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Linguistics Conferences

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What type of conferences have you attended? where? and what are your experiences? and what advice do you have for those of us just entering this enchanted path?

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Here is what I know, mostly for formal (theoretical) syntax/semantics. Apply to your own field at your discretion. 


Q. What are conferences for? 

A. To present ongoing work to the linguistic community. To get your name and face out there, to meet other working linguists, to get known as a person who works on X.


Q. When should you start attending? 

A. Probably at least a couple of years before you go on the job market, to start getting your name out there. I don't think there is any harm in not applying to conferences in your first year and also having just limited experience in your second year, and saving your effort and funding for years 3-5. I would generally not recommend going to the LSA until the year before you go on the job market (to get a feel for it) or only the year you apply, because it's very different than "normal" conferences and it's not that useful of a venue in general. Generally, you should think about going to conferences in the part of the world you want to have a job/live in. So, if you want to get a job in the Asian market, you need to go to conferences there. Same for Europe. If you're planning to apply in the US you could mostly go there to save money, but you should still try and go to Europe once in a while because you'll meet different people there who do things a different way than in the US. Their questions will be different, the focus is different, it's good to be aware of. If you specialize in a certain language/language family, it's good to go to dedicated conferences to meet the other specialists. 


Q. What happens at a conference?

A. It's always a busy 2-3 days full of talks and posters. You start early, you go until late, and then you (sometimes) go out in the evening. Some drinking might take place and (once you know the right people) it's a great place to catch up on all the latest gossip. It's a great opportunity to meet famous people and make connections with other students. Remember -- these students will become your peers, you should also have relationships with them and not only with the famous professors. Peers doing similar research are likely to review your papers in years to come, they will co-organize events with you, they might invite you to their campus, etc. Even if you are an introverted person, you should spend some time in a conference talking to new people and being outside your comfort zone -- I promise it'll pay off in the long run. 


Q. How do I find out about conferences, how do I know which ones to apply for?

A. Consult with your advisor. Check for calls for papers on the linguist list. Remember, conferences normally come in two seasons - Fall and Spring, with abstract submission deadlines a few months earlier - some time in the summer for fall conferences, and towards the end of the year for spring conferences. Plan ahead.


Q. What are some good conferences? 

A. Here is what I can think of (mostly for syntax/semantics): 


The annual large conference happening at the same time as the MLA, bringing together different kinds of linguists that don't normally meet:

LSA - Linguistics Society of America (first week of January)


The two large US conferences, featuring all fields but recently putting more emphasis on syntax: 

NELS - North East Linguistic Society (October)

WCCFL - West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (April)


Other general conferences

BLS - Berkeley Linguistics Society (February)

PLC - Penn Linguistics Conference (March)

CLS - Chicago Linguistics Society (April)

ESSLLI - European Summer School in Logic, Language, and Information (Summer)

DGfS workshops - Deutche Gesellschaft fuer Sprachwissenschaft (multiple, different topics throughout the year)


GLOW - Generative Linguistics in the Old World (April, Europe)
GLOW in Asia



SuB - Sinn und Bedeutung (October, Europe)

AC - Amsterdam Colloquium (December, Europe)

SALT - Semantics and Linguistic Theory (May, US)


Experimental syntax/semantics:

CUNY - CUNY conference on human sentence processing (March, US)

Linguistic Evidence (February, Europe, every other year)

Cognitive Science Society (Summer, moves around)



BUCLD - BU Conference on Language Development

GALANA - Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition-North America

Numerous other workshops

MFM - Manchester Phonology Meeting (May)
Language group specific:
FASL - Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics
FAJL - Formal Approaches to Japanese Linguistics
WAFL - Workshop on Altaic Formal Linguistics
FASAL - Formal Approaches to South Asian Linguistics
J/K - Japanese Korean Linguistics
FAMLi - Formal Approaches to Mayan Linguistics
ACAL - Annual Conference on African Linguistics
SULA - Semantics of Under-represented Languages in the Americas
(I'm sure there are others I'm forgetting!)
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  • 2 months later...

What type of conferences have you attended? where? and what are your experiences? and what advice do you have for those of us just entering this enchanted path?


I'm not sure which educational level you are at right now, so this may or may not help you at all. I'm an undergraduate senior and have presented at quite a few conferences, I've listed the three most significant on my CV -- one local, one regional, and one regional/national. The third was represented mostly by schools in the region, but it was open to the nation. It was held in Oklahoma; however, many of us were from other states. For example, two of us were from the Midatlantic/Northeast. In any case, it was open to both undergraduate and graduate students with papers in linguistics.


It's difficult to generalize my experiences with all of these conferences. Sometimes there's good food, and sometimes there isn't. Sometimes the other presenters are academic snobs, and sometimes they aren't. For example, I went outside for a walk at one conference to avoid the snobbery. On the other hand, I met a wonderful Cameroonian lady and a Nigerian man at ACAL a few years ago; we spent the day hanging out and talking about linguistics.


If you're not comfortable talking in front of a group of people, you might want to start with that first. It's easier if you know what you want to discuss and have reflected it appropriately in your slides. Do not read directly off the presentation, and make sure to follow those old rules, e.g. limit each slide to three or four bulleted points. But, above all, make sure you go to these conferences without a chip on your shoulder. This also includes not undermining other presenters by nitpicking little mistakes.

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  • 4 months later...

Thank you very much guys. This was very helpful. I will start my PhD in the fall, and already have some papers recommended to be presented before being published. So, I will keep these tips in mind. 



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  • 11 months later...

Is it okay to submit the same abstract to several conferences? I'm talking mostly about the situation where the deadlines are fairly close, and you might not hear back from one before the deadline for another.

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There are different opinions on this one. I certainly submit a version of the same abstract to multiple conferences with close deadlines, because you just can't know what will be successful and what won't, and there is some element of luck involved.


The most conservative opinion I've heard is you can present once and you're done, but that tends to be from older faculty and I don't think it's too common. I think the most common opinion, especially from younger people, is that it's ok to submit your abstract to several conferences around the same time as long as you don't have the results yet (so, basically, the scenario you're describing). If the conferences are not back-to-back, usually you can find ways of making the talks somewhat different. I do find it in poor taste when people go around giving the same talk multiple times over a long period of time (think over a year, so circling back to conferences you've already been at with a version of the same talk). It just makes them seem unproductive. It's never good when large portions of the audience think "oh, I've heard this talk already."


An exception where people tend to think it's ok to submit the same abstract even after you've already been accepted to another conference is if it'll be very different audiences (e.g. specialized workshop vs large general interest conference, West Coast vs East Coast, Europe vs large US conference, or conference without and then conference with a proceedings series), and you can give the same talk you've given before at the LSA, there it's accepted and even expected, especially if you're on the job market.

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Thanks for the helpful response! I was looking at people's CVs and I noticed they presented the same project at a few places within 1-2 years, so I wanted to make sure it's okay. :)

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