Bio


After spending my youth on worthy but often hopeless political causes and despairing about philosophy in Belgium, in my earlier thirties I discovered Linguistics and went to get my Ph.D at Harvard in 1980 on a dissertation on Extraction Rules in Icelandic. With Joan Maling I focused the attention of the syntax community on phenomena such as Icelandic quirky case proving that the subject of a sentence is not always in the nominative case, notwithstanding pronouncements of some of the Harvard faculty, and showed that Chomsky's ill-advised that-trace filter was certainly not a universal, although there still seem to be syntacticians that live under the illusion that it is. With many others, I turned Perlmutter's pleasantly simple unaccusative hypothesis into the mess that it now is.

On the constructive side, I have contributed to the theory of Lexical Functional Grammar (LFG) in the development of notions such as long-distance dependencies, functional uncertainty and the difference between subsumption and equality. As a frustrated early adopter of Lauri Karttunen's development tools for two-level morphology at Xerox PARC, I managed to create, with help from Carol Neidle, a morphological analyzer for French that, after some revisions, became an Inxight product.

After an adventurous stint as an area manager at the Xerox European Research Center near Grenoble, France, in the 1990s, I have been back in the Bay Area doing research since 2001. I retired from PARC in 2011 and I am now once in a while working at CSLI and teaching Linguistics at Stanford. In 2011, Lauri Karttunen and I taught a course on From Syntax to Natural Logic at the LSA Summer Institute in Boulder. The slides can be found here.

I am the editor of an online CSLI journal, LiLT (Linguistic Issues in Language Technology)

Academic Appointments


  • Adjunct Professor, Linguistics

2017-18 Courses


All Publications


  • Systematic polysemy in lexicology and lexicography LANGUE FRANCAISE Nunberg, G., Zaenen, A. 1997: 12-23
  • RESUMPTIVE PRONOUNS CAN BE SYNTACTICALLY BOUND LINGUISTIC INQUIRY Zaenen, A., ENGDAHL, E., MALING, J. M. 1981; 12 (4): 679-682