Noam was a member of my generals committee. This was a rather intimidating prospect. For my phonology generals I felt reasonably safe, however, because I was working on a model of syllable structure that aimed at explaining its properties as a function of a hypothesized syntax for mental addresses by which entries in the mental lexicon were located. Surely, I thought to myself, he would find this interesting—after all I was arguing that there was more syntax to be discovered and studied than canonically assumed—or he would not care, since this was phonology. Wrong and wrong. He cared. And he quickly picked my proposal apart and exposed it for what it was—an epicycle that arose from a confusion I harbored about the role of phonological form within the linguistic system. Lesson to self: Don’t develop your theories in the hope that Noam might like them! And don’t fail to question your most basic assumptions. Always look for a vantage point that puts them into a new light that is different from the one where you started out.
I feel extremely fortunate and privileged to have had Noam teach me these and many more lessons about linguistics, intellectual culture, the responsibility we have towards our own ideas, towards ourselves and our colleagues as researchers and fellow human beings, and towards the people and the world that make it possible for us do what we do.
With deepest gratitude,