Irene Heim

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Irene Heim
Alma mater UMass Amherst
Awards Fellow of the Linguistic Society of America
Scientific career
Fields Semantics, generative grammar
Institutions MIT, UCLA, University of Texas at Austin
Doctoral advisor Barbara Partee
Doctoral students Calixto Aguero-Bautista, Pranav Anand, Maria Bittner , Diana Cresti, Luka Crnic, Paul Elbourne, Marcelo Ferreira, Danny Fox, Jon Gajewski, Elena Guerzoni, Martin Hackl, Valentine Hacquard, Michela Ippolito, Meltem Kelepir, Ezra Keshet, Utpal Lahiri, Youngjoo Lee, Toshiyuki Ogihara, Orin Percus, Uli Sauerland, Philippe Schlenker, Junri Shimada, Raj Singh, Tamina Stephenson

Irene Roswitha Heim is a linguist and noted specialist in semantics. She was a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and UCLA before finally moving to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1989, where she is Professor of Linguistics and a former Head of the Linguistics Section of the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy.

She is probably most famous for her 1982 University of Massachusetts Amherst dissertation The semantics of definite and indefinite noun phrases.[1] In the work she argued (developing an insight by the philosopher David Lewis) that indefinite noun phrases like a cat in the sentence If a cat is not in Athens, she is in Rhodes are not quantifiers but free variables bound by an existential operator inserted in the sentence by a semantic operation that she dubbed existential closure.

She is also the co-author with Angelika Kratzer of one of the most influential textbooks of formal semantics,[2] and is a co-editor (also with Kratzer) of the journal Natural Language Semantics.

In 2010 Irene Heim was awarded a Senior Fellowship of the Zukunftskolleg at the University of Konstanz.[3]


  1. ^ Heim, Irene (1988). The semantics of definite and indefinite noun phrases. New York: Garland Pub. ISBN 0-8240-5188-2. 
  2. ^ Kratzer, Angelika; Heim, Irene (1998). Semantics in generative grammar. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-19713-3. 
  3. ^

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