linguistics publication and other fields

Don Killian donald.killian at HELSINKI.FI
Wed Mar 31 14:01:57 UTC 2010

Dear all,

I'd like to bring up something else regarding journal articles.  I had 
emailed the linguist list last year with a critique on availability of 
resources; particularly for younger linguists, at times it can be 
extremely difficult to get ahold of an article.  There were some really 
positive responses and some very enlightening ones, particularly from 
Martin Haspelmath, who was able to explain to me the reason for the 
restrictions.  There are fewer technical limitations these days, but 
social limitations are still strong, resting on the culture of gaining 
prestige.  Now that we have more modern technology and it's becoming 
easier to exchange information from a physical point of view, I'd like 
to bring up the proposal to also become more aware of ethical choices 
regarding journals and publications.

As an example, I was looking to get one article from the Journal of 
African Languages and Linguistics by Traill and Vossen, "Sound change in 
the Khoisan languages".  As the University of Helsinki did not have 
electronic access, I considered simply buying the article. 
Unfortunately, it was only available through de Gruyter's electronic 
( ), at 
a cost of 40 dollars to view the article online for 24 hours.  This was 
unfortunately more than I was able or willing to pay.

It's not to say that some articles and some information is not already 
available.  Working Papers in Phonetics, for instance, is kind enough to 
put all of its journals online.  Many other linguists have links to pdf 
copies of drafts on their websites, and when I posted my discussion 
question, many people responded with some already existing resources 
such as the CHILDES database.

But as typologists, we generally need access to large amounts of 
descriptive material in order to conduct proper research.  If a 
publisher has very restricted copyright policies and raises prices to a 
point past where researchers can pay, then we are forced to either 
conduct inferior research, find new topics, or gain access in some other 
way.  This type of restriction also makes it certain that people in 
developing countries will simply never have access to proper 
publications, and continues to perpetuate a lack of scholars from many 
parts of the world.

I'd like to bring up an idea that was proposed earlier on open access 

The current situation regarding open access publication is unfortunately 
somewhat grim, as it carries little in the way of prestige or scholarly 
value, and few linguists focus on open access publications.  But if 
senior colleagues capable of conferring prestige pick either open-access 
publications or publications which are disseminated in a reasonable 
fashion, then it can raise the prestige of such publications. 
Furthermore, it takes away some of the problems of page limitations if 
we publish electronically.  While I'm skeptical of self-publishing 
unedited material, I don't think electronic journals need to be 
unscholarly, either.  With careful planning, open access publications 
can have just as high quality as currently restricted material, and 
hopefully some day carry just as much prestige.

But until that day, I would encourage us all to understand the policies 
regarding copyright and dissemination of a publisher before submitting 
articles to a particular journal, and for journal editors to consider 
which publishers they'd like to associate themselves with.

I look forward to hearing your opinions.



On 03/31/2010 12:32 AM, Östen Dahl wrote:
> Here's one point that I wonder if anyone has mentioned. If we began to only
> publish in journals, we might need a lot more journals. If, for instance, all the
> papers and posters at the last ALT meeting (over a hundred) were to be published
> as normal-length papers in Linguistic Typology, that would fill the journal for
> about ten years.
> Östen

More information about the Lingtyp mailing list