According to transformational grammar, every intelligible sentence conforms not only to grammatical rules peculiar to its particular language, but also to "deep structures," a universal grammar underlying all languages and corresponding to an innate capacity of the human brain. Chomsky and other linguists who built on his work formulated transformational rules, which transform a sentence with a given grammatical structure (e.g., "John saw Mary") into a sentence with a different grammatical structure but the same essential meaning ("Mary was seen by John"). Transformational linguistics has been influential in psycholinguistics, particularly in the study of language acquisition by children. In the 1990s Chomsky formulated a "Minimalist Program" in an attempt to simplify the symbolic representations of the language facility. Chomsky is a prolific author whose principal linguistic works after Syntactic Structures include Current Issues in Linguistic Theory (1964), The Sound Pattern of English (with Morris Halle, 1968), Language and Mind (1972), Studies on Semantics in Generative Grammar (1972), Knowledge of Language (1986), Language and Thought (1993), and Architecture of Language (2000).
Chomsky also has wide-ranging political interests. An early and outspoken critic of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War and a vociferous opponent of the Iraq war, he has written extensively on many political issues from a generally left-wing point of view. Among his political writings are American Power and the New Mandarins (1969), Peace in the Middle East? (1974), Manufacturing Consent (with E. S. Herman, 1988), Profit over People (1998), Rogue States (2000), Hegemony or Survival (2003), and Failed States (2006). Chomsky's controversial bestseller 9-11 (2002) is an analysis of the World Trade Center attack that, while denouncing the atrocity of the event, traces its origins to the actions and power of the United States.
See interviews with D. Barsamian (1992, 1994, 1996, and 2001); biography by R. F. Barsky (1997); studies by F. D'Agostino (1985), C. P. Otero (1988 and 1998), R. Salkie (1990), M. Achbar, ed. (1994), M. Rai (1995), V. J. Cook (1996), P. Wilkin (1997), J. McGilvray (1999), N. V. Smith (1999), A. Edgley (2000), H. Lasnik (2000), and J. Bricmont and J. Franck, ed. (2009); Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media (film by P. Wintonick and M. Achbar, 1992) and Power and Terror: Noam Chomsky in Our Times (film by J. Junkerman, 2002).
(born Dec. 7, 1928, Philadelphia, Pa., U.S.) U.S. linguist, philosopher, and political activist. He received a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1955, the same year he joined the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Chomsky takes the proper object of study for linguistics to be the mentally represented grammars that constitute the native speaker's knowledge of his language and the biologically innate language faculty, or “universal grammar,” that enables the developmentally normal language learner, as a child, to construct a grammar of the language to which he is exposed. For Chomsky, the ultimate goal of linguistic science is to develop a theory of universal grammar that provides a descriptively adequate grammar for any natural language given only the kind of “primary linguistic data” available in the social environments of children. This imperative has motivated the gradual refinement of Chomskyan linguistic theory from the early transformational grammar of the 1950s and '60s to the Minimalist Program of the 1990s and beyond. A self-described libertarian socialist, Chomsky has written numerous books and lectured widely on what he considers the antidemocratic character of American capitalism and its pernicious influence on the country's politics and foreign policy, mass media, and academic and intellectual culture. Seealso generative grammar.
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