Business NLP Blog

Noam Chomsky

American Linguist, Philosopher and Political Commentator

Noam Avram Chomsky, who was born Dec. 7, 1928, in Philadelphia, Penn., is considered to be an American linguist and philosopher and is credited with developing the theory of transformational grammar, which is a study on how a person learns to understand forms of grammar and how that learning process and resulting language is taken into and processed in their brain. This is what John Grinder studied and is in part what forms the back bone of NLP.
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Chomsky has a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania that he earned in 1955 and he also was an institute professor of Linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for more than 50 years. Chomsky has received many honorary degrees from universities worldwide.

Famous for his work and views in several areas
Chomsky has gotten many accolades for his work worldwide in the fields of linguistics, philosophy, and social/political theory. He is also a well-known author, who has worked not only in transformational grammar, but also in epistemology, which is heavily taught within NLP and it studies the makeup of knowledge, including its presuppositions and backgrounds, and how valid it is.
Chomsky is well-known for his social and political writing examples in which he is often extremely critical of the foreign and domestic policies in the U.S. This was in part what got him the title of being an activist, as well as his beliefs and identification with socialism and anarchism.

For example, he is famous for opposing the Vietnam war, which is shown in the 1967 publishing of an essay he wrote, "The Responsibility of Intellectuals" in The New York Review of Books. He has also made it clear in many other publications of his opposition to the Iraqi war, as well as his beliefs that the actions of 9/11 were due to part to some of the U.S. government’s previous action, which he brought out in a book called “9-11” in 2002.

Many Chomsky Writings Are Well Known
One such writing example that features this is, “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media,” which was written in 1988 along with Edward S. Herman. Another example, Chomsky on Anarchism,” published in 2006, is just one of his writings that shows his anarchist views. These views often put him on hate lists and he has even gotten death threats due to his critic of U.S. foreign policy. One such death threat came from the famous Unabomber, Theodore Kacyznski, as he was supposedly one of his targets.
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Chomsky is credited with the distinction of being cited as a source in papers, books or other writings more than any other scholar still alive, and is the 8th most cited source ever. He has, in fact, wrote more than 100 books of his own.

Contributions to linguistics
Chomsky has brought much to the field of linguistics. His book, Syntactic Structures that was written in 1955 was the first to challenge what was then the very structure of linguists and instead suggested what he called transformational grammar. He is noted for his thoughts that the “modeling knowledge of language using a formal grammar accounts for the "productivity" or "creativity" of language.”
Some of Chomsky’s studies have had major influences on how fellow researchers viewed the way children learn languages. Chomsky also implied that children only had to learn certain features of whatever their native languages were and called this universal grammar. This has something to do with the speed in which children seem to grasp language and he believed there was a gap between this, the stimuli the children were exposed to and how they could pick language up so well despite that gap.

These theories are still being debated in some linguistic and grammar circles, by his fellow researchers and by many branches of grammatical and linguistic studies which have been developed due to his beginning research.

Contributions to psychology
Chomsky has also done much work that applies to the field psychology since the form of linguistics he works in has links to cognitive psychology and NLP. This goes along with his views on universal grammar since it was seen as a challenge to how the established theories of language thought children learned it. One example of his views on this was printed in 1959, entitled, “B.F. Skinner’s Verbal Behavior,” which sparked many future controversies on the subject.
Influence in other fields
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It is believed that much of Chomsky’s writings have influenced other fields such as computer science since it can be linked to formal languages, or the fields of mathematics and evolutionary psychology for some of his other beliefs and writings.

Personal Information
Chomsky is the son of William Chomsky, a noted professor of Hebrew at Gratz College and IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) member and Elsie Chomsky. He married fellow linguist Carol Schatz in 1949 and they were married for 59 years until she died of cancer in 2008. The couple have two daughters, Aviva (born in 1957) and Diane (born in 1960), as well as one son, Harry (born in 1967). Currently Chomsky lives in Lexington, Mass. He still travels and gives political and other lectures.

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