Accessible Published by De Gruyter Mouton December 16, 2015


Ofelia García, Florian Coulmas and Bernadette O’Rourke

On March 1, 2015 we lost the Founding Editor of the International Journal of the Sociology of Language, and its General Editor, Joshua A. Fishman. The journal has been published without interruptions since 1974. Over forty years, IJSL has played a major role in elucidating the relationship between language and society in different sociopolitical and economic contexts and among different types of speakers.

From its beginning, when only three issues were published annually, Joshua Fishman invited and received proposals for thematic issues. The journal also started publishing what were called ‘Singles’ issues, made up of articles that the growing field of scholars in the sociology of language submitted for review and publication.

Florian Coulmas served as the editor of what formally became the ‘Singles’ issue since 1988 when he edited a volume on Language Planning and Attitudes. Ofelia García became the journal’s Associate General Editor in the last few years, when it became impossible for Joshua Fishman to work on the thematic issues by himself.

During this period of transition for IJSL, we have decided to continue in the roles given to us by Joshua A. Fishman in order to continue his legacy of meaningful scholarship about language and society. We take these steps with trepidation, but, encouraged by the publisher, De Gruyter Mouton, and the support that the community of scholars continues to give to a Fishmanian view on the interaction of society and language.

Joshua Fishman favored a minority perspective. After his passing, the outpouring of praise for the man and his work came from multiple circles – from US Latinos, Māoris, Basques, Catalans, Quechua-speaking people, Frisians, Navajos, Saamis, Yiddish-speakers, Berbers, Xhosa-speakers, but also from Europeans, Americans, Asians, and speakers of dominant languages. One of the most important accomplishments of Joshua A. Fishman was precisely to bring together in conversation those he called “the minnows” and “the whales.” This is why Fishman also insisted that the journal have a section devoted to what he called “small languages and small language communities,” opening up a space to voice issues pertaining to small groups with developing scholarship. After Nancy Dorian’s retirement as long-time editor of that section, and a short intermission, Bernadette O’Rourke became its editor, and she will continue to serve in that role during this transition period.

Since the 1970s, the journal has both maintained its focus and objectivity on research about the general question of what societies do with their languages, to which it is still devoted today. Joshua A. Fishman always maintained a strong commitment to language minority communities, which are such a fascinating field of study because, as he put it, “social change and language change are ongoing everywhere”. We expect to keep the same balance of commitment to societal and language diversity, and adaptation to the times. Fishman considered his greatest accomplishments to be his “multidisciplinarity approach” to sociolinguistic topics, as well as a tolerance towards complexity, diversity and ambiguity. We hope to continue to develop these approaches and values in IJSL.

Being the editor of IJSL brought Joshua A. Fishman much joy throughout his career. He wrote about his rejoicing “in bringing out issues every year that focus on forgotten or even unknown corners of the world,” edited locally so that it does not “become a handmaiden of the Americanization of everything”. Even the months before his passing, Fishman was attentive to what was being published and would light up when he heard about the coming IJSL issues.

With this first issue of 2016, we welcome some new members to the Editorial Board, while we are grateful to those who are staying on. We expect us all to work assiduously over the next five years to carry the enormous legacy of Joshua A. Fishman’s beyond his life and ours.

Published Online: 2015-12-16
Published in Print: 2016-1-1

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