Special Interest Groups (SIGs)

A joint initiative of SALALS and SAALT

What is a SIG?

A SIG is a `Special Interest Group’ which is a forum where people interested in a particular discipline or topic can interact, collaborate and promote the well-being and intellectual vivacity of the discipline. This might include being able to share papers, talk about their work, share conference calls, collaborate on joint projects, share data, consider innovative curricula etc.

Basic principles

  • SIGs are to promote the discipline(s) within the context of the societies
  • SIGs should benefit our members
  • SIGs should be a safe space for academic discussion
  • SIGs should not be insular but should be transparent and accountable to the societies
  • SIGs are the “hand” of the societies during the year

Why do we want SIGs?

SIGs can have a number of roles including:

  • Developing a community of scholars characterized by debate, collegiality and a variety of theoretical voices
  • Providing a space for scholars to engage with each other between the annual conferences
  • Being the felt-presence of the societies between the annual conferences
  • Promoting the discipline and collegial engagement around it
  • Foster research, teaching, professional and leadership development of a range of society members
  • Form a nucleus of disciplinary experts which can be engaged on various issues such as interaction with the NRF, society, government etc.
  • Maintaining the public face of the societies in terms of a Directory of Experts which may be consulted by members of the press, the NRF, journal editors and other interested parties. Only members of the societies will be listed in the directory.
  • It is intended that SIGs become prestigious forms of collegial interaction which are able to be placed on curricula vitae and form part of the career development of society members.

Proposing a SIG

A SIG can be proposed at any time by any paid up member of SALALS or SAALT and its topic area must fall under the areas covered by SALALS or SAALT. The SIG can be instituted by a decision of the chairperson of either of the two societies. The chairpersons should take due care not to introduce duplicate groups.

SIGs may be either fairly broad or formed around disciplinary specializations, methods, theoretical orientations or topics. The guiding principle is that a SIG must have sufficient active membership to make it a diverse community of scholars and that SIGs should be mutually reinforcing rather than in mutual competition. Usually, language-specific SIGs will not be encouraged unless there is a clear motivation for why this is desirable and will not lead to insularity (e.g. Afrikaans corpus linguistics vs Corpus Linguistics). A SIG may have a long-term existence or it may be convened for the purpose of a particular project (e.g. the writing of a textbook).

Examples might include:

  • Language practice
  • Language Teaching
  • Corpus Linguistics
  • Critical Discourse Analysis
  • Sociophonetics
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Syntax
  • Language and Identity
  • … and many others

SIG membership: who is it for?

The purpose of SIGs is to work with the respective societies to promote the long-term health of the language disciplines in Southern Africa. This may mean that SIG membership cannot be limited to society members. However, it also entails that SIGs should be a forum where society members can interact and which promote the interests of the societies. Ultimately, if a SIG has a large proportion of active members who are not also society members, then it raises serious questions about the validity of the SIG. This is going to be a long-term tension that needs to be handled with a soft touch.

 Joining and leaving a SIG

Anybody can join a SIG by sending an email to the SIG facilitator.
Anybody can leave a SIG by sending an email to the SIG facilitator.

Where are the SIGs and how can they be accessed?

Although SIGs are an abstract community of scholars, they must have a tangible existence in a space of some sort.

Each SIG will be listed on the “integrated list of SIGs” which will be accessible via the web presences of the two societies and/or through the joint internet portal of the two societies. This list will include the SIG name, description and scope, facilitator contact details, names and contact details of all SIG members who are members of one (or more) of the societies.

For its day-to-day communications and discussions each SIG may choose either a Facebook group and/or a listserv type mailing list. All SIGs will explicitly and continuously acknowledge that they are a SIG under the auspices of the societies (e.g. in the Facebook header and/or in the email-signature details of the mailing list). In any prominent use of the SIG name, the following format must be observed:

<SIG name>: a SALALS/SAALT Special Interest Group

SIGs are encouraged to have regular meetings at the joint conference and to use the opportunity that the conference provides to consolidate personal relationships.

A major function of the SIGs is to be the public face of the various facets of the societies. A Directory of Experts, consisting of members of the societies, will be made public on society websites. This will have the function of recognising individual contributions to the discipline. It is anticipated that this directory will be consulted by members of the press, the NRF, journal editors and other interested parties. This raises the professional profiles of not only the societies, but also the individual members.

SIG Facilitators

A SIG must have a Facilitator who must be a paid-up member of SALALS or SAALT and who must have an active research or teaching interest in the SIG topic area. Ideally a SIG facilitator should be an energetic individual who is passionate about the discipline and is capable of keeping the fire going.

The facilitator is responsible for the running of the SIG and will report back to the societies annually at the AGM and be accountable to them. The facilitator must maintain an accurate and up-to-date list of SIG members which must be presented annually to the societies along with a report on any relevant SIG activities.

SIGs must have an open membership i.e. nobody may be refused membership of a SIG; memberships can be revoked for a period of 1 year by the Facilitator if SIG members violate one of the SIG rules or conduct themselves in a manner unbecoming of SIG or society membership. Any decision by the facilitator in this regard may be overturned or ratified by the society executive.

A SIG facilitator will usually be chosen as a result of a consultative process within the SIG (if it already exists) as well as within the society or societies. It is anticipated that usually a society member will nominate themselves as a SIG facilitator. A SIG facilitator is ultimately appointed or removed by a decision of the chairperson of the society.

SIG facilitators are usually appointed for a period of three years. A SIG facilitator may usually not be appointed for more than two consecutive terms (i.e. 6 years). A society member may be a SIG facilitator more than once (e.g. for 6 consecutive years, then a gap and then another term). The reason for this is to allow professional and leadership development of a range of society members and to ensure that a SIG includes as large a variety of voices as possible.

If a member of a SIG would like to become the facilitator (instead of the incumbent facilitator), then they are welcome to nominate themselves to the society chairperson who may appoint them when the current three-year term of the incumbent facilitator comes to an end.

SIGs that become functionally defunct or which fail to adhere to the guidelines outlined in this document may be closed down by the chairperson of the relevant society.

What is the relationship of the SIGs to the different societies?

Society members often have a variety of research and teaching interests which may overlap with membership of SALALS or SAALT. Consequently, the two societies will have a single, integrated list of SIGs updated annually rather than separate lists for each society. (Each society may place this integrated list of SIGs on their respective webpages etc.)

There is no restriction on which SIG should fall under which society (at least initially) e.g. either society can host any SIG. However, for the purposes of administrative convenience and clarity of reporting, a SIG must always fall under the auspices of one of the societies. Which society this is depends on which society the facilitator is a member of.

There is a danger that the two societies host very similar SIGs. It is accepted that this is not in the interests of the societies or the society members. Consequently, the chairs of the societies will regularly engage each other to ensure that there is no undue overlap; it is better to have one big SIG that includes members from both societies than two small and insular SIGs with society-specific membership.

What can a SIG not be used for?

SIGs may not be used for commercial gain, dissemination of spam, commercial advertising and marketing, hate speech, homophobia, racial intolerance, gender discrimination etc., or for undermining SALALS or SAALT.

SIG resources

SIG facilitators will not be reimbursed. However, SIGs may apply to their respective societies for funding for special, well-defined projects from time to time.

Where does the buck stop?

These rules can be amended at any time by the executive of the relevant society and the decision of the executive of the society will be deemed final.

Current Special Interest Groups