SULA: not just any conference

Sula bird (© Lynn Weinert)

Sula bird (© Lynn Weinert)

I just came back from SULA 8. There is no other conference where long-held beliefs about semantics get challenged in just about every talk. This is the conference where you see where our field is moving. Semantics of Under-Represented Languages in the Americas (SULA) 8 was held at the University of British Columbia this year. The conference was founded in 2001 to bring together researchers working on (spoken or signed) languages or dialects of the Americas which do not have an established tradition of formal semantic work. It solicits work that involves primary fieldwork or experimentation as well as formal analysis. SULA has several features that make it unique. There is always a session with members of the communities whose languages are being investigated. This is why SULA is usually held in the Americas. At SULA 1, one of the community representatives was Jessie Little Doe Baird from the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project. This year’s representative was Peter Jacobs of the Skwxwu7mesh Nation. There are always graduate students among the invited speakers of SULA. There are also invited commentators (like me) who are not themselves fieldworkers, and there often are invited speakers who are not primarily semanticists: SULA 1 had Ken Hale as one of the invited speakers, for example, and SULA 8 featured Karen Rice.

Here is the website for SULA 8, and here are links to the programs and proceedings of earlier SULAs: SULA 1 at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (2001). SULA 2 at the University of British Columbia (2003). SULA 3 at the University at Buffalo (2005). SULA 4 at the Universidade de São Paulo (2007). SULA 5 at Harvard/MIT (2009). SULA 6 at the University of Manchester (2011). SULA 7 at Cornell University (2012). SULA 9 at UC Santa Cruz (2016). 

There have been a couple of descendants of SULA: SULA-bar at the University of Manchester (2011). TripleA 1 (The Semantics of African, Asian, and Austronesian Languages), Tübingen (2014).

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