Joan Bresnan

Joan Wanda Bresnan FBA (born August 22, 1945) is Sadie Dernham Patek Professor in Humanities Emerita at Stanford University.[1] She is best known as one of the architects (with Ronald Kaplan) of the theoretical framework of Lexical-Functional Grammar.[2]

After graduating from Reed College in 1966 with a degree in philosophy,[1] Bresnan earned her doctorate in linguistics in 1972 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,[3] where she studied with Noam Chomsky.[4] In the early and mid 1970s, her work focused on complementation and wh-movement constructions within transformational grammar, and she frequently took positions at odds with those espoused by Chomsky.[5][6]

Her dissatisfaction with transformational grammar led her to collaborate with Kaplan on a new theoretical framework, Lexical-Functional Grammar (or LFG).[7] A volume of papers written in the new framework and edited by Bresnan, entitled The Mental Representation of Grammatical Relations, appeared in 1982.[8] Since then, Bresnan's work has focused on LFG analyses of various phenomena, primarily in English, Bantu languages, and Australian languages. She has also worked on analyses in optimality theory, and has pursued statistical approaches to linguistics. She has a strong interest in linguistic typology, which has influenced the development of LFG.[9] Additional research interests of hers include dynamics of probabilistic grammar and empirical foundations of syntax.[10] In pursuit of the latter, she established Stanford's Spoken Syntax Lab.[11]


Joan Bresnan was a Guggenhiem Fellow in 1975-6 and a Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford in 1982-3.

She served as the president of the Linguistic Society of America in 1999.[12]

She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004.

She was honored in August 2005 with a festschrift entitled Architectures, Rules, and Preferences: A Festschrift for Joan Bresnan, published by CSLI Publications in December 2007.[13]

During periods in 2009-2012 she visited Freiburg for collaborative research as an External Fellow at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies. She was elected a Fellow of the Cognitive Science Society in 2012. She was elected as a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy in 2015.[14]

In 2016, she was selected as the ACL (Association for Computational Linguistics) Lifetime Achievement Award winner.[15]


In addition to Dr. Bresnan's current position at Stanford, she has also taught at University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a member of the faculty.[1]


Bresnan wrote an informal and somewhat humorous account of her career and works for her ACL Lifetime Achievement Award [16]

As of December 16, 2018, Stanford lists forty-four books and papers that Bresnan has either authored or co-authored since 1996.[17] However, she has been publishing since well over a decade before that. An incomplete selection of her particularly influential works appears below.[11]

  • 1982 Kaplan, Ronald and Joan Bresnan, "Lexical-Functional Grammar: A Formal System for Grammatical Representation," in J. Bresnan, ed., The Mental Representation of Grammatical Relations, Chapter 4, The MIT Press (1982) (pp. 173–281).
  • 1987 Bresnan, Joan and Sam A. Mchombo, "Topic, Pronoun, and Agreement in Chichewa," Language LXIII.4 (December 1987) (pp. 741–782)
  • 1996 Austin, Peter and Joan Bresnan, "Nonconfigurationality in Australian Aboriginal Languages," Natural Language and Linguistic Theory. 14 (pp. 215–268)
  • 2001 Bresnan, Joan, Shipra, Dingare, and Christopher D. Manning. "Soft Constraints Mirror Hard Constraints: Voice and Person in English and Lummi," in proceedings of the LFG '01 Conference, University of Hong Kong. On-line, CSLI Publications:
  • 2007 Bresnan, Joan, Anna Cueni, Tatiana Nikitina, and R. Harald Baayen. "Predicting the Dative Alternation." In Cognitive Foundations of Interpretation, ed. by G. Bouma, I. Kraemer and J. Zwarts. Royal Netherlands Academy of Science, Amsterdam, pp. 69–94.
  • 2007 "Is Syntactic Knowledge Probabilistic? Experiments with the English Dative Alternation." In Roots: Linguistics in search of its evidential base, Series: Studies in Generative Grammar, ed. by Sam Featherston and Wolfgang Sternefeld. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 75–96.


  1. "Joan Bresnan: Current". Retrieved 2017-10-22.
  2. "Lexical Functional Grammar - Glottopedia". Retrieved 2017-10-21.
  3. "Alumni and their Dissertations – MIT Linguistics". Retrieved 2017-10-21.
  4. "Joan Bresnan: Current". Retrieved 2017-10-21.
  5. "The "Chomsky Effect": Episodes in Academic Activism". Retrieved 2017-10-21.
  6. Flint, Antony (November 19, 1995). "Divided legacy Noam Chomsky's theory of linguistics revolutionized the field,..." Boston Globe. p. 25. Retrieved 4 August 2012.
  7. Asudeh, Ash; Toivonen, Ida (2009-12-17). Lexical-Functional Grammar. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199544004.013.0017.
  8. The Mental representation of grammatical relations. Bresnan, Joan. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. 1982. ISBN 0262021587. OCLC 8494468.CS1 maint: others (link)
  9. "Google Scholar". Retrieved 2017-10-21.
  10. "Joan Bresnan: Research". Retrieved 2018-12-16.
  11. "Prof. Dr. Joan Bresnan — Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies – FRIAS". Retrieved 2018-12-16.
  12. "Presidents | Linguistic Society of America". Retrieved January 25, 2015.
  13. Architectures, rules, and preferences : variations on themes by Joan W. Bresnan. Bresnan, Joan., Zaenen, Annie E. (Annie Else), 1941-. Stanford, Calif.: CSLI Publications, Center for the Study of Language and Information. 2007. ISBN 9781575865607. OCLC 187417504.CS1 maint: others (link)
  14. "British Academy Fellowship reaches 1,000 as 42 new UK Fellows are welcomed". 16 Jul 2015.
  15. "Joan Bresnan receives the 2016 ACL Life Time Achievement Award | ACL Member Portal". Retrieved 2017-10-21.
  16. Bresnan, Joan (December 2016). "Linguistics: The Garden and the Bush". Computational Linguistics. 42 (4): 599–617. Retrieved January 30, 2019.
  17. "Joan Bresnan: Publications". Retrieved 2018-12-16.
Preceded by
Li Sheng
ACL Lifetime Achievement Award
Succeeded by
Barbara J. Grosz
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.