The Language of Economists (and Sociologists)

27 April 2007 at 2:10 pm 1 comment

| Peter Klein |

From the “news that will shock no one” department come the results of this linguistic analysis of four economics journals, the American Economic Review, Economic Journal, Journal of Economic Perspectives, and American Journal of Economics and Sociology, along with a control group containing the American Journal of Sociology, Journal of Microscopy, and Journal of the American Mathematical Society:

The present study aims to add to our knowledge about economic rhetoric by conducting a data-driven analysis of economic academic discourse, both synchronically in its contemporary form, and diachronically over the past four decades. We find (1) that linguistically, economics is clearly an academic genre of its own, (2) that there are at the same time clear differences in vocabulary and style usage across economic journals, and (3) that there have been major developments in economic prose during the past four decades. We argue that there is some, albeit tentative, evidence that the discipline may face an increasing methodological gap.

Here is the paper, “What Do Economists Talk About? A Linguistic Analysis of Published Writing in Economic Journals” by Nils Goldschmidt and Benedikt Szmrecsanyi (American Journal of Economics and Sociology 66, no. 2, April 2007). The “gap” is between journals like the AER and EJ that use increasingly formal, empirical (scientistic?) terminology and journals like JEP and AJES that favor broader, social-science terms and concepts (“justice,” “society,” “culture,” “institutions”). Interestingly, use of social-science terminology in the AER, relative to the other journals, dropped between 1965 and 1980 but rose again between 1980 and 1990. Too early to reflect the Freakonomics phenomenon, to be sure, but perhaps a marker for economic imperialism more generally?

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Methods/Methodology/Theory of Science.

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