Dissertation nun online verfügbar

Wie angekündigt ist meine Dissertation nun online als PDF-Download verfügbar, zu finden im Document Repository der Uni Zürich. Als Lizenz habe ich die “Creative Commons: attribution-noncommercial-no derivative works 3.0” gewählt. Das Dokument darf also frei bezogen und verteilt, aber nicht verändert oder kommerziell genutzt werden.

Die Onlinefassung ist seitenidentisch mit der gedruckten und ist vollständig durchsuchbar (Volltextsuche).

Zur Erinnerung, das Werk ist auch weiterhin als Buch direkt beim Verlag bestellbar. Einige Hintergrundinformationen zu dieser doppelten Publikationsstrategie hier.

As announced, my dissertation is now available online as a PDF download. It can be found in the document repository of the University of Zurich. I chose the “Creative Commons: attribution-noncommercial-no derivative works 3.0” license. This means that the document can be downloaded and shared freely, but cannot be changed or used commercially.

The online version is page-identical to the printed one and is fully searchable.

As a reminder, you can also order the dissertation as a book directly from the publisher. Some background information about this dual publication strategy can be found here.

some background information about the publication of my PhD thesis

copyright,Diss,Open Access,Uni — 11. Feb 2014

as previously reported on this blog, my PhD thesis has appeared as a printed book last summer. in addition to that, i am also going to publish it electronically as a PDF document in my university’s document repository (open access) next month (march 2014). in this blog post, i want to go into some details about this dual strategy, as i have been thinking long and hard about how to best approach the matter of this publication.

according to the PhD regulation of my university, i am required to publish my thesis in order to receive the PhD diploma. my university leaves me a choice between two options for publication: either the traditional way with a publisher, or an electronic publication. in the second case, i submit it as a PDF to the zentralbibliothek in zurich and they make it publicly accessible online.

the main issue for me was that i wanted both things at the same time: a physical book, printed on paper, as well as an electronic, open access (OA) compliant publication. i wanted the book, because i enjoy having a physical book in my hands more than having a PDF on my harddrive, but also because placing it in an established series would be good for my career: members of the scholarly community are more likely to discover it there and they recognize a certain ‘brand value’ in an established series / publisher. on the other hand, i wanted to have the open access publication, for two reasons. first, because i am convinced by the core idea behind open acess: that publicly-funded research results should be made available publicly. second, because distributing a PDF has a number of positive effects: people find it on google, people are allowed to spread and share it as they wish, people can link it on websites, search it (full-text search) etc. these things are very much in the interest of me as an author, as i want to make it as easy as possible for anyone to find, access and search my writing.

so my strategy was to approach publishers and see whether i can find one that will take the book, but allow me to do a simultaneous OA-publication. my hope for that was initially low, as publishers usually demand that you sign away all rights on the text before they accept it. this makes sense from their point of view, as they want to be sure that the author will not distribute it any other way (e.g. with another publisher or by himself), thereby hurting their sales. however, as the open access regulation of my university encouraged me to negotiate the rights with the publisher in that way, i thought i would give it a try.

at first, i contacted the editor of a well known book series in our field. he expressed interest in including the book in his series. unfortunately, he had recently handed over all rights on the series (both journal and monographs) to john benjamins, a commercial publisher. as i explained that i want to withhold the right for an OA-publication from the deal, he refused it immediately, saying that the publisher would not allow it. so i gave up on that and contacted the editor of a different series. he, too, was willing to accept the book right away. i brought up the topic of a OA-publication, and he had nothing against it. whether this was due to the fact that he did not fully understand what it was all about, or whether he simply didn’t mind, i don’t know. anyway, we agreed to go ahead with it and the book was in fact published there last summer. for some time during the process, i was nervous that the editor might ask me to sign an author’s contract which would rule out the OA-publication (from what i know, there is usually a passage about ‘granting exclusive rights’ to the publisher in those contracts, which i would have been unwilling to sign, obviously). however, i never signed any such contract and the book appeared anyway. so legally, i never gave away any rights on that work and i can still do with it what i want. that is what will allow me to upload it as a PDF to my university’s document repository come march of this year. if the editor would have asked me to sign a contract, i would have attempted negotiations with him to change the contract so that it reads ‘grants all rights to the publisher, except the one to store an electronic copy in the university’s document repository’. fortunately, it didn’t come to that.

the PDF publication is going to happen roughly 6 months after the book publication. i chose the embargo period of 6 months by myself, out of consideration for the publisher’s commercial interests. the uploaded PDF document will be page identical with the printed one and fully quotable. it will also have a prettier title page :)

another approach that i considered was to do an electronic publication first, then submit it to a publisher later. this would, among other things, have had the advantage that i could have avoided to submit 30 exx. to the zentralbibliothek (which was costly). the question is whether any publisher would still take it after it has already been published electronically (i would guess most publishers say no). the second point is that i wouldn’t know whether the printed version would have the same page numbering – depending on the publisher, they may want to set it in their own layout engine and it will result in a different page numbering. as i’m strictly against having two versions of the same text with differing page numbers in circulation, i ultimately decided not to go down that road.

in a way, you could say that i simply got lucky to find a publisher that didn’t stop me from doing a simultaneous OA-publication. and that is certainly true. however, i did have a backup plan in case that would have failed. if they would not have allowed it, i would have given up publishing with an established publisher entirely and done the electronic publication first. later, i would have printed some copies on my own account with one of the many print-on-demand services. for example, amazon has such a service. i have never used it myself, but it looks promising: it is relatively cheap, the author gets to keep the rights on his work, the book gets an ISBN number and appears in the amazon catalogue. it is relatively cheap as they print copies only when someone actually orders one, thereby eliminating the risk of printing too many exx. and sitting on a pile of books they can’t sell (what is called auflagenrisiko in german). that way, i could have had both the book and the OA-publication, too. as i had done all the typography and page layout by myself anyway, there is actually quite little that i would have missed out on by avoiding a publisher altogether. the only service that i could think of which the publisher provided for me (besides a few comments on the manuscript by the editor) is some advertising and sending out of review copies.

in conclusion, i would recommend anyone to think well about the conditions under which they sign away the rights on their work. authors should realize that they are in a strong position to negotiate, as the publishers depend on receiving good manuscripts. i would even go as far as to say that the publishers depend on the authors more than the other way around. while not everyone may have the chance to do a dual publication as i did, it is certainly worth trying.

i would also recommend against going with a traditional publisher simply for career reasons. first of all, if the book is any good then people will find out about it and read it anyway. it doesn’t really matter where it appears. in fact, going with a traditional publisher can very well lead to fewer people reading your work, as they tend to put such high prices on their books that very few people can actually afford to buy them.


Diss,Open Access,VGS — 25. Aug 2013

Nach sechs jahren Arbeit bin ich sehr erfreut, verkünden zu können, dass meine Dissertation in gedruckter Fassung erschienen ist. Die bibliographischen Angaben lauten:

Thöny, Luzius (2013): Flexionsklassenübertritte. Zum morphologischen Wandel in der altgermanischen Substantivflexion. Innsbrucker Beiträge zur Sprachwissenschaft, Bd. 146. Innsbruck. 375 S.
ISBN: 978-3-85124-732-9


Das Buch erscheint leider nicht in den Katalogen gängiger Versandbuchhändler, kann jedoch direkt beim Verlag bestellt werden.

Ich plane ferner, gemäss den Open-Access Richtlinien meiner Universität zusätzlich eine elektronische Version der Arbeit verfügbar zu machen. Die Freigabe wird ca. im März 2014 erfolgen.

Update: hier entlang zum Eintrag in ZORA, wo das Buch als Volltext im PDF-Format bezogen werden kann.

sterne vorne und sterne hinten

Diss,Linguistik,Uni,VGS — 16. Apr 2013

in der sprachgeschichte gibt es die konvention, dass wörter durch das voranstellen eines sterns als rekonstrukte markiert werden. so wird beispielsweise das urgermanische wort für ‘erde’ als *erþō notiert, das urindogermanische wort für ‘schaf’ als *h₃euis. bis auf wenige ausnahmen wird diese konvention in der fachliteratur allgemein befolgt. daneben gibt es eine weniger verbreitete konvention, formen mit einem stern hinten zu versehen. dies soll anzeigen, dass es sich um ein wort handelt, das in der entsprechenden sprache zwar bezeugt ist, aber nicht in der zitierten form. dies ist besonders bei kleinkorpussprachen wie dem gotischen nützlich. da die gesamte überlieferung des gotischen im wesentlichen aus nur einem grösseren text, nämlich der bibelübersetzung, besteht, sind von vielen wörtern nur einzelne flexionsformen bezeugt. als beispiel sei das wort für ‘zahn’ genannt, das im dativ (tunþau) und akkusativ singular (tunþu) sowie im genetiv (tunþiwē) und akkusativ plural (tunþuns) bezeugt ist. der nominativ singular ist dagegen nicht bezeugt. aufgrund des vergleichs mit anderen u-stämmen können wir aber mit relativ hoher sicherheit sagen, dass die form auf -us ausgelautet haben muss. die notation als tunþus* erlaubt nun, explizit zu machen, dass dieses wort im gotischen zwar belegt ist, dass aber der nominativ als solcher ergänzt wurde. in fachpublikationen, in denen diese konvention nicht befolgt wird, wird der leser meist im unklaren gelassen, ob eine entsprechende form überhaupt bezeugt ist oder vom autor lediglich ergänzt wurde. so erscheint zum beispiel tunþus in vielen publikationen ohne stern, ohne dass der leser darüber informiert würde, dass diese form so gar nicht bezeugt ist.

die konvention mit dem stern hinten erscheint mir sinnvoll und ich habe sie deshalb für das gotische auch in meiner dissertation befolgt — leider aber nicht von anfang an, so dass ich gegen schluss der arbeit noch einmal einen langwierigen durchgang durch die arbeit machen musste und eine vielzahl an formen zu überprüfen hatte. dabei ist mir aufgefallen, dass diese an und für sich einfache konvention kniffliger handzuhaben ist als ich es zunächst gedacht hatte. es zeigte sich, dass nicht alle fälle, in denen man einen stern hinten setzen kann, gleich sind, und diese in der fachliteratur zum teil auch unterschiedlich behandelt werden. so setzt casaretto 2004 zum beispiel den stern hinten bei sämtlichen formen, die nicht als solche belegt sind. in der gotischen grammatik von braune/heidermanns wird dagegen etwas anders verfahren. wenn man sich die nominalparadigmen anschaut, sieht man, dass der stern hinten nur dort gesetzt wird, wo eine paradigmenform bei keinem wort des entsprechenden paradigmas belegt ist. als beispiel sei der akkusativ singular der kurzsilbigen ja-stämme genannt, wo die form in der grammatik als hari* angegeben wird. ein solcher akkusativ auf –i ist bei keinem der substantive, die nach diesem paradigma gehen, bezeugt. erschlossen wird er aufgrund des (nahe verwandten) paradigmas der langsilbigen ja-stämme: dort ist der akkusativ auf –i bezeugt. bei gasts ‘gast’ werden dagegen im paradigma keine formen mit stern markiert, obwohl einige davon nicht belegt sind. über die tatsächliche belegsituation wird man erst im begleittext informiert, der den paradigmen beigefügt ist. im text der grammatik kommt dann im gegensatz zu den paradigmen die gleiche notation wie in der oben genannten publikation von casaretto zur anwendung. etwas überrascht habe ich dabei festgestellt, dass die in der fachliteratur überaus häufig zitierte form gastē (gen. pl.) so gar nicht bezeugt ist… besser wäre es also, diese form als gastē* zu notieren.

wie aus dem gesagten hervorgeht, gibt es also einen unterschied zwischen gastē* und tunþus* auf der einen und hari* auf der anderen seite. erstere sind als etwas sicherer zu bewerten, da sie bei anderen substantiven des gleichen paradigmas bezeugt sind. wenn man es ganz genau nehmen würde, müsste man eigentlich erwägen, diesen unterschied ebenfalls in der notationsweise zu berücksichtigen.

ein weiterer zweifelsfall liegt dort vor, wo zwei formen im paradigma gleich lauten, aber nur die eine belegt ist. so gibt es zum beispiel den fall, dass nominativ und akkusativ in einem paradigma gleich lauten, aber nur der akkusativ belegt ist. dies ist etwa beim -stamm got. spilda ‘tafel’ der fall. darf man nun den nominativ als spilda ohne stern notieren? zwar ist die form ja belegt, aber nicht in der funktion als nominativ, und es bleibt eine (wenn auch sehr geringe) unsicherheit, ob der nominativ wirklich so gelautet hat.

insgesamt scheint mir die notation wie bei casaretto 2004 und im text der gotischen grammatik am sinnvollsten zu sein. man kann sich dann nämlich an die faustregel halten, dass sämtliche wortformen, die nicht in dieser form bezeugt sind, mit einem stern markiert werden: die rekonstruierten vorne, die ergänzten hinten. dies schliesst auch den zuletzt genannten fall ein: wenn der akkusativ gleich lautet wie der nominativ, darf auch der nominativ ohne stern wiedergegeben werden, da die form als solche bezeugt ist, wenn auch nicht im exakt gleichen syntaktischen zusammenhang.


  • casaretto, antje (2004): nominale wortbildung der gotischen sprache. die derivation der substantive. heidelberg.
  • braune, wilhelm / heidermanns, frank (2004): gotische grammatik. 20. auflage. tübingen.

ebd. und a.a.O.

Diss,gelesen,Uni — 3. Aug 2012

wenn man mehrmals hintereinander auf die gleiche publikation verweist, benutzt man die abkürzungen ebd. (= ebenda) oder a.a.O. (= am angegebenen Ort). bisher hatte ich immer gedacht, dass beide austauschbar wären, ebenso wie zum beispiel zwischen etc. und usw. kein inhaltlicher unterschied besteht.

nun habe ich allerdings gelesen, das dies nicht zutreffen soll – offenbar gibt es tatsächlich einen unterschied zwischen ebd. und a.a.O.: ebd. verweist auf die zuletzt genannte stelle (d.h. die genannte publikation an der genannten stelle), wohingegen a.a.O. nur auf die letztgenannte publikation verweist, ohne über die genaue stelle eine auskunft zu geben. dies bedeutet, dass man ebd. nie, a.a.O. dagegen stets mit einer seitenangabe kombinieren muss. beispiele:

hühner legen eier (müller 1890: 12). ausserdem gackern sie (ebd.).


hühner legen eier (müller 1890: 12). ausserdem gackern sie (a.a.O., s. 13).

nun, ich kann nicht aus meiner eigenen erfahrung bestätigen, dass dies tatsächlich die “korrekte” verwendungsweise ist, aber es leuchtet mir jedenfalls ein und ich werde ab jetzt die augen offen halten, ob diese regel in der fachliteratur wirklich so angewendet wird. mit sicherheit ist es jedenfalls nicht die alleinig gültige regel und man findet leicht auch noch weitere ansichten, wie diese zwei abkürzungen zu verwenden seien.

übrigens: wer sich fragt, wieso man überhaupt eine dieser zwei abkürzungen benutzen soll und nicht einfach die blosse seitenzahl schreibt (der leser könnte sich ja denken, dass jeweils die zuletzt genannte publikation gemeint ist)… das problem dabei ist, dass eine einfache seitenangabe häufig auch zum verweis innerhalb des eigenen textes gebraucht wird. wenn man also nur “vgl. s. 12” ohne weitere angabe schreibt, muss der leser erraten, ob s. 12 des vorliegenden textes oder aber der zuletzt genannten publikation gemeint ist. um diese zwei fälle auseinanderzuhalten, setzt man eben entweder ebd./a.a.O. oder (im anderen fall) so etwas wie “oben s. 12”/“unten s. 12”.

luzi’s latex q&a

Diss,how-to,LaTeX,Linguistik,Uni — 13. Mar 2010

this is a series of “questions & answers” about using the latex typesetting system. the intended audience is people with a humanities background, especially linguists. please note that many of the solutions presented here are not my own; i simply collected them over the years from various places around the net (forums, tutorials, manuals etc.), so credit goes to the original authors. i’m very interested in improving this q&a, so please let me know if you notice something important missing, if you are having troubles with any of the things recommended here (this is work in progress), or if you know of any better solutions!

what is latex?

latex (pronounce [la:tex]) is an alternative to traditional word processors like MS Word or OpenOffice. it can produce nicely typeset documents of any kind (articles, books, letters, presentations etc.). the biggest difference to traditional office suites is that there is no ‘page view’ where you actually see the page (or rather: a preview of the page) that you are editing; instead, you type the text (including structuring/formatting commands) into a simple text file, which is then compiled into a document (usually a PDF) in a second step. to visualize this, compare this traditional setup with this alternative setup. this two-step procedure may seem cumbersome at first, but has in fact numerous advantages.

latex is well known and liked by many users world-wide and it has been used for innumerable professional looking publications. it has a large user base in academia, especially in the fields of math, physics etc., due to its superb handling of mathematical formulas, but it can also be used in any other academic or non-academic context.

due to its openness (free and open source), it has been extended by many people in many ways, so that it has become suitable for a wide variety of typesetting purposes.

why would I choose latex over MS Word or OpenOffice?

it would take many words to answer this fully, but to make it short, here’s a summary of latex’s main advantages and disadvantages:


  • full control – since you are required to write all formatting/structuring commands explicity in your source file, there are no ‘bad surprises’ or unexplainable things happening to your documents overnight, and there is much less frustration when you need to fix something. office suites use such commands, too, but they won’t let you see them, because they think that they are smarter than you!
  • excellent, professional typsetting out-of-the-box – trust me, you will see the difference!
  • text based file format – this means, among other things, that your files can’t suddenly become corrupted/unreadable, that you may use any standard text processing tools (like ‘grep’ for searching) on them, that it’s easier/faster to backup, and that it allows you to use a version control system (useful to go back to any previous state of the document at any time)
  • stable, proven – latex has been around for many years and it has been used for all sorts of things. it works, it’s reliable, and it has been so for many years.
  • free and open source – you can start downloading it right now, without paying a penny, and you are free to study the code and mess with it as you wish.


  • some learning curve – you certainly need to invest some time to learn latex’s commands. but it’s not so hard to get familiar with the basics, and there is some excellent learning material available on the internet (and of course in print, too).
  • less intuitive – the two-step procedure is certainly less intuitive. after all, it won’t let you edit things right there in the document where you see them. and the source file can get rather complex and hard to read, especially if you are using large, fancy tables.
  • debugging can be difficult – sometimes you mess something up, and latex is usually nice enough to give you a useful error message that helps you to fix the problem, but it can still be tedious sometimes. however, it’s still much better than fixing problems in a MS Word/OpenOffice document! (which is pretty much impossible)
  • exchanging documents can be hard – chances are that your buddies and co-workers are sticking to traditional word processors, and if you know that you will be collaboratively working on the same documents, it may be hard or even impossible to do with latex.
  • non-monolithic, non-centralized design – there is no single authority overseeing the development of latex. rather, the system has grown ‘organically’ over the years. various people have contributed code with differing purposes in mind. as a result, there is a confusing amount of extensions (‘packages’) available today, and many of those do similar things, but they are sometimes not compatible, or at least not designed to operate smoothly with each other. so choosing the right ones, and avoiding any incompatibilities, can be a challenge.

where do i get it?

since latex consists of a large amount of different components, it’s hard to select all the right parts and make a working system out of it. luckily, other people have already done that work for you: they have created latex distributions that include everything you need to get started. you are free to choose any one you like. i recommend to use texlive. follow the installation instructions for your platform.

alright, i installed it – so how do i start this thing?

latex isn’t an application like MS Word or OpenOffice – it doesn’t have a graphical application that you can start from your system menu, or by clicking on an icon. basically, you are supposed to use a text editor to produce a latex source document (usually a file ending in .tex), and then use latex from the command line to translate (‘compile’) this source file into a finished document (usually a PDF-document).

however, many people have designed special editors for use with latex, and these usually offer an easy way (simple click of a button) to run latex behind the scenes and show the resulting output on your screen. most people prefer to use such a latex editor, so that they don’t have to go through the hassle with the command line everytime. note, though, that these editors are not part of latex itself – they simply make using latex easier. if you want to use one of these editors, i recommend texworks, which is still under development, but is shaping up to be a nice, easy, cross-platform editor with a simple, clutter-free design. on mac, you may want to give texshop a try, since that is what texworks was inspired by.

can you recommend a latex tutorial for newbies?

yes, read the not so short introduction to latex for a start.

what is xetex, and why should I use it?

you can think of xetex as a kind of extension to regular latex that has much improved support for handling special characters. it has unicode support built in from the ground up. besides, it works very well together with fontspec, which will allow very easy handling of any TTF fonts that are installed on your computer. if you are using texworks, simply choose xelatex instead of latex from the drop-down list, and you’re all set. xetex is included in texlive and other modern latex distributions, so there’s no need for a separate installation. i highly recommend to use xetex – especially (but not only) for linguists!

could you show me some simple sample documents to get started with?

a minimal example
after compilation, this gives demo.pdf

an extended example
with a table of contents and a footnote: demo2.tex
gives: demo2.pdf

a sophisticated example
with subchapters, a ‘tabbing’ area, and the use of an external bibliography file: demo3.tex and demo3.bib
gives: demo3.pdf

here’s what you need to compile these samples on your own machine:

  1. a recent latex installation including xetex
  2. packages fontspec, geometry, Tabbing, babel, biblatex, parskip must be installed (this is most likely already the case)
  3. the font ‘Junicode’ must be installed (feel free to change the samples to use any other Truetype font instead)

i don’t like the default font. how do i change it?

the quickest fix is


however, if you intend to use a different font besides “times new roman”, you should make use of the fontspec package, like so:

\setmainfont{Junicode} % any TTF font installed on your pc

how do i input special characters?

inputting special characters is a fairly complex topic. there are many ways to do it, and you may prefer one or the other according to your needs. originally, the proper way to do it was to use latex commands to specify special characters. the package tipa by rei fukui was (and is still today) very helpful for this. it lets you input things like \={o} in order to get ō, \textsubring{n} in order to get ̥n or \textglotstop in order to get ʔ.

however, since the introduction of xetex, it has become possible to enter these special characters directly into your input file – no commands needed! provided the font supports it, the character will be showing up in the PDF output without any further ado. of course, your input file needs to be encoded in unicode (utf-8) for this to work.

but now you are probably wondering how to even produce these special characters, since your keyboard most likely doesn’t have buttons for them ;) the answer is that there are in fact a number of methods available for that, but they are mostly platform dependent. one way is of course to find the character somewhere on the internet, and then copy/paste it. that’s much too troublesome, though, if you use these characters often. a better idea is then to use special key combinations to input unicode characters directly. on linux, this usually works with the key combination <Shift>+<Ctrl>+<u>+keycode, and there are similar ways on other operating systems (check this for windows). to find out which keycode a specific character has, you can check wikipedia’s list of unicode characters. if you want to make the inputting even more convenient, you can redefine the keyboard layout system wide (check my previous post on how to do achieve just that on a linux machine).

the default layout looks bad on A4 paper. there’s too much whitespace! how do i improve it?

first, make sure you have the option ‘a4’ in the document class:

\documentclass[a4paper, titlepage]{article}

next, use the geometry package to fiddle with the page layout. you’ll need to figure out yourself which values suit your needs, but here are some numbers to start with:


for a5, you might try this:


i’m having troubles making footnotes in tables – what’s up with that?

according to common typographic wisdom, ordinary footnotes in tables are not good practice. you are supposed to have a separate list of footnotes located at the bottom of the table. however, there are still ways to have regular footnotes. in fact, if you are using longtable instead of the regular table commands (which i recommend to do anyway), this will most likely “just work”.
otherwise, you may want to use \footnotemark and \footnotetext{} instead. this, however, has some problems. first of all, you can’t stack the footnotes (\footnotemark \footnotemark … \footnotetext{} \footnotetext{} will mess up the numbering). second, the text of the footnote will be placed at the position of the \footnotetext{} command, which may not be the same page as the \footnotemark. see the next question on help with this.

footnotes make my source file hard to read! isn’t there a way to define footnotes after a paragraph instead of in the middle of a sentence?

sort of. your first attempt might be to use \footnotemark and \footnotetext{}, and that will in fact work, even outside of tables (which is what it is originally meant for). however, it has the two drawbacks mentioned previously: no stacking allowed and occasional bad placement of the footnote text.

so far, i have not discovered any ‘sane’ way to improve this situation, so i came up with a quick ‘hack’ instead. i use the \footnotemark \footnotetext{} notation and then use a preprocessor (an external script) to transform this into the regular \footnote{} notation.

so instead of this…:

This is an important\footnote{A lenghty footnote.} sentence\footnote{Another not so short note.} in my paper.

…you will write this…:

This is an important\footnotemark sentence\footnotemark in my paper.
\footnotetext{A lenghty footnote.}
\footnotetext{Another not so short note.}

…and the preprocessor will automatically convert it to the former notation, to avoid the problems of the latter.

the code for the preprocessor (written in the python programming language) is this:

footnotetexts = re.findall('(?<=\\fnt\{).*?(?=\}\\*n)', doc) 

# delete old fnts
doc = re.sub('\\fnt\{.*\}n', '', doc,) # footnotetext{} must end with a newline

#  replace fnm by fnt
for m in footnotetexts:
	m = re.sub('\\','\\\\', m) # replace all backslashes by double backslashes so that e.g. \textbf{} in a footnote will not get destroyed
	fnt = '\\footnote{' + m + '}'
	doc = re.sub('\\fnm(?!})', fnt, doc, 1) # replace only the first instance

print doc

so assuming that the document has been read into the variable doc, we search for all \footnotetexts and save them in a list. then we delete all the \footnotetexts in the document. then we search the document again and replace all the \footnotemarks by the entries in our list of \footnotetexts, wrapping them with the standard \footnote{} command.

the advantage of this solution is that it’s a very simple implementation (only a few lines of code). disadvantages are that it will increase the complexity of the build process and that it is not a “latex-native” solution. and please note that there’s a limitation that you must end every \footnotetext{} with a newline.

for details about the use of a preprocessor and a link to my own preprocessor script, check the question on italicizing text further down on this page.

how can i reference a footnote twice?


i don’t want the first line of a footnote to be indented. how do i do this?


how do i adjust the spacing between footnotes?

% adjust space between footnotes
\addtolength{\skip\footins}{1ex}%% push 1st ftn further from text
\settoheight{\footnotesep}{\footnotesize !}%% space between footnotes
\addtolength{\footnotesep}{1.5ex}%% 10.25pt for 11pt size

latex indents a line that i don’t want indented. how do i fix that?

\noindent This line won’t be indented.

i generally don’t want indented lines at the beginning of paragraphs. how do i do it?

the following will use an empty line instead of indenting to separate paragraphs:


how do i change the spacing between lines?


how do i make subscript text (parallel to superscript)?

% subscript

then use it with \sub{}.

i want to use “small caps”, but my font doesn’t provide it. how do i set a font specifically for “small caps”?

provided you are using fontspec, this will do the trick:

\setromanfont[SmallCapsFont={Linux Libertine O C}]{Junicode}

note that this is for the ‘roman’ font only – you may want to use \setsansfont or \setmonofont instead.

how do i make a “text fraction”?

to make a “text fraction” like this:
text fraction

try this code:

% text fraction (e/o)

then use it with \ffrac{e}{o}.

there are so many different packages for tables… which one should i use?

basically, i recommend to use longtable. it has a couple of advantages, most notably that it wraps nicely across pages.

which package should i use to handle my bibliography?

use biblatex. since this is a pretty new package, most latex tutorials and books don’t mention it, but it’s really great!
here’s one way to use it:

\bibliography{mybibliography} % name of your bib file

the option “style=authoryear” will produce an author/year style citation, which is common in the humanities, looking similar to this:

bibliography produced by biblatex with style author-year

bibliography produced by biblatex with style author-year

the option “sorting=nyt”, by the way, will make sure that multiple items by the same author are sorted according to date of publication.

is there a way to set all authors’ last names in small caps?

if your are using biblatex, use this:


the second lines makes sure that prefixes (as in van Loon, de Vries) will appear in small caps as well.

how do i get biblatex to print van and de in names like van Loon, de Vries?

if your are using biblatex, use the option \useprefix=true when loading the package.

can you recommend a bibliography management application that works well with latex?

yes, jabref is quite good. it’s open source, cross-platform and fairly full featured. if only it weren’t so slow…

i’m working on a large document. how do i speed up the compilation?

divide the document into sections and save each one of them in a separate .tex-file. use \include to include the sections in the main document. then use \includeonly{section1} in the preamble to compile only section 1 while preserving the page numbers, references etc.

what’s the easiest way to make frequent backups?

what has proved to work best for me is to use a version control system like subversion. this is usually used by software engineers to keep track of the source code they write, but it works just as well for (text based) documents. since latex files are simple text documents, they are well suited for version tracking. the benefits are obvious: keep an authoritative version of your work in a central archive (somewhere on a server), and sync your changes with that version on a daily basis. that way, you always have the latest version on at least one other machine than your working machine, and you can only lose one day’s work at maximum in the case that your machine suddenly dies. note that this also makes syncing your documents between two computers (home and office, for example) extremely simple.

note: installing and setting up a subversion repository requires some technical skill, so be warned that it may take a while to figure out the details if you are not already familiar with the process. if you don’t feel comfortable using the command line, this is probably not for you.

an easy alternative is to use a cloud-storage system like dropbox or ubuntu one. those services will let you store some data on a server by simply copying it to a specific folder on your pc.

what’s a good way to synchronize my latex files between two places (e.g. home and office)?

see previous question.

i’m a linguist and i need to put lots and lots of words into italics. using emph{} everytime is cumbersome and makes the document hard to read. isn’t there a better way to do that?

indeed, you might find something like this ugly:

Got. \emph{kniu}* und \emph{triu}* und die n. \emph{wa}- bzw. \emph{a}-Stämme

latex allows you to redefine commands, so what you could do is to redefine \emph{} to something shorter, like this:

Got. \e{kniu}* und \e{triu}* und die n. \e{wa}- bzw. \e{a}-Stämme

but this is admittedly not much of an improvement. wouldn’t it be much nicer to use the following markup?

Got. /kniu/* und /triu/* und die n. /wa/- bzw. /a/-Stämme

and indeed, there is a way to do this. however, it can’t be handled inside latex, because it isn’t sufficient to redefine a simple command (note that / needs to be replaced by \emph{ sometimes and } at other times), so it’s a little bit more work to get this going. what we need is a small script that does these substitutions in an intelligent way, a so-called pre-processor. the good news is that i’ve already written one such pre-processor, using the python programming language, and you are welcome to use it. our source document will then need to be run through this preprocessor before it’s being sent to latex. this requires a somewhat more sophisticated workflow, because we don’t want to type the command manually to run the preprocessor every single time we want to compile our document. the solution to this is to use a makefile. makefiles are a unix/linux tool, so for the following, i’m assuming that you are on such a system rather than on windows (there might be some way to get this to work on windows, too – i just don’t know). so to try this, download the file demo.tex and save it somewhere, along with preprocess.py.txt (remove the .txt ending) and Makefile. then open a shell, go to that folder and use make to compile your document. note that you need a couple of things installed on your computer for this to work (support for the python programming language, and support for Makefile).

note that there are some disadvantages: first of all, using Makefile may not be desirable in your work setup. second, there is now a conflict when you want to use a regular forward slash /, because this is now always interpreted as the beginning/end of an emphasized area. for that reason, you need to use \/ (a backward and a forward slash) to get a / in your document.

i prefer to use a simple text editor for writing latex documents. is there a way to compile and display the output with a simple key press anyway?

probably yes, but it depends on your editor. most editors (at least the programming oriented ones) will let you execute a build command by a single keypress. so use a Makefile (see last question), and then configure your text editor to run make in the current directory on a specific keypress (often F9 is used for this). if you then set up the Makefile in a way that it will automatically load a PDF-viewer on the default make target (check the commented section in my Makefile), you will see your document pop up immediatly after pressing F9 – very convenient!

can i make a powerpoint-style presentation with this?

yes, you can. use the package beamer for this. please note that the resulting document will still be a PDF, so you cannot do any fancy animations (who needs those, anyway?!). uncovering a slide bullet-by-bullet is of course possible. this works by simply adding a new page for every “step”, and then using the page-down key to give the “illusion” of an animation. as a consequence, a 10-slide presentation may easily turn out as a PDF of ca. 50-80 pages.

do you have any templates for common document types typically needed by students?

template-handout.tex and template-handout.bib.
output: template-handout.pdf

template-paper.tex and template-paper.bib.
output: template-paper.pdf

template-presentation.tex and template-presentation.bib.
output: template-presentation.pdf
feel free to use these and to adapt them to your needs.

comments are welcome :)

an X11 keyboard layout for scholars of old germanic

Diss,how-to,Linguistik,Linux,Uni,VGS — 21. Nov 2009

as an historical linguist dealing with old germanic languages, i need a convenient way to input special characters on my computer. since I want to be able to use these characters across all my applications (text editor, office suite, email-client, browser), a per-application solution is not a good idea. a better approach is to change the keyboard layout system wide. luckily, this can be achieved easily on a linux system by customizing one of the predefined X11 keyboard layouts. in my case, i came to the conclusion that it was best to modify the existing keyboard layout definition for us-english (called “us”) by adding a new “layout variant“, which i decided to call “altgr-gmc”. as you can see, every key is bound to four different characters. the characters on the right side of every key can be accessed by using AltGr (bottom right) and AltGr+SHIFT (top right) as modifiers.

here’s what i came up with (click for a larger image):
altgr-gmc keyboard layout

the distribution of characters across the keyboard is somewhat arbitrary, though i tried to keep compatibility to “altgr-intl” if possible, and i strived to make the rest as intuitive as possible (r-sounds on the r-button, combining diacritical mark for a stroke below on the hyphen-button, since it sort of looks like a little rotated hyphen etc.).

if you want to give it a try, follow these instructions (root permissions required for all steps):

  1. adding the new layout variant
    open the file /usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols/us and append these lines at the end of it.
  2. enabling it in X11
    edit /usr/share/X11/xkb/rules/evdev.xml and add the following lines at a suitable position (e.g. after the entry for “altgr-intl”):

                <description>for Old Germanic</description>

    you may also want to make a corresponding change in /usr/share/X11/xkb/rules/evdev.lst for consistency’s sake (it doesn’t seem to be required).

  3. setting it as system default
    open /etc/default/console-setup update: /etc/default/keyboard and set XKBVARIANT to “altgr-gmc”. make sure that the variable XKBLAYOUT points to the file that you modified in step 1 (“us”)
  4. restart your computer

(this was all done on a xubuntu 9.10 system. should also work on any other recent ubuntu installation.)

if you want this to take effect immediately, load it up like this: setxkbmap us -variant altgr-gmc.

a few problems remain, mostly related to the handling of combining diacritical marks. contrary to my initial plans, i ended up refraining from the use of “dead keys” in favour of using combining diacritical marks throughout. this happened for consistency’s sake. in general, i prefer to use precomposed characters (which is what the “dead keys” give you), but since precomposed characters are not available for all the desired combinations, it’s unavoidable to use combining diacritical marks in some cases, and because of that it seemed better to me to use the latter throughout. of course it would be best to have a “fall back strategy”, so that precomposed characters will be used whenever possible, and combining diacritical marks elsewhere. such a solution doesn’t seem possible currently, however, since you can only use a key either as a “dead key” (which will give you no character at all in the case that you choose an unavailable combination) or to have it produce a combining diacritical mark.

a second thing that’s been irritating me is that the handling of combining diacritical marks seems to be very inconsistent across applications and fonts. strangely, changing the font of my text editor does not only change the way the marks are displayed in the editor window (sometimes combined, sometimes simply next to each other), but it can also (in some cases) change the order in which i need to input the base letter and the modifier: depending on the current font, i sometimes have to type the diacritical mark before and sometimes after the letter i want to modify… isn’t that odd?

another issue is that stacking diacritical marks is messy. often, the marks will end up being superimposed on each other instead of being stacked. it’s basically a matter of trial and error to see what will work and what won’t :(

so here’s a sample of what you can do with “altgr-gmc”, including some fancy (but not always neatly typeset) stacked diacritical marks:


http://www.mufi.info/ Medieval Unicode Font Initiative

gegen fussnoten

Diss,opinion,Uni — 22. Mar 2009

man scheint in der wissenschaft allgemein sehr begeistert zu sein vom konzept der fussnote. viele publikationen sind geradezu gespickt mit anmerkungen in fuss- oder endnoten. nach meinem eindruck nimmt die popularität von fussnoten in jüngerer zeit sogar noch zu, so dass man bei neueren monographien nicht selten eintausend oder mehr fussnoten findet. eine von mir kürzlich erworbene arbeit zu einigen skaldengedichten bringt es z.b. mit 331 seiten lauftext auf imposante 933 fussnoten, eine andere sprachwissenschaftliche untersuchung, die mir vorliegt, mit 352 seiten sogar auf 1257 fussnoten.

leichtes missverhältnis zwischen text und fussnoten?

bei so viel fussnotenbegeisterung halte ich die zeit für gekommen, auch einmal auf die nachteile von fussnoten hinzuweisen.

als problem nehme ich insbesondere den gestörten lesefluss wahr. ein fussnotenreicher text zwingt nämlich den leser, fortlaufend mit den augen hin- und herzuspringen, und verunmöglicht so eine geradlinige lektüre. da man beim antreffen der fussnote nicht a priori wissen kann, was sich dahinter verbirgt (nur eine literaturangabe? oder eine wichtige anmerkung?), hat man gar keine wahl, als alle fussnoten anzuschauen. will man den text gründlich lesen, kommt man faktisch nicht darum herum, jeder fussnote nachzugehen. dies führt u.u. zu einem sehr komplizierten, unintuitiven lesefluss. man vergleiche etwa die folgende seite, auf der ich alle nötigen sprünge markiert habe (sprünge vom text in die fussnote rot, sprünge zurück in den text blau):

das lesen dieser aufsatzseite zwingt das auge des lesers zu zahlreichen sprüngen – ob die leicht hypnotisierende nebenwirkung beabsichtigt ist?

man beachte ferner, dass die letzte fussnote nicht auf der gleichen seite endet, sondern auf der nächsten weitergeht, so dass man zusätzlich noch zweimal umblättern muss.

als besondere schwierigkeit erweist sich bei einem solchen lesefluss das zurückspringen in den text, weil man – im gegensatz zum sprung zur fussnote, wo man sich an die numerische sortierung der fussnotenindizes halten kann – keine hilfe hat, um vom fussnotenende wieder an die richtige stelle im text zurückzufinden. oft kommt es sogar so heraus:

irrwege eines fussnotenlesers

die chance ist wohl ziemlich gross, dass man beim zurückkehren an die richtige stelle nicht mehr weiss, wie der satz ursprünglich angefangen hat.

neben den “navigationsproblemen” gibt es auch noch eine weitere problematik rund um das thema fussnoten. es scheint mir nämlich oft der fall zu sein, dass übermässige fussnoten auf eine mangelhafte gliederung des textes hinweisen. oft passiert es einem ja, dass man zu einem früher verfassten abschnitt neue einfälle hat. diese machen in der regel eine umarbeitung des gesamten abschnittes nötig, und man ist daher schnell dazu verleitet, etwas “faul” zu sein und den neuen gedanken lediglich in einer fussnote hinzuzufügen. dies führt notwendigerweise zu einer schlechten textstruktur.

aufgrund der genannten probleme stellt sich die frage, ob man nicht besser fahren würde, fussnoten nach möglichkeit zu vermeiden. könnte man die anmerkungen nicht auch in den text integrieren? platziert man die literaturverweise nicht besser in klammern an die stellen im satz, wo sie auch hingehören? ist dem leser nicht viel geholfen, wenn er die seite einigermassen intuitiv von links oben nach rechts unten lesen kann?

in diese richtung zielt auch die empfehlung des bekannten The Not So Short Introduction to LaTeX2e (s. 35, notabene in der fussnote!):

“Note that footnotes distract the reader from the main body of your document. After all, everybody reads the footnotes — we are a curious species, so why not just integrate everything you want to say into the body of the document?”

dem kann ich nur beipflichten. m.e. ist es richtig und wichtig, fussnoten sparsam einzusetzen. nach meiner erfahrung kann man dem leser nämlich eine menge anmerkungen und verweise inline (d.h. im lauftext, mit oder ohne klammern) zumuten, ohne dass der text dadurch unlesbar wird. was nämlich inline notiert wird, lässt sich trotzdem leicht überspringen, und der normale lesefluss bleibt intakt.

dass es sogar ganz ohne fussnoten geht, kann folgendes beispiel zeigen. es handelt sich um eine doppelseite aus einer dissertationsschrift, die auf 232 seiten nicht eine einzige fussnote enthält:

wie man sieht, sind die literaturverweise, quellenangaben etc. in den lauftext aufgenommen worden. anmerkungen fehlen fast ganz und sind, wo doch vorhanden, durch einrückung gekennzeichnet und ebenfalls in den normalen lesefluss eingegliedert. der text büsst dadurch nicht an qualität ein und ist leicht zu lesen.

p.s.: im meisten hier gesagten folge ich einem blogpost (?), den ich vor längerer zeit irgendwo im internet gelesen habe, und nun leider nicht mehr finde. falls jemand weiss, wovon ich spreche, bitte ich um eine benachrichtigung, so dass ich den beitrag ordentlich zitieren kann.

das thema meiner diss

Diss,Linguistik,Uni,VGS — 21. Sep 2008

letzte woche war ich odense an der von h.f. nielsen organisierten tagung ‘the gothic language – origins, structure, developments’, wo ich freundlicherweise mein dissertationsprojekt vorstellen durfte. falls sich jemand dafür interessieren sollte, kann er oder sie das manuskript hier beziehen (die letzten zwei seiten stellen das handout dar).