Alessandra Giorgi
Historical linguistics

What do you teach at Ca’ Foscari? What are your main research interests? 
My name is Alessandra Giorgi and I studied Linguistics at La Sapienza University and then at Normale University in Pisa and at MIT. I focus on Theoretical Linguistics and on the interaction between syntax and sensorimotor aspects (phonology and prosody) and conceptual aspects (semantics and logical form).

Tell us about your academic path.
Degree in Literature from La Sapienza University, PhD in Linguistics from Normale University, with long periods spent at the MIT linguistics department where Chomsky taught. In my career I have changed several locations: Trento, Catania, Bergamo and Venice. I have mostly taught general linguistics and theoretical linguistics. I also have a background in historical linguistics, psycholinguistics and computational linguistics.

What are your professional role models / references?
Noam Chomsky (MIT, Cambridge MA)

Have you always known that this was going to be your path?
Yes, since I was 20.

What is the aspect of your research you are most passionate about?
The possibility of searching for little-studied areas of language and seeing what theory can tell us about those areas. Finding new solutions to old problems and expanding current knowledge in unexpected ways.

What does teaching and researching mean to you?
Researching linguistics is part of my identity; it is not a "job", but a need and a hobby at the same time. Teaching means communicating with young people, passing on knowledge, interest and passion. Most of all, it means providing a method to think, to try to break the mould and find the "new".

What has given you the greatest satisfaction in your career?
Being known abroad even in circles far removed from my specific professional circle and finding that I was able to say something interesting even to people with a theoretical background different from my own.

The area you have always wanted to be involved in but have not yet had the opportunity to explore?
Phonetics and its applications. I don't know if I will ever be able to explore that area, because it is a very specialised area.

What would you say to young people starting their university career?
If you really like something, throw yourself into it and look for people who can help you and convey excitement and passion. Hang in there and don't give up. Be critical of yourself and try to do your best.

And to those approaching research today?
Approaching research today is hard, because very often research pursues concrete objectives that leave little room for individual creativity. Funding, especially in Italy, is not only drip-fed, but also designed to obtain short or very short-term results. This is very counterproductive. It is important to approach research on the one hand by accepting these logics, but on the other by trying to remain intellectually free and open. This is not easy, but doing what you can is essential.

Last update: 28/02/2023