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Economic growth and linguistic theory


This ‘short shot’ article draws attention to an unresolved contradiction between fundamental assumptions of modern linguistics and economics. Endogenous growth theory has become the consensus explanation of the phenomenon of long-term economic growth. This theory makes an assumption that is not seen as controversial by economists, namely, that the supply of new, unanticipated ideas is limited only by the level of resources committed to idea generation. Much linguistic theorizing, by contrast, assumes that potential human cognitive products are tightly constrained by biology. Although linguists and economists are primarily interested in different kinds of ‘ideas’, there is a real contradiction between the respective assumptions. The article does not offer a resolution of the contradiction, but encourages members of our discipline to be aware of it as a problem needing to be resolved.*