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Robert C. Berwick

Professor of Computational Linguistics and Computer Science and Engineering, jointly with Brain and Cognitive Sciences

Harvard University, AB, Applied Mathematics, 1976
MIT, MS, Computer Science, 1980
MIT, PhD, Computer Science, 1982

Biographical Overview

How do complex systems in the physical and biological world – from organisms to human language – arise from the interaction of simpler parts?  How can we model these using the tools of mathematics, computation, and control?  Can we build computer systems that learn language in the way that people do? Such fundamental questions have driven Professor Berwick’s research over several decades, leading to the first modern computer program to learn language. Professor Berwick has written eight books and more than 200 articles on the nature of human language and its computational properties, how language is learned, how it develops and differs, and how it evolves and changes over time. He has also written extensively as a critic of evolutionary psychology and sociobiology.

Research Areas

  • Dynamical System Theories of Language Evolution and Change
  • Computational Modeling and Computational Complexity of Human Language
  • Biolinguistics and the Genomics of Language
  • Detecting Natural Selection
  • Evolution of Influenza

Selected Publications 

R. Berwick, “What genes cannot learn about language,” PNAS, 2009.
R. Berwick and N. Chomsky, “Biolinguistics: its current state of evolution and development.”
R. Berwick, “Syntax facit saltum redux: from language genotype to phenotype.”
R. Berwick and N. Chomsky, “Poverty of the stimulus revisited”
P. Niyogi and R. Berwick, “The proper treatment of language acquisition and change in a population setting”
S. Fong and R. Berwick, “Treebank parsing and knowledge of language: a cognitive perspective”

Recent Educational Activities

6.863J: Natural Language Processing
6.034: Introduction to Artificial Intelligence
6.877: Computational Evolutionary Biology

Bergamo Scienza Conference
Jena Life Sciences Conference
Biolinguistics and Language, Santa Fe and Tucson

Awards and Grants

Fulbright Scholar, 2009-2010
Collegium Budapest Fellow, 1995-96
Co-director, MIT Center for Computational and Biological Learning, 1996-2000
Vinton Hayes Professor, 1995-99
NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award, 1986-1989
John Simon Guggenheim Fellow, 1987-1988
MIT Edgerton Faculty Achievement Award, 1986
Marshall Fellowship Award, 1976

NSF, “Learning Syntax and Semantics at the Bayesian Interface”
NSF/DARPA, Computational and Biological Learning, Center of Excellence
Kapor Family Foundation Award
NSF Presidential Fellowship Award, 1985-1989

Robert Berwick

77 Massachusetts Ave.,
Cambridge, MA 02139
617-253-8918 ph
617-452-1234 fax
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