In Brief

Ray Jackendoff Receives Top Cognitive Science Prize

$100K award recognizes his contributions to the theoretical foundations of human cognition
August 6, 2013

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Ray Jackendoff, the Seth Merrin Professor of Humanities, a professor of philosophy and co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts, is the 2014 recipient of the David E. Rumelhart Prize, the premier award in the field of cognitive science.

The prize, which includes a $100,000 monetary award, recognizes teams or individuals “making a significant contemporary contribution to the theoretical foundations of human cognition.” Jackendoff is known for his work in generative and cognitive linguistics. His prize was announced at the annual meeting of the Cognitive Science Society on Aug. 2 in Berlin. As part of the award, Jackendoff will deliver a major address during the society’s 2014 meeting, at which a symposium will be given in his honor.

Ray Jackendoff. Photo: Alonso NicholsJackendoff’s primary research involves the system of meaning—the messages that language conveys and what this tells us about the character of the brain. His musical interests—he is a professional clarinetist—also have led him to develop a groundbreaking theory of musical cognition.

“Ray Jackendoff is widely recognized as one of the world’s most brilliant and influential cognitive theorists,” says Joanne Berger-Sweeney, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Tufts. “We are extremely pleased that his achievements have been recognized with this Rumelhart Prize.”

“Ray Jackendoff’s work has illuminated the beauty of grammatical structure, the building blocks of thought, the contents of consciousness and the nature of music,” says Steven Pinker, Johnston Family Professor in the department of psychology at Harvard University. “And with a judicious synthesis of the best ideas from a variety of theoretical camps, he has connected the study of language to the rest of science.”

Jackendoff received his B.A. in mathematics from Swarthmore College and completed his Ph.D. in linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under the supervision of Noam Chomsky and Morris Halle. He then joined the faculty at Brandeis University, where he taught until he came to Tufts in 2005.

Jackendoff 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 held 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 has been president of both the Linguistic Society of America and the Society for Philosophy and Psychology and received the 2003 Jean Nicod Prize in Cognitive Philosophy. He has been awarded five honorary degrees, most recently from Tel Aviv University.

The Rumelhart Prize was established in 2001 and is funded by the Robert J. Glushko and Pamela Samuelson Foundation.