La "main invisible" dans les langues et la confection de dictionnaires locaux

Edgard Maillard Ella


The "Invisible Hand" in Languages and the Compilation of Local Dictionaries.

Although it is not their intention, it seems that dictionary users are often guided by an invisible hand similar to the one developed in economy by Adam Smith. By seeking individual performance, they end up contributing to the development of their languages without being their intention. To Adam Smith, it is by seeking personnel development that people develop the nation as well. According to him, it is an invisible hand that leads them to reach that purpose which was not their intention, and as a result they turn out to be more profitable to society than if it had been their intention to make that sort of contribution. Regarding these similarities between the manifestations of the invisible hand in economy and in languages, this paper is an attempt to enunciate the same theory in languages. Using a theory from the field of economy to explain facts in languages is not a new approach. The French sociolinguist Louis-Jean Calvet founded a similarity between the law market which determines the exchange value of a currency, and the respective values of the different languages in the world which correspond to their degree of diffusion. Referring to the invisible hand in economy, we discuss first the enunciation of the same theory in languages, before analyzing the implications for the compilation of dictionaries in Gabon. This paper refers specifically to Bitam fang ntoumou dialect, for an analysis which is obviously also relevant to other Gabonese languages.


dictionaries, experts, invisible hand, languages, lexicography, speakers

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ISSN 2224-0039 (online); ISSN 1684-4904 (print)

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