New Faculty Member: Jon Brennan


By Andries W. Coetzee
Sep 15, 2012

Jon Brennan

Jon Brennan

Jon Brennan joined the Linguistics Department this Fall as a brand new assistant professor. Jon’s research bridges across multiple sub-disciplines in Linguistics, ranging from syntax/semantics to language processing to neurolinguistics. He perfectly embodies the integrative approach to the study of language that exemplifies Linguistics at Michigan.

Jon completed his PhD thesis (Incrementally Dissociating Syntax and Semantics) in 2012 at NYU under the direction of Liina Pylkkänen. In his thesis, he develops a computationally motivated model of syntactic structure building and semantic composition. He then tests the biological implementation of this model in the brain relying on data collected through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and magnetoencephalography (MEG). His dissertation is one of the first studies that directly connect results from neurolinguistics to current linguistic theory. Since finishing his PhD, Jon has been a post-doctoral fellow in the Neuroscience of Language Laboratory at NYU, and also in the Radiology Department at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. During these two years, Jon has honed his skills in neurolinguistics and established valuable research connections. He is currently setting up a neurolinguistics laboratory in Lorch Hall.

Jon is already an accomplished researcher who has published widely in neuroscience and neurolinguistic journals (NeuroImage, Brain and Language, Language and Cognitive Processes, etc.). He also presents his research regularly at linguistic conferences such as NELS, WCCFL and the CUNY Sentence Processing Conference.

We are excited to now count Jon as a member of our Department. With his addition to our Department, Michigan Linguistics has now joined one of just a small number of Linguistics departments where students can get training and do research in neurolinguistics.

Jon recently moved into a new house in Ann Arbor with two cats and his wife, Lisa Levinson, a semantics professor in the Linguistics Department at Oakland University.

Jon about becoming a member of the Michigan Linguistics Department: “I’m simply thrilled to be joining such a dynamic   department and I’m looking forward to working with students who are interested in neurolinguistics.”