Pacific Linguistics was established in 1963 through an initial grant from the Hunter Douglas Fund.
The earliest books were published in the name of the Linguistic Circle of Canberra. The founding editor was Professor Stephen A. Wurm, who sadly passed away late in 2001.
From 1963 until 1999 Pacific Linguistics published four series:
- Series A: Occasional Papers; collections of shorter papers, usually on a single topic or area
- Series B: Monographs of intermediate length.
- Series C: Books; publications of greater length, especially reference books such as dictionaries and grammars, and conference proceedings.
- Series D: Special Publications; including archival materials, pedagogical works, maps, audiovisual productions, and materials that do not fit into the other series.
From the beginning of 2000, only a single series was published, beginning with Pacific Linguistics 501. We are sometimes asked why we abandoned the four series. There were a number of reasons. Series A had long been problematic, as a volume could not be published until enough papers about languages of the relevant area/family were available to fill it, and this sometimes took years, to the annoyance of authors whose papers had already been accepted for publication. Series A was accordingly terminated. The borderline between Series B and C had always been hazy, and Series D simply included anything that didn’t fit into Series A, B and C. An added problem which readers complained of was that some libraries treated our series as journals and some would not allow them to leave the library, whereas most of our publications are properly catalogued as books, and we were keen to emphasise that our publications are books.