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Chomsky, Noam


Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631207535.1997.x


(1928-) American linguist and political campaigner. Born in Philadelphia in the eastern United States, Chomsky first studied linguistics under Zellig Harris (see H arris , Z ellig ) at the University of Pennsylvania. After a short spell at Harvard he moved to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston in 1955, where he has been based ever since. In the mid-1960s he actively opposed United States military involvement in Vietnam and was arrested while addressing a large anti-war demonstration in Washington. Subsequently he has been equally critical of United States policy around the world, particularly the Pacific region, the Middle East, and Central America. Chomsky has lectured on linguistics and politics in many countries and has received many academic honours. He was once described as “arguably the most important intellectual alive.” Chomsky is perhaps best known for his claim that many properties of language are innate, that is, the result of human genetic programming rather than being learned from experience. He came to prominence in the late 1950s when his work played a major part in transforming linguistics from an esoteric discipline into a central component of the human and cognitive sciences. His vigorous critiques of structuralist linguistics ( Chomsky, 1964a ) and the behaviorist psychology with which it was linked ( Chomsky, 1964b ) helped to establish ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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