The Feast of Purism.

I’ve posted about National Grammar Day before (1, 2), and I do so once again for the same good reason: because it has inspired a brilliant response, in this case by Dennis Baron, “Why is National Grammar Day different from all other days?“:

Today is National Grammar Day, otherwise known as the Feast of Purism. It is the holiest day of the Purist calendar.

It is the day all foolish children ask, why is National Grammar Day different from all other days?

On all other days you tell the foolish child, “It is different because I said so.” But on National Grammar Day, you must make everyone listen to yet another endless retelling of the story of our liberation from the tyranny of prescriptive grammar.

On all other days, the day begins when we wake up. But National Grammar Day begins at sundown of the day before, which is called National Grammar Eve. On National Grammar Eve, we sit down to a special meal and eat our words. […]

It’s a little scattershot (“our liberation from the tyranny of prescriptive grammar” doesn’t really fit with the celebration of prescriptivism that the rest describes), but it’s very funny. A tip of the LanguageHatlo hat to Dave Wilton at Wordorigins.org.

Comments

  1. The more orthodox sects, of course, say “… different from each other day”, in deference to an ancient ruling that logically one cannot compare a single day to a multiple-day period.

  2. The “scattershot” aspect reminds me of a very specific peeve of mine: when people are making jokes about hipsters and/or hippies, and mistakenly say “free-trade coffee” when they should be saying “fair-trade coffee”. It happened in season 4 of Arrested Development when they introduce a hippy character, and I’ve spotted it once or twice elsewhere too. I imagine it happens because the phrase “free trade” is so much more common in most contexts.

  3. The writer and doctor Theodore Dalrymple wrote about Pinker’s book “The language instinct”,

    The contrast between a felt and lived reality—in this case, Pinker’s need to speak and write standard English because of its superior ability to express complex ideas—and the denial of it, perhaps in order to assert something original and striking, is characteristic of an intellectual climate in which the destruction of moral and social distinctions is proof of the very best intentions. Pinker’s grammatical latitudinarianism, when educationists (…) take it seriously, has the practical effect of encouraging those born in the lower reaches of society to remain there, to enclose them in the mental world of their particular milieu”.

    I urge all prescriptivists to read this article no matter if you care for Pinker’s views on language or not. Maybe after all some sort of grammar can be good for you.

    http://www.city-journal.org/html/16_4_urbanities-language.html

  4. des von bladet says:

    Prescriptivists generally can’t read for toffee, though but.

  5. Theodore Dalrymple

    Brilliant essay. I’m going to send it to several people.

  6. J. W. Brewer says:

    Re Dalrymple/Daniels, it does not (necessarily) follow from being anti-prescriptivist in some meaningful sense of the word (I’m not going to defend Pinker qua Pinker because I don’t care about him in particular) that one need oppose teaching children who do not natively speak the local prestige dialect how to master that dialect (or some reasonable facsimile) sufficiently to code-switch into it in appropriate social circumstances. One can believe that all language varieties are “equal” in some abstract sense while also accepting that some are more useful in some specific circumstances. That doesn’t say anything about the best way to teach prestige-dialect-as-a-second-dialect as a practical matter, and . . . well, it’s very hard to promote social mobility without explicitly acknowledging the empirical existence of social differences, however artificial, and it’s probably the case that if you worry too much about the risk of making people on the wrong side of certain perhaps arbitrary social distinctions not feel stigmatized you may render yourself incapable of providing them with assistance of actual practical benefit to them.

    But most of the peeving that the Hannukah parody is about has to do not with emphasizing differences between high-prestige and low-prestige dialects in a heavy-handed way, but with trying to enforce bogus rules about the prestige variety when e.g. socially-elite native speakers of the prestige variety do, as an empirical descriptive matter, routinely end sentences with prepositions etc etc.

  7. J. W. Brewer says:

    There may be a misnegation in my prior comment, the detection of which is left as an exercise for the reader. One other limitation on Dalrymple’s perspective is that his considerable experience with speakers of non-elite varieties of BrEng is largely from situations when those speakers are in captivity and thus interacting with higher-prestige-dialect speakers (lawyers, social workers, medical personnel, and suchlike) from a rather disadvantaged position. The apparent range of expressive capacity of their dialect might be rather different in the wild. Or at least (and this is the chicken-and-egg problem) in the wild their dialect is probably fully adequate to have the sorts of discourses their particular subculture is typically interested in having. If that range of discourses seems problematic or impoverished, it’s probably because of other problems with the subculture that Dalrymple has lots of opinions about, with the language variety simply being a marker rather than an independent cause of the problem (except insofar as inability to codeswitch into a prestige variety restricts social mobility); if a critical mass of speakers of the relevant dialect wanted to be able to talk about idealist philosophy or gravitational physics without code-switching into a different dialect, the dialect would develop the syntactic and lexical resources necessary to do so, but if not, not.

  8. Mr. Brewer, it’s a parody of Passover Seder not any sort of Hanukkah rites. And usually, at this time of year (this year just about now) we are having Purim. So the next year (unless all jokesters move to Jerusalem) they have to write a purim shpiel to make fun of purist’s spiel.

  9. J. W. Brewer says:

    Ah, that was an embarrassing mix-up on my part. Maybe Lenten fasting has given me a subconscious craving for chocolate gelt which interfered with my brain/typing-finger coordination?

  10. I probably don’t even need to say this, but I consider the Dalrymple essay complete tosh, the usual prescriptivist straw-manning, pretending that descriptivism objects to teaching standard English and that it has conquered the world. I don’t feel like wasting my time going into detail as I and others have done endlessly over the years in this venue and elsewhere, but I feel I should register my objection.

  11. J. W. Brewer says:

    It is almost certainly true that some people involved in the education biz who for a variety of motives don’t feel particularly committed to getting students to master standard English (which by definition is harder to teach to kids who don’t speak it natively) have latched onto rhetorical themes coming out of descriptivism to justify their position. That something is a straw-man version of what sensible and well-informed people like the habitues of this blog believe doesn’t mean it isn’t something that less sensible and/or well-informed people do believe, or at least purport for tactical purposes to believe. That said, I probably would not recommend the Dalrymple essay to anyone who didn’t already know enough to spot its various shortcomings and limitations, and whether such a person would still derive net benefit from reading it might largely depend on their taste in prose style.

  12. Sometimes I wish there was a “like” button here. Yes, what Hat said.

  13. Bathrobe says:

    @Kobi

    (Concerning Dalrymple): I urge all prescriptivists to read this article

    Why is it important for prescriptivists in particular to read this article?

  14. The dalrymple piece is a fine polemic, eloquent and true about the disadvantages of the ineloquent faced with the cold monster bureaucracy, but it stumbles on one important fact:standard English is mandatory in all written assignments in every English school I’ve ever worked in. Many teachers attempt to enforce it in speech too. Sure, not everybody comes out fluent, but not everybody comes out able to calculate the area of a triangle or explain the causes of the first world war either. If you pay attention, Dalrymple’s examples repeatedly undermine his case. If latitudinarism rules the roost, why was the teacher setting a spelling test at all? The shockingly blunt, knowing, testimony of the young mother demonstrates that she is clearly not “unable to express abstract or general ideas and to place personal experience in temporal or any other perspective”.
    Worse, the author confuses the question of teaching standard English (or one’s preferred prescriptivist variant thereof) with teaching eloquence. Dalrymple knows his Dickens, so he is surely familiar with one of English (and not only English!) literature’s time-honoured stereotypes: the dreary prig with a perfect mastery of peevological prescriptivist linguistic standards — a man who like Ned Flanders, “does everything the Bible says, including the stuff that contradicts the other stuff” — and yet is incapable of saying anything interesting or true.

  15. Rodger C says:

    As someone who heads an English department in the heart of Central Appalachia, what JWB said. By the way (or not so …), I have many students who write flawless prestige dialect, or nearly so, whom I’ve never heard speak it in my presence. This comes by practice, though.

  16. Richard Hershberger says:

    Regarding the Dalrymple essay, in my experience there is also a strategy of damning if you do and damning if you don’t. If the descriptivist argument is presented in Standard English, then claim hypocrisy. If it is presented in Non-Standard English, then claim illiteracy. In the latter version, the person making the argument is incapable of writing proper English and the arguments presented are merely defensiveness. There is also the variant where the argument is presented in Standard English but which includes some real or (more often) imagined grammatical error. In this variant the argument is dismissed in much the same way as if it were presented in Non-Standard English.

    In any variant, this is not a critique made in good faith.

  17. Maybe after all some sort of grammar can be good for you

    Well, at least we can all agree on that, can’t we?

  18. Bathrobe,

    I have a lot of respect for LH who knows so much. In the case of Dalrymple I see a man who opposes much of what I take for granted. It’s quite important to me to learn from him because his point of view is, for me, unique. I think grammar is useless nonsense and plain wrong, but Dalrymple shows me that he who learns grammar is better off than somebody who didn’t.

  19. I think grammar is useless nonsense and plain wrong

    I assume by “grammar” you mean “the collection of alleged rules taught by English teachers” rather than actual grammar, which is an inherent part of every language and which no one has to learn in school.

    Dalrymple shows me that he who learns grammar is better off than somebody who didn’t.

    Again, nobody disagrees with this; the idea that Jacobin descriptivists want to prevent everyone from learning Standard English is a plain lie repeated ad nauseam by prescriptivists who can’t dispute the actual arguments of actual linguists and so invent ones they feel comfortable confronting.

  20. I am very glad indeed that Dalrymple’s uncle is dead (as I suppose), and not here to see his nephew call him brain-damaged in public print.

  21. J.W. Brewer says:

    I’m afraid that hat has his political pejoratives exactly backwards as surely the Jacobins in this context are the prescriptivists who wish to obliterate the varied, particularistic, and, to be sure, seemingly untidy traditional usages of the people in favor of an arbitrary set of universal rules justified by bogus appeals to logic and rationality.

  22. I thought it was clear that I was using the term from an imagined prescriptivist point of view; obviously I do not view descriptivists as Jacobins.

  23. FWIW, and ATROSTO, I see the Baron piece as a celebration of freedom from prescriptivism, not a celebration of prescriptivism (not even a sarcastic celebration of it). So I’m not sure that the piece is scattershot or internally inconsistent. (Though some of the lines are more amusing than others.)

    I think the idea is that we should celebrate our freedom from prescriptivism by remembering a time when we were not free. We do so through an annual, ritualized adherence to rules that used to, but no longer, bind us in our daily lives. By doing this we gain a deeper appreciation of our current freedom.

    I know just enough about Judaism to be dangerous (well, hopefully not, aside from the danger of exposing my ignorance about it) but I think a similar idea lies at the heart of the Seder.

  24. Rodger C says:

    I think grammar is useless nonsense and plain wrong

    If by “grammar” you mean “teaching prestige dialect to nonnative speakers,” it is damned useful to the recipient, as I can personally assure you.

    I wonder, is the proportion of descriptivists who are Jacobins greater than the proportion of prescriptivists who are Jacobites?

  25. Heh.

  26. GeorgeW says:

    I have never read an article or book by a linguist written in a non-standard dialect. (just an observation, not a defense of prescriptivism).

  27. J. W. Brewer says:

    According to some recent discussion over at Language Log, the late Suzette Haden Elgin was wont (as a deliberate gesture, not because she couldn’t code-switch if she wanted to) to deliver papers at scholarly linguistics conferences in the “purest” form of her native Ozark English she could muster. It was not clear to me whether she did the same in the published-in-scholarly-journal versions of her work.

  28. Kory Stamper, from her recent Harmless Drudgery column:

    There is no enemy; there is just an open meadow of language to study, collect, and sort. Books, speech, whispered private jokes that slowly bleed into the world around them, ridiculous new portmanteaus that drive you batshit and yet set seed and bloom, dialect words that hang around the periphery of language for ages and ages — all of these deserve careful contemplation, not out-of-hand dismissal in the name of “preservation.” You are free to choose (or not!) anything in that meadow as your favorite, as the most lovely, as the fittest and least fit for a tasteful flower arrangement, and so on. You are free to remark on how much you hate burrs, or roses, or meadows in general. But do not make it a battleground.

  29. If not for unnecessarily combative attitude and a few ad hominems, Mr. Dalrymple’s piece is not that bad. Basically, he thinks that everyone should get a chance and be encouraged by society at large and education system in particular to learn the standard dialect and gain some degree of fluency in the formal register of one’s native language. Phew! There is probably about 10 people or so who might disagree. Where he goes wrong is that the standard dialect/formal register are better in some objective sense and that they should be learned because of that. Somehow simply conforming to communication norms does not seem important enough. It’s like justifying wearing suit and tie on formal occasions by their alleged superiority to open neck and sweaters.

  30. marie-lucie says:

    JWB: the late Suzette Haden Elgin was wont (as a deliberate gesture, not because she couldn’t code-switch if she wanted to) to deliver papers at scholarly linguistics conferences in the “purest” form of her native Ozark English she could muster

    I have not read the LLog paper, but I doubt that her native form of speech was “Ozark English”. Her father (Ernest Haden) was a linguistics professor at the U of Texas in Austin (he interviewed me once). Perhaps the family spent vacations in the Ozarks and had relatives there, but I don’t think that dialect was their everyday idiom.

  31. marie-lucie says:

    p.s. It was not clear to me whether she did the same in the published-in-scholarly-journal versions of her work.

    Articles submitted to scholarly journals are reviewed and often edited, and expected to be written according to the usual academic standards.

  32. GeorgeW says:

    D.O. Well said.

  33. Basically, he thinks that everyone should get a chance and be encouraged by society at large and education system in particular to learn the standard dialect and gain some degree of fluency in the formal register of one’s native language. Phew! There is probably about 10 people or so who might disagree.

    Well, yeah, so what’s the point of saying it? The entire point is to paint descriptivists as people who disagree with this obvious truth. It’s like pointing at your political opponent and saying “Mr. X can say what he likes, but I am in favor of motherhood.” It’s a low, repellent tactic.

  34. Well, S.H.E. was born in Jefferson City, Missouri, which is on the edge of the Ozark plateau. Despite its name and its status as the state capital, it has only about 40,000 people; half that many in 1936, when S.H.E. was born. It’s not clear when she left. It’s also interesting that WP gives her birth name as Patricia Anne Wilkins, and in her LJ she speaks of Peter Haden as her first husband. Perhaps she was Ernest Haden’s daughter-in-law rather than daughter. Another source gives her parents’ names as Gaylord and Hazel Lewis Lloyd.

    What was the subject of the interview?

    “We Have Always Spoken Panglish”, a science-fiction story by S.H.E. about field linguistics and the question of who owns a language.

  35. @Steve: My understanding of the piece was the same as yours (as a sincere celebration of our usual freedom from prescriptivism, by relinquishing that freedom for one night), but I don’t think that this is the Passover approach, or at least, not consistently so. During the Seder, for example, it is traditional to recline in comfort (sheb’khol haleilot anu okhlin bein yoshvin l’vein m’subin; halaila haze, kulanu m’subin: “on all other nights, we eat either sitting up or reclining; on this night, we are all reclining”), as slaves were not allowed to do. Similarly, it is traditional for people to pour wine for each other, rather than having to serve themselves.

    (On the other hand, two of the central features of the Seder are matzah, which is “the bread of affliction”, and bitter herbs, which are what they sound like. So I guess there’s a mix.)

  36. ‘I have never read an article or book by a linguist written in a non-standard dialect.’

    David Almond is not a linguist, as far as I know, but his Guardian article ‘Taalk propa? Hadaway wi ye’ is otherwise applicable here.

  37. Trond Engen says:

    I’m not advocating against teaching the standard language, and teaching it well, but I’m very much questioning its importance. Learning the standard language is the easiest and least interesting part of native language education, since it’s all around us all the time, and the time spent trying to master the finer shibboleths is hardly worth it for anyone but the ladder-pullers. It’s much more important to become familiar with, and learn to respect, the diversity of the language, and non-standard (or rather differently standardized) writing like David Almond’s is surely a part of that. The better one understands the richness of one’s own language, the better one understands language.

  38. Hear, hear!

  39. “I’m not advocating against teaching the standard language, and teaching it well, but I’m very much questioning its importance. Learning the standard language is the easiest and least interesting part of native language education, . . .”

    I agree. Somewhat. Learning the standard language is not very interesting for many people. But, many people are also not interested in linguistics. And, the standard language is very important for many people in their careers. I would say, at least for English, that a command of the standard form is necessary for most careers requiring any writing or public speaking. As D.O. said, where it becomes problematic is when it is taught or asserted as superior to other dialects of the language.

    Also, most standard languages must be taught, they are not acquired as is one’s spoken dialect(s).

  40. It’s a question of how strictly conceived the standard language is. As long as it’s a matter of avoiding “illiterate” forms like “ain’t” and learning to construct formally complete sentences, that’s fine. The problem is that (like congressional representatives confronted with a funding bill) everybody wants to stick their own favorite shibboleths in there; it’s not enough to have complete sentences, they can’t end in prepositions or start with coordinating conjunctions, and you have to avoid a whole slew of words and constructions on no basis other than that peevers have decided they don’t like them, and the whole thing descends into madness.

  41. And of course, just as someone who votes against the funding bill because of all the stupid tacked-on amendments is accused of not wanting to fund the government (and by extension hating their country), anyone who decries the peevery is accused of not wanting to teach people the standard language (and by extension wanting to keep people oppressed and unable to get decent jobs). I hate that kind of poisonous rhetorical strategy.

  42. Trond Engen says:

    We should also be aware that education of a spoken standard is exactly what creates the subversive idea that it’s illiterate not to comply to it. Heck, British public schools made an industry of being the gatekeepers for a ruling class marked by their completely artificial accent.

  43. GeorgeW says:

    I don’t think that using standard language (as virtually all the commenters here do) and peevery are synonymous. In fact, often peeves are expressed over constructions that were never standard usage or usages that are long since past their prime.

    Further, I suspect that those of us with children (mine now grown) would want them, for pragmatic reasons, to be able to use standard language in contexts where it is expected. I further suspect that most of us have at some time ‘corrected’ our children’s language in school papers.

  44. I don’t think that using standard language (as virtually all the commenters here do) and peevery are synonymous.

    I don’t either. I don’t think anyone does.

    I suspect that those of us with children (mine now grown) would want them, for pragmatic reasons, to be able to use standard language in contexts where it is expected.

    Of course. Nobody disagrees. Nobody has ever disagreed. That’s exactly what I’m talking about.

  45. marie-lucie says:

    Thanks for the correction about S.H.R. I have always been under the impression that she was Ernest Haden’s daughter. That will teach me (or remind me) to always read a text before commenting on some aspect of it. I hardly ever read Language Log these days, as I much prefer the company here.

  46. David Marjanović says:

    Articles submitted to scholarly journals are reviewed and often edited

    Reviewed, yes – but many journals do not copyedit, and that includes some or all of the most prestigious ones like Nature. Even misspelled technical terms make it to publication (tuberocity: Nature, 2001), and I’ve seen papers that were written in a kind of English you can only understand if you know German.

  47. I guess if I haven’t gotten used to that by now I’m never going to get used to it. I just can’t adjust to a world in which publishers wash their hands of what used to be one of their primary functions.

  48. So-called cholarly publishers don’t serve any function. Authors pay them; editors work for free; printing, distribution, electronic access, and archiving are outsourced. All they do is maintain a private toll gate (sometimes for profit, sometimes not) through which scholarly communications must pass. They are the “robbers who take all the rest”.

  49. David Marjanović says:

    Authors pay them

    Usually not; their institutions pay for subscriptions to the journals, sometimes to bundles of journals that are not available separately.

  50. I was referring to page charges, which are anywhere from $50 to $100 per page, according to Dr. Google. A nice business model: producer and consumer both pay you! Of course, pirates use the same business model, which is why I have never been able to take the piracy metaphor for illicit copying seriously.

  51. David Marjanović says:

    Page charges are only for manuscripts that are longer than a fairly reasonable number of pages. I’m not aware of any journal that charges them for a single page, various open-access ones of course excepted.

    Color figures, though, can cost an author 900 $ apiece.

  52. The very first ghit for “page charges” is to The Astrophysical Journal, published by the American Astronomical Society. (As often, non-profits are the worst offenders.) It charges authors $110 per page, $110 per supplementary item, and $350 per color figure. It does not publish on paper, and charges subscribers $1825 for a year of access (including a 10-year archive), and $9 per article for casual readers.

    Oh, better far to live and die
    Under the brave black flag I fly,
    Than play a sanctimonious part
    With a pirate head and a pirate heart.

    Away to the cheating world go you,
    Where pirates all are well-to-do;
    But I’ll be true to the song I sing,
    And live and die a Pirate King.
         —W. S. Gilbert, The Pirates of Penzance

  53. It charges authors $110 per page, $110 per supplementary item, and $350 per color figure. It does not publish on paper, and charges subscribers $1825 for a year of access

    That’s completely insane. I’ve seen explanations for how it not only continues but keeps getting worse and nobody can do anything about it, but I still don’t believe it.

  54. marie-lucie says:

    David: Authors pay them

    This refers to the fee charged by the paper to publish a text.

  55. David Marjanović says:

    That’s completely insane. I’ve seen explanations for how it not only continues but keeps getting worse and nobody can do anything about it, but I still don’t believe it.

    Open-access publishing is becoming more and more common; the PLOS journals are megajournals now, publishing tens of thousands of online-only papers a year. Authors generally pay (a lot), but they can get waivers.

    PeerJ is embarking on the same thing and charges much, much less.

    Then there are journals – none of them very big – that are entirely free to authors and readers because they’re financed by institutions. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica and Contributions to Zoology. Geodiversitas is also one, except the website was replaced almost two years ago by: “Le site internet des Publications scientifiques est en cours de rénovation ; une première version sera mise en ligne prochainement.” And so, a big paper of mine is hidden behind the BioOne paywall. *grumble*

  56. David Marjanović says:

    This refers to the fee charged by the paper to publish a text.

    Yes; usually that’s only a thing in open-access journals or when the manuscript becomes “too long”.

    Another comment contains 3 links and is in moderation.

  57. All things in moderation, including moderation!

  58. Extremism in the defense of moderation is no vice.

  59. That brings to mind the game of Mediocrity, devised by Douglas Hofstadter and his friends. In (first-level) Mediocrity, three people each pick a number and write it down, and whoever has written down the middlemost number wins. For example, if Alice chooses 5, Bob chooses 10, and Charlie chooses 7, Charlie wins. There is no winning strategy for this game, in the sense of game theory, so it is a matter of psyching out one’s opponents. So far so good, but wait, there’s more!

    Second-level Mediocrity consists of playing a given number of first-level games. The winner of the second-level game is not the person who wins the most first-level games, but the person who wins the middlemost number of them. (There is a gimmick to prevent ties.) In this game, being able to pick a middlemost number is important, but it’s also important to be merely mediocre at it. Third-level Mediocrity consists of winning the middlemost number of second-level games, so that while in the second-level game it pays to be extremely mediocre, in the third-level game one must be merely mediocrely mediocre. The strategy for fifth-level Mediocrity is probably beyond human understanding.

    The higher-level games are also known as Hruska, after U.S. Senator Roman Hruska, who defended the 1970 nomination of Harrold Carswell to the Supreme Court thus:

    Even if he were mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they, and a little chance? We can’t have all Brandeises, Frankfurters and Cardozos.

    Needless to say, Carswell’s nomination was not confirmed.

  60. marie-lucie says:

    Then, JC, the mediocrest of the lot is the overall winner! So one should aim for mediocrity. But you can’t actually be truly mediocre to win at mediocrity.

  61. Some wag once said that the beauty of the American political system is that it lets the milk float.

  62. Sam Ogilvy says:

    Whoever thinks complex ideas cannot be expressed in low-prestige codes should read this: http://www.mona.uwi.edu/dllp/jlu/staff/publications/ruuts-langgwij-nyuu-taim-sapii-an-fiilinz-fo-neeshan.pdf

  63. Open-access publishing is becoming more and more common

    Harvard Magazine has just published an article titled The “Wild West” of Academic Publishing that carries the subhead “The troubled present and promising future of scholarly communication.” It’s a good look at the upheavals in the world of scholarly publishing. I’m no expert at this, but there’s unquestionably a broad similarity in this arena to what has happened to the daily newspaper.

  64. David Marjanović says:

    That’s an interesting article – especially because it takes books into account, which people in the natural sciences tend to forget about, because books don’t have an impact factor. If I had published my thesis as a book instead of as several papers, I’d have sabotaged the start of my scientific career.

    PLOS* ONE grants fee waivers to some authors; this is negotiated after the manuscript has been accepted.

    * The journals of the Public Library of Science officially switched from PLoS to PLOS in 2012. Funnily, though, they still haven’t implemented this in the “how to cite this article” boilerplate in the header of each paper.

  65. In the comments to that article there’s a link to Suber 2012, which tells us it’s a widely believed myth that OA journals charge authors and toll-access journals don’t, whereas the exact contrary is true: 70% of OA journals don’t charge author fees, 75% of toll-access journals do.

  66. I’m not competent to translate Jamaican Creole, but it seems clear to me that there is a massive difference in register in the side-by-side versions of the article linked by Sam Ogilvy. The Standard English uses the technical register of linguist’s English. The Creole version translates a few terms like langgwij stodii piipl ‘linguists’, but it’s plain that Bii di taint yu riich batam, yu hit di ‘loo-taak’ is not really a translation of Eventually, when one reaches the bottom of this continuum, one is at the basilect, but of something equally Standard English but much lower in register, like By the time you reach the bottom, you hit the low speech.

  67. While going to Perseus to look up calx for the other thread, I landed on this article: “Getting to open data for Classical Greek and Latin: breaking old habits and undoing the damage — a call for comment!”

  68. David Marjanović says:

    For those figures Suber cited a blog post that doesn’t exist anymore, at least not under anything like the provided URL.

    I suppose it’s possible that 70 % of OA journals, if we assume that most of them are too small for me to have heard of (which is of course possible), are fully funded by institutions and therefore don’t charge authors. Such journals are slowly becoming more common, though not every OA journal published by an institution is fully funded by it!

    But there is no way that 75 % of paywalled journals demand page charges from the first page onward. Suber did not say explicitly if that’s what he meant, or if his link-rotten source counted all paywalled journals that require page charges under any circumstances.

    It is easily possible that 75 % of paywalled journals charge high fees for color pictures in the print version. But actually, I expect that number to be closer to 100 %, excepting only the “glamour mags” (Nature, Science, PNAS, presumably Cell).

  69. While going to Perseus to look up calx for the other thread, I landed on this article: “Getting to open data for Classical Greek and Latin: breaking old habits and undoing the damage — a call for comment!”

    I certainly hope that piece gets some traction. Thanks for linking it here.

  70. Here are updated versions of Suber’s links from footnote 8:

    On the percentage of OA journals charging author-side fees: Internet Archive copy of blog post.

    On the percentage of toll-access journals charging author-side fees [not necessarily for all articles or all pages thereof]: “The facts about open access”.

    On the percentage of authors paying fees out of pocket at fee-based OA journals: “What Scientists Think about Open Access Publishing”.

    Suber’s own articles on no-fee OA journals:

    “Good facts, bad predictions”.

    “No-fee open-access journals”.

  71. That brings to mind the game of Mediocrity

    What happens in case of ties? Is there a limited range of acceptable numbers? Are only integers acceptable?

  72. Sam Ogilvy says:

    @John Cowan

    Perhaps. If I recall correctly, though, the Latin word “testa” originally meant “jar”, and was later used in slang to mean “head,” and, indeed, this is what its descendents mean in the modern Romance languages. I guess what I’m trying to say is that conceptions of what does and doesn’t belong to the informal register can change (although, of course, I’m not a linguist.) But maybe I misunderstood your point.

  73. No, of course you’re right. There’s no reason that Jamaican Creole couldn’t acquire high-register vocabulary, it’s just that its high register is currently Standard English.

  74. David M: It turns out that biology is far and away the worst case among the sciences when it comes to OA fees. Based on the “What Scientists Think” article, 20% of biologists who had published articles in OA journals reported paying more than €3000 for the last such article, the highest percentage in any discipline; only about 22% reported paying nothing for their last OA article, the lowest percentage in any discipline. Granted, this is based on a 2010 self-selected survey.

  75. Players are restricted to choosing integers between 1 and N, where N is fixed in advance. N= 5 is commonly used. Each player is randomly assigned a distinct value from the set {0, 1/3, 2/3}, and this value is added to the player’s chosen number. That prevents ties at the bottom level. At the next level, the winning (most mediocre) player receives a number of points corresponding to the chosen number plus the player’s value, and the other players receive just their value. That blocks ties at that level. The same rule is then applied to all higher levels.

  76. David Marjanović says:

    20% of biologists who had published articles in OA journals reported paying more than €3000 for the last such article

    That’s close to the kind of fee for making an article in certain usually paywalled journals open-access. For example, doing that in the Zool. J. Linn. Soc. (Wiley) costs 3000 US$.

  77. Yes, so-called “hybrid OA”. It’s bogus, because only 2-3% of articles in such journals are published on OA terms.

  78. Players are restricted to choosing integers between 1 and N, where N is fixed in advance. N= 5 is commonly used. Each player is randomly assigned a distinct value from the set {0, 1/3, 2/3}…

    Then why selecting 3+0, 3+1/3, and 2+2/3 is not a stable strategy on the bottom level for those settled with offsets 0,1/3, and 2/3? No one can do better by changing their choices and it seems doubtful that deviating from it will increase one’s chances.

  79. Here’s an analysis of the game. According to this, ‘B’ should always pick 3+1/3, but ‘A’ should pick randomly either 3 or 4 and ‘C’ should pick either 2+2/3 or 3+2/3. This way, the game still favors B (who wins half the time), but A and C have at least a chance. On the other hand, if playing a higher-level game, the fact that B has a better chance of winning may be cancelled out by the fact that B can never make a pick that will guarantee a loss.

    The card game version looks more fun and has everyone starting out equal.

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