Books and series
In 2021, we published 30 books
Shelece Easterday and Nadine Grimm won the Greenberg Award and the Pāṇini Award, respectively, both awarded by the Association of Linguistic Typology at its 2019 meeting. Both have chosen to publish their books with Language Science Press. Let’s see what they have to say about their motivations and their experiences.
Hi Shelece and Nadine, and congratulations to your awards from the Association for Linguistic Typology. Could you tell us briefly what your research is about, and why you received the awards?
Shelece: My research is in phonological typology, and I am particularly interested in rare sound patterns and how these come about through processes of language change. My 2017 dissertation, for which I received the 2019 ALT Greenberg Award, examines the properties and emergence of highly complex syllable structure, a phonotactic pattern in which long strings of consonants may occur. My study involved both quantitative and qualitative analysis of the phonetic, phonological, and morphological properties of a diverse sample of 100 languages in order to determine the dynamic processes that might lead to a language developing highly complex syllable structure. I believe that it was the combination of this approach and the interesting topic (a pattern which is famous in the literature but often theoretically marginalized) which made the work attractive to the award committee.
Nadine: I work on the Gyeli language of Cameroon and other Bantu languages. Based on empirical primary data that stems from fieldwork in the language community, I pay special attention to the interface between sound, meaning, and syntactic structure. In addition to grammar writing, I am especially interested in systems of grammatical tone as well as aspects of anthropological linguistics, for instance numeral systems or color terms.I received the Pāṇini Award 2019 for A grammar of Gyeli, an endangered northwestern Bantu language of Cameroon spoken by “Pygmy” hunter-gatherers. The award committee praised the originality of the grammatical analysis, which is solidly based on empirical evidence from a diverse range of natural language data, the fact that the grammar is thoroughly embedded in and explicitly connected to wider scholarship in both Bantu linguistics and typology, as well as the accessible, reader-friendly form-to-function style in the grammar’s organization.I believe that another bonus of the grammar is its foundation in a documentary approach. Nineteen months of fieldwork within a DoBeS (Documentation of Endangered Languages) project provided a rich text corpus covering various genres that informed my description and enabled me to add ethnographic and sociolinguistic information.Continue reading
Martin, you started the project of a scholar-owned press in 2013, together with Stefan Müller. How did you get involved in Language Science Press, and what can you tell us about the developments and your experience?
One day in 2012, I received a message from Stefan Müller (then at FU Berlin), who asked me if I wanted to get involved in a project for bottom-up open-access publication in linguistics. We had not met before, as we belong to somewhat different communities (I’m a typologist, and Stefan mostly works on the formal syntax of German), but after our first meeting, we felt that there was enough common ground to start a project. It took over a year to set everything up: In 2013, we received start-up funding from the DFG, and our first book came out in 2014. That was an exciting time, and we were happy to be supported by a lot of colleagues right from the beginning. Stefan has amazing technical and design abilities, and he was persuaded by key aspects of my strategic vision. We had hoped that our publishing imprint would be a big success, but in hindsight, the success was bigger than we could have realistically expected. To a large extent, this was of course because we found exactly the right person to manage our day-to-day operations 🙂 On the other hand, it was a bit of a disappointment that our model was not copied more often by others. Open-access publication is becoming more and more common, but most of it is top-down, with the big commercial publishers controlling most aspects. So Language Science Press is still a very special enterprise.
As of today, your series Studies in Diversity Linguistics has 32 published books and 105 expressions of interest. How do you cope with that interest and demand?
That’s indeed a good question – and sometimes I don’t (some authors will know what I mean, because I don’t always reply super fast). Due to my position at a prestigious Max Planck Institute, my name is very well known, so this generates trust and interest in the series that I started, I think. Ideally, the work would be distributed over more shoulders. On the other hand, I have more time than most of my colleagues as my position does not involve teaching, so I feel a particular obligation to invest my time in service to the community. For the task of reviewing submitted books, I have developed a somewhat novel approach, which has helped especially for voluminous grammars: Instead of asking a single colleague to review a 600-page work, I ask 24 colleagues to review a 50-page chapter (so that in the end, every chapter is read by two colleagues). This means a lot of correspondence, but as I do it in the traditional way (not via an automated system), this is also quite nice at a personal level.
In 2020, we published 30 books, and the second edition of The verb in Nyakyusa as a bonus book.
101 works were proposed to Language Science Press in 2020, for a total of 604. In 2019, 78 works had been proposed.
The following figure gives a breakdown of the distribution of these works and their states of completion
The most active series are Studies in Diversity Linguistics (69), Textbooks in Language Sciences (35), EOTMS (25), and Translation and Multilingual Natural Language Processing (24) .
The median time from submission to decision is now 97 days (-1). The median time from submission to publication was 257 days (-14).
The acceptance rate (counting desk rejections) is 53.75% (+1.51) over all series. Only considering submissions where the proposal had been previously approved, the acceptance rate is 88.71% (+1.75).
In 2020, LangSci pdfs were downloaded 469,848 times (+106,865 compared to 362,983 in 2018), for a grand total of 1,149,905. This excludes downloads by search engine robots.
The most popular work is A aquisição da língua materna e não materna with 61,262 downloads, followed by Einführung in die grammatische Beschreibung des Deutschen (all three editions) with 60,659 downloads, and Grammatical theory (all four editions): 49,497 downloads.
LangSci books have been accessed from 136 different countries and territories. The following chart gives a breakdown of the percentages of downloads per month for different areas of the world.
Language Science Press is a community enterprise. We rely on the community for authoring and reviewing, but also for typesetting and proofreading. Across all published books, 236 linguists from all over the world have participated in proofreading. The most prolific proofreader is Jeroen van de Weijer, who has proofread chapters of 70 books.
There are currently 453 proofreaders registered with Language Science Press (+53).
For our 27 series, we are happy to be able to rely on 408 members in editorial boards from 49 different countries on 6 continents.
Of the books published in 2020, 27 went through proofreading on Paperhive. A total of 18,372 comments were left, for an average of 680 (median: 675). The book with the most comments was “Multi-verb constructions in Eastern Indonesia” (1355).
The total number of books which have completed proofreading on Paperhive is 103. Total number of comments over all books is 73,158 (mean: 710, median: 647)
Due to the pandemic, we only travelled to one conference, 576km return. This was by train and emitted 0g CO₂. We are still unable to quantify our electricity and heating CO₂ footprint.
We had a revenue of 113,756.15 € (-18,951.76) in 2019 and expenditures of -120,676.92 € (+675.17). The main cost items are personnel (89,772.25 €), service providers (19,245.13 €), rent (5,752.10 €), book copies (3,825.57€), travel (1,244.21€), and gear (2,557.79€). A total of five different employees of four different nationalities have received a salary from Language Science Press (none of them full time, and only two of them 12 months).
Given that our expenditures remained stable at 120k, as did the number of books we published (30), we again arrive at a very round figure of 4000€ to produce one book (See here for an overview of costs elsewhere, ranging from 8k to 18k€).
The lion’s share of our revenue comes from institutional memberships via Knowledge Unlatched (105,000 €). 7,295,75 € come from print margins, the rest is diverse.
Note that none of theses figures includes VAT.
Back in 2017, we wrote a blog post on fluid publication. This explained the development of a book by the author together with the readership, reusing techniques well-known from software development.
The author 1) starts with a draft version, collects feedback from colleagues, and then the stages of 2) (open) review, 3) acceptance, 4) community proofreading and finally 5) publication of the first edition follow. A history of the different versions is kept on GitHub. GitHub also provides functionalities to manage lists of open issues which still have to be addressed before the next stage can be initiated.
As detailed in various posts on this blog, we use PaperHive for community proofreading. Today, we can showcase docLoop, which allows us to transform the community comments into todo lists on GitHub, closing the loop from author to reader and back from the reader to the author.
Let’s look at an example, Voice at the interfaces: The syntax, semantics, and morphology of the Hebrew verb by Itamar Kastner. We can see the progress of this book on its GitHub page. The book was started in June 2018 and finalised in June 2020. Between the setup of the project and the publication, we count 259 different versions. Next to the author itamarkast, who provided 227 improved versions, kopeckyf and Glottotopia from the LangSci team provided 24 and 3 commits, respectively.Continue reading
Edited volumes are an important type of publication in linguistics, and Language Science Press has published about 50 edited volumes up to now. However, the time to publication is normally an issue for edited volumes given the larger number of contributors. In a project with 12 contributors, chances are that at least one of them will not hand in the chapter, the revision or the proofs in time, which delays the whole project.
This leads to a vicious circle: everybody knows that probably the volume will be late anyway, so authors adjust their priorities and focus on some other work where the timing is more critical. Which delays the work even more, so everybody adjusts their priorities again and so on. When I was still actively publishing as a linguist, I had a paper in a volume which took 5 years to come out!
This whole problem arises because the book and all its chapters will only be published once the last chapter is in. Otherwise, page numbers cannot be assigned and cross-references will not work.
Our series Open Slavic Linguistics was unhappy with this state of affairs and suggested that book chapters can be published ahead of the volume, as so-called prepublications. This means that all chapters which have been reviewed, revised, proofread, and typeset can be made available on our website. The setup of our LaTeX class allows to compile the same chapter either individually or as part of a book. As for the pagination problem, we simply set the page numbers to roman and add a note to the footer that the page numbering is preliminary. That way, readers are not led to mistakenly cite Smith (2020: 12) for a chapter which will have a final pagination much higher than 12.