Mouton "discounts" for ALT members

Liisa Berghäll liisa.berghall at GMAIL.COM
Fri Nov 11 12:52:48 UTC 2011

This thread interests me very much, since I am still editing my Ph.D.
dissertation “Mauwake reference grammar” in order to submit it to one of the
major publishers. (We have an oral agreement but nothing signed so far.) My
two main concerns are 1) the availability also for people who do not have a
lot of money to buy expensive books, and 2) the ease of use: handling a
physical book is often easier than scrolling up and down a PDF document or
thumbing through a printout version of the same. For the first, an open
access publication would seem a better solution, for the second, a printed
book. I do not have to worry about the prestige question, as I am close to
the end of my career and am not seeking academic positions.


The grammar is currently freely available online in the form that it was
during the defence in Sep. 2010 (see link below to the University of
Helsinki e-thesis service). The link was publicized on the LinguistList, as
well as a few other places. It would be interesting to get an idea of how
many of the subscribers to this list, for instance, have downloaded it (and
also how many have actually used it!). Could I ask for a quick reply from
those who have done so, with just something like: downloaded (+ used)?


Liisa Berghäll



Liisa Berghäll, Ph.D.

Helmiäispolku 5 B 26

00530 Helsinki



050-323 0845


From: Discussion List for ALT [mailto:LINGTYP at LISTSERV.LINGUISTLIST.ORG] On
Behalf Of Joseph T. Farquharson
Sent: Friday, November 11, 2011 2:05 PM
Subject: Re: Mouton "discounts" for ALT members


This is a matter that has concerned me for a number of years especially
since I work at a university which serves several developing countries. I
have a recent edited volume with John Benjamins that nobody I know can
afford. This is sad since even persons who are not linguists wanted to buy
copies of the book. I get a book grant from my university but the sum per
year is hardly enough to buy 5 books from publishers such as Benjamins or
Mouton. The money normally gets spent on introductory texts and material to
enhance my teaching and cannot really stretch to buy specialist volumes to
enhance my research. One solution is spending my research time or my
sleeping time to scout used book sellers online to get bargains.

I have also noticed that purchasing one PDF version of a journal article is
the same as buying a book elsewhere. There is something fundamentally wrong
here, even in a capitalist market.

It has already been pointed out by Sebastian and a few others that we need
to change the political culture in academia. When we stop (automatically)
judging publications on which publishing house they are produced by as
opposed to their content then we should see an improvement. Senior scholars
who make decisions in terms of appointments and promotions need to ensure
that the works of their colleagues are evaluated based on merit and not on
publishing house. Until we do that we really cannot point fingers at
publishers. They are in it to make money and if they can get EUR 139 for one
book they will take it! 

By the way, two years ago when I had a full-time faculty position in
Jamaica, EUR 139 represented 11% of my monthly salary.


On 11 November 2011 07:41, Martin Haspelmath <haspelmath at> wrote:

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,


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>

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 W. Post
The Cairns Institute
James Cook University
Smithfield, QLD 4878

Tel: +61-7-4042-1898 <tel:%2B61-7-4042-1898> 
Eml: at

-----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.

Bill Croft



Martin Haspelmath (haspelmath at
Max-Planck-Institut fuer evolutionaere Anthropologie, Deutscher Platz 6     
D-04103 Leipzig      
Tel. (MPI) +49-341-3550 307 <tel:%2B49-341-3550%20307> , (priv.) +49-341-980
1616 <tel:%2B49-341-980%201616> 

Joseph T. Farquharson

Department of Liberal Arts
The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine

Trinidad & Tobago, West Indies 

Telephone: (868) 662-2002 ext. 3493 | Fax: (868) 663-5059
Email 1: jtfarquharson at 
Email 2: joseph.farquharson at 

Website:  <> 

New co-edited book: Variation in the Caribbean
<>  (2011)

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