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Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky is more than a linguist, although he has made significant contributions in this field. He is also an activist, political critic, historian, logician, cognitive scientist and philosopher. He works at MIT in their Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, and has been at that educational institution for more than 50 years.


Noam Chomsky
 

Chomsky is known for his writings on mass media, politics and war and has authored more than 100 books. He is called the "Father of Modern Linguistics", and his varied works have also influenced the fields of psychology, mathematics and computer science. Chomsky has been known as a critic of state capitalism and United States foreign policy, as well as of the mainstream media outlets. He more readily identifies himself with classical liberalism and anarchist views.

Born in 1928 into an affluent area of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, his father was a Ukrainian immigrant who had worked in sweat shops and then in teaching. Chomsky's mother was also a teacher. His father felt the importance of education, as well as in making life more worthwhile and meaningful, and he fostered these feelings in his son.

Chomsky's main early education was at a small, independent learning institution where pupils were allowed to engage in the pursuit of their own individual interests, without competition. At the age of 10, he wrote his first insightful article about the spread of fascism after the Spanish civil war.

In college, Chomsky was influenced by George Orwell, a democratic socialist and Rudolf Rocker, an Anarcho-syndicalist. He studied linguistics and philosophy, and was introduced to the links between classical liberalism and anarchism by Rocker.

In 1955, after receiving a linguistics PhD at the University of Pennsylvania, Chomsky would conduct a part of his doctoral research as a Junior Fellow at Harvard. In his thesis, he started to develop his ideas in linguistics, which he would elaborate on in Syntactic Structures, his book of 1957 that is one of his most well-known linguistic works.

Chomsky was appointed to a professor position at MIT in 1961, in what was then called Modern Languages and Linguistics. He challenged the theories of structural linguistics and introduced transformational grammar. His approach uniquely states that word sequences have a syntax that is characterized by a type of grammar that is more formal.

One of his more influential contributions to linguistics is his claim that the modeling of the knowledge of language using formal grammar will account for the creativity or productivity of the language. In plainer terms, he believes that formal grammar helps in explaining the ability of hearers and speakers to produce and also interpret infinite numbers of utterances. This includes novel utterances, made even with limited rules of grammar and finite terms.

Chomsky acknowledges a debt to Panini, based on his acceptance of the modern notion of explicit and generative grammar. He actually did not prove that our language is innate entirely, nor that there is a universal type of grammar. In actuality, he only observed that young humans and young animals exposed to the same stimuli will not both acquire an understanding and ability to produce a language. Only the human has those capabilities.


Rumor has it

Noam Chomsky wrote his first and only novel while in a snowbound, isolated hotel. Every page of the novel repeated the same sentence, "How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?"

Written by Kevin Lepton


 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 


 

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