- Looking ahead, looking back—past, present, and future
Balkanists, those scholars who study the interactions among the languages (and peoples) of the Balkans, often talk, half-jokingly, about conferences and events being run on ‘Balkan time’, by which we mean that punctuality is not an issue.1 In editing this journal, however, punctuality is crucial, so that I find I must constantly be conscious of time.
A curious aspect of this necessary careful attention to time in the journal business is that one always has to be looking ahead, no matter what time of year it is (even year-end, typically a time for reflecting back on the year that has just ended). In the usual case, one issue of Language is in the final stages of production (i.e. proofs being read and checked by authors and by editorial assistants and corrections being made by the compositors) as the next one is entering the early stages (i.e. accepted papers being sent out for copyediting and ultimate conversion into journal pages), while at the same time papers are being accepted for the issue beyond that one. Further, book reviews and book notices roll in on their own schedule, to be folded into each issue as space permits. As if that weren’t enough, every three months the production cycle starts anew, offering a rhythm to editorial life that keeps us busy, but productively so, that is, always involved and engaged; clearly, there is never any ‘down’ time for Language. One way of thinking about this time-merge is that the past and the future of the journal are always integral parts of the present for us.2
Looking ahead to the future is thus crucial in my role as editor. As it happens, despite appearing at the end of the year, this piece has been gestating in my thinking over several months, during which time a variety of factors caused me to look ahead along other fronts. One came in the form of a provisional tally, ranging over the past year, that was made in the Language office as part of the preparation for my putting together my annual report. In addition, two events—the spring 2003 Central Ohio District Science Day (held at Columbus State Community College in Columbus on March 22, 2003) and the Linguistic Institute at Michigan State University in the summer—stimulated my thinking further on the future, thus leading to this piece.
What do all these have to do with one another? As I see it, they all pertain in some way to the future of the field and thus require some longer-range looking ahead.
The informal tally showed that submissions to Language are up considerably this year over the previous year (see the text of the report in next year’s June issue for full details). We are thus in a ‘bull’ market for linguistics as far as Language is concerned. But, as one must wonder with all bull markets, will it continue, and if so, for how long? Moreover, where will the papers for future issues come from? More generally, to pose a single key question for our field: Where will the linguists of the future come from?
The answers—in part—lie in the two events I mentioned above.
I had the chance to spend three weeks this past summer at the LSA Institute, where, as at past Institutes for many decades, there were not only senior scholars teaching [End Page 679] classes, giving talks, participating in workshops, and the like, but also large numbers of younger scholars, both recently minted Ph.D.s and current graduate students, as well as some undergraduates. All were joined by a common interest in language in its myriad of aspects, the tie that binds all of us in the Linguistic Society together. Clearly, the future of our field was visible to anyone in attendance there.
At the Science Day, which I had occasion to attend as a judge, nothing but young scholars could be seen, and in a sense, this may be where the answer to my question really lies. Most Institute participants have already made a commitment to our...