BIOGRAPHY OF NOAM CHOMSKY - Студенческий научный форум

XII Международная студенческая научная конференция Студенческий научный форум - 2020


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Noam Chomsky was born on December 7, 1928 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His undergraduate and graduate years were spent at the University of Pennsylvania where he received his PhD in linguistics in 1955. During the years 1951 to 1955, Chomsky was a Junior Fellow of the Harvard University Society of Fellows. While a Junior Fellow he completed his doctoral dissertation entitled, “Transformational Analysis.” The major theoretical viewpoints of the dissertation appeared in the monograph Syntactic Structure, which was published in 1957. This formed part of a more extensive work, The Logical Structure of Linguistic Theory, circulated in mimeograph in 1955 and published in 1975.

Chomsky joined the staff of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1955 and in 1961 was appointed full professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics (now the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy.) From 1966 to 1976 he held the Ferrari P. Ward Professorship of Modern Languages and Linguistics. In 1976 he was appointed Institute Professor.

During the years 1958 to 1959 Chomsky was in residence at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, NJ. In the spring of 1969 he delivered the John Locke Lectures at Oxford; in January 1970 he delivered the Bertrand Russell Memorial Lecture at Cambridge University; in 1972, the Nehru Memorial Lecture in New Delhi, and in 1977, the Huizinga Lecture in Leiden, among many others.

Professor Chomsky has received honorary degrees from University of London, University of Chicago, Loyola University of Chicago, Swarthmore College, Delhi University, Bard College, University of Massachusetts, University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Amherst College, Cambridge University, University of Buenos Aires, McGill University, Universitat Rovira I Virgili, Tarragona, Columbia University, University of Connecticut, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, University of Western Ontario, University of Toronto, Harvard University, University of Calcutta, and Universidad Nacional De Colombia. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Science. In addition, he is a member of other professional and learned societies in the United States and abroad, and is a recipient of the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award of the American Psychological Association, the Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences, the Helmholtz Medal, the Dorothy Eldridge Peacemaker Award, the Ben Franklin Medal in Computer and Cognitive Science, and others.

Chomsky has written and lectured widely on linguistics, philosophy, intellectual history, contemporary issues, international affairs and U.S. foreign policy. His works include: Aspects of the Theory of Syntax; Cartesian Linguistics; Sound Pattern of English (with Morris Halle); Language and Mind; American Power and the New Mandarins; At War with Asia; For Reasons of State; Peace in the Middle East?; Reflections on Language; The Political Economy of Human Rights, Vol. I and II (with E.S. Herman); Rules and Representations; Lectures on Government and Binding; Towards a New Cold War; Radical Priorities; Fateful Triangle; Knowledge of Language; Turning the Tide; Pirates and Emperors; On Power and Ideology; Language and Problems of Knowledge; The Culture of Terrorism; Manufacturing Consent (with E.S. Herman); Necessary Illusions; Deterring Democracy; Year 501; Rethinking Camelot: JFK, the Vietnam War and US Political Culture; Letters from Lexington; World Orders, Old and New; The Minimalist Program; Powers and Prospects; The Common Good; Profit Over People; The New Military Humanism; New Horizons in the Study of Language and Mind; Rogue States; A New Generation Draws the Line; 9-11; and Understanding Power.

Linguistic theory

The basis of Chomsky's linguistic theory lies in biolinguistics, the linguistic school that holds that the principles underpinning the structure of language are biologically preset in the human mind and hence genetically inherited. As such he argues that all humans share the same underlying linguistic structure, irrespective of sociocultural differences. In adopting this position Chomsky rejects the radical behaviorist psychology of B. F. Skinner, who viewed behavior (including talking and thinking) as a completely learned product of the interactions between organisms and their environments. Accordingly, Chomsky argues that language is a unique evolutionary development of the human species and distinguished from modes of communication used by any other animal species. Chomsky's nativist, internalist view of language is consistent with the philosophical school of "rationalism" and contrasts with the anti-nativist, externalist view of language consistent with the philosophical school of "empiricism",which contends that all knowledge, including language, comes from external stimuli.

Universal grammar

Since the 1960s Chomsky has maintained that syntactic knowledge is at least partially inborn, implying that children need only learn certain language-specific features of their native languages. He bases his argument on observations about human language acquisition and describes a "poverty of the stimulus": an enormous gap between the linguistic stimuli to which children are exposed and the rich linguistic competence they attain. For example, although children are exposed to only a very small and finite subset of the allowable syntactic variants within their first language, they somehow acquire the highly organized and systematic ability to understand and produce an infinite number of sentences, including ones that have never before been uttered, in that language. To explain this, Chomsky reasoned that the primary linguistic data must be supplemented by an innate linguistic capacity. Furthermore, while a human baby and a kitten are both capable of inductive reasoning, if they are exposed to exactly the same linguistic data, the human will always acquire the ability to understand and produce language, while the kitten will never acquire either ability. Chomsky labeled whatever relevant capacity the human has that the cat lacks the language acquisition device, and suggested that one of linguists' tasks should be to determine what that device is and what constraints it imposes on the range of possible human languages. The universal features that result from these constraints would constitute "universal grammar".Multiple scholars have challenged universal grammar on the grounds of the evolutionary infeasibility of its genetic basis for language, the lack of universal characteristics between languages, and the unproven link between innate/universal structures and the structures of specific languages.

Linguistics bibliography:

Syntactic Structures (1957)

Current Issues in Linguistic Theory (1964)

Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (1965)

Cartesian Linguistics (1965)

Language and Mind (1968)

The Sound Pattern of English with Morris Halle (1968)

Reflections on Language (1975)

Lectures on Government and Binding (1981)

The Minimalist Program (1995)


1). Davis, Martin; Weyuker, Elaine J.; Sigal, Ron (1994). Computability, complexity, and languages: fundamentals of theoretical computer science (2nd ed.). Boston: Academic Press, Harcourt, Brace. p. 327. ISBN 978-0-12-206382-4.

2). Evans, Nicholas; Levinson, Stephen C. (October 2009). "The myth of language universals: Language diversity and its importance for cognitive science". Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 32 (5): 429–448. doi:10.1017/S0140525X0999094X. ISSN 1469-1825. PMID 19857320.


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