UMass Amherst Linguistics Professor Angelika Kratzer Selected as Radcliffe Institute Fellow

UMass Amherst Office of News & Media Relations
May 9, 2012
Daniel J. Fitzgibbons

Angelika Kratzer, professor of linguistics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has been selected by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University as one of 51 Radcliffe Institute fellows for the 2012-13 academic year.

The fellows will pursue independent projects in the arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences within the rich, multidisciplinary community.

After a highly competitive peer-review process, Kratzer is among only 5 percent of applicants who were accepted to create an incoming class that includes anthropologists, chemical engineers, linguists, literature professors, molecular biologists, musicologists and visual artists.

"As an alumna of the institute's fellowship program, it is a special pleasure for me to welcome these distinguished individuals to a year of exploration, innovation and creation," said Lizabeth Cohen, dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. "We expect that each fellow will enjoy a year of profound growth and great productivity."

A member of the UMass Amherst faculty since 1985, Kratzer has been a guest professor in many places around the world and is a fellow of the Linguistic Society of America. With Irene Heim from MIT, she is co-founder and co-editor of Natural Language Semantics, a journal that, for the last 20 years, has been a major force in bringing together results from theoretical linguistics with fieldwork-based research on underdescribed languages.

Kratzer's area of specialization is semantics, an interdisciplinary field located at the intersection of linguistics, cognitive psychology, logic, and philosophy. Her research is about how natural languages are constructed so as to make it possible for humans to systematically assemble complex meanings from small and simple pieces. Humans talk about mere possibilities: what might have been, ought to be, could be, or should be. Human notions of what is possible, inevitable, likely, or desirable are highly systematic, and this is why they have attracted the attention of mathematicians, logicians and philosophers for more than two thousand years. As a Radcliffe fellow, Kratzer will write a book showing how talking about possibilities is the result of an intricate interaction between the human language faculty and general cognitive abilities, some of which we share with other species.

The Radcliffe Institute, which is Harvard's institute for advanced study, has awarded nearly 600 fellowships since its founding in 1999. 

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