The following information relates to Open Access in the philological sciences -  that is, the disciplines that deal with the language, literature, culture, and media of modern languages. These disciplines include, in particular, German Studies, Romance Studies, Slavic Studies, and Comparative Studies. Here, the focus is on literary studies and linguistics.

Open Access in the philological sciences

Established models of publishing and disseminating research results continue to predominate in the philological sciences, especially with regard to mechanisms of quality assurance, academic recognition, prestige, and business models. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that digital availability and use has great advantages, particularly in the case of resources such as edited volumes, journals, manuals, and text editions that tend to be consulted selectively rather than read in their entirety. However, the step from publishing in digital form to providing open access (OA) to digital publications is one that has not been taken by many representatives of the philological sciences. The field of linguistics, where access to digital resources such as corpora and tools plays an important role, is somewhat ahead of literary studies in this regard. However, in the philological sciences as a whole, a cautious change in attitudes to OA is perceptible.

Open Access journals

Literary studies

The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ; see below) lists about 300 journals in the category "language and literature," 10 of which are published in the German-speaking area (as of July 2018).

They include the following journals in the domain of literary and cultural studies: Textpraxis, Humboldt im Netz (HiN), the American Studies Journal, the Journal of Dutch Literature, and Romanische Studien. Other OA journals in the domain of literary studies are TRANS (since 1997),, IASLonline, HeliX and PhiN (since 1997).

Moreover, OA review journals also play an important role in literary studies, especially in German Studies (for scholarly literature and fiction), in Franco-Romance Studies, and the cross-disciplinary journalIASLonline.


The linguistics journals listed in DOAJ include Linguistik Online (since 1998), the Zeitschrift für Interkulturellen Fremdsprachenunterricht, and Constructions. Other OA journals in the domain of linguistics are the Journal of Linguistics and Language Teaching, Afrikanistik-Ägyptologie Online, and Language@Internet.

Further information

New purely OA journals are being founded, for example Romanische Studien (since 2015) in Romance Studies, and Closure (since 2014) in Anglistics.

Some 78 OA journals in the philological sciences, most of which are published in French, are currently listed on the platform A comparable platform does not exist in Germany. Rather, local services predominate, for example the "HEIJournals" platform in Heidelberg and the Journal Server of the Hamburg University Press.

Beyond the field of journals, a culture of scholarly OA blogging is developing. It is being fostered, inter alia, by the platform which currently hosts 110 blogs from the area of the philological sciences, ten of which are in German.

Disciplinary repositories

GiNDok is a central OA repository for German Studies. It is successively compiling works that have been published elsewhere in OA and making them accessible at one location and via a uniform search interface. However, this central document server model is slow to gain ground

CompaRe is a disciplinary repository that is being built within the framework of the project "Fachinformationsdienst Allgemeine und Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft" (Specialised Information Service for Comparative Literature). It provides a publication platform for all philologists who work comparatively. However, this central document server model is only slowly gaining ground.

OstDok is the central Open Access and publication platform for interdisciplinary research on Eastern, Central Eastern and South Eastern Europe.

MENAdoc offers free access to a variety of digital sources and publications related to the MENA region and Islam

As yet, there are no comparable, cross-disciplinary repositories for other philological sciences. Hence, in these disciplines the fragmentation of the services across the repositories of the individual university libraries is even more pronounced. However, searches across a large number of these repositories are possible (see below).

In the individual philological sciences, there are central repositories in the countries of origin of the languages in question, for example the portal HAL-SHS in France. The European repository is also worthy of mention here.

However, the fact that conditions vary depending on the publisher, the publication form, and the context in which the contributions arise hampers the further spread of this practice (keyword: secondary publication rights).


Voices critical of the Open Access idea can be found on the web pages of the Institut für Textkritik.

Literature and data searches in the philological sciences

Philology-specific services

In a number of philological sciences there are so-called virtual specialised libraries - that is, specialised portals that not only offer parallel media searches in selected library catalogues and specialised bibliographies but also collections of academically relevant and annotated internet sources and an overview of print- and e-journals. Portals such as this exist in various areas. Worthy of mention are, for example, Germanistik im Netz (GiN), Vifarom (France and Italy), Cibera (Spain, Portugal, Latin America), the AAC (Library of Anglo-American Culture and History), and the Slavistik-Portal. For the most part, these portals do not enable targeted searching for OA content. In the field of linguistics, the LINGUIST List has functions that resemble those of a specialised portal. Moreover, it frequently addresses the subject of OA.   

Transdisciplinary services

Services such as the KVK (digital media only) and EROMM (European Register of Microform and Digital Masters) enable searches across a large number of institutional repositories. One well-established venue for searching for OA journals is the EZB (Electronic Journals Library). Like BASE (Bielefeld Academic Search Engine), it enables targeting searches for freely available journals.    

Although they do not focus specifically on the philological sciences, the DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals), OpenDOAR (Directory of Open Access Repositories), and ROAR (Registry of Open Access Repositories) are important venues for transdisciplinary searches for OA content. Since 2012, there is also a Directory of Open Access Books, DOAB, which currently lists almost 3000 monographs. The Registry of Research Data Repositories, re3data, is a new player. Besides research data, it also lists other resources (projects, tools, institutions) and enables targeted searches for OA content.

Key players

In recent years, several scholarly societies in the philological sciences have established working groups that deal with digital change in the theory and practice of research and teaching. With varying intensity, these working groups also address the topic of OA.

Some publishers in the humanities act cautiously while others demonstrate cautious openness towards OA. Although established business models remain in place, the principle is gaining ground that contributions published in print editions of edited volumes or journals may be self-archived in a repository upon expiry of an embargo period. Some publishers allow only the author's version (without the publisher's layout) to be self-archived, while others (for example Winter Universitätsverlag, Gunter Narr, and de Gruyter) permit the archiving of the publisher's version. However, the fact that conditions vary depending on the publisher and the form of publication hampers the spread of this practice.

A number of libraries have assumed an important role in promoting and implementing OA and Open Data -  a role that goes far beyond pure digitisation activities. These libraries also take account of the philological sciences, but they do not focus specifically on them. However, these disciplines, in particular, can benefit from the services. For several years now, the Göttingen State and University Library (SUB) and the Bavarian State Library (BSB) in Munich have organised information events and conferences and conducted projects on the subject of OA.

Individual scholars in the philological sciences expressly support OA and Open Data, also beyond the context of the "Digital Humanities". They include Gerhard Lauer, Andrea Rapp, Martin Huber, Fotis Jannidis and Laurent Romary. Voices critical of the OA idea can be heard on the web pages of the Institut für Textkritik.

Open Science

Literary studies

The aspect of Open Science that plays an increasingly important role in literature studies is open access to text data (Open Data). The so-called Erlanger Liste (German Studies) also contains a list of freely accessible digital texts; the Catalog of Digital Scholarly Editions currently contains descriptions of over 350 digital text editions; and the ZVDD (Central Directory of Digitised Prints) lists mainly digital facsimiles.

Important ports of call for digital full texts include TextGrid's Digitale Bibliothek (Digital Library), the Deutsche Textarchiv (German Text Archive, DTA), which also enables large amounts of text to be downloaded, and the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek (the German Digital Library). In the foreign language philologies, services such as Gallica (France), the Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes (Spain), the Biblioteca Italiana (Italy), Project Gutenberg (mainly English), and the excellent Oxford Text Archive (OTA) make full texts available, sometimes also in standard formats.


Access to text- and language corpora plays a much greater role in linguistics - especially in corpus and computer linguistics - than is currently the case in literary studies. The dominant way in which corpora are provided is to set up a web-based query option (either freely accessible, usable free of charge after registration, or not freely accessible). This makes optimal use of the structure and annotation of the corpora, and requires neither download nor software installation. However, as a rule, the corpora and tools themselves cannot be downloaded and reused for further dissemination or analysis. This is often due to copyright reasons.

Examples include the COSMAS corpora of the IDS (Institute for the German Language) in Mannheim, Varitext (French, University of Cologne), and the DWDS (Digital Dictionary of the German Language), where a core corpus (Kerncorpus) can be freely downloaded. By contrast, LAUDATIO (Humboldt Universität Berlin), which focuses on corpora of historical language stages, practises an OA model. The European initiative LRE Map covers a large number of linguistic resources (data, tools, guidelines). In linguistics, the Open Source idea plays an increasingly important role insofar as some tools are offered under open licences, and the standardisation and interoperability of data are taken into account.


  • German Research Foundation (DFG), "Appell zur Nutzung offener Lizenzen in der Wissenschaft", Information für die Wissenschaft, 68, 2014.
  • Open Access Working Group: "Open Access. Positionen, Prozesse, Perspektiven", Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany, 2009.
  • Stefan Gradmann: "Vom Verfertigen der Gedanken im digitalen Diskurs : Versuch einer wechselseitigen Bestimmung hermeneutisch und empirizistischer Positionen", in: Historical Social Research, 29.1. 2004, pp. 56-63. URL:


Content editor of this web page: Dr Christof Schoech.