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MIT School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences - Great Ideas Change the World

MIT linguist Danny Fox named Anshen-Chomsky Professor of Language and Thought
Research that illuminates both language and the mind itself 
 

 
 

               “Fox belongs to the rare breed of researchers who not only
                discover remarkable new facts about language, but also
                has the vision to see what these discoveries are teaching us
                about the mind as a whole, about the structure of language
                as a part of the human mind, and about the internal workings
                of language itself."

                    — David Pesetsky, Head, MIT Department of Linguistics and Philosophy 

 


 

Professor David Pesetsky, head of the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, has announced the appointment of MIT linguist Danny Fox to the Anshen-Chomsky Professorship in Language and Thought.

“I am humbled and deeply touched by this appointment,” Fox said. “It is a huge honor to be able to work here at MIT, among the most amazing collection of students and colleagues.”

This chair was made possible by an endowment to the department from the late Ruth Anshen, a philosopher and author who was personally close to Institute Professor Emeritus Noam Chomsky. Anshen established the professorship to honor Chomsky’s contributions not only to linguistics but also to the broader study of mind.


Discoveries about language and mind

“I cannot think of a linguist more worthy than Danny as the holder of a chair that honors Noam's contributions to the study of language, thought, and their interrelations,” Pesetsky said. “Danny is one of the most remarkable linguists of our time.”

Fox conducts research in a broad set of domains and is well-known in the field for his contributions to syntax (sentence structure), semantics, pragmatics, and even the relation of these areas (particularly syntax) to sound structure. Recently, he spent three years at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he helped establish the new Language, Logic, and Cognition Center.

“Danny Fox belongs to the rare breed of researchers who not only discover remarkable new facts about language, but also has the vision to see what these discoveries are teaching us about the mind as a whole, about the structure of language as a part of the human mind, and about the internal workings of language itself,” Pesetsky said.


Theoretician, experimentalist, linguist, and cognitive scientist 

Pesetsky compared Fox to Chomsky, who is sometimes called the “father of linguistics” for his work on the fundamental nature of language
. “Danny is simultaneously a theoretician and an experimentalist, a brilliant linguist, and a profound cognitive scientist,” Pesetsky said. “The comparison one thinks of is Noam Chomsky himself, the founder of our field.”

Fox received his PhD from MIT in 1998 and from 1998 to 2001 was a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows. He joined the faculty at MIT in 2001 and became a full professor with tenure in 2007. He is the author of Economy and Semantic Interpretation (MIT Press, 1999), which Chomsky called “a truly outstanding achievement."

“Every day I learn something new and am constantly reminded of how much the people around me deserve my admiration,” Fox said. “Noam Chomsky and other teachers at MIT, all my current colleagues, have influenced me in ways that are too profound to describe.”

 

Suggested Links

Danny Fox website at MIT Linguistics

MIT Linguistics

Economy and Semantic Interpretation (MIT Press)

 


 

Story prepared by MIT SHASS Communications
Editorial and Design Director: Emily Hiestand
Writer, and Associate News Manager: Kathryn O'Neill

Photocredit: Christopher J Naylor, MIT Linguistics and Philosophy