Short Biosketch

Joan Bresnan received a BA from Reed College in philosophy (1966) and a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in linguistics (1972). She has held faculty positions at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, MIT, and Stanford, where she is currently Sadie Dernham Patek Professor in Humanities Emerita and a senior researcher at Stanford's Center for the Study of Language and Information (CSLI). She has written about higher-level grammatical structures (`syntax') from many angles, and is probably best known as one of the principal architects of lexical-functional grammar. In 2016 she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Computational Linguistics. She has been elected President of the Linguistic Society of America, an inaugural Fellow of the LSA, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy, a Fellow of the Cognitive Science Society, a Fellow of the Center for the Advanced Study of the Behavioral Sciences, a Guggenhiem Fellow, an Erskine Fellow of the University of Canterbury (Christchurch), an external Fellow of the Freiburg Institute of Advanced Studies, and a holder of the International Chair of Quantitative and Experimental Linguistics at Labex Empirical Foundations of Linguistics in Paris. She has participated in several distinguished lecture series, such as the Edward Sapir Professorship of the LSA, the Nijmegen Lectures, the Vilem Mathesius Lecture Series (Charles University, Prague), and the Roman Jakobson lecture to the Prague Circle. She is a member of the Usage Panel for the American Heritage Dictionary. Her Spoken Syntax Lab at CSLI is a base for her research collaborations with local and international colleagues and students, where she has been principal investigator of several projects under National Science Foundation and other awards.

A Personal Essay

"I began to realize that we theoretical linguists had no privileged way of distinguishing the possible formal patterns of a language from the merely probable. Many of the kinds of sentences reported by theorists to be ungrammatical are actually used quite grammatically in rare contexts. Authentic examples can be found in very large collections of language use, such as the World Wide Web. [...] Moreover, judgments of ungrammaticality are often unstable and can be manipulated simply by raising or lowering the probability of the context. Most remarkably, language users have powerful predictive capacities, which can be measured using statistical models of spontaneous language use. From all these discoveries I have come to believe that our implicit knowledge of language has been vastly underestimated by theoretical linguistics of the kind I had practiced."
--passage selected by Simonetta Vietri, from:

Joan Bresnan. 2011. "A Voyage into Uncertainty", published as "Linguistic uncertainty and the knowledge of knowledge". In Thinking Reed. Centenial Essays by Graduates of Reed College., a volume of essays by Reed College alumni on the occasion of the college's centenary, edited by Roger Porter and Robert Reynolds and published by Reed College, Portland, Oregon, pp. 69--75.

Current Activities

2017:
  • [May 25-June 8: self-guided cycling tour on the Cantabrian and Asturian Coast and in the Picos de Europa, Spain w MB]
  • [May 18-19: trip to Lompoc with MB to pick up Lightning R-84]
  • Release of the datasets for the genitive and dative alternations in four varieties of English! Available as downloads at: http://purl.stanford.edu/qj187zs3852.
  • [Apr 1-7: cycling tour in Solvang/Paso Robles w MB]
  • 2016:
  • [Nov 30-Dec 15: cycling tour of Tasmania with MB, SW, and MF]
  • August 10, 2016: At ACL 2016 in Berlin for the Lifetime Achievement Award. A surprising and unforgettable experience. Here's the publisheded write-up of my acceptance speech: "Linguistics: The Garden and the Bush" in Computational Linguistics 42(4):599-617. The MIT Press.
  • [May 6-24: cycling and hiking with MB in the Costa Verde and Picos de Europa, Northern Spain]
  • April 4--5, 2016: Leuven Workshiop on Probabilistic Variation across Dialects and Varieties
  • [Feb 7-8: trip to North Hollywood with MB to pick up Carbent Traveling Raven]
  • 2015:
  • Sept 9-29: Strategic Fellow at NZILBB, project: "the Dynamics of Spoken Syntax: Contraction in conversation, linguistic change, and language development"
  • Jul 22-Aug 2: Marilyn Ford visits the Spoken Syntax Lab
  • Jun 15-Aug 15: VPUE summer project on English auxiliary contraction and spoken syntax with Arto Anttila and Gwynn Lyons
  • summer research with Simon Todd on alternations project
  • [Feb 24-Mar 18: cycling camp in Montecorto and cycling tour of Andalucia]
  • Feb 18: Victor Kuperman visits the Spoken Syntax Lab
  • [Jan 24-27: Long Beach with MB]
  • 2014:
  • [Dec 19-23: Monterey with MB]
  • [Oct 28-Nov 11: travel with SW to India (Pune, Ahmenabad for Ajanta/Ellora) to visit with Tara and Mohanan, Doug and Anne-Marie ]
  • Aug 24-27: plenary speaker at the Third ISLE conference, Zürich
  • [Jul 20-30: to Brisbane, Oz, to vist Mal, Allie, and Matt]
  • July--August: Michal Ben Shachar visits the Spoken Syntax Lab, working together with Olek Główka and JB
  • Winter, Spring, Summer: Simon Todd and Olek Główka work on projects in the Spoken Syntax Lab
  • [May 16-Jun 7: Tuscany and Dolomites-to-Venice cycling self-guided tours with Cubs]
  • Apr 17: Victor Kuperman visits the Spoken Syntax Lab
  • [Mar 21-25: Paso Robles training with Cubs]
  • Jan 16-Feb 1: Marilyn Ford visits Spoken Syntax Lab
  • Jan 16-21: NSF project group meetings: Marilyn Ford, Jason Grafmiller, Anette Rosenbach, Benedikt Szmrecsányi, Sali Tagliamonte, and Simon Todd
  • Jan 17-18: Gradience in Grammar Workshop co-hosted with Annie Zaenen & Dan Lassiter
  • Jan 6 to Mar 25: Olek Główka begins work on the project "Syntactic probabilities as a parametric predictor of cortical responses during sentence processing" with JB and Michal Ben Shachar, funded by a Center for Cognitive and Neurobiological Imaging (CNI) seed grant award.
  • 2013:
  • [Dec 21-28: Allie arrives, Open Den, to LB & back]
  • [Nov 15-17: Pacific Grove with M]
  • October 18: Invited speaker, Workshop on Quantitative approaches in corpus linguistics and psycholinguistics: Word order and constituent order at INALCO (Auditorium), Paris.
  • October: Labex Empirical Foundations of Linguistics International Chair of Quantitative and Experimental Linguistics, Paris
  • [Sep 3-4: Big Sur 50-yr celebration with MB, Susan & family]
  • Sept 1, 2013 to October 31, 2014: Professor Simonetta Vietri of the University of Salerno visits Linguistics and the Spoken Syntax Lab.
  • July 14: Invited speaker, How the brain accommodates variability in linguistic representations, LSA Summer Institute Workshop, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
  • [July 3: legally married MB]
  • [Jun 30-Jul2: to LB to pick up Celeste]
  • [June 10-16: cycling to SLO with MB 10-13; from SLO to LB 13-16]
  • [May 28-31: to LB with SW]
  • [April 4-26: cycle touring in the Cape of South Africa; April 26-May 1: visiting with Anette and Robert Rosenbach at Tanagra]
  • Jan 24-Feb 5: visit to Brisbane, Australia to work with Marilyn Ford on NSF project.
  • Jan 15-24: visit to Christchurch, New Zealand to work with Jen Hay and group on NSF project. Jan 16-18: presentation with Jessica Spencer at VALP2, New Zealand Institute of Language, Brain, and Behavior, Christchurch
  • [Dec 7-13: visit with M. to Ulla in Urbana]
  • 2012:
  • Nov 15-17: Nijmegen symposium on New ways of analyzing syntactic variation, organized by Stef Grondelaers
  • [Oct 26-29: to LB with SW]
  • [Sep 4--27: cycling in the Upper French Alps, upper Provence, and to Cassis with MB. Sep 19-20: visit with Alex and Aurora in Avignon]
  • [Aug 25--26: cycling to Pacific Grove with the Bear Cubs]
  • [Jul 21--24: cycling to SLO with MB]
  • June 5--August 31: Spoken syntax lab projects with Ph.D. student Jessica Spencer and Arto Anttila on finite auxiliary contraction in the Buckeye corpus
  • June 5--August 31: Spoken syntax lab projects with Ph.D. students Ed King on the spoken genitive alternation, and Jason Grafmiller on his dissertation research
  • June 21-July 5: Marilyn Ford visit to Spoken Syntax Lab
  • Jun 17-19, 2012: visit to The Centre for Language Studies, Radboud University of Nijmegen. Symposium talk: "Do Children Learn Syntactic Usage Probabilites?" followed by Daphne Thiejssen's Ph.D. defense.
  • Jun 3-17, 2012: visit to FRIAS, Freiburg to work with Benedikt Szmrecsányi
  • [Apr 18--24: cycling to SLO with MB, driving to LB]
  • [Jan 14-18: JB and MB to LB]
  • 2011:
  • [Dec 10-Jan 1, 2012: Tasmania cycling tour with M]
  • Dec 5-9: master class (Kioloa field station, Australia)
  • [Nov 16-19: Trip to LB with S]
  • [Nov 5-16: Allie's visit; Nov 8-11 Yosemite]
  • [Sep 5-25: France and Spain cycling tour with M: Perigord/Quércy & Girona/Catalunya. Sep 14-16: visit with Alex and Aurora in Arenys de Munt]
  • Aug 25-27: invited speaker, Variation and Typology: New trends in Syntactic Research, Helsinki
  • [Aug 5-9: Donner Lake swim and cycling with M]
  • [Jul 26-Aug 2: cycling to San Luis Obispo w M (Jul 26-28) and visit to LB]
  • Jul 16-19: LFG 2011, University of Hong Kong
  • Jul 9-19: collaborating in Hong Kong with Marilyn Ford
  • Jul 9-18: City University of Hong Kong Distinguished Scholars in Linguistics Lectures, Hong Kong
  • Jun 29-July 1: ICLaVE 6 plenary, Freiburg
  • Jun 21-Jul 2, 2011: visit to FRIAS, Freiburg to work with Benedikt Szmrecsányi
  • Jun 17-21: ISLE talk (Wolk, Bresnan, Rosenbach, & Szmrecsányi), Boston
  • [May 24-27: Monterey w M]
  • Apr 18-May 7: collaborating in Brisbane, Australia with Marilyn Ford
  • [Apr 3-10: Cycle/drive to LB w M]
  • Mar 38-31: QITL 4 conference poster by Daphne Theijssen, JB, and Marilyn Ford, Berlin
  • [Jan 14-17: Drive to LB w M for Mom's b-day]
  • 2010:
  • [Dec 13-24: Auckland and cycling tour w M of the Northland, NZ]
  • Dec 3-13: collaboration with Jen Hay on NSF project, Christchurch
  • Dec 8-10: Spoken Syntax Lab delegate to the inaugural workshop of the New Zealand Institute for Language, Brain, and Behavior, Christchurch
  • [Nov 19-23: Ulla's 90th birthday celebration, Urbana, Illinois]
  • Nov 12: Spoken Syntax Lab workshop on the Development of Syntactic Alternations
  • Nov 9-14: visit of Petra Hendriks to Spoken Syntax Lab
  • Nov 11-15: visit of Victor Kuperman to Spoken Syntax Lab
  • Nov 7-14: visit of Benedikt Szmrecsányi and Christoph Wolk from FRIAS to Spoken Syntax Lab
  • Sept 14-Dec 4: visiting Ph.D. student and Fulbright grantee Daphne Theijsson from Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands, in residence at Stanford
  • [Oct 2-4: Lightning trip to LB w Mal]
  • Sept 18-Oct 9: Marilyn Ford visit to Spoken Syntax Lab
  • [Aug 4-8: Donner Lake trip with M]
  • June-Aug: Spoken Syntax Lab summer projects with Jason Grafmiller, Stephanie Shih, and Kate Hayes
  • [July 12-19: Coast bike trip w M to SLO; drive to LB]
  • June 16-22: invited speaker, LFG Conference, Ottawa
  • [Apr 26-May 12: Hawaii cycling tour with M]
  • Mar 21-25: Workshop on Probabilistic Syntax: Phonetics, Diachrony, and Synchrony, FRIAS, Freiburg
  • Mar 1-28, 2010: visit to FRIAS
  • 2009:
  • [Nov 21-Dec 13: 1000km NZ cycling tour with M; Picton to Queenstown via West Coast!]
  • Oct 25-Nov 8: visit to FRIAS
  • UCLA colloq, Oct 16
  • Oct 8-11: AACL 2009, Edmonton (Kendall, Van Herk, & Bresnan)
  • Sept 24: 3rd Int'l Conf on Grammar and Corpora, Mannheim (Grimm & Bresnan)
  • 2009-2010: Visiting Scholar Petra Hendriks in residence at Stanford
  • Aug 16-31: Marilyn Ford visit to Spoken Syntax Lab
  • [Aug 7-11: Donner Lake Swim & cycling with M]
  • Jul 23-26: ALT8 plenary, Berkeley
  • Jul 14-17: ICLCE3 talk, London (Ford and Bresnan)
  • Jul 13-16: invited talk on Dynamic Syntax at LFG Conference, Trinity College, Cambridge
  • Jun 28-July 12: visit to FRIAS
  • [June 7-15 : Coastal ride to LB w M]
  • May 1-14: first visit as External Senior Fellow to Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies, collaborating with Benedikt Szmrecsányion the project "Predicting Syntax in Space and Time"; postponed until June 28-July 12
  • [Apr 20-24: Coastal ride to SLO with C&C]
  • [Apr 9-14: trip to Long Beach w A & S]
  • Mar 20: Northwestern U talk
  • Mar 4-7: DGfS talk (Shih, Grafmiller, Futrell, and Bresnan 2009) in Theme Session  "Rhythm Beyond the Word", Osnabrück
  • Mar 1-3: visit to Anette Rosenbach in Neanderthal
  • Jan 24-Feb 9: Jen Hay visit to Spoken Syntax Lab
  • [Dec 28-Jan 21: tour of Tasmania]
  • 2008:
  • Oct 7: Johns Hopkins University talk at the Center for Language and Speech Processing
  • Oct 5-7: NSF HSD Conference in Arlington
  • Oct 3: New York University talk
  • [July: became emerita]
  • 2008-2009: Visiting Scholar Prof. Hye-Won Choi, Ewha Women's University, in residence at Stanford
  •