Idan Landau

Full professor of linguistics

Department of Linguistics

Tel Aviv University


Contact Info

Office: Webb Building, room 402

Phone: +972-(0)3-6405025

Profile photo
                                                                                                CURRICULUM VITAE

I'm a full professor of linguistics in the Department of Linguistics at Tel Aviv University, which I joined in October 2023. Before that I was a member of the Department of Foreign Literatures and Linguistics at Ben Gurion University (BGU), for 24 years. After finishing my PhD at MIT in 1999, I got to BGU as a postdoctoral researcher, and became a faculty member in 2001.  

My general field of interest is generative grammar, and in particular syntax and its connections to other modules of the grammar - phonology, the lexicon, semantics and pragmatics. Syntax is the machine inside our brain that constantly combines words and phrases into sentences - whether we utter or hear them, or even silently think to ourselves. This machine is bafflingly complex and yet no less bafflingly systematic and rigorous. Parts of it are specific to the language we speak, but other parts, more abstract in nature, are common to all languages. 

Every topic that I study in syntax begins with the question What's possible in language L?, continues with What's not possible in L?, moves on to Is that pattern specific to L or not?, and ends with the grand question Why is this so?

As we gain more and more understanding of the nature of syntactic processes and the universal constraints on their form and content, we begin to see the contours of the human "language organ", concealed beneath the incredible diversity of linguistic behavior. This is really hard, but equally rewarding. A classic study in the field is titled "Infinite Syntax" (Ross 1986). It expresses both that our linguistic capacity is infinite and that studying it (as linguists) is an unending quest. That's precisely why I like syntax and will never tire of it.