Joan Bresnan

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Joan Wanda Bresnan (born August 22, 1945) is Sadie Dernham Patek Professor in Humanities Emerita at Stanford University.[1] She is best known as one of the architects (with Ronald Kaplan) of the theoretical framework of Lexical-Functional Grammar.

After studying philosophy at Reed College Bresnan earned her doctorate in linguistics in 1972 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she studied with Noam Chomsky. In the early and mid 1970s, her work focused on complementation and wh-movement constructions within transformational grammar, and she frequently took positions at odds with those espoused by Chomsky.

Her dissatisfaction with transformational grammar led her to collaborate with Kaplan on a new theoretical framework, Lexical-Functional Grammar (or LFG). A volume of papers written in the new framework and edited by Bresnan, entitled The Mental Representation of Grammatical Relations, appeared in 1982. Since then, Bresnan's work has focused on LFG analyses of various phenomena, primarily in English, Bantu languages, and Australian languages. She has also worked on analyses in optimality theory, and has pursued statistical approaches to linguistics. She has a strong interest in linguistic typology, which has influenced the development of LFG.

Bresnan served as the president of the Linguistic Society of America in 1999.[2]

Joan Bresnan was honored in August 2005 with a festschrift entitled Architectures, Rules, and Preferences: A Festschrift for Joan Bresnan, published by CSLI Publications in December 2007 (ISBN 9781575865607). In 2016, she was selected as ACL (Association for Computational Linguistics) Lifetime Achievement Award winner.


  1. ^ Flint, Antony (November 19, 1995). "Divided legacy Noam Chomsky's theory of linguistics revolutionized the field,...". Boston Globe. p. 25. Retrieved 4 August 2012. 
  2. ^ "Presidents | Linguistic Society of America". Retrieved January 25, 2015. 

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