Citation beyond Google Scholar

In one of his Topic … Comment pieces, Geoff Pullum decried declining standards in citation of preceding literature. I have just experienced a new threat to our quest to properly acknowledge sources. While marking a student’s work, I was surprised to came across a citation of Silverstein (1986) which clearly referenced the article on “Hierarchy of features and ergativity” which I had always thought of as Silverstein (1976). As the dates differed by only only digit, I at first took this as a typo. But then I looked at the reference list and found that the reference was to a different version of the article, one of which I had not previously been aware. The bibliographic details given were clearly incorrect, or at least incomplete, so I turned to Google Scholar (as one does these days) to check the details.

Searching for “Hierarchy of features and ergativity” in Google Scholar gets one direct match:


and the citation details given are:


This was exactly the information which the student had collected. A search of my library catalogue enabled me to find that this was really a chapter in an edited volume:


Silverstein, M. (1986). Hierarchy of features and ergativity. In P. Muysken & H. van Riemsdijk (Eds.), Features and projections (p. 163–?). Dortrecht, Holland ; Riverton, USA: Foris.
As I said above, this is an article which I have always known as Silverstein (1976), full details as follows:
Silverstein, M. (1976). Hierarchy of Features and Ergativity. In R. M. W. Dixon (Ed.), Grammatical Categories in Australian Languages (pp. 112–171). Canberra: Australian National University.
 (Incidentally, I recovered these details from the BibTex version of the data supplied by the References section of the World Atlas of Language Structures Online, an impeccably assembled and maintained resource. A large tip of my hat to Matthew Dryer, Martin Haspelmath and Robert Forkel.)
I can understand that the 1986 publication came from a significant academic publisher while the 1976 version is (to put it mildly) obscure and it is therefore not suprising that Google has indexed one and not the other. But the bibliographic details for the indexed publication are horribly incomplete (I still need to make a trip to the library to check the page numbers), and part of the chronological record of scholarly endeavour has been lost here – which was also the topic Pullum was commenting on 1988.

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