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The three editors of this journal since it was founded in 1962 look back at how it has grown and changed, with an analysis of who has contributed and what has been contributed.

1. Introduction

Oceanic Linguistics was created at the request of the Panel on Research Needs in Pacific Languages of the Tenth Pacific Science Congress in 1961. Its object is to provide competent information and better communication across national boundaries on current research bearing on the languages of the Oceanic area. Readers have been reminded of this expectation on the inside front cover of each issue to date.1 In this paper, the three scholars who in turn have edited the journal during this period attempt to put to the test, in a preliminary way, the question of how well this journal has fulfilled the hopes of that panel more than fifty years ago.2

In section 2, the first author gives his recollection of events at the founding and during the first thirty years, when he served as editor. There follows a summary of the physical characteristics of the journal and how it was produced during this period (2.2).

In section 3, the second author reflects on some of the changes that took place during his fifteen-year tenure as editor (vols. 31–45), and includes an analysis of author locations (3.2) and a report on the impact of the technological changes that occurred during the 1990s (3.3).

Section 4 gives reflections of the third author—who completes his fifth year as editor with volume 50—on his experiences as a fully electronic editor far removed from the official publication site, both physically and with respect to the Queen’s English.

Section 5 gives a preliminary analysis of coverage and content during the entire fifty years, and section 6 gives some brief conclusions.

The fifty-year index is found on page 601. [End Page 285]

2. The Beginnings

2.1 As Remembered by the First Author

Oceanic Linguistics (OL) was conceived at the Tenth Pacific Science Congress, which was held in Honolulu August 21 to September 6, 1961. The particular sciences given prominence in the individual congresses differ (or at least did so during the time when I had some knowledge of them) from congress to congress, according to the choices of the host country. The tenth congress gave particular scope to anthropology and—through anthropology—to linguistics, and thus presented a particular opportunity to work toward giving a common purpose to our efforts.

Table 1. Pages In Each Volume (VP) & In Each Issue (IP)
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Table 1.

Pages In Each Volume (VP) & In Each Issue (IP)

There was what seemed to me to be a very good attendance of linguists working in different parts of the Oceanic/Austronesian area, and I met several there for the first time. In trying to resuscitate my memories of the congress, I’ve been helped a lot by [End Page 286] Stephen Wurm’s report on the Oceanic linguistics happenings there that appeared in the first issue of OL.

Wurm’s report names twenty participants in these sessions. I find that there was a panel discussion on “Research needs in Oceanic languages,” which (I find that) I chaired. The discussants were Bruce Biggs, Arthur Capell, Isidore Dyen, Samuel H. Elbert, and Stephen A. Wurm. It was this panel that made the recommendation that we used to justify the founding of OL.

Although Wurm’s report of the discussions in that panel makes no mention of a newsletter/journal, I seem to remember that there was, in fact, a discussion of a need for one and that all panel participants were present at that discussion. I believe the most enthusiastic supporters were Capell, Wurm, and possibly me as well.

2.1.1 Why was there a need for the journal?

Consider the state of affairs in the area in 1961. The colonial era was just approaching its end. The territories in which Oceanic languages were spoken were mostly administered by outside powers—the US, the UK, France, the Netherlands (soon to be replaced by Indonesia), Australia, and New Zealand.

Circumstances during the colonial era had not been favorable to the kind of scientific endeavor that some of us felt was needed. Access to speakers of the indigenous languages generally required approval of the appropriate colonial authorities, who were usually more concerned with effective administration than with scientific progress. Such research as did occur was probably most often carried out by citizens of the colonial power, with the results likely to be published in that country and in its language.

In fact, many of the publication outlets were periodicals devoted to those territories and having an areal rather than a disciplinary focus. Under such circumstances the development of an Austronesian comparative linguistics following the Indo-European model was well-nigh impossible. And, more generally, there was a need for better sharing of information among people who were working on similar problems but on different sides of international boundaries. There was also a need for broader recognition of linguistics as a legitimate discipline.

Capell and Wurm, whom Capell had been instrumental in bringing to Australia, were strong advocates at the Congress for the proposed publication. In fact, Capell had been arguing the need for such a journal from at least as early as 1955, the time when I first met him.

Although my own main concern was to have an outlet for Austronesian linguistics, the Australians in particular wanted the Papuan and Australian languages to be provided for as well, and it seemed advisable to include them since we were concerned about attracting enough readers and contributions to be viable.

I think there was a general expectation that it would have to begin modestly—that at first it could only hope to serve as a vehicle for sharing information about the activities of interested scholars. However, it was certainly hoped that it would be able to grow into a full-fledged journal that would publish scholarly articles of all relevant sorts. Accordingly, when it actually got started, it announced that the materials published would be limited to survey articles and “news of current research, publications, and other pertinent activities.” [End Page 287]

2.1.2 Why was I chosen to be the editor?

Certainly a major consideration was an idea that it would be best for this publication to be based in the US. I’m not sure the rationale behind this idea was ever made explicit but I think it would have probably included a perception that linguistics, especially with unwritten languages as an object, was better established as a legitimate endeavor in the US than in most other countries. The US may also have been thought of as more of an outsider to the region and therefore more disinterested: even though it had colonies in Samoa and Guam, it showed little interest in them, and its interest in the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (that is, Micronesia) was narrowly focused and recent. And, no doubt, there may have been a perception that funding might be more available in the US.

Beyond that, I don’t have any relevant memories, but I think there must simply have been no other serious possibilities among the American participants in the Congress. Isidore Dyen, as I remember, showed no interest in the whole undertaking, and none of the other American participants, except a couple of predoctoral ones, seems to have been a full-time linguist.

2.1.3 Why did I accept the editorship?

Certainly a major reason was that I had ideas about the directions the field should take and hoped to be able to exercise some influence through the journal. Furthermore, I thought my acceptance might lead to a source of support for the journal: that I would likely be able to persuade my university, Southern Illinois University, to support the endeavor if I were the prospective editor.

Although I did think it would probably be possible to get sufficient support at SIU to begin publication, I also seem to remember that it was my idea to have our panel on Research Needs formally recognize the need for such a journal. I thought that such an authoritative-sounding statement might be helpful in overcoming any reluctance I might encounter.

The main support at Southern Illinois University came from the Department of Anthropology, but I recall that OL received at least some encouragement from above the departmental level. This is confirmed by the statement in the journal on the occasion of the move to the University of Hawai‘i that the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Department of Anthropology were due “particular recognition.” In fact, I seem to remember that it was the University public relations people who were responsible for brief articles that appeared in both the student newspaper and the town newspaper at the time announcing the beginning of the newsletter.

2.1.4 What was to be the role of the Editorial Advisory Board?

In retrospect, I’m inclined to describe its purpose as getting some key people implicated. The hope was that their involvement would give OL credibility in their home countries, and at the same time that they would provide access to all of the potentially interested parties, transmitting news of their doings to us and of our publication to them. Therefore, giving them free subscriptions seemed a useful investment.

I’m sure that Wurm, who was quite politically astute and who had wide connections, was very helpful in suggesting potential Board members. In fact, I should mention him as having been generally helpful in the early days: among other things, he [End Page 288] provided significantly more information about ongoing research activities than any other single contributor.

I don’t recall now that I ever asked Editorial Board members for much advice; I probably sent them (but not them alone) requests for information on research activities in their areas. I no doubt did occasionally approach one or another individually on other matters as well, but I knew some quite well and would have contacted them more readily; others I never knew at all.

I’ve been asked about the difficulty of finding reviewers for papers submitted in the early years, but as I recall, most of the early papers didn’t require much reviewing. What I most regularly did was correspond with authors myself, often discussing particular points, and suggesting changes. But for the most part, it was easy to determine whether or not a paper provided useful information.

My recollection now would be that very few unacceptable papers were submitted in the first years. (However, I seem to remember that I did accept one that brought a threat to resign from one or more members of the editorial board.)

Anyway, at the beginning I probably didn’t make a clear distinction between informal consultation and formal reviews. I think I must have had a good many informal consultations with colleagues at UH, but not many formal reviews—at least at first. I’m sure that one consideration was whether there was anyone at UH who might be helpful. Getting reviews from (or even informal consultation with) people elsewhere in those pre-Internet, pre-word processor (and were they still pre-Xerox?) days was a much more substantial undertaking than it would be today.

However, outside reviewers gradually became more necessary as there came to be more people working in the same areas or on related problems, and as theoretical differences began to play a role, but I never had any formal policy about numbers of reviewers.

2.1.5 Further recollections and reflections

It was in 1964 that OL moved with me from Southern Illinois University to the University of Hawai‘i. The first issue published there, Volume 2, no. 2 was dated Winter 1963. It was the first of many that were to be published later than the scheduled date—a matter of continuing annoyance to the authors. In that issue it was announced that the prior policy of accepting only those articles that were in the nature of surveys was no longer to be in effect. The statement continued, “Although we retain our interest in survey articles of that description, we are now able to accept contributions to the descriptive and historical linguistics of the Oceanic area, as will be seen from the contents of this issue.”

There were, in fact, two articles in that issue. Although Albert Schütz’s phonemic typology of Fijian dialects might still have qualified as a survey article, that was clearly not the case of the anthropologist Raymond Firth’s documentation of the distinction between /l/ and /r/ in the language of Tikopia.

In fact, “individual research activities,” which had been a regular feature of previous issues, ceased to appear at all after volume 4 (dated 1965).

Volumes 12 and 13 (dated 1973 and 1974) were exceptional. The First International Conference on Comparative Austronesian Linguistics was held in Honolulu in January 1974. This was the first in what has continued as a series of conferences held periodically in different parts of the world. However, the word “comparative” was promptly dropped [End Page 289] from their designation after the first conference. Papers from this conference were published as those two volumes, each of which contained nineteen papers. Those volumes were by far the largest published by the journal for many years; after them it reverted to the same pattern as before.

The first book review seems to have appeared in volume 20 (dated 1981). After that, reviews became a continuing feature. A separate Reviews Editor (James T. Collins) is first announced in volume 26 (1987). I should mention further that Byron Bender was Managing Editor from volume 3 on and that John Howe of the University of Hawai‘i Press was listed in volumes 5 to 25 as Assistant to the Editors.

During the first thirty years the issues were very often late. Although there were instances when we simply hadn’t had enough papers submitted to be able to get an issue out on time, my recollections now put the main blame on funding. The income from subscriptions accumulated slowly, and in any case our circulation was too small for us to be able realistically to raise subscription rates enough to meet all the production costs. Consequently, we were continuously dependent on some contribution from the University. I suppose it must have been particularly in times of budget-cutting (which were and are more frequent than one would like) that some of us journal editors would be obliged to plead our cases, but I resented having to do so. I felt that the journals should be regarded as something we contributed to the University, while at least one administrator argued that we were asking the University to support our own “personal aggrandizement.”

We would surely have had more papers contributed if we had been able to maintain a regular and prompt publication schedule. I heard frequent complaints about the long delays and the discrepancy between actual dates of publication and the date assigned to the issue. And if our issues had appeared promptly and contained more papers, it’s possible that we’d have had more subscriptions and even that with larger and more regular issues, subscription rates could have been increased. Especially at this remove, I can’t say with any certainty how much of the delay should be attributed to lack of submissions, to insufficiency of funds, or for that matter to lack of assiduity on the part of the Editor.

Byron Bender formally took over as Editor with volume 31. He came in with new vigor and fresh ideas that produced immediate results. Funding ceased to be a problem to be solved and more contributions were very quickly obtained. The issues began appearing on schedule, and the journal generally reached a new degree of professional maturity.

Our survey reveals just how far the journal has evolved in these first fifty years. Whereas at the beginning it was a modest and rather informal outlet for a small group of (mostly) field workers laboring in relative obscurity on languages in which the world linguistic community showed little interest, now everything seems changed.

For one thing, the casual atmosphere is gone; the editorial functions are performed with an unfamiliar (to me) professionalism and efficiency.

For another thing, the group of contributing linguists is no longer small. Our review reveals that there are 524 different linguists who have contributed to the journal and that they have represented a total of 189 institutions. Such numbers would have been hard to imagine at the beginning.

Another change is in the extent of coverage. When OL was begun, the number of languages in its purview appeared so overwhelmingly large that it was hard to imagine [End Page 290] a time when more than a small sample would ever be known to the scholarly world. However, today we find that this journal alone has published on 283 different languages, 239 of them Austronesian. That makes nearly a fifth of the entire number of Austronesian languages in existence (1,257 according to Lewis 2009). Such a number shows that a satisfactorily representative sampling is a realistic aspiration.

Thus, to my mind, today’s OL is in many ways like a different publication in a different world. But no doubt a big part of the reason why the starkness of the contrast strikes me so forcefully is that more than half the growth (more like 2/3 of the growth as far as the number of Austronesian languages covered is concerned) has happened since I ceased to be closely associated with it. It seems remarkable that this OL came from those beginnings.

I said earlier that one of my reasons for accepting the editorship was that I had ideas about the directions the field should take and hoped to be able to exercise some influence through the journal. It’s quite apparent from the developments I’ve just described that both the journal and the field have made enormous progress. The amount of progress and the fact that it has been very much in the directions I’d hoped for are certainly gratifying for me. Although there can be no doubt that much of this progress would have happened in any case, I like to think that the journal has also played its part.

2.2 Physical Make-Up and Production

The first two volumes (of two issues each, just as today) were 8½ × 5½ inches, a letter-size sheet of paper folded over in the middle and saddle-bound by two staples, with ordinary white paper covers. Volumes 3 and 4 were smaller by an eighth of an inch, having been commercially bound in light-blue cover stock—with spines—and trimmed. Text was typewritten and reduced. With the exception of the commercial binding, the production and mailing of the first four volumes were within the capability and what might be expected of a university department secretary’s office: the Department of Anthropology at Southern Illinois University (vols. 1 & 2, 1962 & 1963), and the Department of Linguistics at the University of Hawai‘i (vols. 3 & 4, 1964 & 1965).

The year 1966 was a momentous one for the journal when it was taken under the wing of the University of Hawai‘i Press. This put it on a more professional basis, and removed from its editor the concerns of commerce and final production. There were staff at the Press who looked after such matters. The subscription rate, which had been $1.25 a year, was raised to $3.00 for individuals and $5.00 for institutions.3 Its size became the present-day 6 × 9 inches, and its cover had a distinctive logo (which remains today) and a new buff color (which was modified only slightly over the years until 2009, when it took on a greenish cast). Text was typeset rather than typewritten.4 Where each separate issue had had its own language index for the first four volumes, this became an annual function. Each article was preceded by an abstract beginning in 1992 (vol. 31). Otherwise, little has changed on the surface. [End Page 291]

3. The Middle Years

3.1 As Remembered by the Second Author

I think that I came to the editorship at a good time, if a good time is defined as one in which earlier labors begin to bear fruit—fruit in this case being primarily a surfeit of good manuscripts. I knew from my years as managing editor that there had been a dearth of such, that many volumes had been slim, not because the editor rejected many, but because relatively few had been submitted. Why the turnaround just as I happened to come on board? What were those earlier labors that began to bear fruit?

3.1.1 What every journal needs: a steady flow of good manuscripts

With the end of World War II, interest in Oceania on the part of the American academic community grew sharply, beginning with the Coordinated Investigations in Micronesian Anthropology (CIMA) of the late 1940s, which included four linguists among its forty some scholars (Kiste and Marshall 1999). Scholars thus began to join in numbers the expatriates who had preceded them by decades and even centuries: explorers, traders, missionaries, whalers, administrators, soldiers and sailors, and beachcombers.

To this group can be added US Peace Corps volunteers, from 1965 on. Volunteers from analogous organizations in the UK and Commonwealth countries were to be found elsewhere in Oceania, and volunteers from private groups in the Netherlands as well.5 The same period from 1965 on saw an increasing number of students from Oceania in colleges and universities elsewhere throughout the world, where they could themselves become professionals, or work as language consultants to resident linguists.

Of course, only a small fraction of those who have spent appreciable time in Oceania, or of those originally from Oceania who have been educated at tertiary institutions there or abroad, have or will become linguists, or could otherwise be expected to produce manuscripts for submission to OL. But these are the ranks that needed to be swelled if there were to be more than a trickle into OL’s inbox. There remains the question as to why it took thirty to forty years—depending on when one begins counting—for a “critical mass” to be achieved only in the early 1990s. The answer to that is beyond the scope of this study.

3.1.2 SIL International

An organization that began to move into Oceania as of 1953, a number of whose members have been contributors to OL, is known today as SIL International.6 Quakenbush (2008), after describing its origins and work with languages in Mexico, says that “this model of cooperation with governments in service to indigenous peoples was transplanted to the realm of Austronesian languages in 1953, when Dr. Richard S. Pittman arrived in the Philippines with a small group of linguists, at the invitation of future President Ramon Magsaysay. Beginning in the Philippines, the work of SIL spread to Papua New Guinea (1956), Indonesia (1972), and Malaysia (1977). SIL [End Page 292] officially began assisting in language development efforts in Rapa Nui of Easter Island in 1976. Through the 1980s, SIL began serving various language communities in the Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, and Vanuatu.”

3.1.3 Visibility and community—help from the ICALs

In addition to there being sufficient authors capable of producing manuscripts publishable in a given journal, the authors need to be aware of the journal’s existence, and to view it as a reputable and even prestigious repository for their work. And researchers in a developing area of investigation prefer not only to read what other researchers have written on topics close to theirs, but also to meet and interact with them face to face. These purposes have been well served for OL and its authors by a series of conferences that have come to be known by the acronym ICAL. The first ICAL was held in Honolulu, January 2–7, 1974.7 There were more than 100 papers presented in a total of 23 sessions, and a standing committee of international composition was established to see to it that there would be successor conferences. Its proceedings were published in volumes 12 and 13 of OL, with the issues of each combined under one cover. Volume 12 ran to 709 pages, and volume 13 to 682, including their indexes, slightly larger than the total number of pages in any volume since. Most but not all papers from the conference were included by the editorial committee in those two volumes. The exercise for conference participants of preparing their papers for publication in OL may have appeared a bit more rigorous than that usually necessary simply for conference proceedings. At any rate, each was introduced to the process of publishing in OL, and many have become repeaters in later issues.

Most of the successor ICALs have had their own proceedings (see footnote 7), except for ICAL6, also held in Honolulu, for which no conference proceedings were published as such. Instead, participants were encouraged to submit their papers to OL. A note from the editor in the first issue of volume 31 told of plans of the organizers of one special symposium to publish all those papers as an issue of Oceanic Linguistics Special Publications (Edmondson and Gregerson 1993), and went on to observe that “several papers from the 6th Conference appeared already in Oceanic Linguistics 30, number 2, and the current volume consists mostly of papers from the conference, including the two keynote addresses. …” Also, five of the papers from a symposium on verb serialization held as a part of ICAL6 were published together as part of OL32(1) (see 3.1.4 below), often acknowledging helpful comments received at the symposium.

In the wake of ICAL6 there emerged a new conference series more narrowly focused on the Oceanic languages descended from Proto-Oceanic, the International Conferences on Oceanic Linguistics, which bore the acronym COOL. The third author was instrumental in getting this series going, as he recounts here: “It was after the 1991 ICAL that was held in Honolulu that Paul Geraghty mentioned to me that Oceanic linguists seemed to have been getting a bit ‘lost’ within the wider An community, plus the fact that there [End Page 293] had to be parallel sessions because of the large number of papers. So he asked me if I would think about organising a purely Oceanic conference, separate from the ICALs, and the first was held here in Port Vila in 1993, with a small seed grant ($10,000 Fijian, as I recall) from USP. All of the others have been held quite separately from ICALs, though in 2002 in Canberra there was an ICAL immediately followed by a COOL. Generally there have been around fifty or so papers, which meant a week with no parallel sessions and usually either a day or half a day off in the middle for a rest, excursions, sightseeing, etc.”(John Lynch, pers. comm.). COOL8 was held in Auckland in January of 2009.

3.1.4 Other conferences

Early in my tenure as editor I began to receive requests to devote entire issues of OL to the proceedings of conferences, with the individual who had organized the conference serving as guest editor for the issue, similar to what had occurred when the first issue of OL3 was devoted to papers from an SIL (Philippines) workshop supervised by Kenneth Pike, comprising twelve papers and an introduction by Elmer Wolfenden, and when all of OL12 and 13 were devoted to papers from the first ICAL, with a special editorial committee.

This I was reluctant to do, as it would have meant forgoing a half-year of access to OL for other authors each time it occurred. The compromise solution was to use only part of an issue, with a guest editor acknowledged for those papers in the table of contents. This occurred in each issue of volume 32. In OL32(1), Joel Bradshaw, the organizer of a symposium on serial verbs at ICAL6, was guest editor for five of those papers from the symposium. They followed two nonsymposium papers in the issue. In OL32(2), James T. Collins was guest editor and wrote a brief introduction for five “Papers on Languages of Maluku” resulting from recent conferences on that subject at the University of Hawai‘i (UH). Then in OL33(2), although not obvious from the table of contents, there were seven papers coming from a conference organized by Lawrence A. Reid and held at UH May 10–13, 1993 on Asia-Mainland/Austronesian Connections, with no guest editor designated. They were followed by three articles unrelated to the conference. This is the last instance, I believe, where OL served as the primary vehicle for the proceedings of a specific conference.

However, a number of the authors who have been active in the annual conferences of AFLA (Austronesian Formal Linguistics Association) have also been active contributors to OL. AFLA has met annually since 1994 at universities in Canada, the US, Europe, Australia, and Taiwan. As reported by participants at what started out as a workshop on morphosyntax at the University of Toronto, “we felt that there was a growing number of morphologists and syntacticians working on Austronesian languages within formal theoretical frameworks. We thought that we would all benefit from having a way to meet with others who shared not only some basic theoretical assumptions, but also a feel for the language family. And so AFLA was created.” 8

It should be noted that this took place in 1994, just shortly after the founding of the COOL series of conferences, and at roughly the same time that OL was beginning to [End Page 294] receive a more steady flow of manuscripts—all seemingly signs that a critical mass had finally been achieved.

3.1.5 Miscellany from the middle years

George had given me some warning in 1991 that he wanted me to take up the editorship, so I had a bit of time to think about any innovations I might attempt. I see that with OL31(1) I added a group of seven Associate Editors as a new and separate group, in addition to the Editorial Advisory Board. This was modeled after the American journal Language, with the expectation that I would be gaining a working group ready and willing to read the wider variety of manuscripts being received.9 I also added four members to the Editorial Advisory Board, thereby increasing its size from eight to twelve, with the same expectation.10 Kenneth L. Rehg replaced me as Managing Editor.

I sought at least two readers and their recommendations for the publication of each manuscript from the beginning, although it wasn’t until volume 36 that we began to proclaim on the inside front cover that OL is a refereed publication—this in response to word from some scholars that their institutions required this to be stated overtly if articles were to be credited toward promotion.

With OL34(1) squibs began to appear with greater frequency—a term borrowed from Lingustic Inquiry for shorter and more narrowly focused articles. These continue to appear, often two or three per issue. Another genre attempted in the same issue was “Notes from the Field.” Two were published in that issue, but I don’t believe that any have appeared since.

Finally, one innovation that occurred in OL37 was the use of footnotes instead of endnotes. This came about when I changed the desktop publishing program we had been using to the one that is still being used.11 Not only does it make possible this reader-friendly feature (Pullum 1984), but it also affords greater flexibility in the sort of tables that we can produce.

George asked me while we were working on this paper whether the journal had financial problems during my tenure of the sort he had experienced during his. The short answer is that they never got to a level that threatened full cessation. But at first we were reminded annually that we were barely making it. Also, there was a stricture on the size of each issue, to not get into a higher postal rate. And early in our days of desktop publishing, we were told to eliminate any empty spaces by beginning new articles on verso pages rather than leaving them empty, and by running book reviews in, rather than starting each one on a new page. Joel Bradshaw, Journals Manager at the Press, tells me that the turnaround came when we began to use desktop publishing software to produce camera-ready copy and do our own copy editing, beginning with OL34 in 1995. This eliminated what had been roughly $10,000 of expenses per volume, and got us clearly into the black. The advent of electronic publication (with Project Muse) and furnishing of back issues (with JSTOR) shortly thereafter (see 3.3) has served to increase revenues as well. [End Page 295]

3.2 Author Affiliations

Following up on the discussion in earlier portions of section 3 concerning OL’s need for authors who together can provide a steady stream of good manuscripts, I would like to take a look at the locations of those whose manuscripts have sustained OL over the entire fifty-year period, and how their provenance has varied. This we can do by plotting institutional affiliations. The exercise will also serve to introduce how the information about the journal’s contents was obtained and processed, especially the analyses of its contents that are displayed in section 5.

3.2.1 How the number of pages published per year has varied

For this and other information to be displayed, we decided to use 1,000 pages as a basic unit, so that instead of comparing the contents of lean and fat volumes (lean and fat years), whose size might vary greatly, we could compare units more nearly the same size, which we call divisions. This raises the questions as to how long it took to achieve each division, and how many such divisions have been produced. The answers to these and related questions are displayed in table 2. From the table, it can be seen that sixteen divisions have been produced to date. The time necessary to produce each division can be seen in the rightmost column. Note from column 2 that no division is exactly 1,000 pages; breaks were made at the closest boundary between articles.

Table 2. Divisions of Roughly 1000 Pages Each†
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Table 2.

Divisions of Roughly 1000 Pages Each

3.2.2 Affiliations by country and state

Each of the four pie charts of figure 1 covers one fourth of OL’s output to date—four divisions, or roughly 4,000 pages each—and shows the affiliations of OL’s authors during that period by country. (Within the US, Hawai‘i has been separated out because of the size and consistency of support for this product of its own university press.) The term “International” in the charts refers to SIL International, under which all the earlier terms for SIL affiliation (see footnote 6) are also subsumed. Note that the period of the first pie chart extends over eighteen years, the second over sixteen, the third over nine, and the last over seven. [End Page 296]

Figure 1. Locations of Authors’ Home Institutions by Country, With Hawai‘i Separated Out
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Figure 1.

Locations of Authors’ Home Institutions by Country, With Hawai‘i Separated Out

[End Page 297] [End Page 298]

3.2.3 What can be concluded about authors’ locations

The base of institutions that support our authors, when viewed country by country, turns out to have been remarkably stable over the 50-year period. Linguists from those countries that the founders had hoped to draw together into a scientific community have been responding by sharing their work in a continuing volume that makes the journal possible. Those from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and countries from the European Union have been joined by others from countries within the Oceanic area such as Indonesia and Vanuatu,12 and most spectacularly, Taiwan.

What happened in Taiwan is shown in table 3, where the institutions of authors in that country are ranked according to the number of articles published during each of the sixteen thousand-page divisions of the fifty-year period (see table 2 on page 296).

Table 3. Number of Articles From Taiwan Institutions During Each 1,000-Page Division of 50-Year Period
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Table 3.

Number of Articles From Taiwan Institutions During Each 1,000-Page Division of 50-Year Period

3.2.4 The top twenty institutions of affiliation

Table 4 shows the top twenty institutions worldwide that were listed by principal authors as their primary affiliation. The ranking is by the number of articles published during the entire fifty-year period by these authors from each such institution.

Table 4. Number of Articles From Top Twenty Institutions
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Table 4.

Number of Articles From Top Twenty Institutions

[End Page 299]

3.3 The Electronic Era

For the first several decades of OL publication, manuscripts were submitted and all correspondence with authors and with referees was conducted by mail. The Press used the same medium for dealing with typesetters, printers, and binders. Typesetting was often done in Hong Kong,13 and printing and binding were usually done in Michigan, depending on the lowest bidder. Edited copy was sent to typesetters, who returned page proofs and galley proofs that were sent to authors for making corrections. Even after an article had been accepted on the basis of positive reviews, the time remaining before copies were in the hands of readers of the journal seems excessive by today’s standards.

The situation has altered gradually. The first major step was the adoption of desktop publishing software for producing the proofs and final copy of volume 33 in 1994. This was done directly by the editor using floppy disks submitted by authors and without an intervening copy editor. Email was used increasingly for correspondence with authors and for transmission of proofs in the form of PDFs. Final copy for sending to the printers was produced with a laser printer on high-quality paper. By the turn of the century this was also done electronically, and authors were submitting manuscripts as attachments to email as a matter of course. Together, these changes have cut down drastically the time between submission and publication.

Other changes in technology that have eased the tasks of production and increased accuracy include compiling the annual language indexes by computer—this was once done by hand using 3 × 5 slips—and using Unicode fonts, which need no modification from authors’ submissions through to final printing. Readership has clearly been increased through concurrent electronic publication by Project Muse (, and the availability of all back issues through JSTOR ( This is attested to by the balance sheets produced by the Press for the journal each year. The great remaining question is whether, or the extent to which, hard copy will continue to have any role in the production of Oceanic Linguistics. But this is a question also being faced by most other journals today.

4. The Third Author Reports on the Here and Now

In 2005, Byron decided that fifteen years as editor was enough, and looked around for a replacement. A cabal of senior linguists in Honolulu came to the conclusion that, after forty-five years, perhaps the editorship should move south of the equator, presumably reflecting the location of the majority of languages under the OL umbrella, as well as that of a significant minority of contributors to the journal.

Byron talks about coming to the editorship “at a good time”—good in terms of both financial stability and a steady flow of good manuscripts. I had a similar experience, but added to that was the fact that Byron stayed on as Managing Editor, assisting me with lists of potential referees for papers, tutoring me in the rather complex software that we use for the journal, and providing another pair of eyes between me and the proofreader. [End Page 300]

4.1 Whose English?

That last asset—another pair of eyes—has been very important. The journal appears in US English, and follows the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS). I had never heard of the latter until I took over from Byron, and allowed all sorts of inconsistencies to slip through. I had, of course, heard of US English, but having been brought up on Commonwealth English (I hesitate to use the term “the Queen’s English”), I found myself automatically allowing all sorts of things through that looked OK to me but were picked up by Byron: grey for gray, whilst for while, plough for plow, centre for center, 4 July for July 4, and the like.

I also allowed all kinds of things that CMS disallows: the innovations which these languages share instead of the innovations that these languages share, or Starosta, Pawley and Reid for Starosta, Pawley, and Reid. These conventions have slowly become more automatic, although occasionally I find myself apologizing to authors for having converted their British/Commonwealth prose into American/CMS prose.

Another related issue is the origin of the authors. As the field continues to broaden, more and more contributions come from countries where English is not the first language. To take an example: at the time of writing (mid-March 2011), I had received thirty submissions for OL50, from forty-five authors (a number of papers being jointly authored).14 Of those forty-five authors, around twenty are linguists for whom English is not their first language. Often—though by no means always—these papers represent an additional editorial challenge, as one struggles to make sense of certain statements in some papers. (To be fair, though, my experience has also shown that (a) one of the authors whose prose needs almost no editing is a Taiwanese linguist, and (b) some native speakers in English often produce fairly unintelligible prose themselves from time to time.)

4.2 Style and Formatting

OL produces its own stylesheet. (I must admit to not having been aware of this when I was submitting papers to the journal—despite its being referred to on the inside back cover of the journal—though I did what I think a number of authors still do, and followed the way published papers were laid out and formatted, which is almost the same as following the stylesheet.) Obviously, it saves the editor a considerable amount of time, at least at the formatting stage, if the final version of a paper follows the recommended style as closely as possible.

Authors appear to vary wildly on this. Some authors’ papers require minimal formatting; other authors use their own idiosyncratic style, blithely ignoring both the stylesheet and the way in which previous papers have been laid out. This is perhaps most noticeable in the references, but extends to other areas: I have had one author who regularly put the footnote number before a period rather than after it, some who use colored fonts for all language data, and others who appear not to know that examples should normally be serially numbered.

The formatting of numbered examples is often also an editorial problem. Most authors, to be fair, place tabs between each word in the language example and also between each word’s gloss in the interlinear glossing. But some seem not to have heard [End Page 301] of tabs: I can see those authors sitting in front of their screens pressing space, space, space … until it all seems to line up nicely in front of them. And so, of course, it does—until the paper is imported into a different format, and every one of those spaces created by pressing “enter” has to be manually deleted, and then a tab inserted.

At the other end of this continuum are those highly computer-literate authors who use automatic numbering of examples, sections, and so on. This is obviously a great convenience to them; but again, once the file is moved into a different software format, all of those automatic numberings have to be manually deleted, involving a considerable expenditure of time on what is a tedious exercise.

Finally, we have maps. These are of real importance, especially in comparative papers, and I feel it helps the reader a lot to have them, especially those readers who are not all that familiar with the area under discussion. But these, too, come in many different formats, and often take considerable time to position exactly in the text.

4.3 Authors and Reviewers

Lest it sound that I am complaining rather too much, let me end this brief section with a word on the unfailing politeness and cooperation of perhaps 99 percent of our associate editors, reviewers, and authors.15 I often ask associate editors to recommend possible reviewers, especially when a paper is on an area—geographical or theoretical—somewhat removed from my own interests and expertise. The speed at which these associate editors respond, and the range of choice of potential reviewers, is quite remarkable in most cases, and makes an editor’s life easy.

Next, reviewers. Asking someone to review a paper is an imposition: it is not, strictly speaking, part of the job that they have been hired to do, and can involve a considerable amount of work, especially if the paper is not written all that well or if it needs considerable revision. Some potential reviewers, of course, cannot always do the job because of pressure of other work, but they unfailingly suggest other people (sometimes even suggesting the author of the paper to be reviewed!). Most, however, say “yes,” and most get their reviews in pretty much on time .

Finally, authors. When a paper is rejected, I often hear back from the unsuccessful submitter something like “Oh, bad luck, I’d better try to do something about it.” Successful authors are most cooperative about answering queries, making suggested changes, and providing justification for those areas of their papers where they disagree with a suggestion made by reviewers. Working with people like these makes the job worthwhile.

5. The Subject Matter of Articles

In preparing for this paper, the first and second author examined the contents of each article for the entire period and attempted to add to the index database certain information about each article: (1) the languages, families, and/or subgroups included in its purview, and (2) the sorts of linguistic questions it attempts to answer. Here “article” was broadly interpreted to include review articles, reviews, squibs, notes, and even obituaries—any such item including in its discussion these two major sorts of information. [End Page 302]

5.1 Language Families and Subgroups

Figure 2 gives an overview of the level of generality employed in recording this sort of information. No further family or subgroup information is given beyond simply “Australian” or “Papuan.” Only within Austronesian are major subgroups indicated. The only subgroups identified within Oceanic are Polynesian and Micronesian, and “Oceanic” needs to be interpreted as “Oceanic other than Polynesian or Micronesian.” For full Oceanic totals, the three must be added together. In similar fashion, WMP (Western Malayo-Polynesian) needs to be interpreted as WMP other than Philippine.

Figure 2. Pages Devoted to Language Groups Identified† † WMP = Western Malayo-Polynesian other than Philippine; OC = Oceanic other than Polynesian and Micronesian
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Figure 2.

Pages Devoted to Language Groups Identified

† WMP = Western Malayo-Polynesian other than Philippine;

OC = Oceanic other than Polynesian and Micronesian

Table 5 shows the number of articles dealing with each of the same groups as those identified in figure 2 in each of the sixteen divisions identified in table 2.

Table 5. Number of Articles in Each of the 1,000-Page Divisions Devoted to Each Language Group
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Table 5.

Number of Articles in Each of the 1,000-Page Divisions Devoted to Each Language Group

[End Page 303]

5.2 Geographic Locations of Languages

Languages receiving major treatment in articles were classified not only genetically, but geographically as well into a total of seventeen discrete areas: (1) Australia; (2) Madagascar; (3) Andaman Islands; (4) Mainland Southeast Asia; (5) Taiwan; (6) Philippines; (7) Eastern Indonesia; (8) Indonesian New Guinea; (9) Indonesia (other); (10) Papua New Guinea; (11) Solomons; (12) Vanuatu; (13) New Caledonia; (14) Fiji & Rotuma; (15) Melanesia (other); (16) Polynesia; and (17) Micronesia. Area (9) “Indonesia (other)” includes those parts of the Indonesian area not included in (7) Eastern Indonesia and (8) Indonesian New Guinea. Similarly, area (15) “Melanesia (other)” includes those parts of Melanesia not included in areas (10)–(14).

Figure 3 ranks these areas according to their share of all such articles during the entire fifty-year period. Figure 4 presents the same data broken into four parts of four divisions each, paralleling the four pie charts of figure 1. The charts of figure 4 thus bring out shifts in the coverage of areas during the four time periods (see table 2 for details on the years of each period). 16

Figure 3. Geographic Locations of Languages Given Major Treatment in One or More Articles During the 50-Year Period
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Figure 3.

Geographic Locations of Languages Given Major Treatment in One or More Articles During the 50-Year Period

[End Page 304]

Figure 4. Geographic Locations of Languages
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Figure 4.

Geographic Locations of Languages

[End Page 305]

[End Page 306]

5.3 Subfields of Linguistics

The set of descriptors used in this section grew as our analysis of the articles proceeded. In part, this growth resulted from new subject areas encountered in later years of the period. Although between the two of us we had edited the journal for its first forty-five years, we had not kept a log such as the one we were now compiling. Our memories were refreshed in the process. The final inventory of descriptors will be found in 5.3.2. But first we introduce two dichotomies growing out of some initial discussions, before we looked at the articles anew.

5.3.1 Preliminary questions Descriptive vs. comparative

Articles were first identified, where possible, as to whether they were primarily “descriptive” or “comparative” in their approach. The former for us did not carry the baggage of the word when used disparagingly to refer to an earlier era of American linguistics that stopped short of explanatory adequacy, and the latter was not limited to those adhering rigidly to the comparative method. The question we asked was, is this article primarily focusing on the description and analysis of certain language phenomena, or is it comparing entities already described? We knew that we would find both types, and we thought it might be of interest to quantify their proportions over the fifty-year period. The results (in figure 5) show overall a remarkable balance between the two. After a slow start in the first division, articles on comparative subjects have been holding their own, lagging only slightly in the fifty-year totals, by 47 to 53 per cent.

Figure 5. Whether Each Article is Primarily Descriptive or Comparative (Giving Page Counts)
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Figure 5.

Whether Each Article is Primarily Descriptive or Comparative (Giving Page Counts)

[End Page 307] Identifying, mapping, and inventorying vs. going beyond

We were aware that a lot of initial effort in dealing with this area with its multitude of languages had gone into the former activities, but we wondered to what extent that basic work had been completed and linguists were now able to do—and were, in fact, doing—what they had long been doing with languages whose basic facts and histories were better known. So we attempted to pose this dichotomous question of every article where it made any sense to do so. The results are shown in figure 6, where it can be seen that although there was a sharp drop-off in inventorying activities in the 1990s, there was a return to former levels in the early 2000s. However, in recent years almost twice as many pages have been devoted to going beyond—which also characterizes the ratio for the entire fifty-year period: 64 to 36 per cent. Still there remains sorting out to be done, much of it having to do with distinguishing between Austronesian and Papuan histories, but also with correcting earlier errors. A prime example of the former is Ross and Næss (2007), of the latter, Pawley (2011).

Figure 6. Whether Each Article is Primarily Concerned with “Identifying, Mapping, and Inventorying,” or Whether It Goes Beyond to Deal With Other Matters
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Figure 6.

Whether Each Article is Primarily Concerned with “Identifying, Mapping, and Inventorying,” or Whether It Goes Beyond to Deal With Other Matters

5.3.2 Content descriptors

We present here the set of descriptors we used in an effort to characterize succinctly the approach and content of each article. For some articles, a single descriptor sufficed. For others, it was necessary to invoke several. For example, both of the descriptors “historical” and “phonology” would be used to characterize an article on the historical phonology of a given language. Figure 7 gives the number of pages devoted to articles for which each of the descriptors was used.

A word or two of explanation may be in order for several of the terms used. “AFLA” is shorthand for papers that follow special syntactic models also sometimes referred to as [End Page 308] “government and binding” or “minimalist.” “Space” is the term often used by the authors of papers dealing with systems of directionals. “Language documentation and conservation” could equally well have been termed “Language endangerment.”

6. Conclusions

In retrospect, the request coming from the Tenth Pacific Science Congress in 1961 has proved to be a timely one. Two decades had passed since the attention of the US became focused on the Pacific region as never before, whereby it joined countries with interests of deeper and longer standing. There was much to be gained by pooling and sharing, among all the parties, knowledge of the area and the efforts in progress to learn more.

6.1 The Timing Was Good

The period has been one of accelerating technological change, friendly to the accumulation and sharing of knowledge. Authors have at their fingertips electronic aids sufficiently portable for use in the field. At their desks they can access information quickly, without trips to the library, or even to their own bookshelves. The time between their submission of information to an editor for publication and readers’ receipt of same is now a fraction of what is was five decades ago. These changes are ongoing, and we find ourselves at the moment straddling two media, with print on both paper and screen. (See especially the closing paragraphs of section 3.3.)

6.2 Rounding Out Our Knowledge of Language

It is already clear that the sort of knowledge that is accumulating on the languages of the Oceanic area is helping bring deeper perspective to our general knowledge of human language, the variety of its manifestations, and what they all have in common. The detailing of this contribution from the languages of the Oceanic area could well be the subject of another article, or better yet a series of articles that would fill a complete issue. Our data show that this journal has all along maintained a historical component on a par with its descriptive content, and this may ultimately prove to be its greatest contribution, due in no small part to the unique nature of the Austronesian language family, which has been the chief object of its historical focus.

6.3 Much Has Been Accomplished

Today much more is known about the languages of the area and their history. This includes the history of their speakers and the settlement history of the region, a vast area covering as much as one tenth of the globe. The decision to broadly define the area covered by the journal as “the combined Austronesian, Papuan, and Australian language areas” may well prove to have been especially fortuitous, including as it does not only the intrusive Austronesian group, but the groups intruded upon. Further unraveling and reconstructing of this history may well occupy another fifty years or more.

Thus, in all humility we must say that there is much, much more to be learned, but what has been gained in this relatively short period is encouraging. We are happy that this journal has been among its chief chroniclers. (See especially the closing paragraphs of section 2.1.5.) [End Page 309]

Figure 7. Descriptors Used to Characterize Article Content, With Number of Pages Devoted to Articles to Which Each Was Applied
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Figure 7.

Descriptors Used to Characterize Article Content, With Number of Pages Devoted to Articles to Which Each Was Applied

[End Page 310]

George W. Grace, Byron W. Bender, and John Lynch
University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and University of the South Pacific


Edmondson, Jerold A., and Kenneth J. Gregerson, eds. 1993. Tonality in Austronesian Languages. Oceanic Linguistics Special Publication No. 24. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.
Kiste, Robert A., and Mac Marshall, eds. 1999. American anthropology in Micronesia; An assessment. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.
Lewis, M. Paul, ed. 2009. Ethnologue: Languages of the World. 16th ed. Dallas, TX: SIL International. Online version: (accessed April 18, 2011).
Pawley, Andrew. 2011. On the Position of Bugotu and Gela in the Guadalcanal-Nggelic Subgroup of Oceanic. Oceanic Linguistics 50(1):1–24.
Pullum, Geoffrey K. 1984. Stalking the perfect journal. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 2:261–67.
Quakenbush, J. Stephen. 2008. SIL and endangered Austronesian languages. In Documenting and revitalizing Austronesian languages, ed. by D. Victoria Rau and Margaret Florey, Language Documentation and Conservation Special Publication No. 1,
Ross, Malcolm, and Åshild Næss. 2007. An Oceanic origin for Äiwoo, the language of the Reef Islands? Oceanic Linguistics 46:456–98. [End Page 311]


1. Rather than the 100 covers to be expected from 50 volumes of two issues each, there have been only 87, as the two issues of volumes 4, 12, 13, 15, 19, 21, 24–27, and the four issues of volumes 22–23 were combined under single covers. See table 1 on page 286.

2. The authors are deeply indebted to Steve Trussel for compilation of the 50-year index, for extending the database he used in that chore to include other information about each title for use in this paper, and for production of the tables and figures displaying that information.

3. The second issue of volume 5 included an announcement on the inside front cover that Oceanic Linguistics Special Publications would no longer be included in the journal’s subscription price. As of then, only English in Hawaii: An annotated bibliography, by Stanley M. Tsuzaki and John E. Reinecke, 1966 (82 pp.), had been published and included.

4. Except for two periods (vols. 12–13 and 16–25) when a secretary at the University of Hawai‘i’s Social Science Research Institute used an IBM Selectric typewriter to produce the final copy.

5. VSO, Voluntary Service Overseas (UK,; CUSO, Canadian Voluntary Service Overseas (merged with VSO Canada in 2008,; Palms Australia (; VSA, Volunteer Services Abroad (NZ, (Louise Pagotto, pers. comm.).

6. SIL authors in OL have listed their affiliations variously over the years (e.g., Summer Institute of Linguistics, SIL Australia, SIL Philippines, SIL Papua New Guinea, SIL Vanuatu, SIL Vietnam, and SIL International), but these are now consolidated under SIL International, and are shown simply as “International” in figure 1.

7. Its full title was The First International Conference on Comparative Austronesian Linguistics; the word “comparative” has been dropped from the names of successor conferences. They were ICAL2, Canberra, 1978; ICAL3, Bali, 1981; ICAL4, Suva, 1984; ICAL5, Auckland, 1988; ICAL6, Honolulu, 1991; ICAL7, Leiden, 1994; ICAL8, Taipei, 1997; ICAL9, Canberra, 2002; ICAL10, Palawan, Philippines, 2006; ICAL11, Aussois, France, 2009. Fuller information on each, including publication information, is available at

8. Programs for all 17 AFLA conferences to date—and often abstracts and/or other information about individual papers at each annual conference—are to be found at the official AFLA web site at This quotation is from the introduction to AFLA II, held at Stony Brook University the following year.

9. They were Niko Besnier, Videa De Guzman, Mark Durie, Michael Forman, Suzanne Romaine, Malcolm D. Ross, and R. David Zorc.

10. George W. Grace, Bernd Nothofer, Andrew K. Pawley, and Albert J. Schütz.

11. The change was from PageMaker to FrameMaker, both Adobe products.

12. With one exception, contributions from Vanuatu are attributable entirely to a single author.

13. Overseas typesetters included William Clowes & Sons, Ltd. (Great Britain) (vols. 8–9), Jerusalem Academic Publishers (vols. 10–11), Asco Trade Typesetting (Hong Kong) (vols. 14–15, 26–32) (the substance of this and notes 3 and 4 are by pers. comm. from Joel Bradshaw, who during the 1980s copyedited the manuscripts before they were sent to the typesetters).

14. I am often asked about the acceptance and rejection rate for the journal. I do not know what it was in the past, but of these 30 papers submitted for OL50, 10 have been accepted, 7 fall into the category of “revise and resubmit,” 5 have been rejected, and the remainder are still out with referees.

15. I am not sure if George and Byron had this same experience: I hope they did.

16. The pie charts in figures 3 and 4, as in figure 1, are to be read starting from 12 o’clock at the top and proceeding counterclockwise as the slices diminish in size. The labels for slices too small to easily contain their labels are given in the listing at the right, which should be read from bottom to top.

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