Thank you Noam for truly changing my life. Although it happened years before we ever met, my first exposure to generative grammar converted a vaguely directionless young man with an interest in sociolinguistics into someone who shapes his entire understanding of the world with the perspective that underlying form and structure determine everything that is important to us. For me that’s true of everything from Gaelic grammar to folk dances, from politics to university administration. Generative grammar has been the key for me to unlocking a life’s career and fulfillment as a scientist and citizen.
I remember fairly clearly the day I decided that I needed to be a generative grammarian. You gave a talk at the University of Toronto, which I attended, but I had taken probably less than a month of undergraduate introductory syntax so I can’t remember exactly what the topic was, but I think it was on verb movement. (I know I spent about the first 1/3 of the talk trying to figure out what the abbreviations TP and AgrP stood for—we had only just learned about IP in the class). Nevertheless, by the end of the talk, I remember thinking “wow, that analysis was truly beautiful.” More critically it showed me how analysis can actually reveal new puzzles and more mysteries about language—things that I had never considered to be puzzles and mysteries before and when looking for deeper explanations, one truly becomes a scientist rather than just a cataloger of facts.
Thank you also for being a true voice of reason, kindness, and compassion when it comes to matters of politics and social justice. Your clear unequivocal voice cuts through a sea of nonsense and fear. This inspires me every day.
I was blessed to have you as an inspiration; incredibly lucky to have you as a teacher and mentor; and now I’m deeply honored to have you as a colleague. Thank you and happy birthday!