wie man schwer auftreibbare bücher auftreibt

Uni,VGS — 1. Jul 2011

(die folgenden tipps beziehen sich auf den standort zürich.)

lokale ausleihe
startpunkt ist der IDS gesamtkatalog (altes interface). es gibt auch ein neues interface, das ich aber deutlich weniger bequem zu benutzen finde.

mit der IDS-suche findet man titel in bibliotheken der universität zürich, der ZB sowie der ETH (die ETH hat mehr geisteswissenschaftliche bücher als man meinen würde).

ACHTUNG: diese suche ist nicht flächendeckend:

– nicht erfasst sind titel in der ZB, die älter sind als 1989. auf diese muss man über den digitalen zettelkatalog zugreifen. die benutzung desselben ist nicht ganz intuitiv – man muss ihn auch online so benutzen, wie wenn man vor dem offline-katalog stehen würde, d.h. man muss sich überlegen, welches im papierkatalog das ordnungswort wäre und nach diesem suchen.

– nicht erfasst sind sämtliche bücher des indogermanischen seminars. diese muss man vor ort am institut einsehen.

fernleihe
wenn man in der lokalen ausleihe nicht fündig wird, weitet man das suchfeld aus. zunächst benutzt man wiederum die IDS-gesamtsuche, wo auch die kataloge der unis bern/basel, luzern und st. gallen eingebunden sind. wenn man dort fündig wird, kann man sich die titel für eine kleine gebühr per kurier in die ZB liefern lassen (und nachher dort wieder zurückgeben).

wenn das noch nicht reicht, kann man es mit einer gesamtschweizerischen bibliothekssuche versuchen. dafür gibt es seit einer weile swissbib.ch, wo man titel auch etwa in bibliotheken aus der romanischsprachigen schweiz findet. bestellen kann man diese titel über die ZB, wobei eine etwas höhere gebühr anfällt als beim IDS kurier. zum bestellen loggt man sich auf zb.uzh.ch in sein ZB-benutzerkonto ein. dort sieht man dann eine option “Fernleihe-ZBZ – neue Bestellung”.

findet man auch bei swissbib.ch nichts, kann man bei der ZB eine unspezifische fernleihe aufgeben, und zwar über das gerade erwähnte formular “Fernleihe-ZBZ”. die ZB sucht dann selber nach einer bibliothek, die den titel hat. bei einer bestellung aus dem ausland fallen zusätzliche gebühren an.

herunterladen
mittlerweile gibt es eine reihe von webseiten im internet, die bücher zum download bereitstellen. es handelt sich allerdings ganz überwiegend um titel, die so alt sind, dass ihr urheberrecht abgelaufen ist. dies betrifft grob gesagt titel die vor ca. 1920 erschienen sind (faustregel: todesjahr des autors plus 70 jahre). die besten adressen dafür sind archive.org und google books. letzten endes gehen die allermeisten bei archive.org erhältlichen titel auf google books zurück. erstaunlicherweise ist aber die abdeckung bei archive.org viel besser, da google books zu einem bestimmten zeitpunkt viele bücher, die eigentlich schon gemeinfrei sind und als solche zum download angeboten wurden, wieder vom netz genommen hat. diese sind in der regel bei archive.org noch zu finden. für den download als PDF muss man bei archive.org jeweils auf der trefferseite links “All Files: HTTP” anklicken, und dort die PDF datei bzw. – falls es mehrere gibt – diejenige mit _bw.PDF (= black and white scan). der direkte link zum download funktioniert meistens nicht. zudem gibt es bei archive.org einen recht netten webbasierten buchleser.

eine weitere gute adresse ist die openlibrary.org, wo immer mehr titel online abrufbar sind. die meisten verfügbaren titel stammen dort meines wissens von archive.org.

natürlich lohnt sich auch immer eine simple websuche, aber darauf muss ich wohl nicht extra hinweisen.

kaufen
falls all dies noch nicht zum gewünschten resultat geführt hat, bleibt noch die option “kaufen”. die besten chancen hat man bei antiquariatsverbünden, von denen ich mit zvab und abebooks die besten erfahrungen gemacht habe. für skandinavistische bedürfnisse empfehle ich antikvariat.net – dort findet man mit etwas glück auch altgermanistische raritäten. auch über die amazon-buchsuche (marketplace) findet man gelegentlich interessante angebote.

fachrelevante bücher sind überwiegend vergriffen. falls es sich um etwas ganz neues, etwas ganz altes oder einen “bestseller” handelt, gibt es aber doch eine chance, dass der titel über den normalen buchhandel erhältlich ist.

vorsicht geboten ist bei neudrucken von ganz alter forschungsliteratur. in jüngster zeit haben sich eine ganze reihe von print-on-demand verlagen etabliert, die alte titel mit abgelaufenem urheberrecht neu auflegen. aber caveat emptor!: es handelt sich häufig um veraltete editionen, deren “echtes” publikationsdatum/auflage bei der bestellung nicht ersichtlich ist. sie sind ausserdem meist sehr billig gemacht, mit fehlern auf der titelseite, mieser druckqualität (so dass der text teilweise fast nicht lesbar ist), schiefen seiten usw.. berüchtigte verlage dieser art sind nabu press, kissinger pub co, koch media, bibliobazaar, … löbliche ausnahme sind die reprints der cambridge university press, die z.b. den grundriss von brugmann in einer recht nett gemachten fassung neu aufgelegt haben.

ein spezialfall sind amerikanische dissertationen. diese sind in der regel im buchhandel nicht erhältlich, da sie nicht bei verlagen gedruckt werden. man kann sie aber hier zu nicht ganz billigen preisen bestellen.

eine gesonderte erwähnung verdienen die titel des verlags von peter lang. dort erscheinen immer wieder sprachwissenschaftliche titel, die ich aus irgendeinem grund im normalen buchhandel nicht finde. bestellungen sind aber direkt über die verlagshomepage möglich.

notfälle
in notfällen kann man sich immer in den zug nach konstanz setzen. die ub konstanz ist von zürich aus in 1h30min erreichbar und hat durchgehend offen (24/7).

falls jemand weitere heisse tipps hat, bin ich froh um entsprechende hinweise.

die bildung und das volkswirtschaftsdepartement

politics,Uni — 6. Feb 2011

bundesrat schneider-ammann möchte, genau wie schon seine vorgängerin als wirtschaftsministerin, bundesrätin leuthard, die bildung dem volkswirtschaftsdepartement einverleiben. “die bildung gehört ganz nahe zur wirtschaft”, sagt er.

dem möchte ich widersprechen.

es ist unbestritten, dass die bildung eine wichtige funktion zur speisung der wirtschaft mit kompetenten fachkräften hat. aber die bildung zum ‘teilbereich’ der wirtschaft zu erklären, was die umstrukturierung faktisch zur folge hätte, verkennt, dass bildung viel mehr ist als eine vorbereitung auf bestimmte tätigkeiten in der wirtschaft. bildung, studium und wissenschaft sind für sich alleine genommen hohe güter, die nicht den wirtschaftlichen interessen untergeordnet werden dürfen.

es kann für die schweizerischen universitäten nicht von vorteil sein, wenn die bildung zu stark durch die “ökonomen-brille” gesehen wird. besonders für kleine fächer, die schon jetzt häufig mit abschaffungs- und sparbestrebungen konfrontiert sind, verhiesse das nichts gutes – denn aus sicht der ökonomen “rendieren” natürlich fächer mit wenigen studienanfängern wie indologie, osteuropastudien, prähistorische archäologie, indogermanistik usw. nicht. dass deren abschaffung ein grosser verlust wäre – wenn auch nicht einer, der in budget-berechnungen sichtbar würde – brauche ich wohl nicht zu betonen.

ich untestütze deshalb nachdrücklich die linie von schneider-ammanns parteikollegen burkhalter, der sich – soweit öffentlich bekannt – mit händen und füssen dagegen wehrt, dass die bildung dem wirtschaftsdepartement angeschlossen wird. burkhalter beurteilt die situation m.e. genau richtig, wenn er “befürchte[t], dass die universitätsbildung sonst nur noch nach ökonomischen kriterien beurteilt würde, was für die forschung und lehre verheerend wäre” (nzz am sonntag vom 6. februar 2011, s. 15).

academic publishers

copyright,Uni — 28. Nov 2010

have you ever wondered how academic publishers operate? phdcomics has an enlightening drawing:

phd comics
source: phdcomics
(click on image for original comic. )

so why can they get away with that? the truth is that it works simply because the scholars depend on them. for the scientists it’s “publish or perish”, and they need to publish in well-known journals in order to be noticed and make their name known to the scientific community.

this means that the scientific communities depend on the publishers in two ways: on the one hand, they depend on the publishers’ benevolence in order to get their research published, while on the other hand, they need access to the resulting journals, which means they (or rather: their libraries) have to shell out a lot of cash for the subscriptions. at the same time, the general public, who paid for both the salaries of the scientists who did the research and for the subscriptions bought by the libraries don’t even get free access to the results.

now, of course i don’t want to suggest that the publishers don’t do any valuable work. they certainly do, as is also mentioned in the second part of the phdcomic:

phd comics
source: phdcomics
(click on image for original comic. )

still, the scientific communities should in my opinion think closely about whether or not the current situation is beneficial for them, and the tax payers should give it some thought, too. open access could play an important role in this, even if it’s just to create some competition for the established publishers. in addition, i have noticed with satisfaction that even in the old-fashioned humanities, some scholars have started to voluntarily make (some of) their work freely available on the internet. of course i strive to make my own publications available online, too, whenever legally possible.

germanische altertumskunde online

Uni,VGS — 3. Nov 2010

es scheint, dass die altertumskunde dieser tage besonders modern ist: auf www.reference-global.com, dem online-portal des de gruyter verlags, findet sich seit neuestem ein angebot namens germanische altertumskunde online, auf dessen inhalte man über das netzwerk der uzh zugriff hat. darauf lässt sich gemäss meinen stichproben tatsächlich – haltet euch fest – der gesamte inhalt des neuen, 35-bändigen reallexikons der germanischen altertumskunde (rga) abrufen. inklusive den 70 ergänzungsbänden. nach wunsch als pdf, samt referenzen und allem. das war’s, ihr dürft den kinnladen jetzt wieder hochklappen.

ps: eine direkte verlinkung auf das angebot funktioniert leider nicht; man findet es aber über die suche auf reference-global.

update: noch leichter als über die suche findet man das angebot, wenn man auf “browse” klickt (in der kopfzeile), dann bei “g” und schliesslich auf “germanische altertumskunde online”. anschliessend landet man auf einer separaten suchseite, wo man nach artikelnamen oder autoren usw. suchen kann.

update 2: mittlerweile klappt der zugriff nicht mehr. vermutlich war es ein technisches versehen, dass zwischenzeitlich das gesamte RGA verfügbar war.

update 3, 29.8.2011: nun geht es wieder…

4 gründe, sich (nicht) zu bewerben

Uni — 21. Oct 2010

1. der falsche grund, sich nicht auf einen hohen posten zu bewerben, ist übertriebene bescheidenheit.
2. der richtige grund, sich nicht auf einen hohen posten zu bewerben, ist die ehrliche einsicht, nicht die geeignete kandidatin oder der geeignete kandidat zu sein.
3. der falsche grund, sich auf einen hohen posten zu bewerben, ist das streben nach macht, geld oder ansehen.
4. der richtige grund, sich auf einen hohen posten zu bewerben, ist ein motiv der schadensbegrenzung: die einsicht, selber die am wenigsten ungeeignete kandidatin / der am wenigsten ungeeignete kandidat zu sein; durch die eigene kandidatur schlimmeres verhindern zu wollen.

swiss german ‘idiotikon’ available online

Etymologie,Linguistik,Uni — 19. Sep 2010

news just reached me that the swiss german ‘idiotikon’ – by far the most extensive lexical ressource of the swiss german dialects – has been made available online. it has already been possible for a while to search the index online, but the search function only returned a pointer to the volume/page of the printed ‘idiotikon’, so that you still had to go to the library to read the article. but now, the results are actually links to scanned pages of the printed work, which are displayed directly in your browser. it’s even possible to move forward/backward from the current page, making it easy to browse the surrounding articles. it seems that the complete work is now accessible online, except the parts which haven’t been edited yet (parts of vol. 16 and vol. 17).

so if you’ve ever wondered what the word Glungge means, whether or not it’s charming to be called a Tubel, or why the word for ‘broom’ features an –m– in some swiss dialects (e.g. Bäsme), you can now easily look it up online.

onp – ordbog over det norrøne prosasprog

Linguistik,Uni,VGS — 3. Aug 2010

the onp – full name ordbog over det norrøne prosasprog, engl. a dictionary of old norse prose – is a large scale dictionary project based in copenhagen. the project’s goal is to produce a comprehensive dictionary of the prose language of old norse, a goal on which they have been working since the project was started in 1939. so far 3 volumes (a-em) plus a volume of indices have appeared in print. in recent years, however, it seemed that the project was going through some difficult times as it became clear that the printing of new volumes was not going to continue. that is sad news to anyone interested in the old norse language, since the onp was set out to be a tremendous achievement, vastly superiour to any other dictionary of old norse currently in existence. not all is lost, though, with the project apparently shifting its focus on digitizing the material which was so far collected. this new focus has now been confirmed by a news update on the project’s webpage. in fact, it appears that a lot of data has already been made available online. a wordlist allows easy access to information about lexemes, including a list of attested word forms, scans of hand written citation slips and what appear to be scans of printed editions. the web interface also offers useful features like sorting citations chronologically.

onp

onp web interface – earliest attestation of ON røk(k)r

certainly, this isn’t as good as having the dictionary completed in print, but what they offer online is already a very useful ressource and a big leap forward from the heavily outdated dictionaries of cleasby/vigfusson and fritzner.

i can’t tell you in detail how complete the available data is, but judging from some random samples i looked up, it appears to cover the entire alphabet, and the entries certainly seemed useable, even though they are obviously in an “un-edited” state.

information on their web page indicates further that they do have plans to continue employing editors, although i’m now quite sure what and how they will edit / publish.

the web interface didn’t impress me too much (some links won’t open in firefox, weird frame behaviour), but hey, as long as i’m able to access the information i need, you won’t hear me complain.

all in all, this makes me particularly happy for two reasons: first, because it will make my life as a researcher easier (the onp lists full word forms, making it possible to judge the inflectional behaviour of words), and second, because it was about time that the work of the tireless staff at onp was finally made available to a wider audience.

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:

plus

  • 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.

minus

  • 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
demo.tex
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

\usepackage{times}

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

\usepackage{fontspec}
\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:

\usepackage[a4paper,height=250mm,width=175mm,vcentering]{geometry}

for a5, you might try this:

\usepackage[a5paper,height=160mm,width=110mm,vcentering]{geometry}

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?

\footnote{Bla.label{fn:repeated_fn}}
...
\footref{fn:repeated_fn}

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

\usepackage[hang]{footmisc}
\setlength{\footnotemargin}{2mm} 

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:

\usepackage[parfill]{parskip}

how do i change the spacing between lines?

\usepackage{setspace}
\setstretch{1.15}

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

% subscript
\makeatletter
  \DeclareRobustCommand*\sub[1]{%
    \@sub{\selectfont#1}}
  \newcommand{\@sub}[1]{%
    {\m@th\ensuremath{_{\mbox{\fontsize\sf@size\z@#1}}}}}
\makeatother

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)
\newcommand{\ffrac}[2]{
	\kern0.1em\sup{#1}\kern-.20em\emph{⁄}\kern-.25em\sub{#2}\kern0.1em
}

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:

\usepackage[style=authoryear,sorting=nyt]{biblatex}
\bibliography{mybibliography} % name of your bib file
...
\cite{dekeyser1980}
...
\printbibliography

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:

\renewcommand{\mkbibnamelast}[1]{{\textsc{#1}}}
\renewcommand{\mkbibnameprefix}[1]{{\textsc{#1}}}

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:

\newcommand{e}[1]{\emph{#1}}
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?

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

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

presentation
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”):

            <variant>
              <configItem>
                <name>altgr-gmc</name>
                <description>for Old Germanic</description>
                <languageList><iso639Id>eng</iso639Id>
                              <iso639Id>fra</iso639Id>
                              <iso639Id>ger</iso639Id></languageList>
              </configItem>
            </variant>

    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:

altgr-gmc-sample

links:
http://people.uleth.ca/~daniel.odonnell/Blog/custom-keyboard-in-linuxx11
http://www.mufi.info/ Medieval Unicode Font Initiative
http://unicode.org/charts/
http://unicode-search.net
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unicode

harsdörffers lehralphabet

Linguistik,Schriftsysteme,Uni — 18. Oct 2009
georg philipp harsdörffer, frauenzimmer gesprächspiele V, 1644-49, S. 180-182.

georg philipp harsdörffer, frauenzimmer gesprächspiele V, 1644-49, S. 180-182. (bild und kommentar bei: hundt 2000:227)

bei der obigen abbildung handelt es sich um ein lehralphabet, dass aus den schriften des nürnberger dichters harsdörffer stammt und auf die mitte des 17. jh. zurückgeht. die idee ist es, das lernen der buchstaben zu erleichtern, indem man sich jeweils ein schlüsselwort einprägt, so dass die durch dieses wort bezeichnete sache (gegenstand/tier) von der form her an den zu lernenden buchstaben erinnert. für das w merkt man sich beispielsweise das wort wurm, und wenn man sich dann das geringelte tier vor dem geistigen auge vorstellt, erinnert man sich, wie der buchstabe <W> auszusehen habe. genauso funktioniert es mit einem aal für das <A>, mit einem gedärme für das <G> usw.

das zugrundliegende prinzip, nach dem jedem schriftzeichen ein mit diesem zeichen beginnender ‘name’ zugeordnet wird, nennt man das akrophonische prinzip. es ist seit langer zeit ein bewährtes didaktisches hilfsmittel und war u.a. schon den germanen eine mnemotechnische stütze, um die runenzeichen zu memorisieren (ᚠ f: , *fehu ‘vieh, besitz’; ᚢ u: *ūruz ‘auerochse’ usw.).

interessant ist nun, dass es genau dieses akrophonische prinzip war, das in der geschichte der schrift überhaupt erst zur ausbildung von buchstaben geführt hat. aller anfang von schrift war zunächst piktographisch; kleine ‘zeichnungen’ von gegenständen sollten die dinge repräsentieren, die mit ihnen gemeint waren, im stil einer bilderschrift. als zweiter schritt fand ein übergang zu einem ikonographischem system statt, indem die zeichen abstrakter, stärker konventionalisiert, und damit sprachgebunden wurden. dies lässt sich einerseits an der entwicklung der keilschrift, andererseits an der ägyptischen hieroglyphenschrift (abbildung unten) gut nachvollziehen. war dieser zustand einmal erreicht, konnten die zeichen auch einen lautwert erhalten, indem sie – eben nach dem akrophonischen prinzip – für den anfangslaut des bezeichneten wortes stehen konnten. das resultat waren buchstaben mit lautwerten, wie wir sie uns heute gewohnt sind.

entwicklung der hieroglyphenschrift

entwicklung der hieroglyphenschrift (bildquelle: coulmas 1989:69)

solche lehralphabete wie dasjenige von hausdörffer stellen also eine art rückkehr zu den ursprüngen der schrift dar, indem eine art “re-piktographisierung” der abstrakt gewordenen buchstabenformen vorgenommen wurde. da die ursprünglichen buchstabennamen längst vergessen waren, erfand man neue, indem man das akrophonische prinzip gewissermassen “rückwärts” anwendete: zu den bereits bestehenden buchstaben erfand man neue ‘namen’ dazu, um den einstmal vorhandenen direkten bezug zwischen zeichenform und gemeinter sache wiederherzustellen.

referenzen
coulmas, f.: the writing systems of the world. oxford 1989.

hundt, markus: “spracharbeit” im 17. jahrhundert: studien zu georg philipp harsdörffer, justus georg schottelius und christian gueintz. berlin 2000.

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