of the current policy of 23 official languages. For that alone, we should take note. And for that alone, those of us in linguistics and things similarly cultural are likely to take a lot of umbrage right off the bat: How dare these economists restrict our languages! They know nothing about the extreme cultural importance of language! They know nothing about what people want! They know nothing about democracy! And of course they overlook the importance of translation, as big disciplines always do!