The initiative for this first international congress came from two Dutch linguists: Professor C. C. Uhlenbeck of Leiden University and Professor J. Schrijnen of the University of Nijmegen. The congress constituted an important landmark in the study of linguistics. As its secretary, Prof. Schrijnen, rightly observed in his concluding report, it was the first time that linguistics had presented itself to the world as an autonomous science. During the congress a proposal from the French linguist Antoine Meillet was accepted to hold international congresses every three years. In order to ensure the proper organization of future congresses, CIPL was created, originally consisting of a Secretary-General (Schrijnen) and ten members, all very distinguished scholars (Bally, Boas, Brockelmann, Jespersen, Daniel Jones, Karlgren, Kretschmer, Meillet, Rozwadowski and Trombetti).
Because of the place of its origin, CIPL has always had close ties with The Netherlands and with Dutch linguistics. Those who held the office of Secretary-General have all been Dutch linguists with the exception of the Norwegian scholar Professor A. Sommerfelt, who served in this capacity from 1945 till 1964.
An important and fruitful change in the position of CIPL took place in 1948 when at the 8th session of the Executive Committee of Unesco CIPL was accorded Consultative Status. Also in other respects Unesco rendered valuable assistance to CIPL by providing grants for covering the travelling costs of young scholars from far-off countries or from countries that had suffered from the war, who wanted to take part in the linguistic congresses. Unesco also gave a grant for the publication of the proceedings of the congress held in 1948 in Paris.
In 1947 CIPL itself assisted in the preparation and the subsequent founding of the Conseil International de la Philosophie et des Sciences Humaines of Unesco (CIPSH). In 1949 the first meeting of this newly established council took place in Brussels, and since that year CIPL has functioned within this larger international framework. In 1964 the statutes of CIPL were changed so as to conform with the general guidelines of CIPSH for organizations operating under its aegis. In 1982 and 1987 the statutes underwent some further changes in order to make it possible for international linguistic organizations to join CIPL.
The linguistic congresses which from 1957 onward have been held every five years, have gradually expanded their scope and have developed into truly international gatherings. The early congresses were largely attended by scholars from a limited number of mostly European countries and the total number of the participants was rarely more than two or three hundred. At present, however, the linguistic congresses are attended by more than one thousand linguists, coming from all continents. The number of papers presented has grown accordingly and so has the size of the proceedings.
The topics discussed at the congresses reflect the rapid growth of linguistics as a science and its manifold interfaces with psychology, sociology, anthropology, philosophy and many other sciences. The expansion and specialization of linguistics is impressive. At present no scholar can claim to be conversant with the whole of the linguistic literature. Even more limited fields, such as sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics and semantics are developing at a rate which makes them increasingly difficult for the individual scholar to follow without reliable bibliographical assistance.
As to the future, CIPL is confident that it will be able to fulfil its two main obligations: the organization of international congresses and the annual publication of the bibliography. The modest funds at its disposal put narrow limits on the range of the activities of our organization. As it is of the utmost importance that the linguistic bibliography be as up-to-date as possible, a serious attempt is being made to shorten the interval between the year covered and the year of publication of the annual bibliography.
It goes without saying that CIPL remains open for all countries in which national linguistic institutions or research centers have come into being. As its statutes already indicate, CIPL is meant to be a truly international organization. Therefore our policy can only be to encourage national and international scientific organizations to become members and to participate in our activities.