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Seth A. Minkoff

Published onApr 19, 2019
Seth A. Minkoff

Dear Noam,

I have many lovely memories of studying with you. Some that I find most telling go back more than 25 years to when you chaired my dissertation research. You were quite skeptical of my work in its early stages; but you remained open, gave it your full consideration, and determined that the phenomena I had unearthed were genuine, when some might have dismissed them without a second look. Then one day you pointed out to me a simple thing. It was that Belletti and Rizzi’s analysis of so-called “backwards binding” associated with psych verbs could not account for arguably similar cases in sentences along the lines of “Those stories about herselfi convinced people to accept Maryi.” (cf. “*Those stories about itselfi convinced people to accept capitalismi.”) Your observation led me to abandon syntactic assumptions that were burdening my work in ways I hadn’t perceived; and it became plain to me that what I had found represented a set of semantic interpretations overlaid onto and constrained by syntax, not novel configurations of syntax itself. Even now, returning to linguistics years later, I still reap the rewards of this approach, first forged in the clarifying wake of one deceptively simple, perspicacious comment.

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