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.



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.

Fieldwork on less-studied and endangered languages has become an increasingly important research emphasis for students and visitors. The department is exploring ways to further fund this research in the future.


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, and the like; 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.


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 2001-2002 include Institute Professor Noam Chomsky's 9-11 (Seven Stories Press, 2001) and Understanding Power (New Press, 2002), and Professor Irving Singer's Exploration in Love and Sex (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2001).

Honors and Awards

Professor Chomsky received the Rabindranath Tagore Award, Asiatic Society, Calcutta, 2001. Professor Judith Thomson was elected to a three-year term as chair of the American Philosophical Association National Board of Officers. The American Philosophical Association's board invited Professor Thomson to give the Carus Lectures 2003. Professor Joshua Cohen was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and Romanell-Phi Beta Kappa Professor of Philosophy, 2002-2003. Professor Singer was a fellow of the European Humanities Research Centre at Oxford University England in 2001-2002. Associate Professor Michel DeGraff was awarded a research fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Leaves of Absence

Associate Professor Kai von Fintel and Professor Robert Stalnaker were on sabbatical leaves for the spring semester. Associate Professor Sally Haslanger was on a leave without pay for the spring semester. In addition, Associate Professor DeGraff and Associate Professor Cheryl Zoll were on Junior Faculty Research Leaves in the fall and leaves without pay for the spring semester.


Professor Chomsky retired from the Linguistics Section as of January 15, 2002. Alex Byrne was promoted to associate professor with tenure. Michael Glanzberg was promoted to associate professor without tenure.

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
Department Head
Professor of Linguistics

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


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