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David Michael Pesetsky (born 1957) is an American linguist. He is the Ferrari P. Ward Professor of Modern Languages and Linguistics and Head of the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

David Pesetsky
David Pesetsky.jpg
Alma materMIT, Yale
AwardsFellow of the AAAS, Fellow of the Linguistic Society of America
Scientific career
FieldsLinguistics, Generative grammar, Syntax
InstitutionsMIT, UMass Amherst
ThesisPaths and Categories
Doctoral advisorNoam Chomsky

He received a B.A. in linguistics from Yale in 1977 and a Ph.D. in linguistics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1982. Pesetsky has taught at the University of Southern California and the University of Massachusetts Amherst before joining the faculty of MIT in 1988. Pesetsky was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2011,[1] and a Fellow of the Linguistic Society of America in 2013.[2]

He has published articles and books within the framework of generative grammar. A specialist in syntax, he has published on the cross-linguistic properties of wh-movement as well as the theory of argument structure. In a collaboration with Esther Torrego, he developed a theory of grammatical case in noun phrases, arguing that nominative and accusative cases are the mirror image for the nominal system of phi feature agreement in the verbal system.[3] He has worked extensively on the structure of Russian, and recently has argued (in collaboration with Jonah Katz) that the syntax of tonal music is identical to the structure of language.[4]

In an article coauthored with Andrew Nevins and Cilene Rodrigues, Pesetsky criticized claims by Daniel Everett concerning the Pirahã language, touching off a protracted debate in the pages of the journal Language.[5][6][7]


  1. ^ "AAAS Members Elected as Fellows". 11 January 2011. Retrieved July 7, 2015.
  2. ^ "LSA Fellows by Year of Inductions". Retrieved July 7, 2015.
  3. ^ Pesetsky, David and Esther Torrego (2001) "T-to-C: Causes and Consequences", in M. Kenstowicz (ed.) Ken Hale: A Life in Language. Cambridge: MIT Press, pp. 355-426.
  4. ^ Pesetsky, David and Jonah Katz (2011) "The Identity Thesis for Language and Music"
  5. ^ Nevins, Andrew, David Pesetsky and Cilene Rodrigues (2009). "Piraha Exceptionality: a Reassessment", Language, 85.2, 355–404.
  6. ^ Daniel Everett (2009), "Pirahã Culture and Grammar: a Response to some criticism Archived 2013-04-25 at the Wayback Machine", Language, 85.2, 405–442.
  7. ^ Nevins, Andrew, David Pesetsky and Cilene Rodrigues (2009), "Evidence and Argumentation: a Reply to Everett (2009)", Language, 85.3, 671–681.

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