- The Slavic Linguistics Society Comes of Age
The Slavic Linguistics Society recently met for the tenth time. The most recent annual meeting was held in the ancient university city of Heidelberg during the gloriously warm and sunny early September of 2015. There in the beautiful Alte Aula of the oldest university in Germany, I had the opportunity to reflect on the history of the field in general and on the growth of our organization in particular. This column recapitulates my comments at that presentation and elaborates on some of the points made. As such, it serves as a taking stock, after ten years of efforts to create an organization that comprehends the diverse needs, interests, and expectations of those students and scholars for whom Slavic languages hold endless fascination. It also looks back to the last Reflections piece I wrote, almost twenty years ago (“Building Bridges,” JSL 4(1): 1–7).
In my mind, the story of SLS finds its origins in the first meeting of Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics, which took place in March 1992 at the University of Michigan. Although that first meeting, organized by Jindra Toman, was by invitation only, FASL quickly became a regular annual event, with increasingly competitive papers and solid proceedings. What I recall feeling after that meeting, however, was an overwhelming sense of how narrow and parochial it had been. The field, I realized, needed a forum that would be more ecumenical for the sharing of ideas of all sorts. We should be global, not insular; inclusive, not exclusive. And from that desire the Journal of Slavic Linguistics was born. George Fowler and I immediately got JSL rolling and the first issue appeared in 1993; I took over as Editor-in-Chief in 1997. The point of JSL was (and remains) to serve the entire population of Slavic linguists, regardless of theoretical orientation or topic of inquiry. As such, it gradually evolved to include a variety of formats and lengths, from topical issues to reprints of obscure papers, from brief remarks to lengthy papers, from annotated bibliographies, reviews, and review articles to [End Page 189] Reflections columns such as this one and to In Memorium pieces such as the one in this issue for for our dear friends Jens Norgard-Sørensen and Charlie Townsend. But the real change took place in 2006, when JSL was adopted as the official journal of a new society—this very organization in fact: the Slavic Linguistics Society. Since then, JSL and SLS have together both grown and grown together. We now have about 160 paying members and there are over 1000 subscribers to the SLS Facebook site. (Facebook is of course free to join, and it suggests potential for further membership growth.)
While this chronology of the journal anteceding the society may be somewhat unusual, it makes perfect sense in that both arose to fill the same niche. Other meetings (with proceedings but not formal organizations) such as FASL or its European counterpart Formal Description of Slavic Languages (essentially German, with its biennial meetings alternating between Potsdam and Leipzig, the 11th of which was in Potsdam this December) tended to be too specialized. And this was even more true of the so-called “.5” or “halftime” FDSL meetings, four of which have now taken place alongside the larger, more general meetings. The Slavic Cognitive Linguistics Association, founded in 2000 by Laura Janda and Stephen Dickey, also has its annual meetings, but these are narrower still in focus. As for larger organizations with annual meetings that might include (or at least tolerate) Slavic linguistics, most are national organizations and all are far too broad. (I have in mind groups such as the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages, the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (formerly the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, but still fundamentally American), the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies, the Canadian Association of Slavists, and others). It was thus clear that, just as we needed a journal to serve the field at large, we needed an international organization dedicated specifically to Slavic linguistics. This was SLS, which, to quote...