History of the LAUD Symposium


LAUD - the name is a trademark now- has had three different lives, directly associated with three new German universities: Trier, Duisburg and Landau. It all began in 1973, when on a suggestion from René Dirven and Günter Radden, the then dean of ‘Sprach- & Literaturwissenschaft’ of Trier University, Dr. Frühwald (at present Chairman of the German Research Foundation), allotted 2,000 DM for the setting up of L.A.U.T. ( Linguistic Agency University of Trier) as a voluntary agency distributing linguistic preprints and organizing annual symposia (1977-1985).

The second host (1985-1999) was the University of Duisburg, where L.A.U.T was re-baptized as L.A.U.D. and organized as a university-sponsored, legally registered and partly voluntary association with its own board, members, secretary and student assistants, all provided by the University of Duisburg.

In the third phase (2000 - present), the earlier acronym (with full stops) was taken on as a trademark ‘LAUD’ and the organization was distributed over two universities: the LAUD preprints went to Ulrich Schmitz in Essen, and Martin Pütz housed the symposia in Koblenz-Landau (Campus Landau).

The origins of L.A.U.T. and its further evolution must be seen within the larger context of linguistic research done world-wide. In the seventies new means of communication were required in order to spread new linguistic ideas across the linguistic community. L.A.U.T’s foundation as a linguistic clearing-house in 1973 served the purpose of spreading new linguistic ideas in a suffocating ‘generative’ climate. Like its American counterpart, the Indiana Linguistics Club, the non-profit organization L.A.U.T. aimed at the quick dissemination of linguistic research by pre-publishing important linguistic papers. By now LAUD is internationally known and its acronym is strongly associated with linguistic innovation and a wide scope.

The Linguistic Agency has also provided the institutionalized forum for a long series of international linguistic symposia. In the first phase some of the world’s most distinguished scholars were invited to present their linguistic work at the University of Trier, which overnight became known as a place of pilgrimage in modern linguistics. The series of symposia was opened in 1977 with a three-day lecture series by Charles Fillmore, followed by John Searle (1978), William Labov (1979), Edward Keenan (1980), Michael Halliday (1980), Herbert and Eve Clark (1981), David Crystal (1982), George Lakoff (1983), and Ronald Langacker (1984). The historical relevance of the L.A.U.T. symposia is perhaps best illustrated by two remarkable facts. At the first symposium Charles Fillmore buried his first mental child, “Case Grammar”, and cautiously began to carve out his new orientation, now known as “Frame Semantics”, and its twin sister “Construction Grammar”. The two last Trier symposia witnessed the introduction to Europe of “Cognitive Linguistics” by its main proponents, Lakoff and Langacker.

In Duisburg L.A.U.D. became completely different (1985). In this respect, organizations can be compared to organisms: they can only survive if they manage to adapt and change. Apart from the solid infrastructure provided by Duisburg University, the symposia rather became specialized thematic conferences, though still with one or a few main speakers, but with all participants presenting papers of their own. The most important symposia were those on computer linguistics with John Sinclair (1986), pidgin and creole languages with Derek Bickerton and Peter Mühlhäusler (1987), linguistic approaches to artificial intelligence with Yorick Wilks (1988), culminating in 1989 in a third cognitive linguistics symposium, which in retrospect became ICLC 1 (First International Cognitive Linguistics Conference). It was here that the International Cognitive Linguistics Association (ICLA) was founded, the journal Cognitive Linguistics launched, and the new series Cognitive Linguistics Research set up. Further Duisburg symposia increasingly took a multidisciplinary approach: historical linguistics as diachrony in synchrony with Raimo Anttila, Dirk Geeraerts and Dieter Kastovsky (1990), ‘reference’ in a multidisciplinary perspective with John Macnamara and Pierre Swiggers (1991), contact linguistics as a new branch in sociolinguistics and intercultural communication with Michael Clyne, Roger Keesing, and many African scholars (1992), the mental lexicon with Manfred Bierwisch and John Taylor (1993), conditionality with Elizabeth Traugott (1994), the language of emotions with Anna Wierzbicka and Zoltan Kövecses (1995), the cultural context in communication across languages with Edward Hall (1996), metaphor and religious communication with theologians, philosophers and linguists (1997), linguistic relativity with Dan Slobin, John Lucy and Peggy Lee (1998), and finally, inter-religion communication with Christians, Jews and Muslims (1999).

Many of the proceedings of these Duisburg symposia were presented in a new series “ Duisburg Papers on Research in Language and Culture”, edited by René Dirven, Martin Pütz or other Duisburg scholars such as Ulrich Schmitz, Günther Kellermann and Heiner Pürschel.

The diversity of linguistic topics addressed at these symposia reflected the organizers’ broad range of interests in language and culture, as well as their openness towards other people's approaches and fields of research.

The year of the millennium was also the beginning of LAUD’s third life ( 2000). Martin Pütz and Ulrich Schmitz had agreed to continue the work of LAUD as two independent, but closely co-operating organizations, one for the symposia, the other for the LAUD preprints. The latter went to the University of Essen (at present under the name ‘Universität Duisburg-Essen’ after Duisburg’s fusion with Essen) and were incorporated in Ulrich Schmitz’s LINSE internet network of electronic and other linguistic dissemination at http://www.linse.uni-essen.de/linse/index.php

Set up as a new legal body in Essen and thanks to the university’s generous sponsorship, LAUD is thriving and has now nearly reached the respectable number of 800 preprint publications in 30 years. The LAUD symposia as well have continued their success story. In just a few years, Martin Pütz has managed to give Landau an international reputation as a meeting place for high quality scientific exchange, also thanks to the support from Landau University, the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, and especially the peer-refereed evaluations by the reviewers of the German Research Foundation. Also the multi-disciplinary and applied orientations of the symposia were further strengthened, as becomes evident from the main thematic fields discussed. These were: applied cognitive linguistics with John Gumperz, Zoltán Kövecses, and Ron Langacker (2000); critical discourse analysis with Teun van Dijk, Jim Martin, Norman Fairclough, and Ruth Wodak (2002); the sociology of language focussing on language and power with Joshua Fishman, Carol Myers-Scotton, John Edwards, Florian Coulmas, and Ulrich Ammon (2004). The LAUD Symposium 2006 featured, amongst others, John Searle, Mills Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, who is noted for contributions not only to speech act theory, but also to the philosophy of language, especially the philosophy of mind and consciousness. The symposium’s overall theme “Intercultural Pragmatics” was discussed from linguistic, social, cognitive, and interlanguage perspectives. Further plenary speakers were Peter Grundy, Laurence Horn, Istvan Kecskes, Jacob Mey, and Anna Wierzbicka.

In 2008, the 33rd LAUD Symposium was devoted to the theme Cognitive Approaches to Second/Foreign Language Processing. Plenary speakers were Melissa Bowerman, Nick Ellis, Helen Frazer, Susan Gass, Jeannette Littlemore, Peter Robinson, John Taylor and Andrea Tyler. The mental processes and acquisition procedures involved in SLA as well as the pedagogical implications in terms of grammar, lexical expansion and cultural fluency were discussed from the perspective of cognitive linguistics. The Proceedings of this conference Inside the Learner’s Mind: Cognitive Processing in Second Language Acquisition were edited by Martin Pütz & Laura Sicola (2010, Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins).

The 34th LAUD Symposiumin March 2010 was devoted to a relatively new strand of cognitive linguistics, i.e. Cognitive Sociolinguistics, which explored the different facets of the emerging coalescence between cognitive, usage-based approaches to language and a sociolinguistic interest in language-internal variation. The main keynote speaker was the acknowledged founder and main instigator of the field of sociolinguistics, Professor William Labov (University of Pennsylvania), who attracted a large audience in the Landau Convention Center (Festhalle) lecturing on “The Community as the Focus on Social Cognition”. Other plenary speakers included Dirk Geeraerts (University of Leuven), Stefan Gries (University of California, Santa Barbara), Peter Harder (University of Copenhagen), Gitte Kristiansen (Universidad Complutense de Madrid), David Kronenfeld (University of California, Riverside) and Dennis Preston (Oaklahoma State University).

In 2012, the 35th LAUD Symposium was once again devoted to one of the major strands or orientations in cognitive linguistics, i.e. Cognitive Psycholinguistics with a focus on Bilingualism, Cognition and Communication. The Symposium intended to bring together specialists from various areas, including linguistics, psycholinguistics, and anthropological linguistics who investigated the relationship between language and cognition in multilingualism, cross-cultural studies and communication research. Plenary talks were given by Annette de Groot, Istvan Kecskes, John Lucy, Pieter Muysken, Aneta Pavlenko and Chris Sinha. A selection of papers of this conference entitled Multilingual Cognition and Language Use: Processing and Typological Perspectives (Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins) was edited by Luna Filipović & Martin Pütz (2014). A second volume to be edited by Justyna Robinson and Monika Reif is currently being prepared (Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter).

The vision that half of the world’s languages is endangered, seriously endangered or dying within this century is a deplorable fact which motivated the organizers Martin Pütz & Monika Reif to make the issue a central concern of the 36th LAUD Symposium (2014). The conference theme “The Endangerment of Languages across the Planet: The Dynamics of Linguistic Diversity and Globalization” was well attended by more than 90 researchers from 28 countries discussing the linguistic, socio-cultural and psychological perspectives pertaining to language shift, loss and language death. In this respect, the diversity of languages in multilingual communities and their impact on language endangerment was explored in the light of globalization, linguistic ecology, language planning as well as documentation.  Invited speakers were Peter Austin (University of London), Bernd Heine (University of Cologne), Lisa Lim (University of Hong Kong), Salikoko Mufwene (University of Chicago), Shana Poplack (University of Ottawa), Suzanne Romaine (University of Oxford), Sarah Thomason (University of Michigan) and Li Wei (University of London).

A selection of papers of this conference were published in two volumes: Luna Filipovic & Martin Pütz (eds.). Endangered Languages and Languages in Danger. Issues of documentation, policy, and language rights (Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins), and Martin Pütz & Neele Mundt (eds.). Vanishing Languages in Context. Ideological, Attitudinal and Social Identity Perspectives (Frankfurt/M.: Lang).

The 37th International Symposium was devoted to the sociolinguistic theme “Linguistic Landscapes (LL) and Superdiversity in the City:foundational questions, new directions and expanding methodologies”. “Linguistic Landscapes”, perceived as the study of the visible and audible representation of multiple languages in public space and contemporary urban life, was discussed from three different perspectives: Theoretical, analytical and methodological considerations of LL; Superdiversity, power relations & ideology in LL communities and Historicity, social change and transformation in LL. Plenary talks were given by: Susan Berk-Seligson (Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee), Durk Gorter (University of the Basque Country), Adam Jaworski (The University of Hong Kong), David Malinowski (Yale University), Alastair Pennycook (University of Technology, Sydney) and Elana Shohamy (Tel Aviv University).

In line with former LAUD Symposia on Cognitive Linguistics (CL), the event in 2018 focused on an interdisciplinary branch of CL, namely Cultural Linguistics with its subtitle Current and Emerging Trends in Research on Language and Cultural Conceptualisations (38th LAUD Symposium). The aim of the conference was to present and discuss current studies on the link between linguistic patterns and underlying cultural conceptualisations, the role of cultural conceptualisations in language development and education, as well as interdisciplinary research in the field of critical discourse analysis. Invited speakers were John Lucy (University of Chicago), Andrea Musolff (University of East Anglia), Gunter Senft (Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, The Netherlands), Farzad Sharifian (Monash University, Australia), Chris Sinha (Hunang University, China) and Hans-Georg Wolf (University of Potsdam).

The writers of this Short History of LAUD are of good hope that future LAUD Symposia in Landau will experience the same spirit of success thus continuing to provide an international forum for fruitful linguistic research and academic exchange.

May we finally make our readers acquainted with the two great sons of the small city of Landau, who in a certain way prefigured LAUD’s socio-semantic orientation. One is Thomas Nast (1840-1902), who was born in the military barracks of Landau (where the Department of English of Landau University is now located). Nast was a famous caricaturist and editorial cartoonist and is considered to be the father of American political cartooning, thus evoking the world of ideologies. The second is Michel Jules Alfred Bréal (1832-1915), a French philologist who is often identified as a founder of modern semantics. He is best known for his Essai de sémantique (1897), which gave great impetus to scientific interest in the field of semantics, especially in one of its most crucial dimensions, i.e. polysemy, THE stumbling block for any linguistic theory.


René Dirven ✝

Martin Pütz

Günter Radden

Obituary René Dirven