Linguistics and related areas at AAAS 2013

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The 2013 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science will be held 2/14/2013 to 2/18/2013 at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. Section Z (Linguistics) is sponsoring or recommending eight of the many symposia featured at the meeting:

The Language Organ: The Bases of Human Language in Human Biology 2/15 08:30
Historical Syntax 2/15 13:00
Language Evolving: Genes and Culture in Ongoing Language Evolution 2/15 15:00
The Connectome: From the Synapse to Brain Networks in Health and Disease 2/16 08:30
Old Dogs, New Tricks: How Plastic Is the Adult Human Brain? 2/16 13:00
Teaching the Brain to Speak Again: New Frontiers in Trauma and Stroke Recovery 2/16 15:00
Advances in Brain-Machine Interfaces: Applications and Implications 2/17 08:30
Understanding Memory: The Legacy of Case H.M. 2/18 09:45

I’m sorry to say that the AAAS still sees the mission of its annual meeting as communicating with science writers (and, I suppose, raising money), so that these and other excellent symposia will only be available to the few dozen people in the live audience — except in those rare cases where a symposium organizer arranges privately for audio and slides to be made unofficially available, as Victoria Stodden did for her 2011 symposium on “Reproducible Science“.

I continue to hope that the AAAS will eventually manage to stumble into the 21st century, and learn to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity for communicating with the public by making multimedia from these symposia available on line. Meanwhile, if you happen to be in the Boston area 2/14/2013 to 2/18/2013, and can spare between $90 (student advance registration — before January 21) and $435 (profession on-site registration), I’ll see you there!

I’ll blog about (some of) the symposia that I attend or participate in, as I have in the past couple of years:

Reproducible Science at AAAS 2011“, 2/18/2011
What Bilinguals Tell us about Mind and Brain“, 2/19/2011
Linguistics and Language Science at AAAS 2012“, 12/9/2011
Crossing the Digital Divide“, 2/17/2012
AAAS President Nina Fedoroff welcome’s attendees“, 2/17/2012
Autism in the AAAS“, 2/18/2012


  1. D.O. said,

    January 19, 2013 @ 11:33 am

    Does AAAS recognizes only “biological” side of linguistics? No “anthropological” or “philological” side?

    [(myl) Well, “historical syntax” ought to count as philological, right? And I believe that Franz Boas would have welcomed Carol Padden’s presentation on “The Case of a Village Sign Language” as first-rate cultural and linguistic anthropology.

    Anyhow, AAAS as an organization has no position on such things — the symposia are proposed by members, subject to the vetting of an overall program committee for each meeting. So if you’d like to see some other anthropological or philological topics covered, you’re free to organize a candidate symposium and submit a proposal for the 2014 meeting. The 2014 call doesn’t seem to be up yet, but I expect that it will be similar to the 2013 call (which had a submission deadline of April 30).]

  2. D.O. said,

    January 19, 2013 @ 1:29 pm

    Oops, missed “Historical syntax” and “genes and culture” is, of course, part anthropological. Oh well, I’m sorry. The program is still heavily skewed toward medical/biological problems.
    And then the idea of me organizing AAAS linguistic symposium is just so hilarious. Glad it’s not a big-game hunt.

  3. Sally Thomason said,

    January 20, 2013 @ 10:05 am

    @D.O. and Mark: That particular historical syntax symposium looks pretty much totally non-philological, to judge by the abstract and by the speakers & titles. Tony Kroch’s corpus analyses could maybe be viewed as philological if you stretch the meaning of (roughly) interpreting old documents to include his work; but not the other presentations.

    It’s true, though, that any AAAS member — more specifically, any member of AAAS Section Z, where linguistics lives — is welcome to submit a symposium proposal. Unless things have changed a lot in the past several years (I haven’t been attending the AAAS meeting regularly for a while now), the section is always eager to get symposium ideas, and proposals, from members.

    [(myl) The OED defines philology (in the relevant sense) as ‘The branch of knowledge that deals with the structure, historical development, and relationships of languages or language families; the historical study of the phonology and morphology of languages; historical linguistics”. I agree that historical linguists once tended to distinguish themselves from “philologists” by depicting the latter as mere text-analyzers — but now that the heyday of the “philologists” is more than a century in the past — and hardly any modern practitioners are left in academia — I think that both sides should let that argument go, and make common cause against those who aren’t interested in linguistic history under any construal or for any purpose.

    As for the attitude of Section Z (and other AAAS sections) towards symposium proposals, it is indeed warm and welcoming, subject to the consent of the program committee. I only wish that all the work that goes into these (generally terrific) collections of presentations could be made available to a larger audience than the few dozen who typically attend each of the (many parallel) sessions.]

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