Outstanding grammars from Australia

One of the disadvantages of the wonderful book fetching service at Yale is that I seldom browse the stacks these days. This means I I’m sometimes rather behind on new library acquisitions (I wish there was a way for them to notify me every time they buy something with call number PL7XXX…). But I was there yesterday afternoon to look up a reference and the shelves were looking less depleted than usual. Most of the Australian grammars that I don’t already own seem to live in my lab most of the time, so it’s pretty easy to see what’s there. They were the first few volumes of the series “Outstanding Grammars from Australia.” This is a new Lincom series of of Ph.D. theses which were written at ANU since the 1970s, but never previously published.

I have very mixed feelings about this series. Several of these dissertations were pretty much unobtainable unless one went to ANU linguistics’ library or AIATSIS and spent a long time with a large stack of change (or a digital camera). So it’s great to have them more widely available, especially, for example, Hosokawa’s thesis on Yawuru, since there isn’t much published on the language apart from a few articles.

However, I question the publishing model. These are essentially photocopies of the original theses. They appear to have no additions or editorial marking of any kind. If one is going to the trouble to reissue these works, why not make them available electronically, through ANU’s ePress, through its dissertation archive, through AILEC, Language Description Heritage‘s digital library, or somewhere else searchable and accessible, rather than a commercial publisher charging US$100 or more for a bound photocopy?

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2 responses to “Outstanding grammars from Australia

  1. Martin Haspelmath

    I fully agree. And thanks for mentioning Language Description Heritage. But what is AILEC?

  2. It’s what ASEDA became – it’s searchable through mura.aiatsis.gov.au but doesn’t have an independent existence that I know of.

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