Laurence R. Horn

Professor of Linguistics and Philosophy

Laurence HornLarry Horn, A.B. University of Rochester, Ph.D. UCLA, faculty member at Yale since 1981: As logician and semanticist you are truly the reigning “Nabob of the Negative,” or at least of negation in natural language. Having explored in fact and idea the ways of negative expressions not only in English but in the world’s languages more broadly, you are the acknowledged authority on this fundamental problem of linguistic meaning and the philosophy of language. Ranging out from this central topic through classical logic, lexical semantics, and the modes of creation of meaning in language use designated as pragmatics, your contributions to an understanding of sense and significance as conveyed through language have been many and varied. Your eponymous “Horn scales” have become a fundamental tool in the analysis of what utterances convey without explicitly expressing it.

You have given of your time and effort to your field, serving the Linguistic Society of America in many ways over the years, not least in the regular presentation of original and scintillating papers at its annual meetings, talks that have been universally admired both for their deep originality and for your eloquent and entertaining delivery. As a dedicated student of the system–aticity of apparently idiosyncratic expressions, you have been an active participant in the work and activities of the American Dialect Society and in uncovering the unsuspected diversity of the syntactic structure of American English.

A dedicated and effective teacher, you have inspired generations of undergraduate and graduate students to explore aspects of language going beyond mere grammar and lexicon. You have served your department as chair and as director of both graduate and undergraduate studies. You have honored us as a voice of reason and moderation through thirty-five years of occasional turmoil both in the field of linguistics and at Yale.

Since you are indeed the Nabob of the Negative, we thought it appropriate to offer here a (negative) acknowledgment of those of your colleagues who would not praise you. Yet, we were unsurprised to discover that “can’t no colleagues like that be found.” We are therefore compelled to end our tribute in the affirmative: from your UCLA dissertation, called “unquestionably one of the most important dissertations in the field,” through such major publications as A Natural History of Negation, you have proved yourself one of the important linguists of our time.

Tribute Editor: Penelope Laurans