Don Killian donald.killian at HELSINKI.FI
Tue Nov 15 17:37:31 UTC 2011

Hi all,

In about 3 years time, I'll be one of those documentary linguists, so 
this question is very pertinent for me.  I don't necessarily have to 
publish my grammar in a place which is prestigious, particularly if it 
limits access of my work only to individuals working in wealthy 
institutions, but I would like to have it published in a place which is 
peer-reviewed and respected.  If I were to publish with Mouton, the 
current prices may mean that my grammar would be read by very few 
people, or pirated instead.  This is not to disparage Mouton; I hold Uri 
in the highest regard, and when I've interacted with Mouton before 
they've always been helpful and courteous, even when I've brought up the 
subject of prices directly to the company. Furthermore, there are some 
excellent grammars published in the MGL series... classics which have 
been cited or quoted thousands of times.

However, my linguistic consultants have already expressed interest in a 
copy of my grammar when it's finished, and they unfortunately would not 
have the financial means to legally purchase the book at current 
prices.. even with free author copies, my consultants would more than 
likely not be the only interested members of the community unable to 
afford it.  People in Sudan and Ethiopia can afford books at 10-20 USD, 
but not 200, and I don't want to have to make a choice between my career 
and the language community I worked with.

These are fairly weighty topics we're discussing, and I'd like to hear 
more opinions from the famous/well-respected linguists about this 
subject, as they will be the ones to make the most difference in terms 
of publishing outlets.  I realize that they also tend to be the busiest, 
but this discussion impacts our entire field in a rather significant 
way.  No matter how excited, hard-working, and organized young linguists 
are, we simply won't be able to break through the tradition enough to 
create online publishing resources without the help of established 

Some have already made suggestions, but many others have remained quiet, 
such as Ian Maddieson and Matthew Dryer.  I hope it's not rude to ask 
people so directly involved, but I'd really like to hear your opinions. 
And Frans, since you are involved with Linguistic Typology, I'd like to 
hear your thoughts as well about quality publishing at more affordable 
costs?  Do people like Martin's ALT champions league, or are there 
alternate views?

Bill mentioned being pessimistic about breaking tradition, but I don't 
see it as necessarily breaking tradition.  If the tradition-establishers 
voice their opinions and become involved, change could happen more 
quickly, yet peacefully, than could otherwise be expected.



On 11/15/2011 06:24 PM, Bill Croft wrote:
> Nigel's proposal is what will eventually have to happen. It happened in
> physics, quite rapidly in fact; but that is a different field. (And
> has submitted papers, not accepted ones; so you still have to
> plough through the chaff as well as the wheat to keep current.) It is
> happening painfully slowly in the humanities. Print journals still
> dominate - "Linguistic Discovery" and "Constructions" are pretty
> moribund. Consider the documentary linguist wanting to publish a
> grammar: given her/his need to have a good publication venue to get
> tenure, will s/he publish with a long-established prestigious publisher
> whose grammar series is edited by Bernard Comrie, Georg Bossong and
> Matthew Dryer, or will s/he go to an untested online publisher whose
> editors are not the very top typologists in the field? The same goes
> with other linguistics subfields and publishers (it's going to be hard
> to match the cachet of OUP and CUP, and the editors they are able to
> attract).
> Sorry to be pessimistic, but it's going to be hard to break tradition. I
> fear things will get worse before they get better. I personally don't
> want to see hardcopy publishing of scholarly research go away, and would
> like to see it made somehow more affordable (e.g. print on demand in a
> paperback format, as CUP has done for its out of print titles). I will
> support or join efforts to move to a better publication model than the
> current one for individual scholars. But it will take time, maybe a long
> time.

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