In 1949 started a series under the title Bibliographie linguistique des années 1939-1947 - volume I Volume II appeared in 1950. The next volume, under the title Bibliographie linguistique de l'année 1948 et complément des années 1939-1947, appeared in 1951 and the year 2000 saw the appearance, with a change of language but not really of title, of the Linguistic bibliography for the year 1996 and supplements for previous years.
The title of the first volume, cited above, is followed by a statement of responsability, a statement we still find in the
fiftieth volume: - "Publiée par le Comité International Permanent de Linguistes". The Permanent International Committee of
Linguists (or CIPL) plays an very important role in the history of the Bibliographie linguistique (BL).
Please read more about the origin of CIPL at the homepage of this website.
The Fifth International Congress of Linguists was gathered in Brussels, when the Second World War broke out. Beside all disasters of the war, this also meant a painful break in almost all international contacts, at least for European scholars. In these circumstances it was impossible of course to organize the congresses of 1942 and 1945 as foreseen. It was not until the 18th of November 1946 that the Committee first met after the war. SG of CIPL at that time was the Norwegian scholar Alf Sommerfelt. This Paris meeting took the decision to compile a "linguistic bibliography of the war-years", as the preface to the first volume states. In the words of the Secretary-Genaral of the Committee, the Dutch classicist Christine Mohrmann of Nijmegen, the considerations for this decision were the following: "On était unanimement d'avis qu'une des tâches les plus urgentes qui se posaient à notre science était de combler la lacune dans notre information, causée par les bouleversements de la guerre: par l'interruption des contacts internationaux pendant de longues années, par la stagnation des grandes publications allemandes et par bien d'autres raisons".
The organization of the work was entrusted to the office of CIPL, but from the beginning it was clear that in the given circumstances, with great parts of Europe, Asia and Africa still recovering from the war, it would be impossible for one person, or even a group of persons in one location, to compile such a bibliography. Prof. Mohrmann therefore set out to find linguists in as many countries as possible to compile the bibliography of their respective countries. The task of editing and classifying the collected data would then be performed by the office, i.e. prof. Mohrmann. A classification scheme for the new bibliography was drawn up by the French linguist Jean Gagnepain. In a list of "Indications pour la bibliographie linguistique" Mohrmann suggested that for lay-out and interpunction of the bibliographic descriptions the rules of the Année philologique should be followed. In fact, the whole set-up of the new linguistic bibliography reminds one very much of the Année philologique, which had started under the title Dix années de bibliographie classique, covering the years 1914-1924; that bibliography, too, was specifically meant to cover the war years, then of the First World War.
After preparatory work in 1947, the first contributions started to arrive in 1948. Apparently the task of editing and classifying soon became too heavy for prof. Mohrmann; already in the beginning of 1949 this work was entrusted to Jan Beylsmit, who would be connected with BL for many years to come.
In the meantime, negotiations had started with the newly founded UNESCO, as a result of which in December 1948 a subvention was promised of $1000.- per volume. This made it possible to have the bibliography printed and towards the end of 1949 the first volume was published by the Utrecht publishing house Spectrum, containing contributions from 9 European countries and South Africa. The second volume appeared about a year later, containing material from some 10 other countries, again predominantly European. Almost simultaneously with the appearance of the first volume, on December 1, 1949, an international meeting of linguists-bibliographers was held in Paris to discuss the organisation of an annual linguistic bibliography; and indeed, in the preface to the second volume CIPL announced the continuation on an annual basis. The first of these annual volumes appeared in 1951.
In the first ten years that had passed, the financial conditions for BL had remained rather unfavorable. The UNESCO subvention was sufficient to have the volumes printed, but the editor's salary was a permanent point of dispute. In 1961 CIPL received "emergency subvention" from the Dutch government and from the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) in Washington. An arrangement was then made by which Utrecht University gave Jan Beylsmit a scientific appointment at the Institute for Oriental Philology, while the resources for his salary were furnished by CIPL. The CAL renewed its emergency subvention in 1962 and in the meantime applied for a subvention from the National Science Foundation, which was granted for the period 1963-1966.
The assistance of the CAL proved important not only for the position of the editor. The 2 years lag that had always existed between the year of BL's publication and the year covered, was seen more and more as a serious disadvantage. Moreover, keeping track of all linguistic publications, a heavy task from the beginning, gradually became impossible for one man as the production of these publications kept growing. And, not unimportant from the point of view of the CAL, some branches of linguistics such as applied linguistics and machine translation, and some geographical areas such as Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union, were not adequately covered in BL. The CAL produced a Proposal to strengthen and improve the Linguistic Bibliography, submitted to the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 1962. The available archives don't give testimony as to why this proposal was not implemented.
The NSF grant and, as a result, the practical assistance by CAL was not prolonged after 1966. Thus, CIPL and BL found themselves in the same difficult position as before. A number of new subsidizers were found, summed up in BL 1966; but the funds raised in this way could not amend for the loss of the NSF grant. It was only in 1970 that the Dutch Ministry of Education and Science agreed to fund the salaries of the BL staff.
BL 1971 was published with an extra year's delay in 1974. Attempts by prof. Mohrmann as well as by her successor prof. E.M. Uhlenbeck to improve the financial situation were to no effect. Thanks to an extra subvention from the Dutch government temporary assistance could be realised in 1981.
In 1981 Jan Beylsmit had reached the age of 61, and began to think of early retirement. In order to facilitate a smooth transition to a new editorship, a second assistant-editor was attracted in September 1982 - a young linguist this time: the Ghent classicist Mark Janse, who had recently come in contact with professor Uhlenbeck when he sought feedback in writing his thesis.
The year 1983 brought two changes that in the long term proved crucial for BL. First, new and better housing was found for the BL staff. In 1983 prof. Uhlenbeck came to an agreement with the director-general of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, the national library of the Netherlands, to house the BL staff in two rooms in the brand-new library building in The Hague. In the course of time, as a side effect of some changes in government policies, the BL staff became completely integrated into the library organisation. This development perfectly fitted the objectives of CIPL's new Secretary-general, the Leyden lexicologist Piet van Sterkenburg, who succeeded Uhlenbeck in 1992. He was of the opinion that the BL staff should work in an unambiguous organizational surrounding, no longer dependent on the whims of subsidizers or the good fate of CIPL. Thus, since September 1996 the Koninklijke Bibliotheek had a "Bureau Linguistic Bibliography" which since September 1999 functioned as one of the three constituent parts of the department for "Scientific Bibliography and Documentation".
It was Beylsmit's retirement in 1983 that constituted the other major change. Two editors now stepped in his place, Hans Borkent and Mark Janse, while Beylsmit kept contributing especially to the Baltic and Slavic languages sections, and continued to give his assistance in preparing the annual volumes for print.
The new editorial team started with two clear projects: to reduce the time lag and to improve the coverage of linguistic literature by broadening the network of contributors. Both goals were realized remarkably soon: in 1985 two volumes appeared, covering the years 1982 and 1983 respectively, thus returning to the original time lag of two years. Moreover, BL 1984 contains a list of 18 contributors, a number that increased to 42 in subsequent years.
On the 19th of February 1986 Jan Beylsmit died. To fill the gap he left behind, especially in collecting and editing Baltic and Slavic data, a new assistant editor was found: Sijmen Tol, then a librarian with a background in Slavic linguistics. A few years later, in 1989 Tol succeeded Borkent as an editor.
In 1980 there had been a change of publisher; starting with the 1976 volume, BL was published by Kluwer Academic Publishers, first under its imprint Martinus Nijhoff, and from 1988 (BL 1986) onward under the name of Kluwer. Since 1981 this publisher had committed the typesetting of BL to a small firm, in fact a one-woman enterprise, but in early 1990 this typesetter privately announced to the editors that she was about to end her undertaking. In the spring of 1994 a session was organized at Kluwer's offices to demonstrate a model of an input and editing system for BL, that should result in a database from which were to be extracted both printed and electronic versions of the bibliography. The expectations then were, that a first version of this system could be implemented within a few months, in January-February 1995 in order to produce the next volume, BL 1993, toward the end of 1995. However, no BL appeared that year, and when it appeared eventually in June 1996, it showed quite a lot of visible shortcomings.
By the end of the year 2000 the teething troubles had been overcome; and although there remained wishes to be fulfilled, the celebration of BL's 50th volume appeared a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the prototype of an online retrieval system, enabling the international linguistic community to search the BL-database directly.
In November 2000 it was expected that it would not take more than 3-4 months to turn the prototype of Linguistic Bibliography Online, as presented at the symposium, into a definitive version. The idea was, that the prototype should be converted to an Oracle database running under Unix at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek.
After a one and a half year period of trying and experimenting it turned out that undocumented differences existed between Oracle for Windows NT and Oracle for Unix, preventing a successful conversion of the database. In June 2002 an emergency plan was adopted: under the name "BLonline" the Koninklijke Bibliotheek would offer access to the BL database in the form of a home-page and a few pages with documentation. The search button on the home page was to redirect the user to the database on ILX’s server. Thus, on June 15th, 2002, BLonline was launched and made available to every linguist with access to the internet without any further costs. This free access was in accordance both with the library’s policy regarding access to its databases, and with the publisher’s plan to use BLonline as a portal directing the users to Kluwer’s linguistic publications and to those of other interested parties. The online publication of the BL database was welcomed with enthusiasm by several linguists.
During 2002-2003 one of the editors, Mark Janse, had a sabbatical funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). He was temporarily replaced by the Amsterdam hispanist Hella Olbertz. Shortly before his return to the BL staff, Janse was offered a research position at Ghent University, where he had been a visiting professor in Greek and general linguistics already since 1996. After an editorship of more than 21 years, Mark Janse left BL on February 1st, 2004. One month later Olbertz succeeded him as a BL editor.
Current editors René Genis, Hella Olbertz, Sijmen Tol and Eline van der Veken
The year 2004 proved to be another crucial year in the history of the Linguistic Bibliography. The bibliography, both in
its printed and electronic forms, remained the juridical property of CIPL whereas the copyrights were in the hands of Kluwer
Academic Publishers. In the same year the decision was made by the management of the KB that BL was not part of the core
business. In October CIPL’s secretary-general was informed that the library intended to end the services for CIPL and the BL
editors, granting him a year's time to find a new organizational setting for BL.
As a logical consequence, the ongoing attempts to integrate BL software in the library’s network were immediately stopped.
More or less simultaneously CIPL’s Executive Committee decided the time had come for a change in their editorial policy. Until then, BL had claimed to cover "scholarly publications on all languages and on all branches of linguistics, regardless of the place or language of publication". In fact, however, it had long become impossible to substantiate this claim of completeness with the limited financial and human resources available. After the decision of CIPL’s Executive Committee the editors were now going to focus on what had always been a strength of BL, i.e. languages that were poorly or not at all covered by other international bibliographies of linguistics, thus creating a specific niche for BL.
Finding a new organizational setting for the BL team turned out to be rather cumbersome. After two years of negotiations with several possible partners in The Netherlands, it was the Leiden Instituut voor Nederlandse Lexicologie (Institute for Dutch Lexicology, INL) which eventually agreed to become the new host. No doubt was it helpful that INL's director at that time, Piet van Sterkenburg, was also the secretary-general of CIPL. On January 1st, 2007 (one day later, actually) the editors with their belongings moved to Leiden, but not to the premises of the INL. As the institute was short of space, an editorial office had to be found elsewhere, and it was Brill publishers who volunteered to host the editors, which was not accidental, of course. At that time Brill publishers were developing plans to establish a new language and linguistics program, thus concentrating the company’s activities in a field where it had been active throughout its long history. Therefore, Brill was interested in acquiring the BL as a possible center around which this new program could be built. In this way BL could take in a central position at Brill, whereas with Kluwer Academic Publishers it was only one of the many products, the more so after Kluwer had been taken over by Springer in 2005. Moving to Brill therefore seemed to be a very promising opportunity for all parties involved, given that Brill was not only renowned for its long-standing tradition in classical and non-European languages publications, but also had ample experience in electronic publishing. When, as a result of an internal restructuring, INL unexpectedly announced the end of its involvement with BL after one year already, Brill became the employer of the editors as of January 2008 and took over the publication of BL as of April 1st of that year.
When the editors were first informed in the summer of 2006 that a change of publisher was at hand, they seized this opportunity to realize the long cherished project to improve the searchability of the bibliography by adding keywords to the records. That summer, Hella Olbertz compiled a first draft list of keywords and in November 2006 a first version was distributed among BL contributors. As a result, the first volume published by Brill, covering the year 2004, was the first one to provide not only the traditional index of names, but also language and subject indexes. More innovations were initiated with the transition to Brill and at last it was decided to complete the change to the English language title of the bibliography and henceforth use the abbreviation LB instead of BL and, correspondingly, change the title of the online version to Linguistic Bibliography Online. And, more substantially, for the first time in the history of LB, an advisory board was installed, consisting of experts in the focal areas of the bibliography.
Soon after Brill started acting as LB’s publisher, three further improvements were planned: firstly, to have a new content management system developed which, among other things, would have to fully facilitate linking services to online publications; secondly, to develop a new online version which was to make use of these new services; thirdly, to fill the four-year gap in LB's coverage, which was made possible through a major investment by Brill and CIPL. With respect to this last point, it should be noted that when Brill acquired the Linguistic Bibliography, the editorial staff had been reduced to two persons only, causing considerable backlogs. In March and April 2009 two temporary editors were appointed for two years to reduce these backlogs and to add keywords to older records retrospectively. At the same time, the editors announced that the year given in the title would henceforward indicate the year in which the data were collected, rather than the year of publication of the titles listed. The transition to the new system was marked by the Linguistic Bibliography for the years 2005-2008.
In November 2009 the Linguistic Bibliography Online (LBO) database was launched on a new platform with enhanced search options and including facilities for subscribing libraries to link the data to their own collections of electronic publications. As soon as LBO was published by Brill as a commercial product, the freely accessible BLonline database was removed from the internet. The first project, the new content management system (CMS), turned out to be harder to realize, but there was an undisputed need for it, as the existing CMS BibLing was completely outdated after 15 years of service. A functional design for the new one was finished in October 2008, and developers of Ambrac started their preparations soon afterward, but it lasted until April 2011 before the migration to the new CMS could be completed. In this respect the development of BALI (Bibliographic Application for Linguistic Information), as it came to be called, was reminiscent of the situation in 1995 when the first "BLsystem” was built. However, the main advantages of BALI are that it is a state-of-the-art CMS, completely web-based and at last facilitating the incorporation of references to online publications. In the course of 2011 the LB staff was extended to 2.7 fte, so that Hella Olbertz and Sijmen Tol were now joined by the anglist Eline van der Veken and the slavist René Genis.