Thursday, April 30, 2015

List of Open Access publishing in linguistics

We're big fans of open access publishing and other ways of distributing knowledge in a fair and accessible way. We're also big fans of lists: we've got a list of resources on linguistic terminology, free online linguistic databases and now also one for open access publishing in linguistics.

If we're missing something in our lists, let us know.

Also: check out our posts tagged with "free PDF" for tips on interesting articles in linguistics that are freely available.

What's the deal with Open Access you ask?
Commonly, tax payers pay for universities and other institutions to do research through funding bodies like the NSF or DFG . Researchers partially communicate with each other and document their research through scholarly publications. These publications are often edited and distributed through large commercial publishing houses. These publications are later bought by university libraries so that other researchers might read it. University libraries are paid by tax payers. There is often a discrepancy between what libraries pay and what value it seems like the publishers actually contribute to the product. Many academic publishers have academics working for free or with little pay as reviewers or editors. Many funding bodies of research are fed up with this model; among other things, they don't like tax payers paying twice. Adding to this, Open Access is also a way of making research more accessible to non-privileged researchers who might not have the resources to pay for publications.

Researchers can work for free or for little pay reviewing and editing for Open Access (OA) journals instead; there is no reason why the quality necessarily would go down if we moved from publishers that charge readers to Open Access. While there are lots of poor-quality OA venues, that is no reason not to do it. We can still evaluate, review and rank OA publishing. If we get senior and highly regarded people to publish, review and edit in OA that would further prove that the quality can be maintained.

This is relevant to all research, and therefore also to linguistics. There are already several ways of publishing OA in linguistics - that's why we're making a list. Some are old initiatives from associations and societies that have always freely distributed proceedings from conferences, working papers etc. Others are relatively new initiatives not specific to linguistics. It's all splendid.

Open Access can mean many things, generally it refers to publishing in academia when readers don't have to pay. It can however be the case that the authors pay. We're listing all different kinds. Here are some handy terms that are good to know:

Gratis Open Access - free online access.

Libre Open Access - free online access plus some additional usage rights. These additional usage rights are often granted through the use of various specific Creative Commons licenses.

Gold Open Access - authors publish in open access journals, which provide immediate open access to all of their articles, usually on the publisher's website. When open access journals do charge processing fees, it is the author's employer or research funder who typically pays the fee, not the individual author, and many journals will waive the fee in cases of financial hardship, or for authors in less-developed countries.

Platinum Open Access - Gold plus the journal or other repository does not charge author fees. The costs associated with scholarly publication are covered by the benevolence of others, such as through volunteer work, donations, subsidies, grants, etc.

Green Open Access - authors self-archiving their publications in an open access repository, with the approval of the formal publisher. For example, many universities archive PhD theses in an open database. ArXiv is another example.

Hybrid Open Access - Hybrid open access journals are subscription journals that provide gold open access only for those individual articles for which their authors (or their authors' institutions or funders) pay an open access publishing fee.

(Blue Open Access - subcategory of Green, but with the specification that the material is shared online on sites such as Academia or Research Gate. I picked up the term from Martin Haspelmath, editor of Language Science Press, and it refers to the color scheme used by many social platforms. This is not a very formal or well-known subcategory, but it does exist and is relevant. The material spread can be pre-prints or even unpublished field notes.)

Friday, April 24, 2015

A linguist as a parent writing about language inateness

While we're on the topic of language innateness (which is what much/most of the "war" is/was about),

Annabelle Lukin, a linguist at Macquarie University in Australia, just wrote a very good article on a site called "The Conversation" about language innateness and being a parent. You should tots go read it now. Not only does it contain videos of cute babies but also summaries of different schools of thought and implications of these philosophies on actual parenting. 

It also contains this cute and interesting video from Colwyn Trevarthen's research in the 70's.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Can we get to the post-generativist-vs-functionalist-war generation yet? - gif reaction post

Needless to say, I'm very tired of these kinds of debates (particularly when they derail into ad hominem, inaccessible and very theory-internal arguments). I grew up functionalist/typologist, but I've also had generative teachers and I can see the point of that kind of theory building and testing (and I think non-generativists need to discuss how to produce testable hypothesis more) - while at the same time, I see how it can pollute the primary data I need for my cross-linguistic comparisons. I have young researcher friends who are generativist (some of which might write on this blog in the future). I so wish we could get past all these old battles and have a more constructive discourse. I wanna get to the post-war generation. I'm just tired and not really that interested because half the time I can't see any concrete cases and implications being discussed, but abstractions and defending of old territory and pride.

No long serious post I said. For now, as the young person on the internet that I am; I'll let Hermione do the reacting. Yes, this is a young "hip" blog. Welcome.

When you for the first time read an inflammatory text from combatants of the great war:

When you realise that some people seem to enjoy this war (almost?) more than they enjoy learning about the study object (language):

When you realise what this does for our field's reputation among other researchers and the impression first-year-students get: how it both attracts certain people to the field (people interested in logic, argumentation & rhetorics ) and repels others (people interested in studying language and not learning battle history and complicated models and notation systems) and what all this does to actual research:

When you realise how much of this has to do with social groups, i.e. which bubble they live in. Seriously, you can't just not talk to each other, not write and argue accessibly or not take each other seriously: 

When you just try and ignore them all and get down to investigating and learning about your topic instead:

When you kinda get into the whole unprofessional rhetoric because it relates to something concrete that is relevant to you and find some enjoyment in a particular critical turn of phrase:

When you realise that there are useful parts, that they're hard to pick out and that those parts are not at all what is being debated and that they're all arguing over very, very old stomping grounds and reacting to each other in a quite closed loop:

When you realise that you're only human, you cannot learn all of the battle history and have exhaustive knowledge on all that has been said, that you need to actually get on with research and discover new things and that it's ok to have friends in "the other camp" (whichever that is):

When you realise you're not alone, that there are other researchers who also want to talk about concrete and new things:

Ok, more on this to come I'm sure. Yes, I might be exaggerating a tiny bit - but at times like these when I'm reading all the back and forth it does feel like this.

And don't get me wrong, Evans' book needs to be criticised and there is unprofessional, over-generalising, provocative and/or uninteresting arguments coming from all sides. Though, admittedly the frequency at which Hornstein uses the word "junk" does put him on the very extreme end (why is he so very mad?).

Hugs to all in all camps, let's get on with talking about language shall we?

Monday, April 13, 2015

USA census of languages only has 382 language categories

I like digging around in censuses, especially of language use. I was just poking through the one from the US of A. I've just learned that in their census they collapse all the languages of the world into 382 categories. I thought this was rather interesting and that maybe you would be interested too.

In the census of citizens and residents of the USA they basically ask:

  • Do you speak a language other than English at home?
  • Which?
  • How well do you speak English?

I'm guessing the 382 language categories is due to practical purposes, it seems that interviewers mostly have been using and probably still are using pen and paper. I tried to figure out if it still is the case and will be for 2020, but I couldn't find that information on I could find out that you can answer by mail, phone or interview, probably meaning that it's all still on paper.

Collapsing the 7,000 plus languages of the world into 382 categories makes sense if you have limited resources, i.e. not a smartphone or computer. For comparison, Ethnologue counts 422 languages in the USA, 216 of those indigenous. It's also interesting to note that many of the speaker populations that Ethnologue cites for languages in the USA are from the censuses, either 1990, 2000 or 2010.

Of these 382 language categories, 39 are singled out and there is more detailed information on them. You can read the report from 2011 here. Here's the table of the details of these 39 language categories. Notice how "Spanish" and "Spanish creole" is one category whilst "French" and "French creole" are two (yes we know that there is more than one Spanish resp. French creole). I also can't help but wonder if the "other Indo-European" shouldn't say "other Indo-European excl. Indic".

Here are some other interesting quotes from the census' homepage:

For most people residing in the United States, English is the only language spoken in the home. However, many languages other than English are spoken in homes across the country. Data on speakers of languages other than English and on their English-speaking ability provide more than an interesting portrait of our nation. Routinely, these data are used in a wide variety of legislative, policy, legal, and research applications.


The coding operations used by the Census Bureau puts the reported answers from the question "What is this language?" into 382 language categories of single languages or language families. These 382 language categories represent the most commonly spoken language other than English at home. Linguists recognize several thousand languages in the world and as languages are reported by respondents, they are coded and added to the language list. Due to small sample counts, data tabulations are not generally available for all 382 detailed languages. Instead, the Census Bureau collapses languages into smaller sets. For the list of the 382 individual language codes, click here [PDF – 55k].

Presenting data for all 382 languages is not sensible due to sample size and confidentiality concerns. Therefore we collapse the 382 language codes into more manageable categories. These categories were originally developed following the 1970 Census and are grouped linguistically and geographically. These groups are based generally on Classification and Index of the World's Languages (Voegelin, C.F. and F.M., 1977) and are updated constantly using linguistic books and online resources.
The simplest collapse recodes the 382 language codes into four major language groups: Spanish; Other Indo-European languages; Asian and Pacific Island languages; and All Other languages. A more detailed collapsing puts the 382 codes into 39 languages and language groups. The table below shows how the 382 codes go into the four and 39 language groups. For information on how to get more detail than the four or 39 languages, go to the FAQ.
Why is language information collected?  
One of the main purposes of collecting information on languages is for Voting Rights determination. Information about languages spoken at home and English-speaking ability is used to determine bilingual election requirements under the Voting Rights Act. 
Does the Census Bureau provide the number of people who use American Sign Language (ASL)? 
The three questions used to capture languages spoken and English-speaking ability are not designed to identify those who use ASL. The design of the question is to gather the number of people speaking languages other than English at home, identify which languages are being spoken, and to get the number of people who have difficulty with English (see the FAQ question Why is language information collected?). With that in mind, those who use ASL are presumed to know English. Those who report using American Sign Languages, ASL, or some variation of those words are coded as being English speakers.

I just thought this all was neat to know, and now you know too ^^!

More language evolution lecture videos - this time from Stockholm 2011

Magnus Enquist, evolutionary biologist from the
Centre for the Study of Cultural Evolution at Stockholm Univeristy
Earlier, I blogged about the Nijmegen Lectures by Russell Gray on language evolution. If you want even more lectures on language evolution, then why not watch the lectures from the Symposium on Language Acquisition and Language Evolution at The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and Stockholm University form 2011? They're all up and freely available here!

If you're keen on these things, I recommend having a look through these videos and proceedings.

I quote from the preface of the proceedings for the symposium:

The symposium was intended as an opportunity for scientists from different research areas to interact and discuss complex dynamic systems in relation to the general theme of “Language Acquisition and Language Evolution”. Complex dynamic systems are characterised by hierarchical and combinatorial structures that can be found in quite different scientific domains. From a broad perspective, there are general parallels in the way human language, biological organisms and ecological systems are organised and the symposium aimed at discussing those issues from an interdisciplinary point of view.

The symposium includes talks by:

  • Björn Lindblom (prof. Emeritus in Linguistics at Stockholm University), 
  • Stephen Freeland (Astrobiology, NASA, Hawai'i), 
  • Pierre-Yves Oudeyer (Robotics, INRIA Bordeaux), 
  • Peter MacNeilage (prof. Emeritus of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin), 
  • Jan Anward (prof in Department of Culture and Communication, Linköping Univeristy), 
  • Per Linell (prof in Department of Language and Culture, Linköping Univeristy), 
  • Peter Pagin (prof of Philosophy, Stockholm University), 
  • Magnus Enquist (prof in Centre for the Study of Cultural Evolution, Stockholm University), 
  • Patrik Hadenius (chief editor Språktidningen).

There were proceedings published based on the talks and they have been made available for free online, here. They include the following papers:

  • Francisco Lacerda: Preface
  • Björn Lindblom: The units of speech – A bio-cultural perspective
  • Peter F. NacNeilage: Particulate Speech: The Emergence of the Phoneme from Syllable Frame Structures
  • Jan Anward: On the open secret of language
  • Per Linell: Are Natural Languages Codes?
  • Peter Pagin: Compositionality, Complexity, and Evolution
  • Stephen J. Freeland and Melissa Ilardo: Language Evolution in Humans and Ancient Microbes: What can human language acquisition tell us about the origin of genetic information?
  • Pierre-Yves Oudeyer: Self-Organization: Complex Dynamical Systems in the Evolution of Speech 

Linguistic heads in profile

I happen to have a little collection of human heads in profile that are interesting linguistically. I don't have that much to say about them, but I think they're very nice so I'd like to share them with y'all.

1) Illustration of conversation in Ferdinand de Saussure's Cours de linguistique générale. This book was not written by Saussure and was published after his death. It was compiled by his students Charles Bally and Albert Sechehaye from lecture notes. This image is from the English edition, but I think it's the same in the French original. It's basically getting at the core of language, having an idea in one brain and then trying to transmit that same idea to another brain whilst lacking telepathy. There are more things language does, and most conversations are not only about transmission of information, but it is still at the core and this is one of the first illustrations of it.

2) The cover of Tage Danielsson's book Grallimmatik. This is a comedy book in Swedish about conversations and human behaviour written by a great comedian and satirist. I really like the illustration, which is why I've borrowed it as a profile pic for this blog sometimes. The illustration features Danielsson himself, most likely engaging in "struntprat" ("bullshit", "empty talk").

© Per Åhlin & Tage Danielsson

3) Mikael Parkvall's pedagogical illustrations of the speech apparatus. These images have been made by Mikael Parkvall of Stockholm Univeristy to illustrate articulation place in the oral cavity, and they do it very clearly. I especially like the vowel one, if you haven't seen anything like it before it will hep you a lot in understanding the IPA vowel chart. If you want to use these pictures, please contact him.

© Mikael Parkvall
© Mikael Parkvall

4) This brilliant animated illustration of the speech apparatus. I don't know who made this, and I'd really like to. I found it floating around tumblr unattributed. It is brilliant, it shows how the pulses from the glottis (vocal cords) travel through the cavities and out. The only think lacking is some sound out of the nose, considering that the tongue sure is not closing of the flow to the nasal cavities. It also is a bit weird that the pulses are present before the glottis, it should be a more steady flow and glottis that cuts off and lets out air. Oh well, anyway. It's a great gif.

5) Devanāgarī in the head. This one is also unattributed, unfortunately. It shows the head and the position of some of the relevant articulations places for the phonemes/letters of the Devanāgarī script. The accuracy on this one is less good, they've been pushed around to make place for the alphabet.

You see, articulatory phonetics are important when you're learning the Devanāgarī script. The consonants of the Devanāgarī script is traditionally read in the order of articulation place. First the velars, then the palatals and so on. In each place there are 5 sounds, 4 plosives and 1 nasal. First come the two unvoiced - one aspirated one unaspirated - then the voiced ones - same with the aspiration - and then comes the nasal. Next onto the following articulation place, same procedure. So you gotta know your articulatory features to figure it all out. Isn't that nice? Fricatives, liquids and vowels are not in a neat order though.

6) Lastly: my head. This is an image from an fMRI machine taken by a friend of mine, Valeria Petkova, at Karolinska in Stockholm. How is this linguistically relevant you ask? Well, it's a human head and in a sense it is always linguistically relevant, but this one also happens to be the head of a linguist and not just any linguist but the linguist making this post.

Bye bye.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Listen to the world's languages - part 3: Algonquian!

We've posted here before about sites online where you can listen to audio samples from the worlds languages, see part 1 and part 2 (or check the tag listentotheworldslanguages). Go have a look, there are plenty of exciting sites where you can have a listen to the diversity of our planet!

On the site of the Algonquian Linguistic Atlas you can listen to audio samples from different categories (greetings, feelings, at the store, etc) from many different algonquian languages. The idea is similar to the Sound Comparisons site that we covered before where you can listen to European languages.

What is so great about this site is that you can pick a word or phrase, say "I'm Lazy", and listen to how it sounds in the different languages and see how they are similar and different. You can see the chains of contact and shared genealogy and what changes and what is more stable.

Each audio sample is accompanied with a transliteration into latin script and sometimes also in Cree syllabary, an awesome writing system used by many Algonquian languages. To the right you can see a sign in Québec in Eastern Cree, French and English. You can read more about the writing system on omniglot here. I believe that the specific variety that they are using is Easter James Bayyou can also read more here about standardisation of this writing system.

The set of languages also includes the mixed language Michif, which has something as funky as cree verbs and french nouns. A mixed languages is a kind of contact language that retains more or less intact parts from i's parents, has no/little simplification and is created by bilinguals - in this case children of french speaking fathers and cree-speaking mothers. You'll also spot loanwords from English and French in other algonquian languages as well, such as the speaker Reta Sands who speaks Nishnaabemwin and says 'bozhoo' (their transliteration) for 'hello'.

If you want to know more about the language situation in Canada right now I can highly recommend having a look at their census, link to the article on aboriginal languages here. Canada has one of the best censuses I've seen when it comes to languages, it goes back to the 1930's and it asks not only about what language people speak but what they grew up with, what they now use mostly, what they speak at home and what they speak at work.

Algonquian is a family within the larger top-level* family Algic. There are approximately 45 languages alive today of this family and they are spoken in Canada and the northern part of the United States. Here below is a map from Glottolog. The dots represent languages of the Algic family, the red ones being Algonquian and the two other ones being Yurok (blue) and Wilyot (yellow). These two are sometimes classified as one group; Ritwan.

Let's celebrate all this Algonquianess with listening to some bilingual rap in French and Anicinâbemowin [alq], here's Samian from Québec.
* top-level family means that this group is not related to any other group genealogically, it represents the highest/lowest node in tree, the furthest point back in time. NB that not all linguists agree on these top-level points, Glottolog for example assumes more top-level families (443) than Ethnologue (141). On Algic they do agree, with the exception that Ethnologue places Yurok and Wilyot in one branch where Glottolog assumes them both as directly under Algic.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Humans-Hedvig on Speculative Grammarian-Podcast

Did you know that the brilliant journal of satirical linguistics - The Speculative Grammarian also features a very entertaining podcast (iTunes link here)?  The podcast includes readings of articles (my current fav is the one on vampire linguistics, listen to mp3 here), the occasional musical number or dramatical piece and also a talk show called "Language Made Difficult". The talk show is hosted by the LingNerds (and editors of SpecGram): Trey Jones (whom I "cyber-stalked" once), Keith W Slater, William Spruiell and Sheri Wells-Jensen. It's a fun show, you should tots start listening.

Also.. I'll be appearing in future episodes of that show in a segment called "Lies, Damned Lies and Linguistics". All the way from Australia you can hear me trying to tease apart which one out of three facts is a lie. Won't tell you how I did, you'll have to tune in.

It's all free and online, start up your fav web browser and/or podcast client and start listening.
Hedvig/I in front of a map of Stralia today when she/I recorded.