Dear ICLA members,
Allow me to start with a word of thanks to Sally Rice, John Newman, Kristina Geeraert and their staff for the incredibly well-organised conference at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada. It was a truly inspiring event, successfully combining the three different perspectives of looking back, looking forward and looking outward. The quality of the presentations was high, the discussions interesting and enriching, the social contacts pleasant and stimulating (the abundance of wonderful food at coffee breaks surely did help a lot for the latter too). ICLC-12 has been a most wonderful, stimulating event of scientific and amicable exchange, and I am sure that the next conference in Northumbria will be likewise. I am already looking forward to it.
I also would like to express a word of thanks to the former president of the ICLA, Chris Sinha, for his presidency. I am sure that I speak for all of us in expressing our appreciation and gratitude for his open, outward look; as the current president, I will try to continue Chris' leadership. Thank you very much, Chris, for all that you have done for the ICLA.
As for the two years to come, I clearly plan to continue this kind of openness, an outward look, to other theories and disciplines, as already amply talked about during the ICLC. The presentations and wide-ranging discussions during the conference have made it very clear that on the scientific level, the diversity of perspectives is already well-established. More could perhaps be done to reinforce that on an institutional level, where I see room for strengthening and revitalising of our relationship with the national affiliates and, if possible, with other institutions (e.g., institutions dealing with education, research fundings, etc.).
One of the challenges that lies ahead is the somewhat decreasing membership (we have dropped from 413 in 2007 (the highest number of members so far) to 278 this year (even if some correction is to be expected here for the American members). As I see it, our aim should be to make the ICLA (more) attractive but, above all, as I would say in French, "incontournable" for any linguist, and this for both established and beginning scholars.
Our top-level journal is clearly a crucial factor here, but perhaps paradoxically enough it may also be one of the factors that necessitate rethinking some of our assumptions. The journal is now available on-line through many institutions, so colleagues may wonder what the benefits are of being a member. In times of global economic difficulties affecting institutions as well as individuals, the issue of the benefits of membership is not at all trivial. While for many of us (and yes, this is an inclusive "we") it may seem strange that one should not want to be member of the ICLA community, the relevance of membership is an issue that many colleagues nowadays wonder about.
One of the avenues that I would like to explore during my presidency is how we can reach out to more members and also how to empower them, especially those members who do not have the resources to attend the ICLC conferences. One fairly simple way of encouraging that is to build out our website to a dynamic, interactive platform of communication and exchange, and this will be the first (small-scale) project I would like to pursue. As such, our community can continue to grow in other (more virtual) areas. Other avenues for increasing the transparency of our workings as well as the involvement of ICLA members will also be pursued.
Obviously, this is not a one-man enterprise. I feel fortunate to have the support of a dynamic board: Barbara Dancygier, Sherman Wilcox, Jordan Zlatev (the three newly elected regular members), John Newman (new journal editor as of 1/1/2014), Chris Sinha (ex-president), Ad Foolen (secretary) and Amanda Patten (ICLC 13 organiser). In addition, as announced at the General Assembly at the ICLC 12, a small committee has been set up to come up with other suggestions to make the ICLA membership more attractive; this group consists of Laura Janda, Rong Chen, Ad Foolen and myself. There will be a more targeted invitation for suggestions from all members sometime in the coming months, but I already want to extend a warm invitation to all of you to let us know of any ideas or suggestions you may have in this context or concerning the workings of the ICLA.
Allow me to conclude on a more personal note regarding my relation to the role of ICLA president. The ICLC has always been a sort of "homecoming" conference for me. My first ICLC was the one in Santa Cruz, in 1991; I was still a PhD student then, and so you could well say that I basically grew up here. The ICLA is my "scientific homeground" which has given me so much, both on professional and personal level; I am glad that in the coming two years, I can give something in return. I am extremely grateful to you all for giving me the opportunity to contribute positively to the growth of our vibrant and heart-warming community.
Maarten Lemmens, ICLA president