[Lingtyp] Ways to search literature

Martin Haspelmath haspelmath at shh.mpg.de
Wed Sep 12 05:50:56 EDT 2018

Actually, it's easy to imagine someone from outside the discipline being 
interested in how languages express certain concepts – e.g. how 
languages around the world say 'tea' or 'maize' or 'cousin' or 'slave' 
or 'god'.

Thus, linguists should strive toward making dictionaries of many 
languages available in such a way that they can be easily consulted 
together, in the manner of IDS (which gas 1300-word lists of 329 
languages: https://ids.clld.org/contributions). The Concepticon (a kind 
of "Conceptolog", but only for word meanings: 
https://concepticon.clld.org/) is intended to make it easy to compare 
dictionaries and word lists across languages. Ideally, each dictionary 
would contain links from its entries to the corresponding Concepticon 
entry, just as ideally, every resource on a language should contain the 
Glottolog ID (to provide a link to other resources on the same language).

Johann-Mattis Mattis List has coined the term "reference catalogue" for 
such lists of standard concepts for comparison 

There is no reason, I think, why there should not also be a reference 
catalogue for concepts such as "compensatory lengthening", as well as 
"ergative" or even "noun incorporation". We just need standard 
definitions for our technical terms, just as we have standard 
definitions for IPA symbols (i.e. we need a kind of IMA, an 
international morphosyntactic alphabet).


On 12.09.18 08:49, Sebastian Nordhoff wrote:
> 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
> Sebastian
> 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
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> Lingtyp mailing list
>>> Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
>>> http://listserv.linguistlist.org/mailman/listinfo/lingtyp
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Martin Haspelmath (haspelmath at shh.mpg.de)
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Kahlaische Strasse 10	
D-07745 Jena
Leipzig University
IPF 141199
Nikolaistrasse 6-10
D-04109 Leipzig

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