Empirical Linguistics of
Zellig S. Harris

  • Source material on the work of Zellig Harris in language, information, applied mathematics, and the foundations of linguistics.

  • Ongoing research and applications in linguistics, informatics, computer science, mathematics, philosophy of science, and social change.

Major Contributions



The Bampton Lectures

Four seminal lectures on the theory of language and information:

  • Shows how words carry meaning and how sentences carry information.
  • Explains the properties of language, with a plausible account of its origin and development (which we may be just beginning).
  • Indicates what is needed to know a language, and that child language requires no special explanatory principles.

Audio recordings with transcripts.


The Paris Lectures

Lecture Notes on English Transformational Grammar
Université de Paris VIII, 1974
(Transl. 1976 by Maurice Gross: Notes du course de syntaxe, Paris: Editions du Seuil.)

Table of contents
1. Overview
2. Operators
3. The reductions
4. The grammar in terms of the variants


Computer Applications


Book of Ongoing Research

The Legacy of Zellig Harris: Language and Information into the 21st Century
John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2002



The Legacy of Zellig Harris: Language and Information into the 21st Century
University of Pennsylvania, January 2003

L’héritage de Zellig Sabbetai Harris
Duino-Aurisina, 20–22 juin 2014


Book Reviews




Other Resources

On empirical linguistic methodology and results

By Zellig Harris

Some of these are available in Papers in structural and transformational linguistics (1970) or Papers on syntax (1981).



In Remembrance

The Research Community

Linguists continuing and extending Harris's work

Social change

  • Frame of Reference for Social Change (FoR). Beginning in the early 1940s, Harris collaborated with colleagues in diverse science fields to apply a modern scientific analysis to problems of how best to foster the emergence of successors to capitalist structures, processes, and expectations, not conceived a priori but emergent, initially in niches that are socially necessary but difficult to exploit for profit. In this framework, individual and group political actions can be more coherent. A collection of photocopied FoR writings was deposited by Seymour Melman in the Columbia University Library and at the University of Pennsylvania in the Van Pelt Library.
  • Book manuscript. To avoid entrapment in the conceptual frameworks and presuppositions of radical-left political and sociological thought, which presuppose (and therefore perpetuate) capitalist constructs, the FoR workers developed a new terminology and forms of analysis. A book was submitted for publication to Victor Gollancz in London. A notoriously interventionist editor, he returned it with the direction "Now write it in English," that is, using familiar concepts and terminology.
  • The direction of social change. Harris circulated this rewritten manuscript to publishers. Certain further developments of the text are indicated but not yet completed, especially in the later chapters.
  • The transformation of capitalist society. After Harris's death in 1992, a complete manuscript was prepared for publication by Murray Eden, Seymour Melman, and William Evan. The publisher changed the title. It was published posthumously in 1997.


This site was originally created by Stephen B. Johnson
Professor, Center for Healthcare Informatics and Policy
Quality and Medical Informatics Division
Weil Cornell Medical College

Email: webmaster at zelligharris dot org