You are here: Home News News archive Levelt honoured as member of Orden Pour le mérite

This content is archived, it could be outdated.

Levelt honoured as member of Orden Pour le mérite

The section of the "Orden Pour le mérite" in Berlin has appointed Prof. Dr. Willem Levelt, director (Emer.) and founder of the MPI for Psycholinguistics, as a new member of the "Orden Pour le mérite for Sciences and Arts". The membership of this order is one of the most renowned German awards for artists and scientists who enjoy outstanding respect worldwide for their excellent contributions. Levelt was honoured as a member of the order in a ceremony that took place in Berlin on May 29, 2011, in the presence of Federal President Christian Wulff.
Levelt honoured as member of Orden Pour le mérite

June 16, 2011

Willem (Pim) J. M. Levelt is known as one of the most influential researchers of human language behaviour and speech production. Levelt was the first to describe cognitive processes that are crucial to speech production, and he has clarified the importance of the “mental lexicon”.

Levelt studied psychology in Leiden, completing a dissertation titled “On binocular rivalry” in 1965. The following year, he moved to the Harvard Center for Cognitive Studies. His subsequent research and teaching career included positions at the University of Illinois, the University of Groningen, and the Radboud University Nijmegen. From 1971 to 1972, Levelt was member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, where he completed his trilogy “Formal grammars in linguistics and psycholinguistics”. In 1976 Levelt founded the Max Planck Project Group for Psycholinguistics, which continued from 1980 as the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, with Willem Levelt and Wolfgang Klein as directors.

Leading Publications

Levelt is the author of numerous leading publications. Among them is his monograph “Speaking: From intention to articulation”, a seminal contribution to the theory of speech production. Since his retirement in 2006, Levelt has been concentrating on writing a monograph on the history of psycholinguistics.

Levelt and Bundespräsident

Levelt talking to Federal President Christian Wulff.

In her Laudatio, Lorraine Daston, director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, praised Levelt for his invention of completely new scientific research concepts and for his ability to decompose a complex tangle into its individual components - both theoretically and experimentally. She also commended him for converting a classic philosophical problem into a new fully-fledged scientific discipline in the tradition of his scientific predecessors Hermann von Helmholtz and Wilhelm Wundt.

Levelt is a member of numerous international scientific academies, including the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. From 2002 to 2005, he was president of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). Levelt has been granted honorary doctorates from the Universities of Maastricht, Antwerpen, Padua, and Leuven.

Orden Pour le mérite


In 1842, the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV established the “Orden Pour le mérite für Wissenschaften und Künste” (for sciences and arts) to honor outstanding scientists, scholars, and artists. It was meant as a complement to the “military order” founded by Friedrich II. Alexander von Humboldt was its first Chancellor and advisor. The end of the monarchy in 1918 saw the end of both orders, however, the “peace order” was renewed by the German president Theodor Heuss in 1952. It has since been under the protection of subsequent German presidents. At present 38 German and 30 foreign members belong to the order. They meet twice a year at conferences to exchange their views and ideas. Levelt is currently the only Dutch member.

About MPI

This is the MPI

The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

The institute is situated on the campus of the Radboud University. We participate in the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, and have particularly close ties to that institute's Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging. We also participate in the Centre for Language Studies. A joint graduate school, the IMPRS in Language Sciences, links the Donders Institute, the CLS and the MPI.



Max Planck Institute
for Psycholinguistics


Street address
Wundtlaan 1
6525 XD Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Mailing address
P.O. Box 310
6500 AH Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Phone:   +31-24-3521911
Fax:        +31-24-3521213

Public Outreach Officer

Image right