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  • The Editor's DepartmentLast scene of all . . .1
  • Brian D. Joseph

I have been thinking about this column for a long time—seven years to be exact—as my plan from the start of my editorship was to provide some sort of commentary from me as editor for each issue for which I was responsible. I had a number of topics in mind at the outset, but certainly did not have the twenty or so columns that would be needed already planned out ahead of time in January 2002.2 While most of my columns have been focused on aspects of the journal's history or of journal procedure, in many instances the content of a particular piece came to me adventitiously along the way. The idea of commenting (in Language 79.3, 2003) on the publication of Language's Twentieth-century index, for instance, came to me only late in 2002, after the index had come out and I had had a chance to look through it and ponder its import; and the thought to discuss the practical matter of our accepting job ads (Language 82.4, 2006) arose only when that particular innovation was decided on in 2006. But all along, I had a good idea that in this last column, I would talk about how I have personally developed as a linguist while editor and about my view, from my vantage point as editor, of how the field has developed, thus forming in a way a pendant to my column in the previous issue (Language 84.3.471–73), which summed up the editorial aspect of my past seven years.

With regard to my personal growth as a linguist, that is, how my understanding of linguistics has been affected during my term as editor, the past seven years have given me exposure to areas within our field, such as phonetics and semantics, that I would not normally read much in (from a lack of time rather than a lack of interest). That previous gap in my coverage of the field was a lamentable, if unavoidable, consequence of the need to stay current in my areas of specialization, so I have welcomed the opportunity that the editorship offered me to broaden my scope. Although I can continue to read the articles published in the journal, I will miss the wide-ranging view of the field that the submissions to Language collectively have provided. The breadth has always been stimulating to ponder, and seeing it before me on an almost daily basis, as papers came in from all corners of the field (and the globe), has given me a renewed appreciation for just how many interesting and important discoveries are being made and are to be made about language. It has been exciting, too, to be in on the latest developments as reported on in research submitted from leading linguists and neophytes [End Page 686] alike. I have gained perspective from that sense of involvement with the 'breaking news' of linguistic research and will miss it.3

As for how the field looks now, I don't pretend to have any particularly dramatic new insights, but after reading close to 900 papers in linguistics over the past seven years, representing some of the best research in our discipline (and related ones—see below), I feel I have earned the right to hold forth somewhat on this matter.4 Thus, drawing largely on impressions formed from observing the field up close during this period, I offer here my sense of trends in the field, construed in its broadest sense, and of ways in which it seems somewhat different (to me) from even just seven years ago, before I embarked on this crash course in linguistics as a whole.

  1. i. Linguistics has always been an empirical enterprise, concerned with data and facts and description, but it seems that the bar has been raised on the nature of the evidence we work with. That is, research papers are more experimentally based now than ever before ('experimental' in the sense of pertaining to any sort of controlled investigation5). Also, they are more corpus-based, with many studies using as primary data...


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