Beth Levin

Beth Levin

Fellow: Awarded 2008
Field of Study: Linguistics

Competition: US & Canada

Stanford University

Beth Levin is the William H. Bonsall Professor in the Humanities at Stanford University.  She received her Ph.D. from MIT in 1983 and then spent four years at the MIT Center for Cognitive Science, where she had major responsibility for the Lexicon Project.  From 1987 to 1999 she was a professor in the Department of Linguistics at Northwestern University.  She joined the Stanford Department of Linguistics in September 1999 and was department chair from 2003-2007.  In 1999-2000 she was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.

Ms. Levin investigates how we convey "who does what to whom" when we describe an event.  Why is it, for example that you can spray a wall with paint or spray paint on a wall, but although you can cover a wall with paint, you can’t cover paint on a wall?  This research requires developing models of verb meaning, as verbs are the main words used to describe events. As part of this research program, Ms. Levin has conducted extensive breadth- and depth- first studies of the inventory of English verbs.  The Guggenheim Fellowship will allow her to extend her investigations to other languages, asking why languages show both similarities and differences in how they use verbs to describe events.

Levin’s publications include Argument Realization (2005, coauthored with Malka Rappaport Hovav), Unaccusativity: At the Syntax-Lexical Semantics Interface (1995, coauthored with Malka Rappaport Hovav), English Verb Classes and Alternations: A Preliminary Investigation (1993), and Lexical and Conceptual Semantics (1992, coedited with Steven Pinker), as well as numerous papers.


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