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Past, present and future – three questions from the Chair

Date: 14 February 2020

When he rose to speak at the last session of the final CoEDLFest last week, Professor Tony Woodbury, Chair of the Centre’s Advisory Committee, seized on the three themes already exercising the minds of the CoEDL community at the conference – legacy, relevance and impact.


Tony, who is Professor of Linguistics at the University of Texas at Austin, has served on the committee since CoEDL’s inception, and invited members to consider three fundamental questions.

“The first is to ask what has been accomplished and learned – or not,” says Tony. “What are CoEDL's legacies?” Next comes the current research agenda: “What do you find most exciting right now? What has sizzle? What irons are in the fire?” Tony asked the audience.

Finally comes the grand question mark over the unwritten future of the language sciences in Australia. This one revolves around the dichotomy of whether there would be, or even should be, another Centre of Excellence in our field. “Should there be a CoEDL 2.0, and if not, how do we preserve and build on its legacies?” asks Tony.

Tony frames these questions in the categories of Completed, Ongoing and Potential, and likens them to the mixed Tense/Aspect/Mood system common in many languages. He further invites Centre members to separate their views into the academic and non-academic domains, to consider relevant issues in their own sub-fields, in the inter-disciplinary space, and potential impacts on the world at large.

Tony himself is no stranger to legacy and accomplishment, having been recently appointed to the endowed Jesse H. Jones Regents Professorship in Liberal Arts at his university. Having taken on the important duty of observing and advising the Centre for the past five years, what does he think about its past, present and future?

“It has been an honour. For me, CoEDL is perhaps the brightest single light on the international stage in the language sciences and allied fields.”

“I hope that these and other questions, across these and other domains, can help as plans take shape for extending the accomplishments, practices and aspirations of CoEDL beyond its seven-year run time.”

To view the full text of Tony’s address, including details on further questions from the audience, follow the link below:


Questions? Comments? Answers? Email them to us at

(Main image: Tony Woodbury, at front right, chairs a joint meeting of the Centre’s Advisory and Executive committees at CoEDLFest 2020.)


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