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Angelika Kratzer’s area of specialization is semantics, an interdisciplinary field located at the intersection of linguistics, cognitive psychology, logic, and philosophy. Her research concerns how natural languages are constructed so as to make it possible for humans to assemble complex meanings systematically from small and simple pieces. Humans talk about mere possibilities: what might have been, could be, or should be. Human notions of what is possible, inevitable, likely, or desirable are fundamentally the same and highly systematic, and this is why they have attracted the attention of mathematicians, logicians, and philosophers for more than 2,000 years.
As a Radcliffe Institute fellow, Kratzer will write a book showing how talk 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.
Kratzer is a professor of linguistics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She has been a guest professor around the world and is a fellow of the Linguistic Society of America. With Irene Heim of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she is a cofounder and coeditor of Natural Language Semantics, a journal that for the past 20 years has been a major force in bringing results from theoretical linguistics together with fieldwork-based research on underdescribed languages. She is often called to serve on advisory boards and panels for research institutes and initiatives, departments, and journals to develop directions for interdisciplinary research in semantics for the 21st century.