Ray Jackendoff
Seth Merrin Professor of Philosophy Emeritus
Emeritus Co-director, Center for Cognitive Studies
Tufts University

Ray Jackendoff’s research centers around the structure of the human language faculty and its role in human cognition. His approach, the Parallel Architecture, envisions language as the product of multiple combinatorial systems that interact to relate meaning to linguistic expression. Three of these systems have been developed in detail:

  • Conceptual Semantics addresses traditional philosophical issues of inference, reference, and compositionality in thoroughly mentalistic terms; it treats a wide range of semantic phenomena, including in particular spatial concepts and social concepts.

  • Simpler Syntax, in collaboration with Peter Culicover, proceeds from the premise that syntactic structure should be only as complex as is necessary to mediate between sound and meaning. It offers accounts of all the major syntactic phenomena and many lesser-known ones, stressing the interplay of syntax and semantics.

  • Relational Morphology, in collaboration with Jenny Audring, focuses on the balance between productivity and idiosyncrasy in the structure of words, and on the interaction between morphosyntax, morphophonology, and meaning. An important consequence is that the structure of the lexicon becomes central, overshadowing the role of traditional generative rules.

Along the way, Jackendoff’s research has also touched on language processing, emerging sign languages, the evolution of language, the relation of language to vision, and the character of consciousness. In collaboration with composer Fred Lerdahl, he has also made major contributions to the study of music cognition.

Ray Jackendoff has been President of both the Linguistic Society of America and the Society for Philosophy and Psychology. He holds honorary degrees from the Université du Québec à Montréal, Tel Aviv University, the Ohio State University, the National University of Music in Bucharest and the Music Academy of Cluj-Napoca. He was awarded the 2003 Jean Nicod Prize in Cognitive Philosophy, and he is the 2014 recipient of the David E. Rumelhart Prize, the premier award in the field of cognitive science. He is currently a Research Affiliate in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT.


Book Cover for The Texture of the Lexicon. Shows the title over the photo of a desert.

The Texture of the Lexicon, with Jenny Audring
Oxford University Press, 2020

Book Cover for A User's Guide to Thought and Meaning. Shows the title over an abstract color pattern.

A User’s Guide to Thought and Meaning,
Oxford University Press, 2012

Book Cover for Meaning and the Lexicon. Shows a cactus in the desert.

Meaning and the Lexicon: The Parallel Architecture 1975-2010, Oxford University Press, 2010

Book Cover for Language, Consciousness, Culture. A view of the Eiffel Tower through some trees.

Language, Consciousness, Culture: Essays on Mental Structure, MIT Press, 2007

Book Cover for Simpler Syntax. Shows a large tree in a flowery field.

Simpler Syntax (with Peter W. Culicover), Oxford University Press, 2005

Book Cover for Foundations of Language. Shows a large tree in a grassy field.

Foundations of Language: Brain, Meaning, Grammar, Evolution, Oxford University Press, 2002

Mailing Address:
Center for Cognitive Studies
115 Miner Hall
Tufts University
Medford, MA 02155 USA

Telephone: (617) 627-4348
Fax: (617) 627-3952
Email: ray.jackendoff@tufts.edu


Compositions and arrangements by Ray Jackendoff: Scores and parts

Album Artwork for Cadenza! Shows a collage of musical notes and colors.

Modern American Duos for Clarinet or Basset Horn & Piano. Ray Jackendoff, clarinet & basset horn; John MacDonald, piano. Works by Aaron Copland, Elliot Carter, John MacDonald, Arthur Berger and Yehudi Wyner.

Album Artwork for Romanian Music. Shows a church in the mountains.

Romanian Music for clarinet and piano, with Valentina Sandu-Dediu, piano. Music of Martian Negrea, Stefan Niculescu, Dan Dediu, and Constantin Silvestri. Albany Records, 2003.

Click on the images above to be directed to Albany Records

Downloadable Excerpts

Negrea: Lullaby

Negrea: Dance