The David E. Rumelhart Prize is awarded annually to an individual or collaborative team making a significant contemporary contribution to the theoretical foundations of human cognition. Contributions may be formal in nature: mathematical modeling of human cognitive processes, formal analysis of language and other products of human cognitive activity, and computational analyses of human cognition using symbolic or non-symbolic frameworks all fall within the scope of the award.

The David E. Rumelhart Prize is funded by the Robert J. Glushko and Pamela Samuelson Foundation. Robert J. Glushko received a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from the University of California, San Diego in 1979 under Rumelhart’s supervision. He is an Adjunct Full Professor at the School of Information (I-School) at the University of California, Berkeley.

The prize consists of a hand-crafted, custom bronze medal, a certificate, a citation of the awardee’s contribution, and a monetary award of $100,000.

The 2017 David E. Rumelhart Prize Recipient

Lila GleitmanThe recipient of the seventeenth David E. Rumelhart Prize is Lila Gleitman, who has fundamentally shaped our scientific understanding of both language and cognition, and the relationship between these fields, as well as the nature of human learning. Gleitman is an emeritus professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, and (along with Arvind Joshi) the founding director of the Institute for Research in Cognitive Science at Penn, the first Cognitive Science institute funded by the National Science Foundation. She received an undergraduate degree in Literature from Antioch College and a PhD in Linguistics from Penn.

Over a long career, Gleitman has done more than anyone to establish both the theoretical structure and the empirical basis for the notion that when children learn language they are not simply forming statistical associations between sequences of speech sounds, or associations between words and percepts or experiences; rather children are doing a remarkably sophisticated kind of symbolic reasoning or detective work, reverse-engineering the logic of language with syntax – the law-like relations between linguistic form and meaning – at its core. Gleitman called this Syntactic Bootstrapping. “Bootstrapping” in the context of language acquisition theory, refers to the use of one class of information, and its structure, to permit the identification and acquisition of another class, and its corresponding structure

Although Gleitman’s PhD was in linguistics, and she is often claimed by linguists as one of their own, her influence on other fields of cognitive science, especially psychology, is profound. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences in psychology, and the recipient of numerous other honors in psychology, but her impact has been magnified thorough the many graduate students and post-docs she mentored who fill the faculties of cognitive science departments all over the world.