Primitive Elements of Grammatical Theory

Primitive Elements of Grammatical Theory

Front Cover, 2014. Primitive Elements of Grammatical Theory: Papers by Jean-Roger Vergnaud and His Collaborators. eds. K. McKinney-Bock, M-L Zubizarreta. Routledge.

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From Emmon Bach

I wanted to pass along this vivid memory:

 EB: I heard you said in class: “all stress is explained by the single injunction: “stress something!”
J-RV: Oh no no no!  “Do something.”

Best regards,

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Online Archive: Parallel Domains Workshop, May 2011

Audio of talks and PDF handouts from the Parallel Domains Workshop at USC in 2011 are now online. We hope to provide an archive this event for those who were able to attend and for those who were unable to be there. The link should be available indefinitely, at this time. 
The link is:
You may also access this from the main webpage (, by clicking on “Handouts and Recordings from the Workshop.”
Unfortunately, there was some error in recording and not all of the talks are available in audio. We apologize to those whose talks will remain in our memories (and in handouts). 
Many, many thanks to Priyanka Biswas, Mythili Menon and Iris Chuoying Ouyang for processing the sound files and creating the archive.
Posted in Memories

Memorial Service, 8 May 2011

This video is of the memorial service for Jean-Roger.

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From Elabbas Benmamoun, read 5/7/2011

I am honored and grateful to Maria Luisa and Jean-Roger’s family for given me the opportunity to say a few words to celebrate the life and work of Jean-Roger. Like many here today, I had the privilege to know Jean-Roger as a teacher, mentor, scholar, and friend.

I was a student at USC when Jean Roger and Maria Luisa joined the department of Linguistics in the late 1980s. Their arrival had a profound impact on the students.  We were of course aware of their stature in the field  through their work, something you could not avoid as a student if you  wanted to learn about the fundamentals of syntax  and the prominent issues in  syntactic theory and how syntax interfaces with the lexicon and phonology and the nature of those domains . But their impact extended beyond that  to how to approach the study of language and the need for always keeping an eye on the big picture while maintaining formal rigor and the humility to go back to the drawing board, traits that Jean-Roger had in abundance .  I can speak for many students who have been fortunate to interface with Jean-Roger  that his arrival was one of the best things that happened to us during our time at USC. The buzzword in academia these days is that faculty hiring should be transformative. Looking back from a student perspective, Jean-Roger’s joining USC was indeed transformative in the true intellectual sense of the term.

He set the bar high for everyone  and impressed on us  the need  not to get caught up  in technical gimmicks or tricks. For him an approach is sound not because it works, for one can always juice up an approach with auxiliary assumptions and stipulations to make it work,  but because it has the potential to advance our  understanding of  the nature of language and ultimately how the mind works.  He had a simple question for all of us: What does it mean?      My view of  the field and how it should be approached  was deeply shaped through my precious discussions and meetings with Jean-Roger. It was an intellectual feat to talk with him and learn from him.

Jean-Roger forged deep connections with his students who became friends and collaborators. Those connections were based on genuine respect and love. When we talk with each other about Jean-Roger it is evident that there is deep love and affection for him and the sentiment was mutual because he cared deeply about us too.

He also had a good sense of humor that he kept through his illness. When I wrote to him last spring to check on him, he responded by assuring me that he was doing fine and “The Truth is, I am no sicker than the economy, or than Linguistics” and went on to mention that he had new one that he would like to discuss when we meet next.

He was extremely smart and profoundly knowledgeable about so many fields (Linguistics, Mathematics, and Physics to come to mind)  but also one of the most genuinely modest, generous, kind, and compassionate individuals one would ever have the privilege to meet and be fortunate to call a mentor and friend.  My personal debt to Jean-Roger, Maria Luisa, Sebastian, Raphael and the entire  family is immeasurable. I am very sorry that I didn’t take time to say so to Jean-Roger before he left us so soon. The loss is hard and the void is deep but we are all comforted by the memories we shared with him and by the thought that he will continue to endure through his work, ideas, and all those he inspired and continues to inspire to answer the question “what does it mean?

Posted in Memories

Photographs of the Parallel Domains Workshop

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A Tribute to Words (USC College Article)

Posted in Memories