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PostPosted: Sat Mar 02, 2013 5:21 pm 
Avisaru
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I haven't been terribly active in conlanging and natural linguistics for the past few years and have been reading papers mostly in fields like physics, astronomy and statistics. Now when I've started to look a bit more into linguistic papers as well, I've started to wonder about the differences in the publishing cultures between natural sciences and linguistics.

At least in astronomy refereeing is pretty much everything and an unrefereed manuscript with no refereed counterpart will generally raise some suspicion of the reliability of its content. People also tend to regard papers published in journals that are known to have lighter refereeing not as highly as those published in the journals considered to be at the top. Correspondingly getting your own paper published typically requires you to appease your referee who won't very often be nice to your manuscript.

So how does this all work in linguistics? Are there perhaps differences between different fields of linguistics? There are also more works published as monographs or in paper collection edited into books in linguistics than in natural scienses. How much editing and peer review goes into these? A related question is how reliable do people consider work published only in dissertations. For PhD theses you certainly have a censor or two whose job it is to asses the quality of the work. But for master's theses the censors don't typically seem to have to be from outside your own department. You certainly can graduate without doing top research. For example at my own department (physics) master's theses are only really meant to be read by your supervisor and the censors and convince them that you've mastered the basics of your field. If the work is good enough, you will then write a refereed paper based on the science in the thesis and that will be the work you want people to read and cite.

I'd like to hear your thoughts if you've had experience with these matters. Basically I'd like to know how much can I assume there to be a filter against utter nonsense and how much does the quality of the work get assessed only after its publication.

EDIT: Fixed some late night grammar and typos.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 04, 2013 2:52 pm 
Avisaru
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No one with any experience on the subject? Pity, it would have been nice to compare the sociology of the two fields.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 04, 2013 3:30 pm 
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Most of us actually don't belong to the field or are too young to even possibly be there, and so don't know about these conventions... There's probably only two or three that are, and I guess they haven't seen your thread. (Not that they come often AFAIK).

You might have more luck on the CONLANG-L mailing list. Try it.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 04, 2013 5:38 pm 
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If the question is "are there referees for linguistic journals", then yes, there are.

But I think you have to be more specific. If you look for a monograph on an obscure language, you might get a paper from a well-known linguist from a major univeristy-- or you might get something from an eccentrically trained SIL guy, or a typewritten textbook written by a native speaker, or the notes of some colonial officer from 1850. What kind of backup authority would you expect in each of these cases and how do you trust them to know about the language?

I'd expect it does depend on the field, too. A refereed article on syntax is not necessarily Absolut eTruth, because there is no consensus on the correct approach to syntax. Articles on comparative linguistics are probably safer, in that people agree on the methods (except for Greenberg)-- and yet language classifications are still a morass, because there's still so much basic work to be done that high-level groupings are almost all still controversial.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 04, 2013 6:49 pm 
Avisaru
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Serafín wrote:
Most of us actually don't belong to the field or are too young to even possibly be there, and so don't know about these conventions... There's probably only two or three that are, and I guess they haven't seen your thread. (Not that they come often AFAIK).

You might have more luck on the CONLANG-L mailing list. Try it.


I guess so. It's nevertheless worth asking cause you never know what other people end up doing with their lives while you are away. Heck, I did pretty much all of my undergrad studies and a couple of years of PhD while taking a brake from here.

And yes, I might actually take a peek at the list.

zompist wrote:
If the question is "are there referees for linguistic journals", then yes, there are.

But I think you have to be more specific. If you look for a monograph on an obscure language, you might get a paper from a well-known linguist from a major univeristy-- or you might get something from an eccentrically trained SIL guy, or a typewritten textbook written by a native speaker, or the notes of some colonial officer from 1850. What kind of backup authority would you expect in each of these cases and how do you trust them to know about the language?

I'd expect it does depend on the field, too. A refereed article on syntax is not necessarily Absolute Truth, because there is no consensus on the correct approach to syntax. Articles on comparative linguistics are probably safer, in that people agree on the methods (except for Greenberg)-- and yet language classifications are still a morass, because there's still so much basic work to be done that high-level groupings are almost all still controversial.


Indeed, I didn't really expect journals to work without refereeing. The process is ugly and imperfect but still very much needed. And I guess edited collections of papers work pretty much like sort of single volume journals. This leaves open how is the scientific quality of original research published as longer books assessed. In physics no one does this so I have no idea how it should work. Of course, you are typically older and have established your position in the field quite well by the time you end up doing this, so other people will have some idea what undertones your writing will have.

You have a fair point with the descriptive grammars and such and I sure have looked at some quite awful ones myself. Then again something gives me a feeling that actually forging data for a descriptive work wouldn't be too common (and maybe even possible to point out by experienced eye). I'd guess much more typical would be to cherry pick and bend your interpretations to better fit your favourite theoretical framework. Even in that case you'd sooner end up rendering the text unreadable to anyone else but those who adhere to the same theory than causing actual damage.

I wouldn't actually worry too much about using different theories for syntax or other topics. As long as the theories haven't been shown wrong, they are still usable models for the data. It's just a bit daunting for someone who doesn't get paid to read the papers. This sounds to be the same as in particle physics where people are working on various ways to get beyond the standard model and in doing so render the field quite unwelcoming for anyone else

By this point I may sound babbling. That's just because I try to form a coherent picture of how another field of science works but might not know what's best to ask.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 05, 2013 5:52 pm 
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I guess you have to be pretty well respected in the first place to get a book published? So if you've produced lots of good quality work before that's stood up to referees/editors' scrutiny then I guess you can expect the stuff in your book to be fairly reliable. But I'm only speculating.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 05, 2013 8:33 pm 
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el imiradu wrote:
I guess you have to be pretty well respected in the first place to get a book published? So if you've produced lots of good quality work before that's stood up to referees/editors' scrutiny then I guess you can expect the stuff in your book to be fairly reliable. But I'm only speculating.


In Linguistics? Nah.


On the original point, you'll probably get more thorough answers, but it's going to be a while. The more linguistically-trained of us don't check the forum as often as they used to.

It might be a better idea for this to be in L&L as far as chances of being seen go. Not sure tho.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 07, 2013 8:48 am 
Lebom
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gach wrote:
So how does this all work in linguistics? Are there perhaps differences between different fields of linguistics?

Yes, definitely. In, say, phonetics and psycholinguistics, books and monographs are very uncommon, and the journal article is the main publication method. On the other hand, in phonology and syntax, books are much more common. In computational linguistics, the conference proceedings paper is actually the most common publication - and some conferences are more prestigious than some journals! I've also noted, anecdotally, that book chapters are very common in morphology and historical linguistics, much more than some others.

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There are also more works published as monographs or in paper collection edited into books in linguistics than in natural scienses. How much editing and peer review goes into these?

It really really depends, mostly on the publisher. So, as zomp said, it's quite possible to publish a descriptive grammar as a book. If you publish with Cambridge University Press, it's gonna be peer-reviewed and extensively edited - you can be sure that such a grammar will be well-written. There are other publishers, though, which are less rigorous. I won't name names here but there is a publisher I'm thinking of that publishes lots of descriptive work, a lot of which is just a vague collection of field notes. Sure, it's useful to people who want to do further work on the language (family), but it's sometimes hard to say if it's really a contribution to generalizable scientific knowledge.

Same thing goes for book chapters. Some are very rigorously peer-reviewed and edited, some less so. In general, though, book chapters are considered less prestigious or less rigorous than journal articles, and often this is reflected in tenure review guidelines.

Quote:
A related question is how reliable do people consider work published only in dissertations. For PhD theses you certainly have a censor or two whose job it is to asses the quality of the work. But for master's theses the censors don't typically seem to have to be from outside your own department. You certainly can graduate without doing top research. For example at my own department (physics) master's theses are only really meant to be read by your supervisor and the censors and convince them that you've mastered the basics of your field. If the work is good enough, you will then write a refereed paper based on the science in the thesis and that will be the work you want people to read and cite.

That's generally the case in linguistics too, from my understanding. Many people will try to publish their PhD dissertation, either as a book or as a series of journal articles. Still, if that doesn't happen, or if the dissertation contains empirical or theoretical results that didn't get published, people will still refer to the dissertation. Some people leave academia or just don't publish their thesis work, for various reasons.

It's very rare for a master's thesis to be cited - usually if a master's thesis is good enough to be cited, it's good enough to be published.

gach wrote:
You have a fair point with the descriptive grammars and such and I sure have looked at some quite awful ones myself. Then again something gives me a feeling that actually forging data for a descriptive work wouldn't be too common (and maybe even possible to point out by experienced eye). I'd guess much more typical would be to cherry pick and bend your interpretations to better fit your favourite theoretical framework. Even in that case you'd sooner end up rendering the text unreadable to anyone else but those who adhere to the same theory than causing actual damage.

No description of a language is atheoretical. Forging or bending language data (of course) is very much frowned upon. Most phenomena that fit nicely into theory A usually also can be accounted for under theories B and C too (but not D!), and what actually happens in a paper really depends on the goal of the writer - are they writing about the language, or are they writing about the theory?

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 09, 2013 12:27 pm 
Avisaru
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All interesting reading and sounds very reasonable. In this sense there doesn't seem to be very much more differences between different academic fields than the preferred publishing method. Although a preference for conference papers sounds a bit unexpected. But maybe that's not too unexpected for a younger field.

Concerning the publication of PhD dissertations, I've got the idea that producing an internally published monograph out of your thesis work is by far the most common way to do it. On the other hand on my field in Finland that's pretty much unheard of and everyone produces three to five refereed papers that are then gathered into the dissertation. Is there any place where you know where linguistic dissertations would be done like this?


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 13, 2013 3:58 pm 
Lebom
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gach wrote:
Although a preference for conference papers sounds a bit unexpected. But maybe that's not too unexpected for a younger field.

Actually, that's inherited from computer science. In CS (and computational linguistics, and some related sub-subfields), you send an entire paper - usually between 4 and 8 pages - to the conference organizers. It gets peer-reviewed and accepted (with minor revisions) or rejected; when the conference rolls around, you do a showy presentation where you're essentially trying to encourage people to read your paper. Then you go home, and it all gets published. As I've said, some conferences are more prestigious than many journals - in the main session of the Association for Computational Linguistics annual conference, less than 20% of all submissions are accepted. This whole method is a lot faster than conventional journal publication, and most of the proceedings are available online very quickly.

Quote:
Concerning the publication of PhD dissertations, I've got the idea that producing an internally published monograph out of your thesis work is by far the most common way to do it. On the other hand on my field in Finland that's pretty much unheard of and everyone produces three to five refereed papers that are then gathered into the dissertation. Is there any place where you know where linguistic dissertations would be done like this?

I've not heard of linguistics dissertations being done like that - the dissertation is meant to be original and unpublished work. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, the intention is that the dissertation material should be published in some form after it's complete - but not before.

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