Humanities Speak Many Languages: the Language of Summaries Published in Croatian Journals in the Field of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology


The scientific communication has changed. Changes are visible in the modalities of scientific publishing, especially those concerning languages of scientific publications. The aim of this research is to determine the characteristics of scientific communication patterns noticeable in journals in the field of ethnology and cultural anthropology published in Croatia. The research will focus on the languages in which the articles are published, and in particular the languages of summaries will be explored.


The research is based on a set of articles published in three Croatian scientific journals in the field of ethnology and cultural anthropology: “Etnološka tribina: godišnjak Hrvatskog etnološkog društva“, “Narodna umjetnost: hrvatski časopis za etnologiju i folkloristiku“ and “Studia ethnologica Croatica“. These are highly specialized journals in the mentioned area. Also, they are categorized as a1 journals in the field of humanities, according to “Pravilnik o uvjetima za izbor u znanstvena zvanja“ (Code on requirements for selection in scientific professions) (1). The research covered a five-year period, from 2014 to 2018. In this period, journals “Etnološka tribina“ published 5 issues, “Narodna umjetnost“ 10 issues, and “Studia ethnologica Croatica“ published 5 issues. The types of journal articles considered eligible for inclusion in the analysis are original scientific paper, preliminary communication, review article and professional paper. All three journals are open access and they are present at the Croatian national open access journal platform “Hrčak – Portal hrvatskih znanstvenih i stručnih časopisa“ (Hrčak – Portal of Croatian scientific and professional journals) (2). The resulting set of articles (194 articles) was than analysed for determining language practices. The following information was recorded for each article: language in which the full text of an article was published and choice of the language for the article summary.

Results and Discussion:

The analysis of languages in which the full text of the articles were published gave the following results: 46.4 % of articles were published in Croatian language (90/194), 48.5 % in English (94/194), 4.6 % in Serbian (9/194) and 0.5 % in Bosnian (1/194). The analysis of article summaries showed the total number of 400 summaries published in the analysed set of 194 articles. The summaries were published in following nine languages: 46 % in Croatian (184/400), 48.5 % in English (194/400), and 5.5 % in languages other than English (22/400; Albanian 3, Bayash Romanian 1, Bosnian 1, Polish 1, Romani Chib 1, Serbian 9, Slovak 1, Slovenian 4, Spanish 1). The dissemination of new knowledge by publishing articles in scientific journals is crucial in the development of most professions. In addition to the general, international standards applied in scientific research and scientific publishing, national scientific research policy and policymakers can also participate in the creation of the editorial practices.

In the Croatian context, we will mention “Upute za uređivanje i oblikovanje časopisa“ (Guidelines for journal editing and formatting) (3) prescribed by The Ministry of Science and Education of the Republic of Croatia. They require that all articles in scientific and professional journals should include, among other elements, a summary. The summary is a brief overview of the main ideas of an article. Along with the title and keywords, it has impact on a reader's intention to read or not to read the article. As for the language of the summaries published in Croatian scientific and professional journals, “Guidelines“ mention following recommendation: “Ako se časopis objavljuje na hrvatskom jeziku, sažetak se treba tiskati na hrvatskom i na jednom od svjetskih jezika.“ (If the journal is published in Croatian, the summary should be published in Croatian and in one of the world languages.) (3). In our research, the term 'world language' denotes the following languages: English, French, Spanish, Russian, German, Italian, Chinese and Portuguese. Although “Guidelines“ do not explicitly mention the English language, the results of our research have shown that summaries in English as the second language make up the largest share in the analysed set of articles. Besides following the aforementioned „Guidelines“, some novelties in editorial practices can be observed, too. We noticed the increase in the number of additional summaries published in languages that cannot be reduced to the general category of 'world languages' (e.g. summaries in Slovenian, Albanian, Romani, Slovak, Polish, etc.).

The diversity of languages of the summaries published in the set of articles analysed in this research is the result of the heterogeneous scientific publication patterns in the humanities. Also, every field in the humanities is characterized by specificities in scientific communication and publishing. Therefore, in the field of ethnology and cultural anthropology, as part of humanities, attention must be paid not only to ethnographic writing but also to other forms of communication among experts, which must be followed in writing and editing of scientific articles (4,5). The subject matter of scientific and professional articles in the humanities journals, as well as those from ethnology and cultural anthropology, has a particular national and regional interest, and therefore, publishing in the local language is a very common phenomenon in humanities (6). Publishing in the local languages makes science available to local community, and terminology development plays a pivotal role in enriching the language and culture of a society. In addition, articles can be published also in English, which potentially leads to greater international visibility and recognition of scientific work, and contributes to internationalisation of scientific community and research results.

The research conducted on the scientific and professional articles published in three Croatian scientific journals in the field of ethnology and cultural anthropology, during 2014 and 2018, confirms that English is the main foreign language in which articles (94/194, 48.5 %) and summaries (194/400, 48.5 %) are published. However, changes in editorial practices that have resulted in publishing of the articles in several languages have been recognized. In addition to the article summary in English, summaries are also published in languages other than English (22/400, 5.5 %). From this it can be assumed that the importance of language practices and publishing in the non-English languages, in the Croatian context, is recognized. The importance of this issue is confirmed by recent initiatives to encourage multilingualism in scientific communication (7).


The results of the scientific research of a wider scientific community, made up of speakers of different non-English languages, can become invisible and unrecognizable to the wider scientific community. In order to prevent such a language bias in science, it is advisable to publish articles in multiple languages. Multilingualism can encourage accessibility as well as transparency of scientific research, and it is important to mention that it also promotes the preservation of the languages of small-scale scientific communities. This can be accomplished by translating full-text articles into multiple languages, but also by publishing summaries not only in English but also in languages other than English.

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