[Lingtyp] Ways to search literature

Sebastian Nordhoff sebastian.nordhoff at glottotopia.de
Wed Sep 12 02:49:22 EDT 2018

Dear all,
I presented my results to the librarian/information science people. The
main take-home message is that discoverability is important for people
*outside* of their network. So, suppose there is some geneticist or
archaeologist who needs some linguistic information on language L. They
would not send an email to LingTyp or to Harald. The same is true in the
other direction. For my studies in Sri Lanka, some population genetic
info was relevant, but since I had no network in that domain, I never
knew it existed until Peter Bakker dug it up (and so it entered my
network). Maybe Peter can relate how he discovered it.

Most probably as a result of asking this question to a kind of "insider
list", the answers I got give the impression of some "inner circle
network", which is available to those who form part of it. I hasten to
add that I do not feel that there are any significant barriers to
joining that network, but you have to know that it exists in the first
place. My teachers told me to join LingTyp (and FUNKNET) when I was an
undergrad, which was very good advice.

Glottolog is probably the right way to go in order to make information
about languages available to relative outsiders. It is true that there
is no comparable resource ("Conceptolog") for linguistic phenomena. But
those are also probably less relevant for interdisciplinary research. I
can imagine a hundred ways why geneticists, historians or
anthropologists might be interested in some details about language X,
but I find it more difficult to imagine neighbouring disciplines to have
an interest in compensatory lengthening for instance.

Best wishes

On 09/03/2018 08:17 AM, Sebastian Nordhoff wrote:
> 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
> WALS: 3
> Harald Hammarström: 3
> academia.edu: 3
> mailing list: 3
> personal collection: 3
> Researchgate: 2
> Ethnologue:2
> SIL encyclopedia: 1
> University encyclopedia: 1
> ZETOC: 1
> COPAC: 1
> archive.org: 1
> JSTOR: 1
> KVIK: 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.
> Sebastian
> 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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