Ray Jackendoff

Seth Merrin Professor of Philosophy; Emeritus Co-director, Center for Cognitive Studies

Tufts University

Ray Jackendoff received his Ph.D. in linguistics from MIT in 1969. His research centers around the system of meaning in natural language, how it is related to the human conceptual system, and how it is expressed linguistically. This has led him to a cognitive approach to traditional philosophical issues of inference and reference, embodied in his theory of Conceptual Semantics. In developing this approach, he has worked on the conceptualization of space, on the relationship between language, perception, and consciousness, and, most recently, on the conceptualization of such socially grounded concepts as value, morality, fairness, and obligations. In addition, in exploring how concepts are expressed in language, he has developed new models of the architecture of the human language faculty and its evolution.

Jackendoff is also a classical clarinetist, performing frequently in recital and chamber music in the Boston area. Through his musical interests, he has collaborated with composer Fred Lerdahl on a theory of musical cognition modeled on generative linguistics. The 25th anniversary of their book A Generative Theory of Tonal Music was celebrated in 2008 with conferences in Paris and Dijon and also at Tufts.

Ray Jackendoff has been President of both the Linguistic Society of America and the Society for Philosophy and Psychology. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Linguistic Society of America, and the Cognitive Science Society. He has had fellowships at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences and the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, and has been a member of the External Faculty of the Santa Fe Institute. He holds honorary degrees from the Université du Québec à Montréal, the National University of Music in Bucharest, the Music Academy of Cluj-Napoca, the Ohio State University, and Tel Aviv University. He was awarded the 2003 Jean Nicod Prize in Cognitive Philosophy, and he is the 2014 recipient of the David E. Rumelhart Prize, the premier award in the field of cognitive science.