electronic materials: towards a new champions league?

Martin Haspelmath haspelmath at EVA.MPG.DE
Fri Nov 11 15:10:15 UTC 2011

It seems to me that what scientists (and the world) need is:

– open-access publication of all scientific works
– recovering of costs by author-pays model (maybe especially for 
"expensive fields", where publication costs are low compared to other 
costs) or financing by a public institution such as a university 
(especially for "cheap fields" like linguistics)
– print-on-demand services for those who want a nicely bound copy of the 

This should satisfy everyone's needs in an optimal way. Of course, the 
open-access publication outlets need to be associated with (different 
degrees of) prestige, because this is the currency of scientific work: 
Prestigious publications count more than less prestigious publications. 
(It's as in sports: The system wouldn't work without the hierarchical 
arrangement of Chamipons League, Bundesliga, 2nd Liga, and so on.)

The main reason why we are not there yet seems to be that the prestige 
factor would have to be recreated anew, and there is no way to destroy 
the old system. The Champions League became prestigious because 
simultaneously the Champions' Clubs Cup was abolished, otherwise it 
would have had an uncertain chance of succeeding.

But given the obvious advantages of the open-access system, it seems 
clear that sooner or later it will prevail. The sooner, the better.

So maybe ALT should start its own "ALT Grammar Series", which would 
perhaps publish maximally 10 grammars or so each year, so that it would 
be prestigious to get into that series. (The selection could be done by 
the committee that awards the Gabelentz and Panini prizes.) Recent 
Ph.D.s whose grammar is chosen for the ALT Grammar Series would then not 
have to worry about traditional book publication anymore: Their grammar 
would simultaneously be maximally available and associated with a 
prestigious publication outlet.

It seems to me that UC's eScholarship 
(http://escholarship.org/uc/ucpress_ucpl) works somewhat like this. Many 
of the recent UCPL volumes are freely downloadable, but can also be 
bought as a book ("printed on demand"). Or LOT, as mentioned by 
Sebaastian Nordhoff (http://www.lotpublications.nl/index3.html). (The 
Max Planck Society also has something similar, see 

What's missing here, though, is the external recognition: UCPL is a 
possible outlet only for University of California scholars, and LOT 
Publications is open only to LOT members.

Is this something that ALT should perhaps take on? Who else could create 
the soccer Champions League if not UEFA? Who else could create the 
champions league of grammar publication if not ALT?


On 11/11/2011 15:30, Peter Arkadiev wrote:
> Dear all,
> I think it is a really good idea to empirically test the "rating" of freely available grammars. Thank you, Liisa.
> I would like to make a couple of comments on Liisa's and other colleagues messages, and since it does not have full relevance to the discussion of Mouton's discount, I've changed the subject.
> 1) Availability to the language community
> Do you really think that a MLG or any other academic reference grammar could be a really useful thing for a linguistic community? As a symbol of prestige to be put among other sacred and venerable objects, perhaps, but for actual use - hardly. What native speakers of our languages need are teaching materials and texts in their own language, enhancing its use and transmission. Huge volumes to understand which one must not only know English but also have special training are largely useless for linguistic communities. Probably I am mistaken, please, tell me if I am.
> 2) Handling ease of printed books
> This is not an easy issue, either. Printed books are easy to use when you have a library where they are collected and a large desk where you can put them beside your PC. Not all of us have such a library, and not all even such a desk. And even if both are available, not every printed book is easy to handle. Just a personal example: I've recently bought Givon's "Ute Grammar" for a really bargain price, and I am happy I have this book, but in order to open it I have to take it with both hands. If I need to copy examples from the book to a file on my computer, I must either tear the book into separate pages or probably print with my nose, or use some intricate devices. To have a neat searchable PDF which one can take on one's PC anywhere (who of us hasn't had to do some urgent work while travelling?) would be much more convenient.
> This does not mean that I am against printed books (there are environmental issues here, too, though I think that much more paper is wasted on bureaucratic documents than on books), but I think that in our age both options should be accessible. For instance, I would find it fair if publishing houses provided their customers with free electronic copies of printed books they buy.
> Sorry for intoducing a potential new topic of discussion, but I hope this is at least a bit relevant.
> Best wishes,
> Peter Arkadiev

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

More information about the Lingtyp mailing list