[Lingtyp] Ways to search literature

Sebastian Nordhoff sebastian.nordhoff at glottotopia.de
Mon Sep 3 02:17:35 EDT 2018

Dear list,
regarding my question from last week, 18 people have responded. They
include junior scholars and senior scholars and have names of diverse
origins. I know about half of them personally.

The following list gives the resources mentioned:

personal contact: 12
Glottolog: 7
Google Scholar: 7
University library: 6
Wikipedia: 4
Harald Hammarström: 3
academia.edu: 3
mailing list: 3
personal collection: 3
Researchgate: 2
SIL encyclopedia: 1
University encyclopedia: 1
archive.org: 1
WorldCat: 1

The conjecture that the personal network plays a key role is thus
confirmed. One younger scholar mentioned that she does not yet have a
large network. This is indeed a fact to keep in mind: how to ensure
access to information for early career researchers?

Regarding additional services required, there were fewer answers. Most
popular was a request for Glottolog (or similar service) to include
download links (4 mentions). 3 people explicitly stated that they did
not miss any service. One person mentioned a directory of linguists and
their specializations (like ALT's but improved). One person mentioned an
index of works where you can enter a language and a feature and are
presented a list of relevant works.

>From an infrastructural point of view, it is interesting that the field
at large relies on one single individual (Harald Hammarström) to a large
extent. His collection of grammars is widely shared, he is consulted as
a last resort, and an openly available version of his grammar collection
is a frequent request.

The need for any more technical infrastructure has not materialized from
the answers.

I might contrast linguistics with a a friend of mine in neuroscience. He
commutes to work, and during those 45 minutes in the morning, he sifts
through abstracts of new articles. Every day. Just to keep track of what
is going on. I understand that he is in dire need of technical
assistance to help him separate the wheat from the chaff. For
linguistics, the amount of new work to consult on a daily basis seems to
be a lot less. This obviously has influences on the technical
infrastructure the discipline needs.

Best wishes, and thank you all for answering.

On 08/29/2018 12:09 PM, Sebastian Nordhoff wrote:
> Dear all,
> this is a query relating to your personal habits of searching for
> literature. In the publishing world, discoverability is a very hot topic
> right now, and all kinds of resources and technologies are being
> advertised and proposed.
> I am wondering if these search facilities are relevant for linguistics
> in the same way as, say, for biomedical research. Very often, I cannot
> really see the benefits of the technical solutions proposed, but I might
> of course be wrong. So, I would like to get a broader perspective and
> ask you the following two questions:
> (1) Suppose you hear that Language L outside of your normal geographical
> area might be relevant for your research as it is said to exhibit a very
> intriguing phenomenon.
> What would be your normal procedure to find out more about L?
> Which online resources would you use (library catalog, Wikipedia, OLAC,
> Glottolog, Google services, ...)?
> Which offline resources would you use?
> Which informal resources (email request, Facebook etc) would you use?
> What service would be great to have but does not exist yet?
> (2) You are studying language Y and in a particular domain (phonology,
> morphology, syntax, ...) you find some weird phenomenon P. You are not
> an expert in the domain.
> What would be your normal procedure to get a better understanding of P
> and previous research about P?
> Which online resources would you use?
> Which offline resources would you use?
> Which informal resources (email request etc) would you use?
> What service would be great to have but does not exist yet?
> Please reply to me in person. I will compile a list of answers. I will
> have a small presentation about the topic next Wednesday, but later
> answers will be welcome, too.
> Disclaimer: My conjecture is that linguists use their personal network
> more than online resources. So I am interested in answers relating to
> this as well.
> Best wishes
> Sebastian
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