Van Valin Awarded Humboldt Research Award

Release Date: March 31, 2006

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Robert D. Van Valin Jr., professor in the Department of Linguistics in the University at Buffalo's College of Arts and Sciences, has been awarded a Humboldt Research Award by Germany's Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in recognition of his lifetime research achievements in the field of linguistics.

The prestigious award, presented to 62 top international researchers this year, originates in Germany and permits foreign academics to conduct research at German research institutes. Recipients must be nominated by leading German scholars or research institutions, and may use the award any time within five years of its receipt.

The award, which is worth about $60,000 at current exchange rates, will fund Van Valin's work on the neurotypology project at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany. 

Van Valin currently is on sabbatical in Germany for the spring semester and spent the fall semester on research leave.

His research focuses on theoretical linguistics, especially syntactic theory and theories of the acquisition of syntax. He is the primary developer of the theory of Role and Reference Grammar (RRG), which incorporates many of the points of view of current, functionally based approaches to the scientific study of language and has conducted research on two American Indian languages, Lakhota (Siouan) and Yatee Zapotec (Oto-Manguean).

His current research focuses on integrating insights from grammatical theory and the neurocognition of language. During his stay in Germany, he is seeking to intensify this integrative line of research by comparing German and Mandarin Chinese in collaboration with the research groups in neurolinguistics at Philipps University Marburg and in neurotypology at the Max Planck Institute.

He also is working on a project funded by the National Science Foundation on information structure and syntax in selected Amazonian languages.

Van Valin is co-author of "Functional Syntax and Universal Grammar" (Cambridge UP, 1984), editor of "Advances in Role and Reference Grammar" (Benjamins, 1993), primary author of "Syntax: Structure, Meaning & Function" (Cambridge UP, 1997) and author of "An Introduction to Syntax" (Cambridge UP, 2001).

His most recent book is "Exploring the Syntax-Semantics Interface" (Cambridge UP, 2005). He is the general editor of the "Oxford Surveys in Syntax and Morphology" series (Oxford UP).

Van Valin has taught at the University of Arizona, Temple University and the University of California-Davis, and has been a visiting faculty member at Stanford University, the University of California-Berkeley, the University of Sonora and the University of Zagreb.

He is a resident of East Amherst.

Seven UB faculty members have received Humboldt Awards in previous years. They are Alan Selman, professor of computer science and engineering, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (2005); Tsu-Teh Soong, professor of structural engineering, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and a leading researcher in engineering structural dynamics (1988, 1992); Jin-Yi Cai, professor of computer science and engineering (1999).

Also, Eli Ruckenstein, SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (1985), Jim D. Atwood, professor and chair, Department of Chemistry, College of Arts and Sciences (1984), and Susan G. Cole, professor of classics, CAS (1982, with renewals).

In 2001, Barry Smith, SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Department of Philosophy, CAS, a pioneer in the field of applied ontology, received the Humboldt Foundation's $2 million Wolfgang Paul Award, the largest cash award ever given to a philosopher.

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