Concepts familiar from grade-school algebra have broad ramifications in computer science.
Professor Alec Marantz will be the next head of the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, starting July 1. He will take over the post from Robert Stalnaker, the Laurence Rockefeller Professor of Philosophy.
In announcing this appointment, Philip S. Khoury, dean of the School of Humanities and Social Science, said, "Alec Marantz is considered one of the leading linguists in the world. Moreover, he is a devoted institution builder who will help to ensure the leadership of both linguistics and philosophy at MIT as they enter the 21st century."
Professor Marantz received the BA from Oberlin College in 1978 and the PhD in linguistics from MIT in 1981. He was a Junior Fellow in Harvard University's Society of Fellows from 1981-84. From 1984-90 he taught at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as an assistant professor in the English department and the linguistics curriculum. In 1987 and 1988, he taught at both Brandeis University and the University of California at Irvine as a visiting professor.
In 1990, MIT appointed him a tenured associate professor, and in 1996 he was promoted to full professor in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy.
Professor Marantz is the author of On the Nature of Grammatical Relations. He is the main creator of the subfield of morphosyntax; in recent years he has been developing the theory of distributed morphology with Institute Professor Emeritus Morris Halle and others.
Currently, he is research director of the KIT/MIT MEG Joint Research Laboratory, which houses the only magnetoencephalography (MEG) brain-imaging system in the world under the control of a linguistics department. MEG offers an advanced technology for measuring the human brain activity underlying language and other cognitive functions.
One of Professor Marantz's research goals is to unify the studies of linguistics and brain science. His other interests include the relationship among linguistics, philosophy and literary theory, and the general problem of neural coding.
"I plan to work on strengthening our ties to brain and cognitive sciences and on creating new links to the computer science labs," Professor Marantz said. "In addition, I hope to ensure that everyone on campus will be able to answer the question we in linguistics and philosophy get asked most often by undergraduates: 'Why are linguistics and philosophy in the same department?'"
A version of this article appeared in the May 12, 1999 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 43, Number 30).