Department of Linguistics and Philosophy

The Department of Linguistics and Philosophy divides into two sections consisting of twenty-six faculty members (four of them jointly appointed), sixty-nine graduate students, thirteen undergraduate majors, two dozen or so visiting scientists and scholars, an administrative officer, a student administrator, network administrator, lab manager, and six support staff members. Each section operates independently; yet between them there is a significant overlap of intellectual interests in education and research, among the faculty, students, and visitors. In the most recent (1995) National Research Council rating of graduate programs in the United States, Linguistics and Philosophy were ranked first and tenth, respectively, on faculty quality and second and seventh, respectively, on program effectiveness. This year's undergraduate class enrollment of 737 students is consistent with the increase over the last few years.



The linguists continue to pursue an account of natural language in terms of principles of computation and representation. The Minimalist Program for Linguistic Theory, Optimality Theory, and the Theory of Distributed Morphology offer somewhat different yet sometimes complementary suggestions for the course that the pursuit might follow. These ideas continue to be explored, developed, and challenged by MIT graduate students, faculty and visitors in research on syntax, semantics, morphology, phonology, and on the interfaces between these modules of the grammar of natural language.

Neurolinguistic research continues with the move of the KIT/MIT MEG Lab to Building 24. The MEG Lab hosts interdisciplinary research by scientists across MIT and the greater Boston scientific community. The Department has also continued to provide support for experimental research in language acquisition, acoustic phonetics, and sentence processing.


Research in philosophy is not so neatly programmatic as it is in linguistics; thus it is best simply to list the wide range of topics pursued in current research in philosophy at MIT including but not exhausted by the following: theories of consciousness and the mind-body problem; causation and laws of nature; analysis of fundamental metaphysical concepts: substance, attribute, essence, set, identity, etc.; problems at the intersection of ethics and historical sociology; foundational questions of quantum physics; analysis of natural laws and their role within scientific theories; applied aesthetics; the foundations of "possible worlds" semantics for modal and conditional logics; the ontology of events; the identity across time of people and other physical objects; the principles of rationality governing ethical reasoning; and the role of evaluative thoughts in practical reasoning.


As in the past, the faculty on both sides of the department participated in a large number of colloquium and acted as keynote speakers at conferences and workshops in various parts of the United States and the world. In addition a number of our faculty served as editors and/or members of editorial boards for numerous journals both in the United States and abroad. They also published a large number of journal articles, book chapters, and reviews. Books published in 2000-2001 include: Institute Professor Noam Chomsky published four books: Rogue States: The Rule of Force in World Affairs, South End Press; The Architecture of Language, Oxford University Press; A New Generation Draws the Line, Verso; and Su natura e linguaggio, Universita Degli Studi Di Siena. Professor Irving Singer also published four books this year: George Santayana, Literary Philosopher, Yale University Press; Reality Transformed: Film as Meaning and Technique, MIT Press; Feeling and Imagination: The Vibrant Flux of Our Existence, Rowman and Littlefield Publishers; and Sex: A Philosophical Primer, Rowman and Littlefield Publishers. Professor Judith Thomson published Goodness and Advice, Princeton University Press. Professor David Pesetsky published, Phrasal Movement and its Kin, MIT Press. Professor Kenneth Hale published two books: Dine Bizaad Naalkaah: Navajo Language Investigations, along with Professor Theodore Fernald, Working Papers on Endangered and Less Familiar Language, Volume 3, MITWPL; and The Green Book of Language Revitalization, with Professor Leanne Hinton, Academic Press. Professors Alec Marantz, Wayne O'Neil, and Yasushi Miyashita published, Image, Language, Brain, Papers from the first Mind Articulation Symposium, MIT Press. Professor Joshua Cohen and Professor Joel Rogers jointly edited three books from Beacon Press: What's Wrong with a Free Lunch?; Is Inequality Bad For Our Health?; The New Environmentalism. In addition, Professor Robert Stalnaker, Associate Professor Alex Byrne, and Associate Professor Ralph Wedgwood edited a collection of essays, Fact and Value: Essays in Ethics and Metaphysics for Judith Jarvis Thomson, MIT Press. Assistant Professor Norvin Richards co-edited MIT Working Papers in Endangered and Less-Familiar Languages, Volume 2: Topics in Australian Languages, MITWPL.

Honors and Awards

Professor Pesetsky was appointed the Henrietta Harvey Distinguished Lecturer, Memorial University, Newfoundland, March 2001. Professor Wedgwood was awarded the Young Epistemologist Prize at the Rutgers Epistemology Conference in 2001.


Professor Michael Kenstowicz was on a sabbatical leave for the fall semester and an administrative leave in the spring. In addition, Professors Byrne and Wedgwood were on junior faculty research leaves for the spring semester.

Professor Wayne O'Neil retired from the Linguistics Section as of June 30, 2001. Associate Professors Sabine Iatridou and Stephen Yablo were promoted to the rank of Professor. Associate Professor Kai von Fintel was awarded tenure.

We have reached our revised affirmative action goal of six women on the faculty with the transfer of Professor Suzanne Flynn's line to our department. In addition, we have hired Donca Steriade as a Professor of Linguistics. She will begin her tenure with us on July 1, 2002, bringing to seven the total number of women faculty members. We will continue our efforts to recruit qualified women and minority candidates to the faculty.

Alec Marantz

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