LINGUIST List 3.582

Thu 16 Jul 1992

Disc: Citing LINGUIST

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Stavros Macrakis, 3.575 Citing LINGUIST
  2. David Powers, Re: 3.575 Citing LINGUIST

Message 1: 3.575 Citing LINGUIST

Date: Wed, 15 Jul 92 11:54:51 ED3.575 Citing LINGUIST
From: Stavros Macrakis <>
Subject: 3.575 Citing LINGUIST

Christine Kamprath <> discusses citation
practices for Linguist postings in Linguist 3.575. As she says,
electronic bulletin boards are a new medium, which needs new rules.
But many of the old principles are valid.

Citations have two main purposes: acknowledging intellectual debt, and
allowing the reader to track down the author's sources. The first
goal is met by mentioning the author and the date, as in standard
`personal communication' citations; the author's address (postal and
email) could be handy, too. The second goal is somewhat more
difficult in general: citations should give the information necessary
to find a work, possibly many years and many miles away from the
original publication.

Until Linguist is permanently archived and entered into the usual
reference sources for serials, some sort of `contact information' is
needed, probably both of the author (who may have kept a copy) and the
editors, as well as of course the author and issue number (which will
presumably be used by the archive).

(`Permanently archived' means able to outlive the current editors,
readers, and hardware. This is largely an institutional, not a
technical, problem.)

So I would suggest a reference along the lines of:

 Christine Kamprath (Internet:, "Re:
 3.562 Accents: LINGUIST in the news", Linguist 3.575. (Linguist is
 an electronic bulletin board edited by Anthony Aristar (Internet: and Helen Dry (Internet:


PS Note that there are many networks, so the `Internet' prefix is

PPS Note also that many automatic mail-reply programs generate
subjects which are not particularly evocative.
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Message 2: Re: 3.575 Citing LINGUIST

Date: Thu, 16 Jul 92 17:22:53 MERe: 3.575 Citing LINGUIST
From: David Powers <>
Subject: Re: 3.575 Citing LINGUIST

I think the matter of what to do about quoting or referring to
Linguist is an important red-herring!

I largely agree with Christine's posting, and Anthony and Helen's

A couple of points.

1. Linguist is not a bulletin board, but a mailing list. The
difference is probably not significant to any user of linguist, but
it does change the appearance of where it may lie in the legal
spectrum. The physical base for these electronic analogies gives
the clue - bulletin boards are/were systems which you dialed up
to upload or download messages, programs or queries. This is just
like pinning something up on your departmental noticeboard - anyone
who wants to come and look can, providing the place is open to the
public or they have a key. Some bulletin boards are open, others
require a password. Mailing lists imply that they are distributed
to a particular set of subscribers, although there is also the junk
mail variety. News groups are something in between. They are more
like distributed bulletin boards - they come to sites rather than
users - it is like a circular mailed out and posted on a bulletin

2. Whatever the legal statement, the moderators of a list or board
or group can disseminate the basis on which the list should
operate, including in relation to citation. This would then take
precedence over any defaults which might seem to be applicable to
the medium, and to clarify any ambiguity.

There are precedents in print for different status publications
too. There are unrefereed newsletters and casual talks with
one page abstracts, there are informal and formal workshops,
there are departmental memos as well as technical/research reports,
Finally we get to the archival forms of collected papers, monographs,
conferences and journals. These are successively more deliberated,
on the part of the author and the publisher/editor alike.

Newsletters and talk abstracts are not archival, so I chuck them.
Journals and Proceedings I tend to keep, or at least copies of the
papers that I feel are important.

Mailing lists correspond best to newsletters - newsletters are what
is typically sent out to a physical mailing list. The electronic
versions are however likely to be even less deliberated, by both
author and moderator. This is not just a question of time and
haste, although this plays a role. But the fact that the written
word never finds its way into print before it is published. My
experience is that I never pick up all errors in a paper (or
program) in electronic form - although spell checkers (or
compilers may help. But I don't even put this effort into my
Linguist submissions - often I may reread them, but not always. I
never spell check them!

Thus I feel they are actually closer to the reaction I would give
verbally, whether to a colleague in the next room, or a reporter on
the phone. But even their the level of deliberation can vary.

The three conclusions I want to draw are:

1. Permission should be obtained from the author to use extensive
quotation - and in fact opportunity given to him to reformulate.
The final version, if a republication of the discussion, should
be an edited form accepted by the authors (and according the
Linguist rules possibly also the moderators). I know of a couple
of newsletters which regularly publish snippets from newsgroups -
and as I have been approached for permission (as outlined above) I
know that something like these guidelines are being followed.

2. To say that soandso believes/says this or that is something
quite different. We must stand behind the words we write - even if
we change our minds later. So I feel that brief quotations or
citations, direct or indirect, as in the news story which started
this new thread, are quite reasonable, particularly when attempts
have been made to contact the people for more direct comment.

3. However, as I feel the group is more like a conversational
discussion, and it is not usual to keep local archives, and not
reasonable to search distant archives, one cannot be expected to
be able to attribute every idea which comes up in the discussion,
or even to know that it was in the Linguist group that it occured,
just as is the case with the print newsletters and the verbal
presentations one is bombarded with. In fact, neither I nor the
person whose chance comment I now want to come back to, pick up and
run with, neither of us may have exactly straight what form the
idea originally took.

In short, the problems are in no case unique to this medium. I
have, for example, recently cited two people, namelessly, in an
invited journal article - who, perhaps unknowingly, steered me onto
a new track. Once was someone in the audience who raised an "are
you aware" type comment in response to a conference presentation in
1984, the other in similar circumstances in 1991. In both cases it
was support for my position from totally unexpected quarters, in
different disciplines.

Creativity is the synthesis of new ideas from old, from the entire
sum of our experience, or at least large portions thereof.

Submitted, unread and unedited but nonetheless reasonably
deliberated - I've got to get off here in the next couple of
minutes. That's not atypical, nor unreasonable, for this medium.
And if I had to come back and knock it it to shape, it wouldn't get

David Powers
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