Collecting reader feedback with PaperHive, docLoop and GitHub

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.

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Prepublication of chapters in edited volumes

Edited volumes and time to publication

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 solution

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.

Footer of the prepublished version of a chapter with information about the volume the chapter will appear in and a note on pagination

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What it means to be open and community-based: The Unicode cookbook as a showcase

We are happy to announce the publication of The Unicode Cookbook for linguists: Managing writing systems using orthography profiles by Steven Moran and Michael Cysouw. Next to being a very insightful and valuable book for all linguists dealing with character encoding issues (most if not all linguists?), this publication also points the way forward in a number of domains central for the future of academic publishing in linguistics. This blog post discusses the different innovative aspects we see manifest in this book.

Multiple authors

The book has not one, but two authors. Both have contributed their respective perspectives and expertises. While we see multiple editors for edited volumes on a regular basis, multiple authors for a monograph are much less common. This has certainly to do with the fact that a monograph is much less amenable to “chunking” than an edited volume. In order to make sure that the authors do not interfere with each other’s work, a clear separation of tasks is necessary, as is version control.

Version control

The LaTeX source code of the project is available on GitHub at The authors started on 2015-03-29 with this version. All historical files are still available.
Until today, 310 updates have been made to the book, of which 174 by Moran and 121 by Cysouw.  The full history of the project can be seen at In order to have clearly designated versions for reference, the authors have created releases. Continue reading

Open Review of “Tone in Yongning Na: Lexical tones and morphotonology”

Language Science Press109 provides books as Open Access, but we also strive to make the whole publication process more open. Our software is open source, the Latex-code for all our books is openly available, and our bibliographies are on Glottolog.

One aspect of this openness is Open Review. The idea is that instead of two blind reviewers, the whole community can comment on a new manuscript and point out merits and possible improvements. A discussion of the theoretical axes along which Open Review can be differentiated can be found here; a report of practical experiences by Stefan Müller is here. At the time Stefan wrote his report, the technical infrastructure needed for doing Open Review was not fully in place yet, but now we are happy to announce that we will start Open Review as we intend it to be. Our first book to enter this Open Review stage is “Tone in Yongning Na: Lexical tones and morphotonology“.

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5 books in 5 weeks

In the last weeks, Language Science Press has had a sustained output of roughly one book a week. The books come from very different areas of linguistics, ranging from languages of New Guinea and Nepal to agent-based models and sociolinguistics in New Zealand. This shows that LangSci is indeed well rooted in linguistics at large. The books are, in order of appearance:

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Conversion of legacy documents and community publishing

Language Science Press uses a Latex-based workflow. Authors can use our Word/OpenOffice templates as a start, but there are many manuscripts out there which predate the publication of our templates. In this blogpost, I will detail our principles of community-based publishing for one of these manuscripts.

Case study: A grammar of Mauwake

The Mauwake language is spoken in Papua New Guinea, along the North coast of  Madang province. Liisa Berghäll has worked there for over 25 years, and the  manuscript of her grammar was finalised around 2010. It was available from the University of Helsinki e-thesis service.

Re-publication of this work with Language Science Press as Open Access allows for a much broader readership, but of course the manuscript has to follow our guidelines. In order to arrive there, the following steps had to be undertaken

  1. convert the manuscript to *tex
  2. make sure the linguistic content is correct
  3. incorporate suggested changes
  4. proofreading
  5. incorporate proofreaders’ comments
  6. final typesetting

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2700+ book downloads in two weeks: Interview with Roland Schäfer

Roland Schäfer

Roland, congratulations to your text book Einführung in die grammatische Beschreibung des Deutschen which got more than 2,700 downloads within the two weeks following publication and now leads the list of our most downloaded books.

Thanks a lot for publishing the book.

What is your textbook about? Are there not enough introductory textbooks around?

The book is about the basic facts of German grammar: surely not everything, but a large portion of what students of German linguistics should know about German grammar. At the same time, it introduces students to the standard methods used by linguists (at least traditionally) to dissect a language, i.e., mostly distributional analyses in phonology, morphology, syntax, and graphemics. No matter which theories or methods you’re going to use later, it’s hard to get by without knowing your basic categories…

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New book: The Talking Heads experiment: Origins of words and meanings

Steels2015We are happy to announce the first book in the series Computational Models of Language EvolutionThe Talking Heads experiment: Origins of words and meanings” by Luc Steels.

The Talking Heads Experiment, conducted in the years 1999-2001, was the first large-scale experiment in which open populations of situated embodied agents created for the first time ever a new shared vocabulary by playing language games about real world scenes in front of them. Continue reading