Pāṇini meets Greenberg: why two award-winning authors chose Language Science Press for their 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.

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Improving diacritics and accents in Libertinus

Linguistic data is often presented in a wide range of glyphs with many modifications on them, such as accents, and from a variety of scripts: á, ô, ẅ, ɖ, ⁠ɓ⁠, ð, ʎ. These typographic demands put considerable constraints on font selection. At Language Science Press, we use Libertinus for Latin and Greek base glyphs and modifications.

Our workflow at Language Science Press is built on free and open software (FOSS). Most prominently, we use XeLaTex as a typesetting engine to produce our books. But the fonts we use to typeset our books can be considered FOSS as well. One advantage of using actively maintained FOSS fonts is that improvements to the fonts can be applied in a very short time frame, which enables us to accommodate authors’ needs very quickly.

This blog post is about how particular requirements arising from different books can be accommodated by extending the open Libertinus font.

Coverage as a factor in font selection

Selecting a font can be a complex issue, especially for a scientific publisher in linguistics. For one, font selection is a matter of layout and aesthetics. But there’s also a more technical side to it, and that concerns coverage: it should not be necessary to switch the font for particular glyphs. By offering to publish in a diverse range of sub-disciplines, the fonts for a linguistic publisher must provide all the glyphs needed by those disciplines. For our Studies in Diversity Linguistic series, we need a high coverage not only in Latin base glyphs, but in accents and diacritics as well. On the other hand, our Empirically Oriented Theoretical Morphology and Syntax series depends on typesetting formulas with all sorts of logico-mathematical symbols, such as relations, operators, variables, delimiters, etc.: ①, Σ,→, ⟦…⟧ Additionally, our quantitatively oriented series profit from mathematical type of numbers and equations (as in “p < 0.005”).

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Achievements 2020

We started our annual retrospectives in 2015 (2016, 2017, 20182019). This is the sixth installment, for 2020.

Books and series

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.

Evolution of expressions of interest over time. The blue line shows a linear fit.

The following figure gives a breakdown of the distribution of these works and their states of completion

Number of books in LangSci series and their state of completion. Green indicates accepted/published, red indicates (desk) rejection.

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) .


There are currently 27 series (+3). Last year, we accepted three more series: Open German Linguistics, Open Romance Linguistics, and Topics in Phonological Diversity.


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.

Regional distribution

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.

Proportion of downloads from different world regions. Africa and the Americas are increasing their share.

Community involvement

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).

Cost items for the year 2020. Personnel is about 75%.

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.

Two new series on multilingualism

Linguists have always known about the importance of contact between different ethnic and cultural groups. These encounters have shaped our societies, our cultures, and thereby also our language. With two new series on multilingualism, we provide new scientific outlets which can inform current debates in society at large and contribute scientific facts and models to the discussions. These two series complement each other nicely: 
Current Issues in Bilingualism edited by Andrea C. Schalley (Karlstad), M Carmen Parafita Couto (Leiden), Susana A. Eisenchlas (Griffith), Galina Putjata (Münster), and Jorge Valdés Kroff (Florida) – publishes both theoretical and empirical studies on individual and societal bilingualism, and hence bridges the gap that has traditionally been reflected in different approaches to the field. It covers both linguistic and cognitive as well as educational, affective, and social aspects of speakers’ bilinguality.
Contact and Multilingualism edited by Isabelle Léglise & Stefano Manfredi (both CNRS SeDyL)  on the other hand looks at multilingual practices and language contact both at individual and societal levels together with historical, socio-anthropological and typological issues

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An interview with Berkeley’s Larry Hyman, author of seven chapters in five LangSci books

Larry, you have authored altogether 7 chapters in 5 LangSci books in 4 different series (see list below). That sounds very versatile! Can you give us some background on those chapters and what ties them together?

Yes, I guess you could say that my interests are wide-ranging, which I enumerate on the Berkeley Linguistics website as phonological theory, language typology, and African languages, especially Bantu and Niger-Congo. I think what ties them together is that I am always thinking about typology, about how languages are the same vs. different. I’m fascinated with the variation among related languages which respond differently to the same conflicting concerns, often involving interfaces between phonology and grammar. This is the case in my article in the Enfield collection, where I contrasted intra-phonological dependencies with the possibility that there could be non-accidental dependences between phonology, morphology, and syntax. The other six chapters derive from my deep involvement with individual and comparative African linguistics, where I go after whatever strikes me as interesting and important.

Given my extensive work on tone systems, it is perhaps surprising that none of the LangSci publications have to do with tone. In more than one occasion I have set out to work on a new tone system (there’s nothing more exciting than studying a language from scratch!), but I quickly am distracted by something unusual and hence intriguing in the grammar. This is the case, for example, in the joint article on Lusoga multiple exponence. The three comparative chapters in the Watters volume as well as the multiple argument chapter in Bisang & Malchukov synthesize my personal field work on several dozen Bantoid, especially Grassfields Bantu languages, in Cameroon, where I could not help becoming involved in reconstructing proto systems as well as the historical developments our Grassfields Bantu Working Group documented language to language, dialect to dialect.

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100/100. Funding campaign successful, we will move on!

In 2017 we announced our plans for funding the operations of Language Science Press in the future. Rather than charging readers for reading or authors for publishing, we wanted to set up Language Science Press as a true community enterprise, where research institutions worldwide collaborate to set up an Open Access publication platform.

Many linguists worldwide contacted their librarians and asked them for support, and many of the libraries they asked were happy to fund our platform via Knowledge Unlatched. We are thus proud that we can announce today that we have reached our pledging target of 100 institutions worldwide which support us with 1000 EUR a year each, for the next three years!

This means that the operations for the next three years — and the next 90 books — are secured. However, we are at the lower bound of the intended corridor of 100,000-115,000 EUR. Technically, there was also an additional pledging program for individuals for raising another 15,000 EUR. We abandoned this, as we felt that the financial burden of book publication should not be borne by individuals, but rather by research institutions. As a consequence, we will keep the institutional pledging open until we reach 115 supporters. At 100 supporting institutions, we can publish books, but we cannot provide any extras such as nice maps or extensive help with conversion. When we reach 115, we will be able to provide more extensive support for authors or subfields which require it. So, if your library is still considering whether to join or not, now is the time! You can point to this impressive list of institutions worldwide which already fund Language Science Press. THANK YOU!

Future of Language Science Press: your support required as we are hitting the home stretch

In spring this year, we launched our campaign to collect 100 institutional members to collectively fund the future of Language Science Press. The first pledge announced was from U Düsseldorf.

Since then, we have collected 60 pledges from all over the world, with U Tilburg being the latest, making it stand 60/100.

As customary with crowdfunding projects, the support rate is high at the beginning, then drops towards the middle of the funding period (summer in our case), only to rise steeply as the end of the funding period approaches. We see the pledges picking up steam in the last weeks, but we will need a much steeper rise to meet the target! The green X in the graphic marks the position where we are now.

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