Conversion of lexical databases into printable books

We have recently published two dictionaries in our series African Language Grammars and Dictionaries which were automatically converted from the FLEX lexical database. These two books are The Ik language and A dictionary and grammatical outline of Chakali.


In this post, I will detail how structured lexical data as found in FLEX can be converted to *tex, which can be compiled into a LangSci book. I will complement this with some observations about conversions from the XLingPaper format.

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Document lifecycles and fluid publication

Traditionally, once a book was published, there was little you could do to change its content afterwards. Works in linguistics which see a second edition are few and far between. The most you could hope for is a sheet of errata distributed with the book itself. One consequence of this was, incidentally, that many works were withheld for a long time to make sure they were absolutely perfect before releasing them to the printer’s, which would make the content immutable.

Errata. CC-BY-SA Sage Ross.

With electronic publication, things are different. The publication of a new version is comparatively cheap. In this blogpost, I will detail the lifecycle of a document at Language Science Press and show how we work together with PaperHive to get the document from the initial stage to the first (and subsequent) editions. At the end, I will put this approach into a wider perspective on academic publishing.

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Open Authoring as the obvious next step in open publishing

When it comes to writing, reviewing, and proofreading scientific publications and text books (for university students), I am convinced that a radical wisdom of the crowd paradigm does not apply, mostly because the crowds are too small and likely also too fragmented. However, the principles of open access definitely allow larger communities to contribute suggestions, ideas, and corrections to publications, simply because the hurdles and the fuss brought about by copyright restrictions are removed. In this post, I propose that there is much more potential to unleash for the writing and editing process by borrowing concepts and adopting technologies from open source software development.

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