Professor Elissa L. Newport wins the SEP 2018 Norman Anderson Lifetime Achievement Award!

Breaking news from the Society of Experimental Psychologists! (

The 2018 Norman Anderson Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to:

ELISSA L. NEWPORT – Georgetown University

Citation: " for her lifetime of profound theoretical and empirical contributions to the study of language acquisition and its relation to constraints on learning.”

Elissa Newport is widely respected as one of the most important scientists making theoretical and empirical contributions to the understanding of language learning. Understanding language design, neural representation, and acquisition is a foundational problem for the computational theory of mind. Newport’s program has been to understand both the special properties of language acquisition in this regard, and the contributions that its investigation can make to the broader questions of human learning and cognitive development.

Investigators of language learning in the modern era have generally fallen into two sharply divided camps. One group has emphasized the robustness of language acquisition to diverse environmental disparities, suggesting that language is species- specific, unique in character, and acquired under the pervasive influence of a specialized biological endowment. An opposing tradition has emphasized the general capacities of humans to discover statistically reliable patterns under widely varying conditions, supporting the position that language is learned by associative mechanisms commonly used by higher cognitive processes. Stated most generally, Newport’s major achievement has been to show that the impressive bodies of evidence from these two perspectives pose less of a paradox than has usually been supposed, and that in fact the findings can be reconciled and brought together in a unified theory of language representation via mechanisms of constrained learning.

Today, for her many significant theoretical and empirical contributions over the course of a distinguished career, the Society of Experimental Psychologists awards the Norman Anderson Lifetime Achievement Award to Elissa Newport.