Noam Chomsky is an eminent American theoretical linguist, cognitive scientist and philosopher, who radically changed the arena of linguistics by assuming language as a uniquely human, biologically based cognitive capacity. He suggested that innate traits in the human brain give birth to both language and grammar. The most important figure in “cognitive revolution” and “analytic philosophy”, Chomsky’s wide-ranging influence also extends to computer science and mathematics.
Early Life and Education:
Avram Noam Chomsky was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1928. Both his parents were prominent Hebrew scholars. He entered the University of Pennsylvania in 1945, where he achieved a bachelor’s degree in linguistics in 1949, a master’s degree in 1951, and later earned his doctorate in 1955.
Contributions and Achievements:
Noam Chomsky became a member of the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and perfomed his services at MIT as a visiting professor. Influenced by the ideas of his mentor, Zellig Harris, Chomsky published his famous work, “Syntactic Structures”, in 1957. During that era, concepts regarding the origin of language were inspired by behaviorist ideas, for instance those of renowned Swedish psychologist B. F. Skinner, who advocated that newborn babies had a blank mind (tabula rasa) and that children acquired language by means of learning and mimickry.
Chomsky rejected that belief and argued that human beings were in fact born with the innate ability to realize the generative grammars that constitute every human language. Children make use of this innate ability to learn the languages that they are exposed to.
Chomsky established his linguistic theory in 1965 with “Aspects of the Theory of Syntax”, and in 1975, with “The Logical Structure of Linguistic Theory”. Later works in cognitive science supported his claims. The influence of Chomsky on linguistics is similar to that of Charles Darwin on evolution and biology. His ideas have significant logical implications for various subjects of psychology, and also extends to cognitive science, anthropology, sociology and neurology.
Noam Chomsky won an honorary fellowship at the Literary and Historical Society in 2005. Two years later, he received The Uppsala University Honorary Doctor’s degree in 2007, named after Carolus Linnaeus. He was honored with the President’s Medal from the Literary and Debating Society of the National University of Ireland, Galway in 2008. Chomsky has been serving as an honorary member of The International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters (IAPTI) since 2009.