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Last modified: Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Linguist Jackendoff to present Patten Lecture at Indiana University

Oct. 25, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Ray Jackendoff, whose research is focused on integrating analysis of language with the functioning of the mind and general principles of cognition, will present the first Patten Lectures of 2011-12 next month at Indiana University.

Jackendoff, one of the world's most respected linguists, will visit IU Bloomington Nov. 7-11 and will present two lectures as part of the William T. Patten Foundation Lecture Series:

  • "The Cognitive Structure of Baseball," Tuesday, Nov. 8, 7:30-9 p.m. in Rawles Hall 100
  • "Language, Meaning and Rational Thought," Thursday, Nov. 10, also 7:30-9 p.m. in Rawles Hall 100

In the first lecture, Jackendoff will show that, while 11-year-old children have a pretty good idea of how baseball works, the concepts involved in baseball are remarkably complex and subtle. He will examine aspects of the understanding of baseball, including cooperation and competition; rules and strategies; roles, such as pitcher and umpire; and why humans like games.

Ray Jackendoff

Ray Jackendoff

Print-Quality Photo

The second lecture explores the experience of thought as inner speech. Jackendoff argues that thought is mostly unconscious, and that the conscious experience of inner speech is determined largely by the "handles" provided by language. He will show that it is impossible to achieve the ideal of rational thinking, in which every step of reasoning is explicit.

Jackendoff is the Seth Merrin Professor of Philosophy and co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University. He is also professor emeritus and former chair of Linguistics and Cognitive Studies at Brandeis University. He earned his Ph.D. in linguistics from MIT in 1969 under Noam Chomsky. He is the author of A Generative Theory of Tonal Music (with Fred Lerdahl, 1982), Semantics and Cognition (1983), Consciousness and the Computational Mind (1987), The Architecture of the Language Faculty (1997), Language, Consciousness, Culture (2007) and Meaning and the Lexicon (2010).

In his theory of conceptual semantics and the architecture of the human language faculty, Jackendoff addresses the conceptualization of space, the relationship between language, perception, and consciousness, and the formulation of social concepts such as value, morality, fairness, and obligation. This work has developed into a comprehensive theory on the foundations of language.

Jackendoff is also an excellent musician who has performed as a featured clarinet soloist with the Boston Pops Orchestra (1980) and recorded Romanian Music for Clarinet and Piano. His musical interests led him to develop a theory of musical cognition.

About the Patten Lecture Series

The William T. Patten Foundation has brought to IU Bloomington people of extraordinary national and international distinction since 1937, making it the oldest lecture series at Indiana University. More than 180 scholars have lectured at IU under its auspices. Chosen by a campus-wide faculty committee, Patten lecturers have represented more than 50 academic departments and programs and have included Oscar Arias, Jorge Luis Borges, Noam Chomsky, Umberto Eco, Julian S. Huxley, Toni Morrison, Amos Oz, Edward Said, Amartya Sen, Wole Soyinka, Lester Thurow, Strobe Talbott and Martha Nussbaum.

William T. Patten received his A.B. degree in 1893 in history from IU. After graduation he settled in Indianapolis, where he made a career in real estate and politics. In 1931, he created an endowment for the university, with the income used for bringing to the campus eminent leaders for residence and lectures to enrich the intellectual life of the campus.

For more information, visit Inquires about the Patten Foundation and the Patten Lecture Series should be sent to