Tanya Reinhart (1943-2007)

Jawaharlal Nehru University

Tanya Reinhart, a distinguished Professor Emeritus of Linguistics and Media studies at Tel-Aviv University, Israel and a Professor of Linguistics at the University of Utrecht, The Netherlands, passed away in her sleep on March 17, 2007 in Long Island, New York at the age of 63. She is survived by her husband, the Hebrew poet and translator Aharon Shabtai.

Born in 1943 in Israel, and brought up in Haifa, she received her BA in Philosophy & Hebrew Literature (1967) followed by an MA in Philosophy & Comparative Literature (1969) from the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. She obtained her PhD in 1976 from MIT, with a widely acclaimed dissertation title The Syntactic Domain of Anaphora under the supervision of Noam Chomsky. The dissertation laid the foundation for Binding Theory, and in no small way contributed to the birth of the Principles and Parameters framework. This was followed by a series of landmark papers on syntax, semantics, discourse analysis, and the theory of the interface. Tanya Reinhart’s contributions in linguistics, in Chomsky’s words, is  regarded as “original and highly influential”, particularly regarding “syntactic structure and operations, referential dependence, principles of lexical semantics and their implications for syntactic organization, unified approaches to cross-linguistic semantic interpretation of complex structures that appear superficially to vary widely, the theory of stress and intonation, efficient parsing systems, the interaction of internal computations with thought and sensorimotor systems, optimal design as a core principle of language, and much else.”

Among her most influential publications are Pragmatics and linguistics: an Analysis of Sentence Topics in Philosophica (1981); Anaphora and Semantic Interpretation (l983); Reflexivity, with Eric Reuland, in Linguistic Inquiry (1993); Quantifier-Scope: How labor is divided between QR and choice functions in Linguistics and Philosophy (1997); "Wh-in-situ in the framework of the minimalist program", in Natural Language Semantics (1998); The Theta System: An Overview, in Theoretical Linguistics (2002); with Tal Siloni. In recent years, her central area of research has been the interface of the various cognitive systems that together underlie linguistic knowledge. Her book on the topic is entitled Interface Strategies (2006).

Tanya Reinhart also taught and published in English and Hebrew on art, literature, media studies and in other domains of intellectual culture. She was also a frontline activist; her countless visits to the occupied Palestinian territories, and the demonstrations and detentions were a part of her passionate calls for justice for the Palestinians. Following the 1994 Oslo Accord, which she viewed as a painful deception of the Palestinian people, she wrote a regular critical column in the Yediot Aharonot, Israel's biggest daily. As an outspoken critic of Israel's policies, she wrote the acclaimed Israel/Palestine: How to End the War of 1948 (2002), on the Israeli occupation of Palestine in the years 1999-2002, and The Road Map to Nowhere- Israel/Palestine since 2003 (2006).