Now live: SemiotiX New Series, a WordPress-based e-journal

Now online: SemiotiX New Series, an e-journal in semiotics. SemiotiX Bulletin has been around for several years, in hand-edited HTML. Its reincarnation, SemiotiX New Series, runs on WordPress, automating all of the technical stuff so that the editors can spend their time writing and editing contributions. Geek alert: the rest of this post details some of the technical stuff behind the scenes. Feel free to skip! Continue reading

Subtitles in ELAN and beyond

ELAN is a tool for creating complex annotations on video and audio resources. It’s great for doing the hard work of annotation, but less ideal as a way of displaying the result, for example in a presentation. This brief tutorial covers a common use case: displaying a short stretch of video material with subtitles overlayed on the image. The instructions below are geared towards Windows users, although Mac users can also benefit from ELAN-exported .srt subtitles using VLC Media Player or Quicktime + Perian. Continue reading

Unified Style Sheet for Linguistics Journals

Not all linguists may be aware of this, but since 2007 there has been a Unified Style Sheet for publications in our field, developed by the editors of a number of linguistic journals, including Language. (Oddly enough, just which journals besides Language joined in the effort remains unclear.) There is not much centralized information available about this style, but we have the 2007 specifications (PDF) and a page endorsing the style at the official LSA website.

As Stephen Anderson writes on the Linguist List,

Use of this style is encouraged, and if it is widely adopted, that could considerably facilitate the preparation of manuscripts. In support of that, it would be useful to have software support for it in popular document preparation systems.

I’m happy to report that Zotero now supports the unified style through the powerful open format CSL. If you have Zotero, you can simply install the style right away. Zotero of course already supported lots of other citation styles, including the widely used APA and MLA as well as styles for specific journals like Language (install) and the Journal of Pragmatics (install).

I haven’t been able to find a definitive list of the journals that have adapted the Unified Style Sheet for Linguistics, but some examples of journals using and/or endorsing it are Language itself, Semantics & Pragmatics, and the Journal of English Linguistics. Also, the LDLT conference series at SOAS, London is using it in its proceedings. Does anyone know of more journals?

Dashboard Post-it: leave notes on the WordPress dashboard

Dashboard Post-it is a simple plugin for WordPress 2.7 and higher that allows you to leave yourself or other authors a note on the dashboard. It is implemented as a configurable dashboard widget, so you can collapse it, move it around, and edit it as any other dashboard widget. It will accept plain text or (sanitized) HTML. Only users with the capability “Edit dashboard” can edit the note.

As of today, Dashboard Post-it is available for download at the WordPress plugin repository. Screenshots and installation instructions can be found over there.

I wrote the plugin for my own use. There are alternatives, but since some of them stopped working after the changes to the Dashboard in WP 2.7 and others are not widgetized, and since this is a much requested feature, I decided to submit the plugin to the repository.

Zotero 1.5 is here: synchronization and tons of other features

It’s here. Zotero 1.5 beta. The new version comes with built-in synchronization, exports to more than 1100 citation styles, and supports browsing your library online (see below). Zotero is now better than EndNote on all fronts. Here’s a quick overview of the most important features:

  • Synchronization. Automatically keep your library in sync across different PCs. If you have access to WebDAV storage, synching can also include your attachments.
  • Automatic backup. A copy of your library is stored safely on the synchronization server.
  • More than 1100 CSL citation styles. The style repository has grown immensely due to community efforts. Zotero styles are built on the powerful open source Citation Style Language (CSL), an XML dialect.
  • Support for EndNote styles. Thousands of EndNote .ens styles can now be used for citation formatting. These styles are available to licensed users of EndNote.
  • Rich text notes. Formatting can now be applied to notes with a WYSIWYG editor.
  • Automatic detection of PDF metadata. Another much requested feature. Not yet bulletproof because it depends on the information available in your PDF and the repository used to look it up, but a great step forward.
  • Shared collections. Easily share and build collections with colleagues.

All of this built on open source technologies and standards, which means that your data is not locked up in proprietary software at the mercy of profit driven companies.

New website features


Browse your Zotero library online [click for fullsize]

Meanwhile, the Zotero website has seen a major revamping, the most important new feature being the ability to browse your library online. Other features are more geared towards social networking activities: users now can have an online Zotero profile, can follow other Zotero users, and can build an online CV.

If you’re still stuck on EndNote, check out making the switch to Zotero, or see my review and comparison from last year. Questions? There are lots of helpful and friendly people hanging out in the Zotero forums. You can also post them below.

Phonology Assistant

Phonology Assistant (PA) is a free phonology tool by SIL that (as of version 3.0) works interactively with the data stored in Toolbox, Fieldworks Language Explorer, and Speech Analyzer. It automates many of the cumbersome and repetitive tasks associated with doing phonological analysis, and it does so in a most systematic and revealing way. The things it does more or less automatically include drawing up a phone inventory; computing relative frequencies of phones; computing syllable structures; generating phonotactic charts for every conceivable combination of positions, phones, or features; and finding minimal pairs along various dimensions. A powerful search function allows the user to search for phonetic patterns within specified environments.

A review of Phonology Assistant by me was published yesterday in Language Documentation & Conservation. It’s a tremendously useful tool — anyone who has ever been faced with the task of doing phonological analysis will know that it can grow enormously complex, especially if one wants to be comprehensive and look not just at simple positional distribution (initial, medial, final) but also at occurrence in different environments (intervocalic, before voiced fricatives, after a nasal consonant, etc.). PA assists in these household chores, and does it all with an interface so smooth you wouldn’t notice the conceptual complexity of the tasks. Check out the review (pdf) or the PA website.

  1. Dingemanse, Mark. 2008. Review of Phonology Assistant 3.0.1. Language Documentation & Conservation 2, no. 2: 325-331. doi:  

12 must know Zotero tips and techniques

Zotero is getting better and better. In a while, version 1.5 will bring synchronization, online backup of your library, +1100 CSL citation styles, and PDF metadata extraction (for the daring, a sync preview version is available). But even in its current incarnation Zotero is easily one of the best bibliographic managers out there. Here are twelve tips and tricks that help you to get the most out of it.

  1. Drag files from the web right into your library
    Got a reference in your library, but no PDF? Or saved an item from a repository which doesn’t provide a fulltext version? Do a quick search for the title on Google Scholar — it is good at finding PDFs on author’s webpages. If you find one, just drag the link from the page onto the reference in your library. Zotero stores and attaches the PDF for you.
  2. Enter a series of items by duplicating a template
    Adding a series of related references to your library? Start with one item for which you fill in the fields that are the same for all items (e.g. editors, book title, year, publisher, place) and duplicate it (Right-click > Duplicate item). Then fill in the particularities.
  3. Quick Copy a citation using Ctrl+Shift+C or drag and drop
    Sending a PDF to a colleague, or mentioning a reference somewhere? Quickly copy the citation by selecting the reference and pressing Ctrl+Shift+C (Cmd-Shift-C on the Mac), or simply drag it from Zotero onto any edit window (for example a new email). The default output style can be specified under Preferences > Export; the shortcut key can be customized under Shortcut keys.
  4. Have Zotero index your PDFs
    Zotero can index your PDF attachments and make them fully searchable, turning your library from a mere linked catalogue into a Google Books of sorts. The option is turned off by default because it relies on an external open source program (pdf2txt) which is not distributed with Zotero. However, Zotero can automatically install it and enable fulltext indexing: simply go to Preferences > Search and click on the ‘Check for installer’ button. For more info see pdf fulltext indexing in the Zotero documentation.
  5. Start quicksearch with ” to trigger advanced search
    By default, Zotero starts searching when you put the first few characters in the Search box. In a large library with fulltext indexing enabled, this can be tiresome (you wanted to look for “statistical methods”, but Zotero locks down searching for “st”). To avoid this, start your search with ” (double quote) to have Zotero wait until you finish typing and hit enter.
  6. Press Ctrl to find out in which collections an item is
    Looking at an item in your library and wondering whether you already categorized it? Press Control and Zotero will highlight the collections in which it is contained.
  7. Relocate your Zotero folder to a more sensible place
    The default place for the Zotero database and attachments in right in your Firefox profile, which isn’t the easiest to locate whichever OS you are on. Go to Preferences > Advanced to customize the storage location. You can place it in a folder that is included in your regular backup schedule or put it on a portable drive so that your library always travels with you (tip: if you work a lot on shared computers, combine it with Firefox Portable, which you can even use without administrator rights).
  8. Keep track of recent additions using a saved search
    Often you add new items without worrying about tagging or putting them in collections. Click Advanced search, select “Dated Added” > “is in the last” > X “days/months” and fill in the desired period; then save the search. This gives you a dynamically updated overview of your latest additions, so that you can go back to them and do the categorization and tagging work when it suits you.
  9. Tag multiple items at once
    Want to tag multiple items at once? Select them, make sure the tag selector is visible in the left pane, and drag them onto the tag you want to use. The tag will be applied to all items.
  10. Tag incomplete items to find them back and fix them later
    Sometimes you know an item has incomplete metadata (e.g. missing page numbers or publisher), but you don’t have the time to fix it right away. Make it a habit to tag such items (“needs metadata”) when you see them. Now you can find them and fix them whenever you have some time to kill.
  11. Use a separate folder for files to be ingested
    Someone gives you a bunch of PDFs to read; or you download a paper somewhere without having the metadata handy. Make it a habit to save such files in a subfolder /new/ in your Zotero folder. Then once in a while go through that folder. Do a quick search for the title on your favourite repository, grab the metadata, and then drag the PDF from your filemanager onto the reference in Zotero. Much better than having those loose PDFs scattered all over your hard drive (or in your mailbox!) — and it helps you keep track of your reading history too.
  12. Display a timeline to visualize your bibliography
    Not a feature you’ll use everyday, but a neat one nonetheless: Zotero can display your library, or portions of it, on a timeline. Select a group of references, a tag, or a collection and click ‘Create timeline’ (in the Gear menu). This gives you an overview of the items in time. Now you have to ask yourself: is the recency bias due to your reading habits or is it really true that most of the research was done in the last twenty years? (Probably a bit of both.)

Questions or suggestions? Leave a comment.

Wordle now does Extended Latin and diacritics

Great news for those who are into visual corpus linguistics but don’t work on SAE languages: since July, Wordle handles alphabets in the Extended Latin ranges; and today its maker, Jonathan Feinberg, added support for combining diacritics. That means that you can now feed Wordle texts from languages that use tone marks and other diacritics in their orthographies. Like Siwu.

Wordle based on some ten minutes of spontaneous conversation in Siwu.

The Wordle above displays the most common words in some ten minutes of spontaneous conversation in Siwu, one of the fruits of my last fieldtrip. The conversation has four participants. Nothing groundbreaking about this particular Wordle, it’s just a nice word cloud starring: Continue reading

Now serving you from

The Ideophone has found a new home at Links to the old pages should still work, but I would like to ask readers and fellow bloggers to update their bookmarks and blogrolls.

The move was planned to take place in September but it had to be carried out prematurely because my provider itself was migrating their servers and I didn’t want to go with them. Being in the field for five more weeks I had no quick way of fixing it. The ever so helpful Lieuwe of ON2IT Security came to the rescue and carried out a swift and smooth migration. Lieuwe, you owe me!

Readers, thanks for understanding, and welcome back!

Zotero Sync Preview

Exciting news for Zotero users: synchronization has arrived. After some months of closed beta-testing, a public Sync Preview version was released recently. This means that Zotero users can now automatically synchronize their libraries across computers and even across platforms.

Although there are still some minor wrinkles, the sync functionality works perfectly fine and there are some exciting new features, including the possibility to import thousands of Endnote styles. With the import functionality comes a handy style manager, another step towards an elegant, shared, and open source solution to citation styling. That’s two killer features in one release — impressive work by the Zotero folks.

Also note the following:

Before Zotero 1.5 ships, we will add functionality to allow users to synchronize attachments to their own servers or other storage space (and we’ll also provide a hosted storage solution for all Zotero users). [forum post by Sean Takats]

Do keep in mind that the current preview is a preliminary version intended for public testing; do not expect it to be bug-free. Always make a backup copy of your full Zotero folder and try the Sync Preview in a new profile (step-by-step instructions on the sync preview page). Easier yet, download Firefox 3 Portable and try out Zotero Sync Preview 1.5 on a copy of your library without risking data loss or profile mixups. If your workflow is fine without synchronization, my advice is to avoid the growing pains of the preview version and wait until the release of the official 1.5 version, which should follow within a few months.

Not sure what Zotero is? Check the website or read my review of it.