Neil and Saras Smith Medal for Linguistics

The Neil and Saras Medal is awarded annually for lifetime achievement in the scholarly study of linguistics.

History of the prize

The award was established in 2013 by Professor Neil Smith, elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1999 and Emeritus Professor of Linguistics at University College London. This prize was first awarded in 2014.


a) Eligible nominations can be for a linguist of any nationality whose career has demonstrated the highest standards of achievement and scholarship.

b) Preference will be given to theoretical linguists, though all linguists will be eligible.

How to nominate

Nominations for the Neil and Saras Smith Medal are currently open and may only be made by Fellows of the British Academy.

Entries should be submitted electronically to stating on the email subject ‘Nomination Neil and Saras Smith Medal 2021’.

In the body of the email clearly state:

  • Name of nominee
  • Nominee’s position / institution and email address
  • Nominee’s principal area of academic distinction
  • Supporting statement (250 words)
  • Nominator’s name and your British Academy Section
  • Declaration of any institutional or personal interest

The deadline for submissions is 31 January 2021. Submissions received after this date will not be considered.

Nominations will be reviewed, and winner selected, by the Neil and Saras Smith Medal panel:
Professor Caroline Heycock FBA
Professor Robert Ladd FBA
Professor Elena Lieven FBA
Professor Ian Roberts FBA (Chair)
Professor Bencie Woll FBA

If you have any queries submitting a nomination please email

2020 winner


Professor Paul Kiparsky FBA, for a lifetime of achievement and significant contribution in the field of Linguistics, best known for his research on Phonology and Historical Linguistics.

Kiparsky, a native of Finland, studied linguistics at MIT, and taught there from 1965 to 1984, when he joined the Stanford Linguistics Department. He has written on phonology and historical linguistics (Explanation in Phonology, 1982), on morphology and syntax, and on poetics (Rhythm and Meter, with G. Youmans, 1989), and has directed over 40 dissertations in these areas. In collaboration with the late S.D. Joshi he recovered the lost principles behind the Astadhyayi (Panini as a Variationist 1979, Some Theoretical Problems in Panini’s Grammar 1982, On the Architecture of Panini’s Grammar 2002). He is currently working on how words are structured, how the vocabulary of a language is organized, how the meaning of words determines their syntactic properties, and what all this tells us about language and the mind.

Previous winners

2019 Professor Deirdre Wilson FBA, University College London

2018 Professor Barbara H. Partee FBAUniversity of Massachusetts Amherst

2017  Professor Bernard Comrie FBA, University of California, Santa Barbara 

2016  Sir John Lyons FBAUniversity of Cambridge

2015  Professor William Labov, University of Pennsylvania

2014 Professor Noam Chomsky FBAMassachusetts Institute of Technology 

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