IIAS | IIAS Newsletter Online | No. 17 | Regions |East Asia

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01:26-28 June 1998
Stanford, USA

Two Chinese Linguistics Conferences

The Seventh Annual Meeting of the International Association of Chinese Linguistics (IALC) was held in conjunction with the Tenth North American Conference on Chinese Linguistics at Stanford University on June 26-28 this year.

By Wolfgang Behr


The joint organization of the two meetings by Professor Sun Chaofen and his Stanford colleagues resulted in an unexpectedly high number of participants. A hundred and thirty scholars, or almost one half of the current membership of the International Association for Chinese Linguistics (IACL), were present.

The regional distribution of participants - roughly one half from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the PRC and another half from North America, with eight Europeans and a handful of Australians, Japanese, and Koreans scattered in between - reflects the current geographical affiliations of the Association's members quite closely. The ridiculously low number of mainland Chinese scholars, who, if Hong Kong is excluded, do not even constitute one-twentieth of the overall membership of the world's largest international association for Chinese linguistics, is deeply to be regretted.
An extraordinary breadth of topics was addressed at the conference, ranging from generative syntax, over functional approaches, including grammaticalization studies and discourse pragmatics, to historical linguistics, phonetics & phonology, semantics and cognitive linguistics, psycho- and sociolinguistics, the study of language acquisition, computational linguistics and even the historiography of Chinese linguistics. Unlike last year's meeting in Leiden, topics directly related to Sino-Tibetan comparative linguistics were almost entirely absent at this conference.
The Stanford meeting has shown that topics in generative/minimalist frameworks, which have tended to dominate IACL's conferences during the mid-nineties in view of the sheer number of speakers working in these paradigms, are gradually receiving heavy competition from new and not-so-new areas of research, such as discourse pragmatics, functional studies of grammaticalization processes or corpus-based approaches to lexical semantics and information structure. A marked and very welcome trend, which crosscuts these coarse methodological classification is an increased interest in the study of Chinese 'dialects'. It remains to be seen if it will continue at the next two annual meetings in Melbourne (1999) and Singapore (2000) under the Association's new president, Anne Yue-Hashimoto of the University of Washington, Seattle.

   IIAS | IIAS Newsletter Online | No. 17 | Regions |East Asia