Mouton "discounts" for ALT members

Sebastian Nordhoff sebastian_nordhoff at EVA.MPG.DE
Fri Nov 11 10:37:56 UTC 2011

Dear Mark and Bill,
your question concerns the distribution of scientific findings, grammars  
in that particular case. Publishers have for a long time been the  
gatekeepers on this path, deciding which content might recoup the  
investment in printing it, and which other content might not.
With the explosion of information technology, publishing costs have  
plummeted. You could just dump your grammar on your homepage and be done.  
This means that, at marginal publication costs, you can make your content   
available to the public. This also means that people from all over the  
globe, including the speech community, will have access to your work as  
soon as they are connected to Internet. If they find it.
My grammar of Sri Lanka Malay is available for free from the LOT homepage.  
I could probably have published it with a major publisher, but I think  
that scientific production should be available to the reader at no cost.  
This cost me about 3000 EUR publication fees (some of this unrelated to  
web issues), but in return, I know that everybody can access the work.

Big publishers have three advantages: central repository, quality control,  
and prestige. Central repository means that the MGL is the place to search  
when you are looking for a descriptive work, while John Doe's homepage is  
not. Quality control should assure a minimum of scientific standards,  
prestige is the currency you get tenure with: A grammar in MGL earns you  
more brownie  points than a grammar on your homepage.

If we want to get away from big publishers and the prohibitive pricing  
policies, we will have to address these issues:

1) How can an author make sure that their work gets known to interested  
colleagues without publishing it with a big publisher?
2) How can readers make sure that the grammars they access fulfill basic  
scientific standards?
3) How can the negative impact of self-publication on career possibilities  
be remedied?

As for 1), OLAC or the ALT repository go into that direction., Mendeley or similar are another possibility. ALT might also  
consider setting up a grammar platform with full text access. Those of you  
who have published grammars might want to check their contracts, because  
often, copyright is returned to the authors after two years. When signing  
future contracts, you might want to have an eye on this issue.

As for 2), this can be annoying, but if the cost of accessing the content  
of a grammar is minimal, the time spent on finding out that a grammar is  
poor is probably tolerable. A recommendation/rating system with Web 2.0  
techniques can also be of help here. can serve as a model.

As for 3), this is something which has to be addressed at the political  
level. Next time when you are on a hiring committee, you can ask the  
question: "How has the candidate made sure that their work is accessible  
to the wider public?". Open Access publications fare much better than  
closed access publication in this respect.

Finally, I do think that Mouton is a rather nice publisher, and that the  
high cost of grammars is in large part due to the small size of the  
readership. If you want to know who the really bad guys are, I recommend  
the following blog post:

Best wishes

On Fri, 11 Nov 2011 01:34:52 +0100, Post, Mark < at>  

> Dear Typologists,
> I thank Bill Croft for raising this point, but would further suggest  
> that there is a deeper issue involved, particularly as regards  
> large-scale descriptive work such as grammars and dictionaries. Most  
> work currently being done in language description relates to communities  
> or localities in which institutions and individual scholars alike have  
> so little purchasing power that obtaining an MGL volume is a  
> straightforward impossibility - with or without an ALT or  
> similarly-scaled "discount". While exceptions can be found, the overall  
> effect of this situation is, one, to radically restrict research  
> opportunities in exactly the places where they are often most in demand,  
> and two, to foster inequality among our colleagues. I'm sure I will be  
> reminded that most scholars are aware of this problem, and that there is  
> no point in bringing it up unless I can put forth an acceptable  
> solution. I really wish I could. But I do want to propose that the  
> current status quo is ethically flawed to a very serious extent, and  
> that authors contribute to this problem when we submit our work to  
> publishers whose pricing schemes are so dramatically prohibitive as is  
> MGL's (whatever other merits they may have). I would also warmly welcome  
> suggestions for how matters might be improved from listmembers who might  
> have made more progress in their thinking about potential solutions than  
> I seem to have.
> Regards all around,
> Mark
> Mark W. Post
> The Cairns Institute
> James Cook University
> Smithfield, QLD 4878
> Australia
> Tel: +61-7-4042-1898
> Eml: at
> Web:
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Discussion List for ALT [mailto:LINGTYP at LISTSERV.LINGUISTLIST.ORG]  
> On Behalf Of Bill Croft
> Sent: Friday, 11 November 2011 1:28 AM
> Subject: Mouton "discounts" for ALT members
> Dear typologists,
>      Some of you have taken advantage of the discounts that Mouton has
> offered to ALT members for the Mouton Grammar Library and Empirical
> Approaches to Language Typology series. The discount, available in a
> list at the Lingtyp website, used to be around 50% of the (very high)
> list price of the volumes in these series. After 2009, no new volumes
> were added to the discount list. Now the new discount list has
> reappeared but the discount has shrunk to 20%.
>     The change in the discount has made the MGL and EALT volumes go
> from (barely) affordable to completely unaffordable to individual
> scholars. This is particularly serious because Mouton volumes are so
> expensive - pretty much the most expensive in the field of
> linguistics - that it is difficult if not impossible for university
> libraries to purchase them. I inquired about the change, and was told
> that De Gruyter decided to standardize the discount for all societies
> at 20%, and since Mouton is owned by De Gruyter, Mouton has to
> conform to De Gruyter policies.
>      At this point, according to the current ALT discount list,
> volumes published before 2009 are still available at their original
> discount price. I do not know how long that will last.
>     I do not know if it is worth trying, but I would urge members to
> object to this change in policy to Mouton and De Gruyter.
> Sincerely,
> Bill Croft

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