The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Joseph Aoun receives Muh Award

Joseph Aoun, 1982 Linguistics PhD, eminent syntactician, and President of Northeastern University, received the 2011 Robert A. Muh Alumni Award last Wednesday. The award (created by Robert Muh (SB ‘59) to honor the 50th anniversary of the the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences) is presented every two years to an MIT alumnus who has made “made extraordinary contributions during a career in the arts, humanities, or social sciences”.

The award was presented by Deborah Fitzgerald, Dean of the School, who praised Aoun for his “outstanding contributions to the field of linguistics as well as educational leadership”. Introducing Joseph, David Pesetsky noted the ways in which his research had repeatedly uncovered “a deep unity between subsystems of grammar thought to be distinct”, and read a letter of congratulations from Noam Chomsky, who described the award as a “well-deserved honor for your remarkable contributions, not only to our own field but to the general intellectual and academic community”. David also noted that Joseph was an outstandingly distinguished member of an outstandingly distinguished PhD class that entered in 1978, three members of which (Prof. Carol Neidle of Boston University, James Huang of Harvard and our own Donca Steriade) were present in the hall. Joseph’s Muh Alumni Award Lecture, which followed the presentation of the award, had the rather non-linguistic title “The Future of American Higher Education in the Global Knowledge Marketplace” — but in fact began with a very personal intellectual autobiography that described some of the links between Joseph’s career in linguistics and his decision to enter university administration. It was interesting, engaging and at times moving event (video here). Congratulations Joseph Aoun!

(photographs by Richard Howard)