A brief history of SALA (by Hans Henrich Hock with help from Alice Davison)
The foundation for SALA, the South Asian Languages Analysis Roundtable, was laid during the 1978 Linguistic Institute of the Linguistic Society of America, held at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The LSA that year held a “Conference on South Asian Languages and Linguistics”, organized by Hans Henrich Hock and Braj B. Kachru, with support from Yamuna Kachru and Rajeshwari Pandharipande. The Conference attracted many of the top South Asian linguists from both North America and South Asia, and the response was so positive that it was decided to offer similar meetings in the future. There was to be a series of “International Conferences on South Asia” and a series of meetings with more limited, North American scope, and thus SALA was born. Unfortunately, the tradition of international conferences was short-lived and ended after the third Conference, held 1982 in Mysore. As a consequence, there was an increasing tendency to broaden the scope of SALA beyond North America, with meetings in India (1997, 2005), the United Kingdom (1998), Germany (2001), and many other venues since then. (See the list of SALAs at the end of this page.)
From the beginning, SALA Roundtables were organized on an ad-hoc basis, without a formal organization behind them. The advantage has been that, even though the University of Illinois hosted the first three Roundtables, this was not interpreted as establishing a monopoly; and soon other institutions followed suit in hosting the Roundtables. The disadvantage is that there are no formal membership lists that can be drawn on for calls for papers, and there is no mechanism by which future host institutions can be easily identified. Nevertheless, through informal exchange of mailing lists and through a sufficiently large number of institutions volunteering to host SALA meeting, there has been an amazing and truly impressive succession of yearly meetings — only a few years (1996, 2000, 2007, 2012, and 2013) were without SALAs.
The first three meetings, held at the University of Illinois were organized by the same members of the UIUC Linguistics Department as the original Conference on South Asian Languages and Linguistics, with Hans Henrich Hock chairing the planning committee in 1979 and Yamuna Kachru in 1980 and 1981. After 1981, SALA began to be rotate between different universities, organized by local committees with support from national and international committees.
The 36th South Asian Languages Analysis Roundtable (SALA-36) will be held in Kathmandu, Nepal.