Mouton "discounts" for ALT members

Martin Haspelmath haspelmath at EVA.MPG.DE
Fri Nov 11 11:41:13 UTC 2011

I haven't made a systematic survey, but it seems to me that the claim 
that Mouton grammars are especially expensive is largely a myth.

For instance, consider the following recent Lincom grammars:

Marian Klamer, A short grammar of Alorese, 142 pp., EUR 48,80
Muhammad Fannami & Mohammed Aminu Mu'azu, An introduction to morphology 
and syntax of the Kanuri language, 292 pp., EUR 74,60
Stevenson, Grammar of Palestinian Jewish Aramaic, 98 pp., EUR 42,70

These cost on average EUR 0.31 per page.

Or consider the following Benjamins grammars:

Dileep Chandralal, Sinhala, 296 pp., EUR 110
Ramesh Vaman Dhongde and Kashi Wali, Marathi, 340 pp., EUR 110
Yamuna Kachru, Hindi, 309 pp., EUR 125

These cost on average EUR 0.36 per page.

Now compare the four most recent Mouton Grammar Library books:

Marian Klamer, A grammar of Teiwa, 540 pp., EUR 149.95
Birgit Hellwig, A grammar of Goemai, 612 pp., EUR 149.95
Næss & Hovdhauden, A grammar of Vaeakau-Taumako, 380 pp., 139.95
Tasaku Tsunoda, A grammar of Warrongo, 850 pp., EUR 149.95

These cost on average EUR 0.24 per page.

What is special about the Mouton Grammar Library is that it's the only 
grammar series of a major linguistics publisher that includes grammars 
of very small languages, i.e. languages that are interesting only to 
comparative linguists (this is unlike the Benjamins grammars, for 
example, which are all on major Asian languages).

I think that in general, journals of shareholder-owned publishers are 
the real culprits; compare the following estimated page prices of 
selected journals (2011 volume):

Lingua (Elsevier): EUR 0.47 per page
Language Sciences (Elsevier): EUR 1.42 per page
Australian Journal of Linguistics (Taylor & Francis) EUR 1.32 per page

(For this reason, I've made it a personal policy not to collaborate with 
shareholder-owned publishers. These include Elsevier, Springer, Taylor & 
Francis, Routledge, Pearson, and Wiley-Blackwell.)

But the points raised by Harald and Sebastian are still very much worth 
debating. The conclusion to draw from their messages is that the 
publishers just do what the academics want. If we change our behaviour, 
they will, too.


On 11/11/2011 03:12, Harald Hammarström wrote:
> Dear Mark,
> I don't know if it can be called a solution but one possibility for
> authors is to submit to open-access monograph series that welcome
> descriptive materials, e.g., Cadernos de Etnolinguistica for
> (South-)Americanists or Himalayan Linguistics Archive for
> Himalayanists, or even the MPI EVA Language Description Heritage
> repository ( <>) 
> then it'll be accessible to any
> scholar with a computer and some indirect or direct access to the
> internet. I suppose few authors are ready to do this because of the
> prestige associated with the magna publishers. But the prestige comes
> from senior scholars acting as series editors, reviewers and the like,
> who might as well do this for an open-access publisher. I have never
> understood why senior scholars continue to do this instead of doing
> the same for an open-access publisher. Perhaps someone who knows
> better could comment?
> If you are thinking of a printed and bound version to be affordable to
> a member of the speaker community who is not necessarily a scholar or
> has access to a computer, it seems possible to have a local publisher
> publish the grammar/dictionary giving a much more reasonable price. I
> believe Robbins Burling did exactly this, with a publisher somewhere in
> NE India (so it should be comparable to your case) but I don't know what
> the exact price was and whether it was affordable and actually bought
> by many interested locals.
> It is sometimes argued that high book (& journal) prices is necessary
> and justified for added value and development of infrastructure with
> frontline publishing companies. But the overview of profit margins with
> academic publishers by McGuigan and Russell [1] claims that this is not
> at all enough to explain the profit margins (and thus, in turn, the book/
> journal prices). For this they cite a report from an analysis conducted
> under Deutsche Bank which I have not read, but in any case, does anyone
> know the specifics for de Gruyter, Mouton, and/or the MGL book series, 
> i.e.,
> what are their profit margins and what is the added value they can be
> said to bring?
> all the best,
> H
> [1]
> Glenn S. McGuigan and Robert D. Russell, 2008. The Business of 
> Academic Publishing: A Strategic Analysis of the Academic Journal 
> Publishing Industry and its Impact on the Future of Scholarly 
> Publishing. Electronic Journal of Academic and Special Librarianship, 
> volume 9, number 3.
> 2011/11/11 Post, Mark < at < 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 < 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

Martin Haspelmath (haspelmath at
Max-Planck-Institut fuer evolutionaere Anthropologie, Deutscher Platz 6	
D-04103 Leipzig
Tel. (MPI) +49-341-3550 307, (priv.) +49-341-980 1616

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