Barbara Partee, Distinguished Professor emerita in linguistics and philosophy, was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters by the University of Chicago on June 14.
A pioneer in the field of semantics, Partee was in the first class of linguistics Ph.D. students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she studied with the legendary linguist Noam Chomsky. As a faculty member at the University of California, Los Angeles from 1965-72, Partee encountered the logician Richard Montague. Her research soon turned to the challenge of synthesizing Chomsky’s syntax with Montague’s semantics.
Partee joined the UMass Amherst faculty in 1972 and was promoted to professor the following year. She served as head of the linguistics department from 1987-93. Partee retired in 2004, but continues to teach part-time.
Partee’s subsequent research provided the foundation for, and contributed to advances in the field of formal semantics and stimulated collaboration among linguists, philosophers, logicians, computer scientists and cognitive scientists. She is now writing “The History of Formal Semantics” for Oxford University Press.
She was president of the Linguistic Society of America, is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.