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Noam Chomsky

Chomsky in 96
Noam Chomsky (João Wainer / Folha Imagem)

When we study human language, we are approaching what some might call the "human essence," the distinctive qualities of mind that are, so far as we know, unique to man.

So the obvious hypothesis is that our language is the result of the unfolding of a genetically determined program.

Language serves essentially for the expression of thought.

In my opinion one should not speak of a "relationship" between linguistics and psychology, because linguistics is part of psychology.

The child, placed in a linguistic community, is presented with a set of sentences that is limited and often imperfect, fragmented, and so on. In spite of this, in a very short time he succeeds in "constructing," in internalizing the grammar of his language, developing knowledge that is very complex, ...

CHOMSKY, Noam. American linguist and political writer born on Dec. 7, 1928, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Avram Noam Chomsky was introduced to linguistics by his father, a Hebrew scholar who worked with historical linguistics. Noam studied at the University of Pennsylvania, earning a doctoral degree in linguistics in 1955, and then he began teaching at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where today he is Institute Professor in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy.

To find the principles common to all languages that enable people to speak creatively and freely is Noam Chomsky's description of his goal as a linguist. Many recent works have stressed that all children go through the same stages of language development regardless of the language they are learning. In examining this, Chomsky gave linguistics, the study of the human speech, a new direction.

Knowing a language means being able to produce an infinite number of sentences never spoken before and to understand sentences never heard before. Chomsky refers to this ability as the "creative aspect" of language.

His first book, Syntactic Structures, published in 1957, outlines his system of transformational grammar. This grammar consists of surface structures - the sounds and words in a sentence - and deep structures that contain the meaning of the sentence. The meaning is converted by a transformation - any of an ordered set of rules - to a surface structure. Chomsky says that children are born with a knowledge of the principles of the grammatical structure of all languages, and this inborn knowledge explains the success and speed with which they learn language.

Further, his work implies and he states that linguistics is a branch of psychology, and that an understanding of the rules of a language throws light on the principles that regulate human thought. Other of his linguistic publications include:

Noam Chomsky has been much more than just a brilliant and revolutionary linguist. Chomsky's studies on political and social issues are strong with intelligent criticism. A long-time political activist, Chomsky is the author of numerous books and articles on US foreign policy, international affairs, human rights, modern history, American political life, and peace movements.

This is the other side of Mr. Chomsky's, which very understandably, the American mainstream media tries to obscure. His social, political, and economic works include:

See also