Three distiinguisthed scholars from outside the United States were elected Honorary Members of the LSA at the Society's annual Business Meeting in New York City earlier this month.  Paulus Petrus Gerardus (“Paul”) Boersma (University of Amsterdam), Laura J. Downing (University of Gothenburg), and Angela D. Friederici (Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences) -- pictured below from left to right -- joined a distinguished group of scholars including Bhadriraju Krishnamurti, Theraphan Luangthongkum, and Janet Holmes.   Read on for the citations written for the new Honorary Members, and read more about LSA Honorary Membership here.


Paulus Petrus Gerardus (“Paul”) Boersma (University of Amsterdam) has made close to a hundred published contributions to the study of optimality theory, constraint grammar, neural network approaches, tone and tonogenesis, and experimental approaches to phonology and phonetics. His articles appear in major journals and collections such as Linguistic Inquiry, the Journal of the Acoustic Society of America, Speech Communication, the Handbook of Laboratory Phonology, Phonology, and Lingua. His work has had a significant impact, as can be gauged by the fact that Google Scholar lists 13,317 citations alone since 2013.

Boersma’s best known and most significant contribution to the field of linguistics is Praat, which he developed with David Weenink and for which he continues to provide online support and advice, in addition to regular updates.

Praat, a software tool for waveform analysis, synthesis, speech manipulation, graphing, statistics, and much more, has revolutionized as well as democratized the field. It is made available as freeware, compatible with Linux systems, Mac OS, and Windows. It offers opportunities for special scripts that further enhance its capacities and can be programmed without prior programming experience. Most important, it is available to anyone who owns a desktop or a laptop and thus is available to all linguists, whether they have the support of a full-fledged laboratory or not. This is especially important for those engaged in fieldwork, far removed from any lab.

Praat has also inspired additional technical applications, including various scripts and applications that pair Praat with other widely used software such as R and Matlab (e.g.

Praat is acknowledged to have enabled the field of sociophonetics, to have revolutionized fieldwork on endangered languages, and to have fundamentally changed the entire field of phonetics and phonology. Boersma’s scholarly impact has been deep and broad.

Laura J. Downing is Professor of African languages and linguistics at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Her research centers on the formal analysis of the prosody of Bantu languages, including prosodic morphology, lexical tone systems, and phrasal prosody. She recently co-authored The Phonology of Chichewa (Oxford 2017). Her books also include the co-edited volume Intonation in African tone languages (Mouton de Gruyter 2016) and The tonal phonology of Jita (Lincom Europa 1996). The range of Niger-Congo languages she has described and analyzed over almost 30 years of scholarship includes Chichewa, Jita, Nguni, Shona, Southern Mande, Tumbuka, and Zulu. Her work, including fieldwork in Zimbabwe and Malawi, has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek, and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.

Downing serves on the editorial boards of Phonology and of Africana Linguistica. Her work for Phonology spans over two decades, making her the longest-serving board member of that journal.

Downing has also been a dedicated member of the international linguistics community. Especially noteworthy is her valued service on the LSA’s Committee on the Status of Women in Linguistics (COSWL). Most recently, she has been a central contributor to COSWL’s project of increasing the number of entries on female linguists on Wikipedia. Downing has single-handedly (learning Wikipedia editing from scratch) created or edited at least twelve entries, and continues to contribute actively to this project. Downing’s commitment to supporting and increasing the profile of women in Linguistics is to be commended.

Through all of these contributions – her impressive record of high-quality research in phonology, description, and documentation, and her sterling services as journal and Wikipedia editor –Laura Downing has greatly enriched the entire field of linguistics.

Angela D. Friederici, Director of Neuropsychology at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, is the author of over 360 articles and fifteen edited volumes and action editor of Brain and Cognition and of Cognitive Neuroscience. Her monograph Language in Our Brain: The Origins of a Uniquely Human Capacity, published in 2017 by MIT Press and winner of the Association of American Publishers PROSE award for excellence in Biological Life Science, Biomedicine, and Neuroscience, has been called “the crowning achievement of the long and prolific career of one of the founding figures of the cognitive neuroscience of language.” The numerous recognitions of Friederici’s achievements include election to the German National Academy of Sciences, the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences, and the Academia Europaea; the Johannes Gutenberg Endowed Professorship (Universität Mainz); the degree of Doctor Honoris Causae, Université de Mons; the Alfred Krupp Prize for Young Scientists; the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft; the Carl Friedrich Gauss Medal of the Braunschweigische Wissenschaftliche Gesellschaft; the Wilhelm Wundt Medal of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Psychologie; and the Order of Merit of the State of Saxony.

Friederici has played a central role in forging connections between linguistics, psychology, and neurobiology. Throughout her career, she has combined linguistic insight with neuropsychological and neuroimaging methods to generate an understanding of the nature of language, mind, and brain that goes beyond traditional approaches. Friederici’s research convincingly argues that human language is best understood in computational terms as a biologically grounded human capacity that can be tracked in the developing and mature human brain, as well as through its evolutionary history. Her ground-breaking work on the neural basis of language has yielded a linguistically informed model of how human brains process language.