There are several things, both intellectual and social, that we try to achieve in this school:
A place where it feels nice to do intellectual work.
Doing ‘intensive intellectual work’ is not hard since most of us spend inordinate amounts of time working anyway. The feel nice part less obvious in academia, and mostly means ensuring a relaxed atmophere.
To ensure this, we have two simple rules, which have proven pretty succesful up to now:
1. minimise the barrier between “teachers” and “students”. We all stay in the same hostel for instance (many nice parties have resulted from this!), travel reimbursements are pretty similar for teachers and students, informal participative teaching style is encouraged, etc.
2. spend as much time partying as we spend in the classrooms. Which means a lot of time 😉 Of course, the fact that the teachers organise the school themselves also helps a lot.
A SCHOOL THAT IS AFFORDABLE
One prominent goal of the school is to be useful to places where generative grammar is only emergent, or non-existent yet; focusing on Central and Eastern Europe for the time being.
A big part of this is financial: most conferences and schools are simply unreachable for a student from central or eastern Europe. Our response is to organise a school where the courses are offered very cheap: there is a very low participation fee (around 120 euros, including 13 nights of accomodation, and even reductions for students from Eastern European countries, anyone can just walk in. Furthermore, we keep the hotel costs modest by lodging in student dorms, provided at roughly local prices. On top of that, we offer grants helping people to travel to the school who can’t make it otherwise. All the staff is involved in making this possible: all the teachers come teach for free (many even pay their own travel), the school is organised by volunteers, and the hosting university kindly offers the rooms.
Surprisingly, we discovered that many students from Western countries – including from the US – also feel the need for an affordable summer-school. There are other cool schools, but they are terribly expensive. So it is often easier for someone to fly to Eastern Europe rather than spend a huge budget on these other schools.
fun and stimulating research
School is often boring. Ideally, we would want a place where research happens rather than ‘being taught’. We try to do that by bringing together top notch researchers and providing a venue for them to interact with students in a calm and stimulating setting. The idea here is twofold: on the one hand provide great conditions for intellectual sport and creative research; and on the other hand provide mid to advanced participants with a great stimulant: live research done in a didactic way. (The difference between ‘teachers’ and ‘advanced students’ is of course largely artificial in this context).The intention of the advanced track is thus to present live but accessible research & debate to students who already have a grasp of the basics, but not necessarily of the topic under discussion.We also have a more contentive agenda: one of the greatest thing about generative linguistics is that it encourages you to use your brain. It calls for explanations rather than resting content with descriptions. Since this aspect is underemphasised in the linguistics, we try to provide much space for it.
Introductory and Advanced Courses
The EGG provides introductory as well as advanced courses in syntax, semantics, morphology and phonology. So there is something for everyone (often the teachers also attend and participate in other teachers’ courses).
Since it is an important goal of the school to be useful to places where generative grammar is only emergent, or non-existent yet; it is important to us to provide excellent intro classes. The intro classes are thus very accessible and presuppose almost no technical knowledge. The advanced courses, on the other hand, tend to be topical or investigate phenomena in greater detail.
Teachers: young and old, junior and established
The EGG believes in encouraging new ideas from excellent junior researchers rather than in recycling established theories and conventions from rich-and-famous, established researchers.
It is, in fact, well-known that much of the novelty of research comes from people who are new to the field, typically graduate students, post-docs, etc; but also researchers newly converted from other fields. In sharp contrast with most (all?) other schools, we’re not squeamish about inviting (very) junior staff, when we sniff promising content. Notice that we do have rich-and-famous established scholars teaching, but the proportion is typically inverse with respect to traditional events. (I suppose it helps that most organisers are themselves pretty junior ;-).