More Zombie Lingua shenanigans

[This is a joint post by Eric Baković and Kai von Fintel, crossposted from Language Log.]

Regular Language Log readers will be familiar with our continuing coverage of the goings-on at what we in the linguistics community have given the name Zombie Lingua — the Elsevier journal once universally known by its still-official name, Lingua — a journal that we believe should have been allowed to die a respectable death when its entire editorial board resigned en masse at the end of 2015 to start the new (and flourishing!) fair Open Access journal Glossa, published by Ubiquity Press.

Instead, Elsevier chose to prop the old journal up, dust it off, and continue to publish articles. The first few months to a year of Zombie Lingua‘s macabre semi-existence were helped along by the fact that there was a backlog of already-accepted articles, as well as expected articles for special issues that had already seen some articles published — and also by the astonishingly quick acceptance and publication of other articles in the revision backlog. The then-interim editor-in-chief, Harry Whitaker, must have been very eager to clear the decks and start off with a clean slate — and to keep the flow of publications going, of course, lest the journal be truly dead.

Whitaker is now officially co-editor-in-chief along with Marta Dynel, and they have recently authored an editorial announcing the direction in which they say they are now taking the journal. Whitaker and Dynel claim that Zombie Lingua is “returning to its roots” of “General Linguistics and cognate branches”, which they implicitly and disingenuously contrast with what Lingua had been publishing under the previous editorship. (See also this “publisher’s note”, where the journal’s return-to-roots is boastfully claimed to be “the reality of the future.”)

To those who have been keeping tabs on what has been published entirely under the current Zombie Lingua editorship, the editorial reads more like a defense of an internal decision to lower their editorial standards. In what is perhaps the most egregious case, the editors finally withdrew a published article that was clearly plagiarized — though reluctantly and after an unforgivably protracted period, and without acknowledgement of the charge of plagiarism.

It’s also worth noting that the Zombie Lingua editorial board that has been assembled has both expanded and contracted over time — contracted because a few new members had second thoughts, (re-)weighed the pros and cons, and decided that an extra line on their CV wasn’t worth lending their support to a journal that is dead in the eyes of a healthy portion of the field and that has quite obviously lowered their editorial standards. Those who have chosen to stay either have explicitly made the opposite calculus or just don’t appear to care one way or the other. That’s their right, of course, but we stand in judgment. (In reply to an email from us, one of the current board members wrote that “We should consider ourselves lucky that publishers deign to even touch our work.” Wow.)

The bulk of the linguistics community has rallied behind Glossa and against
Zombie Lingua
, heeding the call to support the former (with our submissions and reviewing time) and to starve the latter. In responding to review requests from Zombie Lingua, a number of our colleagues have explicitly indicated their reasons for turning down the request. The editors have been duly forwarding some of these to Chris Pringle, the Executive Publisher of Zombie Lingua, who has responded by taking precious time out of his executive schedule to reply directly (and at some length) to our colleagues, relating Elsevier’s “side” of the story of Lingua/Glossa.

Some of Pringle’s messages have made their way to Glossa‘s (and Lingua‘s former) editor, Johan Rooryck. In the interests of transparency, Rooryck has posted this correspondence on his website, including Rooryck’s subsequent exchanges with Pringle. Since the issues under discussion concern the reasons for and methods by which Rooryck and his editorial team resigned from Lingua, Rooryck has also included a point-by-point refutation of Pringle’s allegations, as well as a comprehensive collection of Rooryck’s correspondence with Elsevier in late 2015, both leading up to the editorial board’s resignation and in its aftermath. (The current contents of this page on Rooryck’s website have also been included at the end of this post.)

One has to wonder what Pringle thinks that he, Zombie Lingua, or Elsevier stand to gain from these personalized replies to review request rejections. Pringle must somehow believe that the hearts and minds of our colleagues can be won back by “correcting the record” on a dispute that he characterizes as being between a petulant journal editor and the journal’s patronizing publisher. But, as Rooryck’s documentation makes abundantly clear, this was an attempted negotiation between the full editorial board of the journal, entirely responsible for the vetting and shepherding of its content, and the journal’s publisher, entirely responsible for charging readers too much for subscriptions to particularly-formatted versions of this content and authors too much for the apparent privilege of publishing individual articles in Open Access (with no compensatory discount on subscriptions, mind you – this is what has been properly called ‘double-dipping‘).

In sum, there can be little doubt that Zombie Lingua continues to be the walking dead.

Current content of Johan Rooryck’s Interaction with Elsevier page (as of 8/17/2017)

    The 2017 Elsevier campaign

  1. My point-by-point, fact-checking-style refutation of allegations made by Elsevier’s Executive Publisher Chris Pringle about the Lingua/Glossa transition in mails (e.g. 3 and 4 below) written to invited Lingua reviewers who decline to do reviews because of the transition to Glossa.
  2. My correspondence with Chris Pringle (Executive Publisher, Elsevier) regarding his message to Reviewer 2, 8 August 2017.
  3. Mail from Chris Pringle (Executive Publisher, Elsevier) to Declining Lingua Reviewer 2.
  4. Mail from Chris Pringle (Executive Publisher, Elsevier) to Declining Lingua Reviewer 1.
  5. An attempt to rewrite history in an editorial by Chris Pringle (Executive Publisher, Elsevier) for the publisher in Lingua 194 (July 2017), and my Facebook reply to it.
  6. My refutation of claims made at ARCL 2017 regarding Elsevier’s APC proposal to the Lingua editors.
  7. October–November 2015

  8. My mail to Elsevier of 5 November 2015, requesting rectification of Tom Reller’s (Vice President and Head of Global Corporate Relations, Elsevier) public statement about the resignation of the Lingua editorial board on 4 November 2015.
  9. The correspondence about the Lingua Editorial Board’s collective resignation between Guido Vanden Wyngaerd, for the Board, and Chris Tancock (Senior Publisher, Elsevier), 27 October 2015.
  10. My letter of resignation of 26 October 2015. The other editors sent similar letters.
  11. Elsevier’s response of 16 October 2015, signed by Chris Tancock (Senior Publisher, Elsevier) to the Lingua editorial team’s letter of renegotiation of 7 October 2015.
  12. Mail correspondence with David Clark, Senior Vice President, Elsevier, of 16 October 2015, following up on our meeting at the European Commission Workshop Alternative Open Access Publishing Models: Exploring New Territories in Scholarly Communication. Brussels, 12 October 2015.
  13. The Lingua editorial team’s letter of renegotiation to Elsevier to publish Lingua in Open Access on (what is now known as) Fair Open Access Principles, 7 October 2015.

Asleep at the wheel at Zombie Lingua?

[This post is co-authored by Eric Bakovic and me, cross-posted from Language Log.]

We have been following an ongoing story involving Zombie Lingua with great interest. For those unaware of it, and perhaps for those with only some awareness of it, here is what we currently know.

It will help to start by identifying the main characters in this story:

OK, here we go.

On Sept. 17, Youssef shared via Facebook a 13-page plagiarism complaint that he had submitted to Zombie Lingua’s editorial office a week earlier, with a copy of the message sent to the editor’s personal email address. Youssef notes in this post that he had yet to receive any kind of response, and that he had finally reached someone at Elsevier via their support center live chat. In a comment on the post, Youssef reports that the editor finally responded with a message saying that they take plagiarism “very seriously” and that they would investigate, very soon after which they sent Youssef’s complaint directly to Mashaqba & Huneety, giving them 30 days to respond to it.

Even though Youssef appears to be, quite understandably, rattled by this whole situation, he reports that he is cautiously optimistic about this most recent development. On the other hand, Youssef has very legitimate concerns about the extent of the problem that he has uncovered here. In a later comment on the Sept. 17 Facebook post, he reports with dismay his finding that Mashaqba & Huneety have published another article this month (“Emphatic segments and emphasis spread in rural Jordanian Arabic“, Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences 7(5), pp. 294-298) that may also involve some plagiarism of Youssef’s dissertation. Youssef appears to us to be taking appropriate steps to handle this larger problem, and we support him in his efforts. In the case of the ultimate resolution with Zombie Lingua and Mashaqba & Huneety, we share his optimism, and equally cautiously.

So, that’s where we’re currently at.

Our main concern here is with the conditions at Zombie Lingua that we believe have also significantly contributed to this particular situation. In a post just last month, one of us (Kai) went through the peer-reviewed articles that Zombie Lingua had published since January 2016 up to that point, and based on their submission receipt, revision receipt, and acceptance dates, concluded there is probably not much if any editorial oversight going on over at Zombie Lingua. This is not terribly surprising, given the make-up of the interim editorial board that Elsevier has cobbled together: it is quite simply not representative of the breadth of the field, which stands in sharp contrast with the stated mission of the journal.

The journal is devoted to the problems of general linguistics. Its aim is to present work of current interest in all areas of linguistics. Contributions are required to contain such general theoretical implications as to be of interest to any linguist, whatever their own specialisation.

[Side-note, perhaps for another time: several of the articles now appearing in Zombie Lingua seem to us to be quite outside the scope of this mission.]

Which brings us to Mashaqba & Huneety’s article-in-press. The original submission was received on November 16, 2015, revisions were received on May 14, 2016, and it was accepted on July 7, 2016. Lingua‘s prior (and Glossa‘s current) editor-in-chief, Johan Rooryck, has stated for the record that his editorial team did not handle this submission. Rooryck has further explained to us that unsolicited manuscripts submitted in mid-November 2015 and later were left for the new team to handle, to ensure some continuity in the review process. (Rooryck’s editorial team had officially announced its imminent departure in October 2015.)

So, the new editorial team sent Mashaqba & Huneety’s submission out for review, shepherded it through revisions, and accepted it. How was the plagiarism not detected at any point in this process? A big part of the answer to this question, we believe, is the lack of a proper phonology editor. Not one of the members of the current board can be described as someone who is current in phonology, someone who would know (or know of) the right people to ask to review any submission — reviewers who would be in the best possible position to ferret these problems out before they reach this stage (in case the editors themselves are not).

The conclusion we draw from this fiasco is that Zombie Lingua is limping blindly along, and that linguists with the right (that is, wrong) incentives may feel reasonably justified in thinking that their submissions to Zombie Lingua will receive little if any thoughtful review or editorial push-back. This has long been the accusation hurled at so-called “predatory journals”, and it is clearly now available for hurling at a high-cost subscription journal brought to you by a “reputable” publisher.

However, so long as there are sharp eyes and brave souls like Islam Youssef in our community — and so long as Zombie Lingua‘s editorial team and Elsevier do the right thing in response to complaints like his — the push-back needed in cases like this one at least stands a small chance of being successful.

Checking on the zombies

Prompted by an exchange with Brooke Larson on twitter, I decided it was time to check on the health of everyone’s favorite zombie, the journal Lingua, whose editorial team defected en masse to start the open access journal Glossa. Since January this year, Zombie Lingua has been edited by “Interim Editor-in-chief” Harry Whitaker. Since January 1, the journal has published an impressive number of peer-reviewed articles: 49 in total (there are some others, like introductions to special issues, that have no peer review information). I inspected the date information on those articles. Here’s the upshot:

  • all of the articles were first submitted before January 2016. So, there have not been any articles published that were submitted to Zombie Lingua in its new incarnation.
  • 36 articles (73%) were accepted by the old team and just published in 2016.
  • 13 articles (27%) were accepted by the new team after a revised version (using the feedback from the old team) was submitted.
  • 10 of the 13 articles (77%) accepted by the new team were accepted on the very day they were received, so with little or no editorial oversight. In fact, on one day (March 31), seven articles were submitted and accepted on the spot. A banner day.

I think it’s safe to say that we have no evidence that Zombie Lingua is alive.

MIT Support for Glossa

[Reproducing a statement published this morning in the MIT Linguistics Newsletter:]

Below is a statement from the MIT Linguistics Faculty on open access and the new journal Glossa. We’re following our colleagues at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Similar statements are being considered on other campuses. For background, you can consult this post at Language Log and a statement from Glossa’s editor-in-chief Johan Rooryck. [Update: See now also a similar statement from linguists across the University of California system.]

MIT Linguistics Faculty Statement of Support for Glossa

We, the undersigned linguistics faculty of MIT, state our strong support for the principle of open access to scholarly communication, as affirmed in the Open Access Policy of the MIT Faculty. In the context of this commitment, we also state our strong support for the editorial team that recently left the journal Lingua and started the fair open access journal Glossa. We firmly expect that Glossa will inherit and exceed the quality and reputation of the earlier journal. We applaud MIT’s support for the Open Library of Humanities, the organization that, together with the LingOA initiative, is underwriting Glossa. We pledge to further the aims of open access in our actions as editors, reviewers, and authors.

Adam Albright
Sylvain Bromberger
Noam Chomsky
Michel DeGraff
Kai von Fintel
Edward Flemming
Suzanne Flynn
Danny Fox
Martin Hackl
James Harris
Irene Heim
Sabine Iatridou
Michael Kenstowicz
Samuel Jay Keyser
Shigeru Miyagawa
Wayne O’Neil
David Pesetsky
Norvin Richards
Roger Schwarzschild
Donca Steriade
Kenneth Wexler

Zombie Lingua Recruitment

My sources say that Elsevier is now actively trying to recruit scholars for the editorial team of Zombie Lingua (see these Language Log posts for the background: Lingua is dead. Long live Glossa!“, Lingua Disinformation”). Here’s a redacted sample of what they are sending to people:

Subject: Editorial Position Opportunity

Dear Professor […]

First please let me introduce myself as the […] at Elsevier responsible for the Social Science Journals, including our Linguistics portfolio.

I hope you do not mind me contacting you out of the blue like this, but as you may be aware we are currently looking for a new editorial team to head up the journal, Lingua. In discussions regarding this your name was suggested as a potential candidate to be part of this team. If this is something you would be interested in considering and would like to discuss this further, with no obligations, then please let me know. I would be more than happy to provide more details of the role and responsibilities.

Thank you for your time in considering this proposal. I look forward to your reply and hope to discuss this further with you in the near future.

Best regards

Needless to say, I’m hoping that the community is sufficiently immunized by now and that Elsevier will fail to attract linguists to stand up a zombie version of Lingua, which would not have any legitimacy as a successor to the journal’s proud tradition. The true successor to Lingua is Glossa.

By the way: Glossa is now open for business. The first few submissions have already been made.

Lingua Disinformation

Linguists today received a misleading email from Elsevier sent to everyone who has ever submitted to or reviewed for Lingua, the journal whose editorial board has decided to not work with Elsevier anymore and restart the journal as the open-access journal Glossa. Here is Elsevier’s email:

Dear Lingua Authors and Reviewers

As I am sure you are aware, as of the end of December 2015 the current Lingua Senior Editorial team will be standing down from their roles on the journal. Together this team and the Publisher would like to reassure you that while still in post they will continue their work for Lingua as they have always done during their tenure.

Further information regarding the handling of papers from January 2016 onwards will be sent in due course, but should you have any queries or concerns in the meantime please do not hesitate to contact us via the ‘Contact’ button on the journal homepage or via the following email address: .

My colleagues and I would also like to take this opportunity to reaffirm that we remain totally committed to the publication of Lingua as a quality journal serving the field of linguistics and look forward to supporting the journal and the linguistics community for many years to come.

Best Regards

Ann Corney, Publishing Director, Applied Social Sciences, Elsevier Ltd

There has been a lot of puzzlement over this message. Some comments below, but first a message from the interim editors of the successor journal Glossa, which I have been asked to help disseminate:

Dear colleagues,

Those among you who have been authors and/or reviewers for Lingua were sent a message today by Elsevier, and you might wonder about the journal, Glossa, to be set up by the very same editorial team which has contributed to the high reputation of Lingua in the past.

As of the end of December 2015, the current executive and associated editors of Lingua will stand down. The next day, they will be in charge of Glossa. Until that date, the undersigned will be in charge as interim editors of Glossa, (backed up by the entire former editorial board of Lingua which already resigned in October).

In that capacity, we would like to reassure you that Glossa will pick up where Lingua left off. We would also like to draw your attention to the fact that any author has the right to withdraw their submission from any journal as long as the copyright forms have not been signed.

We are currently working on the website (including an online submission system etc.) for Glossa, and will come back to you as soon as it is operational. In the meantime, you can send your questions to both of us.

All best wishes,
Waltraud Paul and Guido Vanden Wyngaerd, interim editors of Glossa &

Some comments:

  1. I would like to reiterate that despite the desperate rhetoric in the last sentence of Ms. Corney’s email, there is no way at all that whatever zombie journal Elsevier manages to keep running under the venerable name Lingua will have any moral right to be seen as the continuation of Lingua. Instead, Glossa is the rightful continuation.
  2. I also reiterate my call to the community not to work with Elsevier in propping up Zombie Lingua. Instead, get ready to support Glossa once it’s fully running in January.
  3. Lastly, authors with manuscripts currently under submission to Lingua should consider their options; please contact the interim editors of Glossa with any questions about that.

[In related news, the Open Library of Humanities announced today that in addition to Glossa, three other journals will flip from for-profit models to open access in 2016.]

Lingua Roundup

In case you’re not glued to social media 24/7, you may have missed some of the coverage of the Lingua → Glossa Affair.

Media coverage after the early Inside Higher Ed article has included:

Yesterday, an Elsevier PR blog posted a mendacious “clarification”. In addition to some of the comments on that post, you can look in other places for the truth:

Elsevier claims that it founded Lingua, that it therefore has the right to the name, that the proposed open access charge of 400 Euros per article is not sustainable. Obviously, Lingua was founded by linguists not by Elsevier. The charge is almost certainly sustainable (in fact, Elsevier has journals that subsist on such a charge). And there are other lies in their statement. (By the way, the PR spokesman is the same person who made some rather revealing statements about women in STEM last year, as pointed out by Curt Rice, linguist and the president of Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences.)

I stand by my call for community action: support the Glossa team, do not agree to help Elsevier stand up a sham Zombie Lingua.

To end with a quote from Mike Taylor:

You know what’s not sustainable? Dragging around the carcass of a legacy barrier-based publisher, with all its expensive paywalls, authentication systems, Shibboleth/Athens/Kerberos integration, lawyers, PR departments, spin-doctors, lobbyists, bribes to politicians, and of course 37.3% profit margins.

The biggest problem with legacy publishers? They’re just a waste of money.

Lingua → Glossa

There is exciting news from the open access revolution.

[Previously:] A few years ago, I put up some relevant short notes, focussing to some extent on Elsevier’s particularly egregious enmity towards open access: “Attach from big money publishers” and “News from the open access revolution”. Especially relevant is Elsevier’s rear-guard action against open access mandates such as MIT’s, discussed in an informative article by my former colleague Richard Holton. I also published my personal open access policy. In the mean time, the Elsevier Boycott started by our colleagues in mathematics has 15,286 signatories. The fully open access journal Semantics and Pragmatics that I co-founded with David Beaver is thriving and is now the second full journal of the Linguistic Society of America (alongside the flagship journal Language, which has a one year delayed open access policy).

This past month, our colleagues on the editorial team of the venerable journal Lingua proposed to the journal’s publisher Elsevier that Lingua should become a “fair open access journal”. It would charge reasonable, not excessive, article fees, which would be payed by a new consortium, with the result that the journal would be free to readers and authors. Not surprisingly, given Elsevier’s profiteering nature, Elsevier did not agree. In response, the entire editorial team resigned and will start a new open access journal with the same focus and scope as Lingua. Elsevier insisted that they have the rights to the name Lingua (even though the name has historic value and reputation that was created by linguists and not by a publishing company). So, the new journal will be called Glossa, but in the eyes of the community it is the rightful continuation of Lingua. Elsevier will try to start their own new journal, which they will name Lingua, usurping a name that has a lot of associated goodwill because of the hard work of the editors over decades. To me, that is a despicable insult to the linguistics community. A colleague suggested the alternative name “Zombie Lingua” for the Elsevier project, which I hope will stick.

There’s various hopes I have for the near future:

Finishing Lingua’s current business

The current editors of Lingua will finish up their current business over the next few months and will officially step down on December 31. I think the community should support them as best as possible, particularly by finishing any outstanding reviews. Any authors with work under submission to Lingua should strongly consider withdrawing these submissions and resubmitting them to Glossa as soon as that new journal is open for business (which is projected to be in January).

Supporting Glossa

Everyone should support Glossa: submit your best work to it, agree to review for it, help it get ranked and recognized across the academy.

Do not support Zombie Lingua

It won’t come as a surprise from a veteran Elsevier boycotter like me that I think that the community should not assist Elsevier in standing up a new journal that usurps the Lingua goodwill. Do not serve on the editorial team, do not submit articles, do not review for them. I certainly won’t.

I welcome discussion of my recommendations. For further information, there is a largely accurate article at Inside Higher Ed and there is the website of the Ling-OA initiative, which the Lingua/Glossa team is working with.