Some Data on Publications on Sogdian

I’ve been keeping an updated bibliography of publications on Sogdian language and texts for a while now. It amounts to 624 entries, covering from 1904 (when Sogdian was first deciphered and published) to 2020, containing only works that are directly about Sogdian language, linguistics, or manuscripts. It’s more than one might expect for a pretty niche subject like Sogdian, but also certainly less than some related languages like Middle Persian.

I suppose it’s worth trying to do something interesting with all that data, besides just look at it and wish more people were researching Sogdian. So, here are some rough graphs.

We can start with how many publications on Sogdian there have been per year. As we might expect for any field, the rate of publications has increased over the past few decades, with a high of 25 in 2009 and 2017, and a close second of 24 in 2013.

We can break down publications on Sogdian by language of publication. Clearly, English (purple) and German (yellow) overwhelmingly predominate:

What about looking about both languages and number of publications per year? We can see that German (in orange below) dominates until just before the 1950s, with French (pink) second and only a few English (purple) publications. After that there is more of a mixture, and then English overwhelmingly dominant in recent decades.

Here are two separate graphs for easier viewing. The one on the left has 1904-1950 and the one on the right has 1951-2020.


Let’s look a little bit more at the individual scholars responsible for all these publications. The gender breakdown is not good at all, approximately 83% male and 17% female in terms of authors of publications (for co-authored papers, I counted it as female authorship if the first author was female; either way this doesn’t change the stats much at all):

A quick glance through this bibliography in list form, or indeed the works cited part of any specific publication on Sogdian, gives the impression that certain scholars are responsible for a far greater number of publications than others. The five authors with the most total publications are:

  1. Nicholas Sims-Williams     78
  2. Yutaka Yoshida                   70
  3. Christiane Reck                   33
  4. Werner Sundermann         29
  5. Zohre Zarshenas                 21

Together, these five account for 37% of all publications on the Sogdian language. What if we now consider the Sogdian data in terms of scholarly geneologies? We can distinguish a few main groups of teacher–student relations. The first seems to be scholars related to W. B. Henning, who was associated with SOAS and then Berkeley and who taught many of the second-generation Iranists. Other groups are smaller.

  • Walter Bruno Henning (d. 1967)
    • Martin Schwartz
    • Ilya Gershevitch (d. 2001) > Nicholas Sims-Williams > Adam Benkato
      (tangential: Yutaka Yoshida > Alisher Begmatov; Enrico Morano)
    • D. Neil Mackenzie (d. 2001) > Desmond Durkin-Meisterernst
  • Werner Sundermann (d. 2012) > Christiane Reck
  • Mark Dresden (d. 1986) > Badresaman Gharib > Zohre Zarshenas
  • Vladimir Livshits (d. 2017) > Pavel Lurje, Ilya Yakubovich

The Henning-origin group (or perhaps, the “London” school of Sogdian—but note that this only concerns location of study rather than school of thought) accounts for a total of 205 publications, or 33% of the total. The Berlin group is 62 publications or 10%, the Dresden/Iran group 38 or 6%, and the Russian group 41 publications or 7%. Of course, this grouping is just one way to do it. Quantifying scholarly lineages isn’t an exact science.

These are all rough estimates, of course, since there might be  a few publications I’m missing in the bibliography, in languages like Russian or Persian, and one could organize items like co-authored publications in different ways, but I seriously doubt that the overall trends depicted here would change significantly. While Sogdian is probably a somewhat unusual case for research fields in general, in terms of how few active scholars there are and how much a small group scholars have dominated the field, research on the other Middle Iranian languages probably has similar trends. The main exception would be Middle Persian—the field is older and broader in every way (more texts, more scholars in more locations around the world, etc.)—but I’m not about to put together a bibliography for it…

The latest version of my Sogdian bibliography is available at this link: BibTex file (can be easily imported to Zotero etc.) or Word doc (for ease of browsing).

1 thought on “Some Data on Publications on Sogdian

  1. Pingback: Sogdian Bibliography | Consulting Philologist

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