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Sigal Uziel-Karl

Published onApr 19, 2019
Sigal Uziel-Karl

Dear Noam,

Congratulations on your 90th birthday! I feel very fortunate and honored to have been given the opportunity to write to you on this festive occasion. I was a student at the Linguistics Dept. at MIT between the years 1989–1991. A young Israeli woman, just released from the army, who packed a suitcase and came to MIT to follow my dream to become a linguist. I was eager to learn from the masters, and especially from YOU, the linguist who forever transformed early theorizing about language and language acquisition, who introduced generative grammar, LAD, the language faculty and Universal Grammar into the world, offering a revolutionary way of thinking about language and cognition. When I set foot at MIT Linguistics Dept. I felt a sense of exaltation, I was thrilled and yet very anxious. Sitting in the auditorium with three hundred or more students and listening to your lecture was quite overwhelming. But then came the last hour of class, when the audience left and only five of us, who were first year students, stayed for an intimate conversation with you. I thoroughly enjoyed the informal IAP meetings in which you and other faculty members shared stories from the old days and how it all began, I enjoyed passing down the corridor in Building 20 and occasionally having a short chat in Hebrew with you or with Morris Halle, and thank you for receiving packages for me at the dept. office (the packages were sent by my boyfriend at the time and my husband for the past 26 years). These little tributes have left the strongest impression on me during my years at MIT, way beyond the ground-breaking ideas and the intellectual challenges. I was deeply impressed by your friendliness, by your ability to treat students as equal, to consult with them and to share ideas, but above all, I was impressed by your modesty. In my mind, it takes a great man to be a leading scientist, but an even greater one to be humane, and you are both! I wish you many more years of good health, fruitful work, and inspiring ideas.

!ועשרים מאה עד ,טוב מזל

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