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  • Editor's DepartmentEditorial highs and lows: Some reflections
  • Brian D. Joseph

In my annual report for 2005, published in Language 82.2 (June 2006), I noted that the end of 2005 meant that I was well past 'the halfway mark of my editorship' and that I was therefore 'on the downhill slope . . . of my service' (p. 466). The final part of that slope began in spirit for me just after the January 2008 LSA annual meeting, some six months ago as I write this. But it has really begun in earnest only in the past month, as my successor has (finally) been selected.1 This happy turn of events puts me in a position to begin to reflect somewhat on my own term of office.

I am sure that every editor in looking back over his/her period of service (whether the now-traditional seven years in the case of Sarah Thomason, Mark Aronoff, and me, or longer, in the case of the first three editors, George Bolling, Bernard Bloch,2 and William Bright) cannot help but contemplate the successes of that stretch as well as the failures. Thus in this, my second-to-last Editor's Department as editor,3 I offer a (necessarily subjectively determined) list of some of the strong points and the weak points of my time at the helm of Language.

Here are what I would consider to be high points:

  • • Each issue included excellent and varied content, with some truly exceptional articles that should become oft-cited classics.

  • • With the exception of four issues in the first two years as my staff and I were getting the hang of the process of bringing out an issue of the journal, all issues of Language during my term have appeared on time, in the month designated on the cover.

  • • My decision letters for all submissions contained substantive comments to the author(s) on their papers. I feel strongly that every author deserves the editor's fullest attention, no matter what the outcome, and thus I acted accordingly in crafting my decision letters. Fulfilling this self-imposed mandate admittedly was time-consuming, and it would have been easy with some submissions, especially those that clearly were misdirected—having been sent in by authors who did not fully appreciate what sort of journal Language is—to just send perfunctory rejections. I am pleased that I resisted the urge to do that, however, as I saw myself as serving an educational role as editor beyond the merely editorial function.

  • • The 'Letters to Language' section was a frequent, even if not constant, part of Language's content. (I confess that I initiated this section largely because I have always found the 'Letters to the Editor' section of local newspapers to be particularly interesting, a way of taking the pulse, so to speak, of the reading public, and I hoped for similar results from Language's readership.)

  • • An Editor's Department column appeared in each issue; to some extent, these were an indulgence, and I think it is fair to say that I did them as much for myself and [End Page 471] for my own enjoyment (maybe more so, I realize) as for Language's readers. Still, I have tried to cover a wide range of topics, largely focusing on issues of editorial concern and matters pertaining to the history of the journal; the former were aimed at giving a greater transparency to Language's operations and policies and the latter were intended to offer the LSA membership some tidbits about their journal that might not otherwise be brought before them.

  • • The accomplishments and lives of LSA past presidents continued to be recognized through the obituaries (with some long overdue ones being finished—after some nudging and cajoling in some instances—and published even when it would have been easy to just let them slide and to forget about them).

  • • Dialogue was promoted through the journal's Discussion Notes and similar venues (e.g. the new 'Alternative (Re)views', inaugurated in the June 2008 issue).

  • • A successful transition was managed from print book notices to electronic book notices, which now reside in cyberspace as a part of eLanguage (http...


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pp. 471-473
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