European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics

The formation of a European Chapter of the ACL (EACL) was announced at the annual ACL meeting in 1982 in Toronto. The Chapter's primary objectives were to eliminate what were then real obstacles for European membership: high bank charges for payment of dues, high postal rates for distribution of mailings, and transatlantic travel costs to meetings based exclusively in North America. To address these needs EACL offered international banking facilities in Europe, a European mail distribution centre, and a biennial European conference. The founding Board of the EACL was composed of: Eva Hajicova (Chair), Harold Somers (Secretary), Mike Rosner (Treasurer), an Advisory Committee (Hubert Lehmann, Remko Scha and Yorick Wilks) and a Nominating Committee (Giacomo Ferrari, Gerald Gazdar, Peter Hellwig and Bente Maegaard).

Many of the initial motivations for the foundation of EACL are no longer relevant, mainly due to the Internet, online banking, and the transformation of ACL from an American to an international organisation in 1997. Nevertheless EACL has remained the primary professional association for computational linguistics in Europe, serving its members not only through its biennial meeting, but also through support for educational initiatives in the field -- for example, EACL-sponsored introductory courses in CL at ESSLLI summer schools, the European Masters in Speech and Language, and studentships at specialist workshops.

The flagship event remains the EACL conference, whose inaugural edition was held in Pisa, September 1983, with Giacomo Ferrari as the conference chair. By all accounts it was a huge success, and set the stage for a very productive series of conferences. Looking back through the proceedings of that conference, one discerns a strong European flavour compared to ACL. For example, of the 32 papers at EACL'83, 10 were about languages other than English, compared to only 2 out of 25 at ACL'83.

Today, the EACL conferences are alive and well, with a typical EACL having 400-500 participants and 75-80 papers.