Co-organised LACUS Conference.

Last week I organised a conference called LACUSLinguistics Association of Canada and the United States.

I love event planning. I love hosting people. I love throwing parties and cooking for people. So, last year, I agreed, with my colleague Dr Michael Kliffer from the Department of French, to host the Annual Meeting of the Linguistics Association of Canada and the United States. Mike Kliffer and I are old friends – he was the one who really supported me being hired at McMaster at the departmental level, in 2001. I was actually hired as a linguist into the Department of French back then, since there was no communication studies program that existed. I founded McMaster’s communication studies program that year with another colleague, Dr. Graham Knight from sociology.  So to make a long story short, I work well with Mike, and this conference was no exception. It was a great conference, but exhausting to organise!

In essence, I was up from 7am until midnight from July 21-26. The whole day was spent thinking about logistics, helping people get around Hamilton and making sure that A/V equipment was all working right. I have to say that it was an absolute pleasure, since I love helping people enjoy themselves and feel comfortable as my guests. I loved the planning process during the months and weeks leading up to the conference too! Special thanks to the following conference organising committee members:

  • Sheila Embleton, York University
  • Sydney Lamb, Rice University
  • Douglas Coleman, University of Toledo
  • Bernard Sypniewicz, Rowan University

They all worked very hard on making sure that Mike Kliffer and I had all the wisdom of previous organising committee at our finger-tips!

A huge thanks to several tireless volunteers, as well, whose help was invaluable:

  • Melonie Fullick, York University (Mac alumna)
  • Paul Bullock, Dept of Communication Studies & Multimedia (McMaster)
  • Dr Dong Sun, Dept of Communication Studies & Multimedia (McMaster)

Mike and I tried to think of everything. We organised a trip to the African Lion Safari in Hamilton, Ontario that everyone enjoyed thoroughly! We saw lions, cheetahs, baboons, bison and many other animals. I was afraid that the animals might look sad, but it wasn’t the case at all! They looked happy and relaxed and well-cared-for.

We also had two excellent keynote speakers:

  • Andrew Laing, Cormex Research, “Bringing language research from the ivory tower to the halls of commerce.”
  • Michael Ullman, Georgetown University, “What rats can tell us about language. Contributions of declarative and procedural knowledge to language.”

They gave excellent talks which everyone appreciated greatly.

LACUS was originally formed to provide an alternative, eclectic and wide-ranging forum for language and linguistics scholars to be able to express themselves out of the mainstream of chomskyan generative grammar. While the field of linguistics has grown and diversified and, to be honest, become more open to non-chomskyan perspectives, forums like LACUS still have a place. There are so many novel ideas at expressed at this conference, and so many fascinating, original people.

I believe it was Harold Innis, the great Canadian communication theorist and economic historian who said that “innovation begins at the edges of Empire and transforms mainstream society as the fringe innovation becomes more accepted.”

That’s LACUS for me – a place where people do not judge according to clique or clan, but judge you based on how cool and rigourous your ideas are.

I was so happy to serve as co-host for LACUS 2010. I am so glad that everyone had such a wonderful experience. You’re all always welcome back to Hamilton and McMaster (well, at least while I’m there!).

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