Alan Prince Named Rutgers Board of Governors Professor

Alan Prince Named Rutgers Board of Governors Professor

Linguistics scholar credited with game-changing theory

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – The Rutgers University Board of Governors today named Alan Prince Board of Governors Professor of Linguistics. Established in 1989, the honor recognizes exceptional scholarship and accomplishment by a faculty member at full professorial rank.

Prince is the graduate program director in the Department of Linguistics at Rutgers’ School of Arts and Sciences. He teaches and conducts research in the field of phonology, the study of sound structure and its relation to word structure, and is best known for his 1993 invention with Paul Smolensky of Optimality Theory. The theory, which addresses the issue of how variation and universality can exist in one system of language, is credited with resolving some conceptual puzzles in the field of linguistics. It also gives scholars the formal tools to do exact analysis using ideas that had previously been regarded as attractive but vague.

A Rutgers faculty member since 1992, Prince received his bachelor’s degree from McGill University and his doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Before coming to Rutgers, he was a professor of linguistics at Brandeis University and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

“Alan Prince is known throughout academia for his impressive contributions in phonology and formal linguistics, as well as for having established the Rutgers Optimality Archive, an online repository of more than 1,100 works on Optimality Theory,” said Rutgers President Richard L. McCormick. “At Rutgers, students and colleagues value his inspirational teaching and his commitment to mentoring.”

Prince was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1998. He has been principal or co-principal investigator on grants from the National Science Foundation and the Sloan Foundation. The Highland Park, N.J., resident has taught at the University of Amsterdam, the Instituto Ortega y Gasset, the University of Verona and the Australian Linguistic Association Institute at the Australian National University, among other institutions.

The co-author with Smolensky of the book Optimality Theory: Constraint Interaction in Generative Grammar, Prince won a Rutgers Board of Trustee Award for Excellence in Research in 2007. His publications have appeared in a wide range of prestigious journals, including Science, Cognitive Science, Behavioral and Brain Science and Critical Inquiry

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