Leonard Talmy

Leonard Talmy

Leonard Talmy

Emeritus Professor, University of Buffalo, New York (USA)


Leonard Talmy is Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at the University at Buffalo, New York, where he taught for 15 years and was Director of the Center for Cognitive Science for 14 years. He is now also a Visiting Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, where he had received his Ph.D. in Linguistics. Over his career, he taught in Hamburg, Rome, and Moscow (the latter two as a Fulbright Fellow) as well as at Stanford, Georgetown and University of California, Berkeley. He did extended research at Stanford on the Language Universals Project, at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute with language-impaired children, and at the University of California at San Diego in cognitive science at the Center for Human Information Processing. And he was the Coordinator of the Cognitive Science Program at the University of California at Berkeley for six years.

His broader research interests cover cognitive linguistics, the properties of conceptual organization, and cognitive theory. His more specific interests within linguistics center on natural-language semantics, including: typologies and universals of semantic structure; the relationship between semantic structure and formal linguistic structures — lexical, morphological, and syntactic; and the relation of this material to diachrony, discourse, development, impairment, culture, and evolution. Additional specializations are in American Indian and Yiddish linguistics.

He is the author of a two-volume set with MIT Press (2000): Toward a Cognitive Semantics — volume 1: Concept Structuring Systems; volume 2: Typology and Process in Concept Structuring. Lately his research has centered on the interrelations between speech and gesture. In his latest groundbreaking work, The Targeting System of Language, Talmy argues that language engages the same cognitive system to single out referents whether they are speech-internal or speech-external.

Previously published articles include “The Relation of Grammar to Cognition”, “Force Dynamics in Language and Cognition”, “How Language Structures Space”, “Fictive Motion in Language and ‘Ception’”, “Lexicalization Patterns”, “The Representation of Spatial Structure in Spoken and Signed Languages: a Neural Model”, and “Recombinance in the Evolution of Language”. He has also written the Foreword for the edited volume Methods in Cognitive Linguistics and the entry on “Cognitive Linguistics” for Elsevier’s Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics.

He was the recipient of the Gutenberg Research Award for 2012 from the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Germany, for outstanding contributions to research in the area of linguistics. In 2011, he was honored as one of the three “Founding Fathers” of cognitive linguistics at the 10th Biannual Conference of the International Cognitive Linguistics Association. He was elected a Fellow of the Cognitive Science Society in its 2002 inaugural selection of Fellows (and had been a founding member of the Society). He is included in Outstanding People of the 20th Century and in International Who’s Who of Intellectuals, thirteenth Edition.