Linguistic and Language Behavior Abstracts – Reviewed Fall 1997

Reviewed by Anna L. DeMiller, Colorado State University Libraries, July 1997

Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts, 1973-present,
semi-annual updates. Published by Sociological Abstracts, San Diego,
CA; NISC DISC with ROMWright software produced by National Information
Services Corporation (NISC), Wyman Towers, Suite 6, 3100 St. Paul
Street, Baltimore, MD 21218 (tel. 410/243-0797, fax 410/243-0982,
e-mail, Internet
Annual subscription $895; LAN and WAN rates vary. NISC’s license
agreement/ subscription form required. Hardware requirements include
any DOS-capable PC (386 or greater recommended), networked or single
station, any CD-ROM drive, color or monochrome monitor, and 180KB RAM
(512k without extended memory).


Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts (LLBA), provides more
than 200,000 citations with nonevaluative abstractsations with
nonevaluative abstracts from about 2,000 serials, books and book
chapters, occasional papers, monographs, technical reports, book
reviews and dissertations. It covers linguistics, literacy, speech and
hearing, language acquisition, and language research. Approximately
15,000 records are added each year. While this database is available
from several other vendors (Dialog and SilverPlatter) and has a print
equivalent which began in 1967 with the title Language and Language
Behavior Abstracts, this reviewer used the NISC CD-ROM software version.

User Assistance:

There are a number of print and online resources available to assist
the user. A User’s Reference Manual, 3rd edition (San Diego, CA:
Sociological Abstracts, 1987) is dated (e.g. both the journal list and
authority file are now woefully incomplete), but it is still helpful in
understanding the history of editorial and indexing practices as well
as selection and coverage of materials which has changed and grown
since its inception as a printed index in 1967.

Use of the Thesaurus of Linguistic Indexing Terms (San Diego, CA:
Sociological Abstracts, 1992), a well-organized and developed tool, is
essential for conducting an effective and precise search. The
thesaurus, which is also available online, contains an alphabetical
list of some 2,600 vocabulary terms which include subject descriptors,
names of languages and language families, geographic plafamilies,
geographic place names, and personal names. Voegelin’s Classification
and Index of the World’s Languages is used as the authority for the
form and classification of non-African languages. Greenberg’s The
Languages of Africa is the authority for African languages. Numeric
Descriptor Codes (DC) are assigned to all Main terms which are
accompanied by Scope Notes (SN), History Notes (HN), Used For (UF)
terms, Use cross references, and Broader (BT), Narrower (NT), and
Related (RT) terms. Each major subject area is assigned a four-digit
selection code. Prior to 1991 different or additional terms may have
been used for a topic; a searcher should consult the thesaurus and use
both the current term(s) and older term(s). To effectively search for
material on specific languages, language groups, or language families a
searcher should use the thesaurus to verify the terminology and
spelling used in the database. For example, “Dravidian Languages” is
used for (UF) the languages Kannada, Malayalam, and Telugu while Tamil,
also a Dravidian language, is searched separately as a narrower term

The Journal List, updated each year in January and now in its ninth
edition (1997), is available free of charge from Sociological Abstracts
(send email to:
It includes both a list of the 2,000 serials screened for coverage in
LLBA (and several other Sociological Abstracts products) and a list of
more thad a list of more than 300 core serials which are fully
abstracted by LLBA. Coverage is world-wide. The lists include
international CODEN, country of publication (if non-U.S.), and the
ISSN. A single list (alphabetical by title with ISSN) of all the
serials screened is available on the Web (

Note Us, a quarterly newsletter sent to subscribers, details updates
and enhancements to LLBA. The user should check it for new terms and
changes in the classification codes as well as additions to the journal
list. A number of recent issues can be accessed on the Web (

To assist with using the software, NISC issues a two-page Quick
Guide that is a good resource to keep handy for easy referral while
doing a search and to interpret the record display and output of a
search. It provides a quick reference for search operators and
techniques, use of function keys, truncation, and gives some searching
tips. In addition there is a two-page Fact Sheet which provides an
overview of the database’s content and coverage, information about user
aids, and document delivery details.

Scope and Coverage:

LLBA began in 1967 as the print publication Language and Language
Behavior Abstracts with the stated purpose of providing access to the
world’s literature on language and language behavguage and language
behavior–whatever the disciplinary focus, country of origin, or
language in which it is written–and, in particular, such topics as
language acquisition, speech and language disorders, language teaching
and a wide range of literature in such related fields as acoustics,
anthropology, psychiatry, psychology, sociology, and philosophy. In
1985 the title changed to Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts
to reflect a broader coverage of the study of language itself, i.e.
linguistics. Abstracts are now grouped into 29 major subject areas with
83 specific sub-areas. Among the topics of interest to linguistic
anthropologists are the major subject areas of anthropological
linguistics, descriptive linguistics, and language classification.

To assess how well LLBA indexes the journal literature of linguistic
anthropology, this reviewer checked references cited in recent issues
of the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, published by the American
Anthropological Association, against the list of journals covered by
LLBA . One of the two issues published each year was selected (1994,
volume 4, issue 2; 1995, volume 5, issue 1; 1996, volume 6, issue 2).
The 16 articles comprising these three issues contained a total of 565
references; 114 (20%) were citations to 75 different journals. LLBA
selectively or comprehensively indexes 38 of these journal titles which
account for 62% of the total journal references. Tournal references.
The reviewer then expanded the study by analyzing the bibliographies of
three monographs: Greenberg’s Anthropological Linguistics (1968) and
two linguistic anthropology textbooks by Hickerson (1980) and Salzmann
(1993). The bibliographies of these three monographs contained a total
of 522 references; 156 (30%) were citations to 42 different journals.
LLBA selectively or comprehensively indexes 17 of these 42 journal
titles which account for 67% of the total journal references. These two
samples show similar results with LLBA indexing 62-67% of the journal
citations. The fact that non-journal citations comprise the majority of
references, 80% in one sample and 70% in the other, indicates that the
field relies heavily on books, book chapters, monographic series,
dissertations, working papers, proceedings, and unpublished papers. To
quickly check how well LLBA covers this non-journal literature the
reviewer did a search on such mah on such material dated 1974 or later
cited in Hickerson (1980). There were only 20 unique works meeting the
date criteria (89 were pre-1974) and of these only 5 (25%) were found
in LLBA.

Record Structure and Retrieval Software:

The following are among the specific fields which one can search
using the two-letter field tag: author/reviewer (au), author address
(ad), title (ti), title of book reviewed (br), classification category
(cc), journal title (jr), key term code (kc), key phrase (kp),
major/minor key term (kt), language (la), LC number (lc), review
language (lr), publication country (pc), publication type (pt),
publication year including reprints and reviewed books (py), review
evaluation (re), reviewer (rv), ISSN/ISBN (sn), and source/citation
(so). If no field tag is used, the search defaults to the basic index
which includes title, abstract, key terms, and key phrases. An online
thesaurus is available for searching the basic index, key term codes,
and major/minor key terms (descriptors) by simply pressing Crtl-F2. The
ROMWright software allows three different searching modes–novice,
advanced, and expert. For the novice, a template with 3 fields allows a
search in the basic index, author field, and the publication year. The
advanced searcher is also given a template, but with more fields, while
the expert mode allows the use of boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT,
NEARx) and nesting. Any ofx) and nesting. Any of the search modes
accommodate truncation (* or ?). Context sensitive “Help” is readily
available by pressing F1 on most screens. Sorting can be done on
personal author, language, publication year, and title fields. Marking,
sorting and downloading/printing of sets are all easy to do by
following simple on-screen directions.

Document Delivery:

Journal articles and other material cited in LLBA can be ordered
from SOCIOLOGY*Express by mail, telephone, fax, or e-mail. Contact them
at: P.O. Box 22206, San Diego, CA 92192-0206; tel. 800/752-3945 or
619/695-8803; fax 310/208-2982; or e-mail Fee information is also available on the Web (

Comparisons with Related Databases:

A number of databases indexing linguistic and/or anthropology
literature invite comparison to LLBA: MLA International Bibliography,
Linguistics Abstracts Online (LABS), Anthropological Literature on
Disk, and the entire file for IBSS (International Bibliography of the
Social Sciences). Each of these databases was searched for the years
1986-1995, a ten-year period covered by all the files. The reviewer did
two free text searches, one for the concept “anthropological
linguistics,” and the other for “pidgin” languages. The total number of
citations retrieved, respectively, in LLBA was 520 and 477, MLA 257 and
433, LABS 22MLA 257 and 433, LABS 22 and 89, Anthropological Literature
391 and 41, and IBSS 312 and 254. LLBA retrieved the most citations for
both the concept and the language, but all of the databases with the
exception of LABS are rich resources for linguistic anthropology. LABS
retrieved the fewest citations for several reasons. One, it
concentrates on general linguistic theory and excludes applied
linguistics and descriptive or historical works on particular languages
or language families; and second it only covers the journal literature.
A check of the non-journal references cited in Hickerson (1980), as
described above for LLBA, was done in MLA. The search retrieved 10 of
the 20 references, or 50%, compared to LLBA’s 25%. This was a very
small sample, but still indicative of coverage since the references are
basic works in the field.

Other databases which are possible sources of citations for
linguistic anthropology include FRANCIS, not available to this
reviewer, and the three ISI citation indexes which were not searched as
they are not really subject indexes, relying as they do on keyword in
title. An examination of the journal titles from the study described in
this review under “Scope and Coverage” which were not indexed in LLBA
indicates that databases in other subject areas may be appropriate as
there were article citations from sociology, psychology, philosophy,
various area studies, and even medicine, as w even medicine, as well as
a number of general and/or popular science journals (e.g. Nature,
Science, Natural History, Scientific American, Psychology Today, Annals
of the New York Academy of Science). Depending on the specific topic
under research, a search in LLBA could be supplemented by such subject
databases as PsycInfo and Sociological Abstracts as well as general
indexes, e.g. Expanded Academic Index, ArticleFirst, and UnCover.

Summary of Positive Aspects:

LLBA lives up to its billing as an index covering the world’s
literature on language, language behavior, and linguistics though it
appears to have better coverage of journal literature than other types
of publications. The electronic database is light years ahead of the
printed index which, because of the huge numbers of citations in the
index and its many broad subject headings, requires the user to sift
through long lists of citations to find those which are relevant. In
addition, the online version allows a user to search many different

Recommendations for Improvement:

A new edition of the User’s Reference Manual would be welcome as the
old one is more than ten years old; the online help screens are useful,
but are for the software rather than the specific database. The
thesaurus is well-constructed and a valuable resource to consult before
doing a search; it could be enhanced by an outline of the main subject
areas with the subject areas with the four digit codes to give an
overview of the tree structure. Though LLBA already indexes a large
number of journals, the editors may want to consider selectively
indexing some of the general science journals as well as the American
Ethnologist which was cited a number of times in the study detailed in
this review under “Scope and Coverage.” Since the non-journal
literature is so important to this field, more coverage of it in the
database would be useful to researchers.

References Cited:

1. Greenberg, Joseph H. (1968) Anthropological Linguistics: An Introduction. NY: Random House.

2. Hickerson, Nancy Parrott (1980). Linguistic Anthropology. NY: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

3. Salzmann, Zdenek (1993). Language, Culture & Society: An
Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology. Boulder, CO. Westview Press.

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