Define how to express "anonymous" and "et al" as names #34

bdarcus opened this Issue Mar 19, 2011 · 9 comments


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2 participants

Citation Style Language member

Beside normal names (either literal or build of given, familiy etc.) there are two special cases:

  • Unknown names ("anonymous")
  • Abbreviated lists of names ("et al")

In combination with normal names you can have the following cases

Alice and Bob.

Alice, Bob et al.


anonymous et al.

Alice, Bob, and anonymous

Alice, Bob, anonymous et al. (maybe)

It is not clearly defined how to express this in CSL data input format.
Existing CSL styles typically test whether a name variable is empty. If it is, the "anonymous" term can be used. Here is a guess how to express the cases above (question marks = unclear):

"author" : [ {"given":"Alice"}, {"given":"Bob"} ]

"author" : [ {"given":"Alice"}, {"given":"Bob"}, ??? ]

"author" : [ ] or "author" : [ { } ] or no author field at al ???

"author" : [ ??? ]

"author" : [ {"given":"Alice"}, {"given":"Bob"}, { } ] ???

"author" : [ {"given":"Alice"}, {"given":"Bob"}, ??? ]

The "et al" case could be be solved by a specific type of name, but this needs to be discussed:

  • Normal name: {"given":"Alice"}
  • Anonymous: { }
  • et al : { "etal": 1 }

Citation Style Language member
  • Changed content.

Original Comment By: Jakob Voss
Citation Style Language member

Why the need for explicit "anonymous" support? E.g. what's wrong with the
current behavior? I know hypothetically we could end up with a mix of anon and
other names as you outline, but does this actually happen practically?

On "et al" I'm reluctant to support this without clearly demonstrated need;
opens up a potentially big can-of-worms.

Original Comment By: Bruce D'Arcus
Citation Style Language member

The cases I see for et al. are (1) that of reused citations-- it is possible
to not know the entirety of the creators' collective if all we know is the
data presented in a citation. Alternatively (2) a list of editors for a volume
might explicitly include an et al. -- the full listing might be unknown, or it
could just not be in the source of bibliographic data that someone is using
(say, a library catalog). In case (2), there is often a lead editor who can be
cited, but that isn't always the case.

Original Comment By: Anonymous
Citation Style Language member

The previous post is mine.

Original Comment By: ajlyon
Citation Style Language member

The first case isn't really our problem in my view (if people want their
citations formatted correctly, they can do the trivial work to track down that
information; same issue applies if a citation includes only the first initial
of the author, but the output style requires the full name).

The second could be an issue, but I've never seen it myself. Can you post a
couple/few links to examples?

Original Comment By: Bruce D'Arcus
Citation Style Language member

Re the second case, one could use a name suffix as a workaround. I've made a
small adjustment to citeproc-js to handle that case -- testing for an all-
lowercase suffix, and in that case only, including it in the short form within
a citation, and excluding it from the name for disambiguation purposes.

Original Comment By: Frank Bennett
Citation Style Language member

Taking stock on this ticket, the call for real-world examples where explicit "Anonymous" is required hasn't been answered, and we have coverage of explicit "et al." in one of the implementations. The supporting tests are here (for long-form names) and here (for short-form names).

Without a concrete use case, the potential issue of explicit Anonymous can be dropped, at least for the present. For explicit et al, the only question seems to be whether the behavior illustrated in the tests should be adopted as an expectation of CSL processors or not. If it is adopted, the tests can stay where they are (in the standard test suite), with supporting language in the specification. If it is not, the tests should be removed from the standard test set.

If anyone has an objection to amending the spec to include this behavior, I'll move the tests out and we can close this ticket. Otherwise, we can close this ticket and open one against the specification. I don't have an opinion either way; if there is a single veto, I'm happy to pull the tests.

Citation Style Language member

I agree; we still have yet to have the "clearly demonstrated need" I asked about (e.g. practical examples of where CSL can't now support particular output expectations).

The most common anonymous case I'm aware of just has the author listed as "Anonymous" and can be deduced by the lack of any listed contributor.

I'm not fond of treating the "et al" string as a component of the family name for the first author in that test; doing so effectively blesses a particular, non-ideal, solution. I'd urge just dropping this for now.

Citation Style Language member

Just to think of how we might deal with this if we wanted to, I'd suggest two reserved names, that might be deployed like this in a legacy format like RIS:

A1  - anonymous

... and:

A1  - et al

... but that's a bit ugly, and opens up the can-o-worms I mentioned above (like why use english traditions for the reserved words; even if they're latin).

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