publishing typological databases

Asifa Majid Asifa.Majid at MPI.NL
Fri Apr 13 15:08:07 UTC 2007

I think the World Color Survey is a pretty good model to follow:

The people responsible for collating the database are named as authors, 
clear instructions are given for citation purposes, and there is a full 
description of the contents of the information.

It is perhaps also not too dissimilar to the issue of citing corpuses. 
Perhaps the models followed there would be useful.  For example, CELEX 
has undergone updates with new versions.  There is a standard practice 
for how to refer to this in psycholinguistics.

Hope this is helpful,
Asifa Majid.

Martin Haspelmath wrote:
> Dear typologists,
> Last week at an informal meeting of the European Typology Network in 
> Leipzig, we discussed the issue of publishing typological databases. In 
> the past, this was a practical problem, because journals and book 
> publishers were reluctant to print many pages of tabular data. The basic 
> practical problem has disappeared with modern information technology, 
> but many problems remain, and it would be good if typologists made a 
> joint effort to address them.
> Traditional paper publication simultaneously fulfills at least four 
> distinct functions:
> (i) giving *recognition* (or even prestige) to a researcher's work, so 
> that they can list it on their CV as the visible outcome of their work
> (ii) *citability*, i.e. allowing users of published work to build on 
> this work without having to vouch for it personally, without having to 
> mention all the details, etc.
> (iii) *accessibility*, i.e. allowing users in many different places (in 
> principle, at any institution devoted to research, and beyond) to access 
> the results of the work
> (iv) *standardization*, i.e. things like uniform glossing, 
> bibliographical references, section organization, or even uniform 
> terminology (in some particular context, e.g. an edited volume)
> All of these functions are important also for typological databases, but 
> while some progress has been made with regard to (iii) (accessibility), 
> the other requirements (recognition, citability, and standardization) 
> still need a lot of thinking and work on our part. You can access some 
> typological databases such as the Surrey morphology databases 
> (, the Berlin-Utrecht Reciprocals Survey 
> (, the Graz Reduplication 
> database (, but these websites 
> generally don't say how to cite data from these databases, so they do 
> not give enough recognition to the authors.
> Standardization has been addressed by the Typological Database System 
> (, and this project additionally aims 
> for a fifth function, *cross-searchability*, that was not possible with 
> traditional paper publication at all.
> Another problem is how to divide databases into units: Some databases 
> (such as the database of the World Atlas of Language Structures, which 
> will become available on the web in 2008) are aggregates of datasets 
> contributed by many different authors, which should be citable 
> separately. Also for the databases created by a smaller team, it may be 
> desirable to specifiy more precisely which author did what. In 
> traditional paper publications, we had two kinds of units, articles and 
> books, which could be single-authored or multi-authored (occasionally 
> with some ranking of the authors). Maybe it would be desirable to allow 
> more different units, and more different roles (e.g. content provider 
> vs. database designer?).
> Any ideas how typologists should go about solving these problems?
> Martin

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