Thursday, May 18, 2017

YAAC ("yet again about copyright")

Some sensible remarks from the Director of UofA's copyright office.  Importantly, the UofA relinquishes its rights to the copyright of work written by faculty members.  Faculty members own the copyright of their writings.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

IBUS bug fix ... again (sigh!)

Further to, I found the same bug cropping up in Linux Mint 18.1, with IBUS 1.15.11.

Some applications don't like IBUS + m17n, and certain input mim files. For example, LibreOffice and JabRef.  Trying to type "ācārya" will give the result is "ācāry a". And in other strings, some letters are inverted: "is" becomes "si" and so forth.

Here's the fix.

Create a file called, say with the following one-line content:
Copy the file to the directory /etc/profile.d/, like this:
sudo cp /etc/profile.d
Make the file executable, like this:
sudo chmod +x /etc/profile.d/
Logout and login again.


This fixes the behaviour of IBUS + m17n with most applications, including LibreOffice and Java applications like JabRef.  However, some applications compiled with QT5 still have problems.  So, for example, you have to use the version of TeXStudio that is compiled with QT4, not QT5.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Dvandva compounds of adjectives

Some discussions supporting the existence of this formation:
  • Speyer, Sanskrit Syntax, para 208
  • Whitney, para 1257
  • Burrow, The Skt Language, p.219

Thursday, September 29, 2016

What's the point of an academic journal?


I find that I often read my academic colleagues' papers at and other similar repositories, or they send me their drafts directly.  I am not always aware of whether the paper has been published or not.  Sometimes I can see that I'm looking at a word-processed document (double spacing, etc.); other times the paper is so smart it's impossible to distinguish from a formally-published piece of writing (LaTeX etc.).

Reading colleagues' drafts gives me access to the cutting edge of recent research.  Reading in a journal can mean I'm looking at something the author had finished with one, two or even three years ago.  In that sense, reading drafts is like attending a conference.  You find out what's going on, even if the materials are rough at the edges.  You participate in the current conversation.

In many ways, reading colleagues' writings informally like this is more similar to the medieval ways of knowledge-exchange that were dominated by letter-writing.  The most famous example is Mersenne (fl. 1600), who was at the centre of a very important network of letter-writers, and just preceded the founding of the first academic journal, Henry Oldenberg's Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (founded 1665).

What am I missing?

Editorial control

What I don't get by reading private drafts is the curatorial intervention of a board of editors.  A journals' editorial board acts as a gatekeeper for knowledge, making decisions about what is worth propagating and what is not worth propagating.  The board also makes small improvements and changes to submissions, required since many academic authors are poor writers, and because of the natural processes of error. So, a good editorial board makes curatorial decisions about what to display, and improves quality.

Counter-argument: Many editorial boards don't do their work professionally. The extended "advisory board members" are window-dressing; the real editorial activity is often carried out by only one dynamic person, perhaps with secretarial support.  This depends, of course, on the size of the journal and the academic field it serves.  I'm thinking of sub-fields in the humanities.

Archiving and findability

A journal also provides archival storage for the long term.  This is critically important.  An essential process in academic work is to "consult the archive."  The archive has to actually be there in order to be accessed.  A journal - in print or electronically - offers a stable way of finding scholars' work through metadata tagging (aka cataloguing), and through long-term physical or electronic storage.  If I read a colleagues' draft, I may not be able to find it again in a year's time.  Is it still at  Where?  Did I save a copy on my hard drive?  Is my hard drive well-organized and backed up (in which case, is it a journal of sorts?)?

Counter-argument:  Are electronic journals archival?  Are they going to be findable in a decade's time?  Some are, some aren't.  The same goes for print, but print is - at the present time - more durable, and more likely to be findable in future years.  An example is the All India Ayurvedic Directory, published in the years around the 1940s.  A very valuable document of social and medical history.  It's unavailable through normal channels.  Only a couple of issues have been microfilmed or are in libraries.  Most of the journal is probably available in Kottayam or Trissur in Kerala, but it would take a journey to find it and a lot of local diplomatic effort to be given permission to see it.  Nevertheless, it probably exists, just.


A journal may develop a reputation that facilitates trust in the articles published by that journal.  This is primarily of importance for people who don't have time to read for themselves and to engage in the primary scholarly activity of thinking and making judgements based on arguments and evidence.  A journal's prestige may also play a part in embedding it in networks of scholarly trust and shared but not known knowledge, in the sense developed by Michael Polanyi (Personal Knowledge, The Tacit Dimension and other writings).


At the moment, I can't think of any other justifications for the existence of journals.  But if editorial functions and long-term storage work properly, they are major factors that are worth having.

Further reading


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Getting Xindy to work for IAST-encoded text

Xindy is an index-processor for use with TeX and LaTeX.  It is a successor to Makeindex, and is the standard system for formatting and sorting indexes and glossaries that go with LaTeX documents.


The main distribution of Xindy is included in TeXlive and is downloadable at CTAN.  At the time of writing (July 2016), this is version 2.5.1 (2014).  The source code used to be maintained at Sourceforge (Xindy at sourceforge, currently version 2.3 from 2008), but a later version is now available at Github (Xindy at Github).  Since Github has version 2.5.0, source development and compilation for TeXlive must be going on somewhere else, but I don't know where.   The best place to fetch Xindy if you want to tinker with it is from the CTAN base directory.

Use and benefits

The development of Xindy is uneven, given the various repositories with different versions.  The documentation is also of limited use to beginners, being technical and out of date (the examples in the tutorial do not work with the current software release).   Nevertheless, it is a very flexible and powerful program, and does a great job when it works.  And for many texts and nearly fifty modern languages, it "just works," which is great.

In LaTeX documents, the packages index, makeidx or imakeidx will normally be used to provide the macros needed for indexes.  Xindy does the rest.

Sanskrit and IAST

For my writing, I normally use XeTeX with LaTeX and I write using Unicode UTF8 encoding and the IAST transliteration scheme when doing Sanskrit in Roman script.  (For Devanagari I use normal Unicode encoding.)

Xindy by itself doesn't recognize the IAST accented characters like vowels with a macron or consonants with under-dot.  I found that setting Xindy's language to "general" did a pretty good job of nearly all the characters, but not all.  I got words with ā-, ṛ- etc. at the beginning of the index, before "A."


The program for creating a new "alphabet" for Xindy is in Perl and is called make-rules.  I couldn't initially find it at all, because it isn't at the Sourceforge or GitHub repositories (or I couldn't find it).  Later, I found it at CTAN, and I wish I'd seen that earlier.

Finally, I could not get make-rules to work.  The documentation and tutorials simply didn't provide me with enough accurate information to start, as a beginner, and get a workable result from make-rules.

Solution (aka kludge)

I therefore made up a very simple Xindy style file, IAST.xdy, with the following content:
(merge-rule "ā" "a")    (merge-rule "Ā" "a")    (merge-rule "ḍ" "d")    (merge-rule "Ḍ" "d")    (merge-rule "ḥ" "h")    (merge-rule "Ḥ" "h")    (merge-rule "ī" "i")    (merge-rule "Ī" "i")    (merge-rule "ḹ" "l")  (merge-rule "ḷ" "l")    (merge-rule "Ḹ" "l")  (merge-rule "Ḷ" "l")    (merge-rule "ṃ" "m")            (merge-rule "Ṃ" "m")            (merge-rule "ṅ" "n")    (merge-rule "Ṅ" "n")    (merge-rule "ṇ" "n")    (merge-rule "Ṇ" "n")    (merge-rule "ṝ" "r")     (merge-rule "ṛ" "r")    (merge-rule "Ṝ" "r")     (merge-rule "Ṛ" "r")    (merge-rule "ṣ" "s")    (merge-rule "Ṣ" "s")    (merge-rule "ś" "s")    (merge-rule "Ś" "s")    (merge-rule "ṭ" "t")    (merge-rule "Ṭ" "t")    (merge-rule "ū" "u")   (merge-rule "Ū" "u")
  • I place IAST.xdy in my local TeX tree, namely as  ../localtexmf/xindy/modules/IAST.xdy 
  • I run "sudo mktexlsr" to rebuild the TeXlive indexes so that Xindy can find IAST.xdy
  • I then run Xindy from the Linux command line with the following syntax:

    texindy -I xelatex -M iast.xyd -L general -o foobar.ind foobar.idx
This last point is a Knuthian white lie (TeXbook, vii).  I currently use TeXStudio for actual writing, so the above "command line" is entered into TeXStudio's "options/configure/commands" menu and invoked with a convenient function-key shortcut. 


  • texindy is just xindy with some tweaks for use with LaTeX
  • -I means the input file use "xelatex" encoding, i.e., UTF8
  • -M means please use this style file
  • -L means please use the pseudo-language "general" which does the right thing with most UTF8-encoded Roman / European text.
  • "foobar" is replaced by your TeX filename; in TeXStudio's syntax it's "%", which stands for whatever file you're currently working on, 

I'm now getting results that look like this, which is what I was after:

I'm sure that all this could be done more elegantly and completely.  In the longer run, I hope a successor to IAST.xdy might take its place alongside all the other languages formally supported by Xindy.
While working on this, I sent cries for help to the Xindy discussion list.  Zdenek Wagner replied, and shared with me work he has done towards indexing Hindi and Marathi in Devanagari script.