Here is a list of what we believe are the top linguistics conferences in the world. This is by no means a formal ranking, but is one prepared with a North American bias by linguistics faculty and graduate students at linguistics departments in North America, and aims to serve as a guide for linguistics graduate students planning to submit to conferences in the area. You can discuss your opinions on the Linguistics Forum here, and make suggestions there. The list is, by no means, final, and will be revised as selectivity of conferences change in time. Also, see this list for an alternative list prepared by UPenn graduate students.
I. GENERAL LINGUISTICS
The top two linguistics conferences on linguistics are:
For NELS and WCCFL, your abstract will often need to be ranked in top 10%-14% to get in. In NELS 40 (NELS 2009), for example, less than 10% of all abstracts got accepted as talks, and NELS 41 had an acceptance rate of 10%, whereas in the most recent WCCFL (WCCFL 28), acceptance rate was 12.5%. You will often need at least one NELS or WCCFL presentation in order for your CV to be impressive enough in job applications, especially if you are applying to work in a generative linguistics department.
After NELS and WCCFL, at the next level, there is CLS. CLS' acceptance rate changes from 20% to 30% depending on the year:
GLOW shares the #2 spot together with WCCFL in our ranking, although, to many linguists, GLOW is at least as good as NELS, and with similar selectivity. In most years, GLOW accepts only 10-11% of submissions, and is generally seen as the European version of NELS/WCCFL, as can be understood from the the full name, "Generative Linguistics in the Old World."
After NELS, WCCFL and CLS, there is GLOW (which is held in Europe). GLOW also often accepts around 20 to 30% of all abstracts, but they have special selection criteria, and thus, their selection process is not completely dependent on external reviews. So whereas an abstract that is objectively ranked among top 15 of all abstracts submitted might get rejected, another abstract that has been ranked #90 by reviews might get in:
In the same tier, we could list some language family-specific conferences, such as LSRL (on Romance), WAFL (on Altaic), AFLA (Austronesian), and FASL (Slavic). These could sometimes be quite selective, though, again, deoending on the year and location:
II. SUB-AREAS OF LINGUISTICS
The most prestigious conferences on syntax are still NELS and WCCFL. These are the two conferences that will best enable you to be noticed in the field and are regularly followed by the top syntacticians (and phonologists, see below) in the world.
NELS, WCCFL and GLOW are followed by CLS and PLC, etc. in the next tier:
For phonology, the top two are NELS and WCCFL; that is pretty straighforward. As with syntax, these are the two conferences for phonology that are truly selective, with a very low acceptance rate, and are followed by the top phonologists over the world.
In the next tier, we could definitely list Manchester Phonology Conference (MFM) as #3, and perhaps the Old World Conference on Phonology (OCP) as #4, both held in Europe, followed by CLS and GLOW:
There is also the new North American Conference on Phonology; we will see, in the future, how selective that conference will turn out to be and whether it will be frequented by the leading phonologists of the world.
We would say SALT is the most prestigious semantics conference, especially if you are in North America. SALT is followed by the Amsterdam Colloquium, NELS and WCCFL. As with NELS and WCCFL, SALT is also a very selective conference, often accepting less than 15% of the abstracts submitted, though, they are selected, this time, from among semanticists only, rather than among all linguists unlike NELS and WCCFL. Nevertheless, since SALT is composed only of semanticists and still achieves to be a very selective conference, you have great chances of meeting leading semanticists and shaing your ideas with the semantics community. Same goes for the Amsterdam Colloquium:
2. Amsterdam Colloquium
4. Language Acquisition:
NELS and WCCFL are prestigious here, too, but very few language acquisition papers are published in NELS and WCCFL, if ever, and when some are published, that is usually either because the paper has a theoretical/formal proposal that is also relevant for acquisition, or because there is a special session on language acquisition (or a certain aspect of it). Others, such as GLOW, CLS, PLC and BLS also accept acquisition papers, but the quality is not as high as NELS and WCCFL, and acceptance rates could be quite high.
Therefore, we are only listing primarily acquisition conferences here:
In the first tier, for general acquisition (both first and second language acquisition), there is GALA and GALANA. These are both quite selective for acquisition, accepting about 30% of all submissions. If you can get in as an 'oral presentation' that is even better, for acceptance rates for oral presentations are sometimes about 15%. It is much easier to get in as a poster though:
BUCLD and GALA are both on language acquisition in general, including both first and second language acquisition, as well as language impairment. Their selectivity is very low, around 20-25%. Whereas BUCLD in recent years accepts more psychology- and education-related papers than linguistics, GALA is very linguistics-oriented, and are, thus, preferred by linguists working on language acquisition. BUCLD and GALA are followed by GALANA, yet another conference that is both on first and second language acquisition and linguistics-oriented. GALANA is, then, followed by GASLA, which, again, accepts about 30% of all submitted abstracts (about 15% for orals), and is focused only on Second Language Acquisition (SLA) from a linguistic perspective. Among conferences that are primarily focused on SLA, though, GASLA can be considered as top:
In the next tier, we can list SLRF and Eurosla, both on second language acquisition only. Both conferences have papers on second language acquisition from a diverse array of perspectives, including linguistics, education, psychology and even sociology. SLRF is a bit more selective, with a selectivity rate of around 35-40%, as opposed to Eurosla, which is around 45%.
At the next level are conferences like AAAL and ACTFL, which are both more education-oriented than linguistics, and both much more generous in acceptance rates than any other conference listed here, although the former (AAAL) is a little more linguistics-oriented and is slightly more selective. You can see not just academics but also high school and even elementary school teachers presenting in these two conferences. Both are extremely large conferences (more so for ACTFL), and both are great more for networking and pedagogy than second language acquisition from a scientific perspective, although a great number of scientific papers are also presented at AAAL:
Although the focus of this page is linguistics conferences, here are a few words about top linguistics journals:
Top journal is Linguistic Inquiry, although Language and Journal of Linguistics are also considered very good by many.
Top journal is Phonology, although Linguistic Inquiry and Language are also considered very good by many, especially for papers at the syntax-phonology interface.
Top journal is Linguistic Inquiry, although Journal of Semantics and Language are also considered top by many.
There are several journals considered to be top, Language Acquisition for general language acquisition, including both first and second language acquisition; Studies in Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Research for second language acquisition only; Bilingualism: Language and Cognition for bilingualism and second language acquisition, and Journal of Child Language, for first language acquisition only.
Finally, once again, we suggest visiting this list, too, for an alternative list of top linguistics conferences.