Department of Linguistics and Philosophy

The Department of Linguistics and Philosophy divides into two sections consisting of 26 faculty members (four of them jointly appointed), 67 graduate students, two dozen or so visiting scientists and scholars, an administrative officer, a student administrator, network administrator, lab manager, and five support staff members. Each section operates independently, yet between them there is a significant overlap of intellectual interests in education and research, spanning the faculty, graduate 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.

Research: Linguistics

The linguists continue to develop a cognitive account of natural language in terms of principles of computation and representation. Major research initiatives—including the Minimalist Program for Linguistic Theory, Optimality Theory, and Distributed Morphology—provide a rich variety of approaches for such accounts. Proposals are explored, developed, and challenged by students, faculty, and visitors to the department pursuing research on syntax, semantics, pragmatics, morphology, phonology, phonetics, and the interfaces among these systems of natural language.

The department has increasingly provided students and faculty with support for experimental research in language acquisition, acoustic phonetics, sentence processing, and neurolinguistics. The department's magnetoencephalography (MEG) Lab in Building 24, upgraded in 2003, hosts interdisciplinary research conducted by groups from across MIT and the greater Boston scientific community.

Fieldwork on less-studied and endangered languages has become an increasingly important research emphasis for students and visitors. The department continues fund-raising efforts to solidify financial support for this research.

Research: Philosophy

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; the nature and confirmation of 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.

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As in the past, the faculty on both sides of the department participated in a large number of colloquia 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 2002–2003 include the following three by Professor Noam Chomsky: On Nature and Language, edited by Adriana Belletti and Luigi Rizzi, Cambridge University Press (2002); Middle East Illusions, Rowman and Littlefield (2002); and Chomsky on Democracy and Education, edited by Carlos Otero, Routledge Falmer (2003). Others were Professor Morris Halle's From Memory to Speech and Back: Papers on Phonetics and Phonology 1954–2002, Mouton-deGruyter (2002); and Professor Kenneth Hale and Professor Samuel Jay Keyser's Prolegomenon to a Theory of Lexical Argument Structure, MIT Press (2002).

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Honors and Awards

Professor Chomsky received the Peace Award from the Turkish Publishers Association, Istanbul, 2003; the Adela Dwyer St. Thomas of Villanova Peace Award, Villanova University; Foreign Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada; and the Kurdish Human Rights Association Award, 2002.

Professor Stephen Yablo received the National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, 2003, and was awarded the Scots Philosophy Club Centenary Fellowship, 2002.

Associate professor Sally Haslanger was awarded the Scots Philosophy Club Centenary Fellowship, 2002.

Professor Irving Singer was a Fellow of the European Humanities Research Centre at Oxford University, England in 2002–2003.

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Leaves of Absence

Professor Vann McGee and Professor Judith Thomson were on sabbatical leaves for the spring semester. Professor Irene Heim was on a leave without pay for the spring semester. In addition, associate professor Michael Glanzberg and assistant professor Norvin Richards were on junior faculty research leaves in the fall.


Associate professors Edward J. Hall and Michel DeGraff were promoted to associate professor with tenure. Assistant professors Daniel Fox and Norvin Richards were both promoted to associate professor without tenure.

We have hired Caspar Hare as an assistant professor of philosophy. He will begin his tenure with us on July 1, 2003. We currently have seven women and one minority faculty members. We will continue our efforts to recruit qualified women and minority candidates to the faculty.

Alec Marantz
Department Head
Professor of Linguistics

More information about the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy can be found on the web at and


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