Letter from the President, concerning SSILA abstract requirement changes

Hello SSILA members, 

As you might recall, the call for papers for the 2019 SSILA meeting suggested that submitters include in their abstract a brief discussion of broader impacts of their work. There was extensive discussion of this at the 2019 business meeting, and an ad hoc committee was struck to produce a proposal to be voted on by the membership. The statement from the ad hoc committee is included in this year’s call. It will be voted on after there has been an opportunity for submitters to try this out and there has been some discussion. The ad-hoc committee interrogated the current issues of what should be required for abstracts and how to evaluate those abstracts from not only an academic perspective but also the lenses of the Indigenous communities whose languages are the focus of SSILA. This has not been the norm of SSILA. 

It is important to recognize that any linguistic work can have real or potential social outcomes, impacts, and/or implications and that a discussion of those issues needs to be part of how the research is presented and evaluated. For example, research on toponyms, historical migrations/contact, and language vitality, all have potentially huge implications for helping or hurting Indigenous communities and shouldn’t be discussed without an accompanying context of how that kind of information gets used against (sometimes for, but usually against) Indigenous communities in their political claims for recognition and land.   

To that end we proposed that the following be included in the abstract requirements (changes are in bold): 

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Abstract contents:  Papers whose main topic does not focus on the Indigenous languages of the Americas will be rejected without further consideration by the Program Committee. SSILA requires further that the subject matter be related to linguistics and/or language revitalization, that the research presented include new findings or developments not published before the meeting, that there be reflection on the work’s social outcomes/impacts/implications, that the papers not be submitted with malicious or scurrilous intent, and that the abstract be coherent and in accord with these guidelines. 

Abstract contents:  

Papers whose main topic does not focus on the Indigenous languages of the Americas will be rejected without further consideration by the Program Committee. SSILA requires further that the subject matter be related to linguistics and/or language revitalization, that the research presented include new findings or developments not published before the meeting, that there be reflection on the work’s social outcomes/impacts/implications, that the papers not be submitted with malicious or scurrilous intent, and that the abstract be coherent and in accord with these guidelines. 

A suggested outline for abstracts is as follows: 

1.     State the problem or research question raised by prior work, with specific reference to relevant prior research. 

2.     Give a clear indication of the nature and source of your data (primary fieldwork, archival research, secondary sources). 

3.     State the main point or argument of the proposed presentation. 

4.    Regardless of the subfield, cite sufficient data, and explain why and how they support the main point or argument. For examples in languages other than English, provide word-by-word glosses and underline or boldface the portions of the examples which are critical to the argument.  

5.    State the relevance of your ideas to past work or to the future development of the field. Describe analyses in as much detail as possible. Avoid saying in effect “a solution to this problem will be presented”. If you are taking a stand on a controversial issue, summarize the arguments that led you to your position. 

6.     State the contribution to linguistics made by the analysis and the work’s social outcomes/impacts/implications which may be positive, neutral, or negative, immediate or potential.   

Consideration of the work’s social outcomes/impacts/implications might focus on the specific topic under consideration or take into account the broader scope of a project. Effects might take a while to be felt, and might be nuanced with respect to who is influenced and how. Implications are likely to relate to the social significance to the language community, such as the project’s capacity for developing tools for pedagogy or revitalization, valorizing the language within a broader social context, or (perhaps at the same time) introducing points of tension regarding approaches to language teaching. They might also include bringing a situation regarding a language community’s status to wider attention, educating the public regarding language endangerment and its significance, promoting the application of Native ways of knowing in linguistic research or community-related goals. 

7.     Please include a list of references for any work cited in the abstract.  The references can be on a second page. 

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You will find these changes in the current Call for Papers for the 2020 winter meeting as a trial. To provide feedback on this proposal, please email the President, Tania Granadillo, at tgranadi@uwo.ca or provide comments on this document directly through this link: 

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1hfIG6A8ZjB3TDK8blctHA62uewusK6Iufi-hqxsRopk/edit?usp=sharing

These additions will be voted on later in the summer.  Thank you for your attention to this matter. 

Tania Granadillo

Updated: July 15, 2019 — 1:35 pm