The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, June 6th, 2022

Special talk 6/10 - João Costa
(Minister of Education, Portugal; and Professor of Linguistics, Nova University of Lisbon)


Speaker: João Costa (Minister of Education, Portugal; and Professor of Linguistics, Nova University of Lisbon)
Title: Language Acquisition and Education Policies
Time: Friday, June 10th, 3:30pm - 5pm


After several decades of findings in the field of generative approaches to language acquisition, this research has still not had an impact on the definition of education policies. Sometimes this is because linguists are too far away from the debates on education, sometimes because education policies are not aware of the full potential of the findings for more effective and relevant policies.

After an overview of current global debates on the “whats”, “whos” and “hows” of education, I will argue that linguists and linguistics matter.

About the speaker:

João Costa has had a unique and brilliant double scientific and political career both as a linguist specializing in syntax and language acquisition and as a leader in research-driven educational innovation currently serving as the Minister of Education in Portugal. Dr. Costa received his PhD in Linguistics from the University of Leiden in 1998 (and in 1995 was a visiting student at MIT Linguistics), and is a renowned researcher in formal linguistics, language acquisition and development, and educational linguistics. He is the author of several books and over 100 articles and book chapters. He has served as Dean of the School of Social Sciences and Humanities, at Universidade NOVA de Lisboa and President of the Scientific Council of Social Sciences and Humanities at the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia. He has also served as a member of the Scientific Council of the National Reading Plan, the National Commission of the International Institute for the Portuguese Language, and the Consulting Council of the Camões Institute. He was also President of the European Association of Linguistic Students (SOLE) and the Portuguese Linguistic Association.

In March 2022, Dr. Costa was named Minister of Education in the Socialist Party government led by Prime Minister António Costa. From 2015, he served as Secretary of State for Education in the two previous Socialist governments. The Minister of Education formulates, conducts, enforces and assesses the national policy on the education system, in the context of pre-school education, basic education and secondary education, and extra-schooling education. The Minister of Education also articulates the national education policy and the national vocational training policy under the scope of the national policies for fostering the population’s qualification.




Jen Purdy honored as MIT Infinite Mile awardee


We are beyond delighted — but not surprised — that Jennifer Purdy, a long-time member of our departmental staff, has been honored as a recipient of the Infinite Mile award. Jen’s official title is “Academic Administrator”, but she is actually the spirit and the voice of the student side of our department, graduate and undergraduate students both. There is literally no student’s problem that Jen cannot solve, and no member of our department more supportive and essential to the well-being of our community — and the academic success of our students.

To quote the web announcement linked below: “The awards salute members of the SHASS staff who have made exceptional contributions to their academic units, the School, and the Institute. These colleagues exemplify the spirit of going above and beyond in their roles and work on a regular basis, supporting their teams’ mission in diverse initiatives throughout the School.”

Congratulations, Jen!!



Graduate Commencement 2022!

Congratulations to Devon Denny, who brilliantly completed our Masters program in Linguistics under the MIT Indigenous Languages Initiative!

Three of our recent PhDs also received their diplomas and ceremonial hoods from Department Head Danny Fox at MIT’s graduate commencement ceremony this afternoon: renewed congratulations to Neil Banerjee, Itai Bassi, and Elise Newman on their wonderful achievements!!

Sherry Chen defends!

Congratulations are in order for Sherry Yong Chen, who successfully and brilliantly defended her dissertation this Wednesday, entitled “Asymmetries in Presupposition Projection: Processing and Acquisition”.

We asked Sherry to summarize its central achievement, and she told us that it “provides novel empirical evidence from adult sentence processing and language acquisition supporting the Asymmetric view of presupposition projection”. Following her defense, we had our first in-person celebration in over two years! This July, Sherry will join Amazon Alexa AI as a Knowledge Engineer.

Congratulations, Sherry!!!


Bondarenko to Harvard!

We are thrilled at the news that Tanya Bondarenko, currently finishing her dissertation in our program, has accepted a tenure track position as Assistant Professor of Linguistics at Harvard University.

Congratulations, Tanya!!! It’s particularly great that you will be only a short subway ride (or medium walk) away from us starting next Fall.