LINGUIST List 25.2013

Wed May 07 2014

All: Obituary: James T. Higginbotham (1941-2014)

Editor for this issue: Sarah Fox <>

Date: 07-May-2014
From: Andrew Simpson <>
Subject: Obituary: James T. Higginbotham (1941-2014)
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James T. Higginbotham, USC Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Linguistics, Linda Hilf Chair in Philosophy at USC Dornsife College, Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Fellow of the British Academy, died at 72 after complications from pneumonia surrounded by family and friends on April 25 and was buried April 29 at Woodlawn Cemetery, Santa Monica, CA.

“Putting together the work of Chomsky and Davidson and juxtaposing it in ways that both would probably object to,” Higginbotham authored nearly 100 papers on the philosophy of language, philosophical logic and theoretical linguistics. Naturalizing philosophy of language, Higginbotham inspired and goaded a generation of philosophers towards the empirical investigation of natural language. For linguists studying meaning and understanding, Higginbotham expanded and articulated a foundation for descriptive and theoretical semantics as a cognitive science.

Higginbotham left little in semantics untouched, including seminal papers on propositional attitudes, tense and aspect, indexicals and demonstratives, reference to events in linguistic semantics, compositionality, conditionals, disjunction, perception verb complements, higher-order logic and natural language, plurals and reciprocals, the nature of concepts, pronouns and anaphora, control, mass and count quantification, generalized quantifiers, crossing co-reference, interrogatives, indefinites, and meta-semantics.

In 1995, Higginbotham was elected to the British Academy. In 2011, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in recognition of his nearly four decades' contributions to linguistics and philosophy.

Since 1999, Higginbotham was professor of philosophy and linguistics at USC, holding the Hilf Chair since 2004 and a Distinguished Professorship since 2008. Prior to USC, he was professor of general linguistics at Oxford University from 1993 to 2000, Prior to Oxford, Higginbotham was professor of linguistics and philosophy at MIT.

Born Aug. 17, 1941, in Chattanooga, Tenn., Higginbotham spent his first five years in Jefferson City, Mo. From ages 5 to 10, he and his family lived in England, then Maryland and a New Jersey suburb of New York, among other places.

After serving in the Vietnam War as a military policeman for the U.S. Army, Higginbotham earned his PhD at Columbia University in 1973 under the direction of Charles Parsons.

Higginbotham is survived by a former spouse Nancy Higginbotham, current partner Alessandra Giorgi, and his children David Maayan, William Higginbotham, Eva Higginbotham, Joseph Higginbotham, Eleanor Higginbotham, and Enrico Higginbotham.

Linguistic Field(s): Not Applicable

Page Updated: 07-May-2014