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Samuel Jay Keyser

Samuel Jay Keyser is Professor Emeritus in MIT's Department of Linguistics and Philosophy and Special Assistant to the Chancellor. Head of the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy from 1977 to 1998, he also held the positions of Director of the Center for Cognitive Science and Associate Provost. Professor Keyser is Editor-in-Chief of the MIT Press Journal, Linguistic Inquiry.

Titles by This Author

The MIT Nobody Knows

When Jay Keyser arrived at MIT in 1977 to head the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, he writes, he "felt like a fish that had been introduced to water for the first time." At MIT, a colleague grabbed him by the lapels to discuss dark matter; Noam Chomsky called him "boss" (double SOB spelled backward?); and engaging in conflict resolution made him feel like "a marriage counselor trying to reconcile a union between a Jehovah’s witness and a vampire." In Mens et Mania, Keyser recounts his academic and administrative adventures during a career of more than thirty years. Keyser describes the administrative side of his MIT life, not only as department head but also as Associate Provost and Special Assistant to the Chancellor. Keyser had to run a department ("budgets were like horoscopes") andn egotiate student grievances—from the legality of showing Deep Throat in a dormitory to the uproar caused by the arrests of students for antiapartheid demonstrations. Keyser also describes a visiting Japanese delegation horrified by the disrepair of the linguistics department offices (Chomsky tells them "Our motto is: Physically shabby. Intellectually first class."); convincing a student not to jump off the roof of the Green Building; and recent attempts to look at MIT through a corporate lens. And he explains the special faculty-student bond at MIT: the faculty sees the students as themselves thirty years earlier. Keyser observes that MIT is hard to get into and even harder to leave, for faculty as well as for students. Writing about retirement, Keyser quotes the song Groucho Marx sang in Animal Crackers as he was leaving a party—"Hello, I must be going." Students famously say "Tech is hell." Keyser says,"It’s been a helluva party." This entertaining and thought-provoking memoir will make readers glad that Keyser hasn’t quite left.

This work is the culmination of an eighteen-year collaboration between Ken Hale and Samuel Jay Keyser on the study of the syntax of lexical items. It examines the hypothesis that the behavior of lexical items may be explained in terms of a very small number of very simple principles. In particular, a lexical item is assumed to project a syntactic configuration defined over just two relations, complement and specifier, where these configurations are constrained to preclude iteration and to permit only binary branching. The work examines this hypothesis by methodically looking at a variety of constructions in English and other languages.

Titles by This Editor

Essays on Minimalist Syntax in Honor of Howard Lasnik

This collection of essays presents an up-to-date overview of research in the minimalist program of linguistic theory. The book includes a new essay by Noam Chomsky as well as original contributions from other renowned linguists.Contributors : Andrew Barss, Zeljko Boskovic, Noam Chomsky, Hamida Demirdache, Hiroto Hoshi, Kyle Johnson, Roger Martin, Keiko Murasugi, Javier Ormazabal, Mamoru Saito, Daiko Takahashi, Juan Uriagereka, Myriam Uribe-Extebarria, Ewa Willim.

Essays in Linguistics in Honor of Sylvain Bromberger

These seven original essays commissioned in tribute to MIT Philosophy Professor Sylvain Bromberger present some of the most exciting research being conducted today in linguistics. Each essay is informed by Bromberger's ongoing inquiry into how we "come to know that there are things in the world that we don't know." Included in the collection is the edited version of Noam Chomsky's minimalist paper.

This is the third publication in the Linguistic Inquiry Monograph Series, which presents new and original research beyond the scope of the article format.

On a Morphologically Governed Vowel Alternation in French
Francois C. Dell, CNRS, Paris

Why Subject Sentences Don't Exist
Jan Koster, University of Amsterdam

Trace Theory and French Syntax
Jean-Yves Pollock, Universite de Paris XII et VII

A Restructuring Rule in Italian Syntax
Luigi Rizzi, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa

Result Clauses and Conditions on Rules
Alain Rouveret, Universite de Paris VIII

On the Diagnosis of Wh Movement
Henk van Riemsdijk, University of Amsterdam