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Mellon CNY Humanities Corridor presents renowned MIT linguist at Cornell May 4-5
Mellon CNY Humanities Corridor presents renowned MIT linguist at Cornell May 4-5April 23, 2009Rob Enslinrmenslin@syr.edu
One of the country’s leading exponents of linguistic theory, Danny Fox, will visit Cornell University on May 4-5. His visit is sponsored by The Andrew W. Mellon Central New York Humanities Corridor, an interdisciplinary partnership with Cornell, Syracuse University and the University of Rochester. During his visit, Fox will explore various relationships between syntax and semantics as The Mellon CNY Humanities Corridor’s Distinguished Visitor in Linguistics for spring 2009.
On May 4, Fox will present a lecture from 3-4:30 p.m. titled “Economy and Embedded Exhaustification,” based on a joint research project with Benjamin Spector of Paris’ Ecole Normale Superieure. Fox will also lead a mini course on syntax and semantics from 10 a.m.-noon on May 4 and 5. All events are free and open to the public and take place in Room 106 of Justin Morrill Hall on the Cornell campus. For more information, call the SU Humanities Center at (315) 443-5708.
Fox serves as professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he specializes in syntax and semantics. He is the author of numerous articles and essays, as well as the groundbreaking book “Economy and Semantic Interpretation” (MIT Press, 1999), praised by MIT colleague Noam Chomsky as a “major contribution to linguistic theory.” Much of Fox’s work revolves around principles of optimization, or economy, as they relate to sentence syntax and semantics.
“Danny Fox is on the cutting edge of linguistic theory, particularly regarding interconnections between syntax and semantics,” says Gregg Lambert, Dean’s Professor of the Humanities in SU’s College of Arts and Sciences, founding director of the SU Humanities Center and principal investigator of The Mellon CNY Humanities Corridor. “‘Economy and Semantic Interpretation’ is a highly influential work that presents compelling arguments for a novel view of linguistic theory.”
At Cornell, Fox will discuss a proposal that he recently developed with Martin Hackl of Pomona College challenging widely held assumptions about grammar, pragmatic process, lexical meaning and contextual factors. Fox will also touch on implications of a somewhat different proposal about syntax and semantics by Marta Abrusan and Benjamin Spector, both at Ecole Normale Superieure. “Fox proposes a particular version of economy constraints for linguistic theory, whereby syntactic processes that don’t affect the actual shape of utterances can only apply if they affect meaning,” says Jaklin Kornfilt, professor of linguistics in SU’s College of Arts and Sciences. “This has huge implications on the architecture of grammar and on the ‘modularity assumption,’ in which syntax is traditionally thought to be separate from semantics.”
Fox’s visit to Cornell is supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation through a four-year, $1 million award, designed to raise public engagement with and visibility of the humanities throughout Central New York and to enhance the productivity and connectivity of its key scholars, students and community members. The Mellon CNY Humanities Corridor is administered for The College of Arts and Sciences by the SU Humanities Center and is part of a larger effort to support engaged research and a public dialogue about the possibilities of humanistic inquiry, coupled with innovative thinking about real-world problems. More information is available at http://thecollege.syr.edu/mellon/.