Noam Chomsky (born December 7, 1928) is an American linguist,
philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, social critic, and
political activist. Sometimes described as "the father of modern
linguistics," Chomsky is also a major figure in analytic philosophy
and one of the founders of the field of cognitive science. He holds a
joint appointment as Institute Professor
Emeritus at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology (MIT) and laureate professor at the University
of Arizona, and is the author of over 100 books on topics such
as linguistics, war, politics, and mass media. Ideologically, he
aligns with anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism.
Born to middle-class Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants in Philadelphia,
Chomsky developed an early interest in anarchism from alternative
bookstores in New York City. At the age of 16 he began studies at the
University of Pennsylvania, taking courses in linguistics,
mathematics, and philosophy. From 1951 to 1955 he was appointed to
Society of Fellows, where he developed the theory
of transformational grammar for which he was awarded his doctorate in
1955. That year he began teaching at MIT, in 1957 emerging as a
significant figure in the field of linguistics for his landmark work
Syntactic Structures, which remodeled the scientific study of
language, while from 1958 to 1959 he was a National Science Foundation
fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study. He is credited as the
creator or co-creator of the universal grammar theory, the generative
grammar theory, the Chomsky hierarchy, and the minimalist program.
Chomsky also played a pivotal role in the decline of behaviorism,
being particularly critical of the work of B. F. Skinner.
An outspoken opponent of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, which he
saw as an act of American imperialism, in 1967 Chomsky attracted
widespread public attention for his anti-war essay "The Responsibility
of Intellectuals". Associated with the New Left, he was arrested
multiple times for his activism and placed on Nixon's Enemies List.
While expanding his work in linguistics over subsequent decades, he
also became involved in the
Linguistics Wars. In collaboration with
Edward S. Herman, Chomsky later co-wrote an analysis articulating the
propaganda model of media criticism, and worked to expose the
Indonesian occupation of East Timor. Additionally, his defense of
unconditional freedom of speech – including for Holocaust deniers
– generated significant controversy in the
Faurisson affair of the
early 1980s. Following his retirement from active teaching, he has
continued his vocal political activism, including opposing the
Terror and supporting the Occupy movement.
One of the most cited scholars in history, Chomsky has influenced a
broad array of academic fields. He is widely recognized as a paradigm
shifter who helped spark a major revolution in the human sciences,
contributing to the development of a new cognitivistic framework for
the study of language and the mind. In addition to his continued
scholarly research, he remains a leading critic of U.S. foreign
policy, neoliberalism and contemporary state capitalism, the
Israeli–Palestinian conflict, and mainstream news media. His ideas
have proved highly significant within the anti-capitalist and
anti-imperialist movements. Some of his critics have accused him of
1 Early life
1.1 Childhood: 1928–45
1.2 University: 1945–55
1.3 Early career: 1955–66
2 Later life
Vietnam War activism and rise to prominence: 1967–75
2.2 Edward Herman and the Faurisson affair: 1976–80
2.3 Reaganite era and work on the media: 1980–89
2.4 Increased political activism: 1990–present
3 Linguistic theory
3.1 Universal grammar
3.2 Transformational generative grammar
3.3 Chomsky hierarchy
3.4 Minimalist program
4 Political views
4.1 United States foreign policy
Capitalism and socialism
News media and propaganda
6 Personal life
7 Reception and influence
7.1 In academia
7.2 In politics
7.3 Academic achievements, awards, and honors
8 Bibliography and filmography
9 See also
11 External links
Noam Chomsky was born on December 7, 1928, in the East Oak Lane
neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His father was William
"Zev" Chomsky, an Ashkenazi Jew originally from
Ukraine who had fled
to the United States in 1913. Having studied at Johns Hopkins
University, William went on to become school principal of the
Congregation Mikveh Israel
Congregation Mikveh Israel religious school, and in 1924 was appointed
to the faculty at
Gratz College in Philadelphia. Chomsky's mother was
the Belarusian-born Elsie Simonofsky (1904–1972), a teacher and
activist whom William had met while working at Mikveh Israel.
What motivated his [political] interests? A powerful curiosity,
exposure to divergent opinions, and an unorthodox education have all
been given as answers to this question. He was clearly struck by the
obvious contradictions between his own readings and mainstream press
reports. The measurement of the distance between the realities
presented by these two sources, and the evaluation of why such a gap
exists, remained a passion for Chomsky.
Biographer Robert F. Barsky, 1997
Robert F. Barsky
Robert F. Barsky on Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent,
July 19, 1997, C-SPAN
Noam was the Chomsky family's first child. His younger brother, David
Eli Chomsky, was born five years later. The brothers were close,
although David was more easygoing while Noam could be very
competitive. Chomsky and his brother were raised Jewish, being
taught Hebrew and regularly discussing the political theories of
Zionism; the family was particularly influenced by the Left Zionist
writings of Ahad Ha'am. As a Jew, Chomsky faced anti-semitism as a
child, particularly from the Irish and German communities living in
Chomsky described his parents as "normal Roosevelt Democrats" who had
a center-left position on the political spectrum; however, he was
exposed to far-left politics through other members of the family, a
number of whom were socialists involved in the International Ladies'
Garment Workers' Union. He was substantially influenced by his
uncle who owned a newspaper stand in New York City, where Jewish
leftists came to debate the issues of the day. Whenever visiting
his uncle, Chomsky frequented left-wing and anarchist bookstores in
the city, voraciously reading political literature. He later
described his discovery of anarchism as "a lucky accident",
because it allowed him to become critical of other far-left
Stalinism and other forms of
Chomsky's primary education was at Oak Lane Country Day School, an
independent Deweyite institution that focused on allowing its pupils
to pursue their own interests in a non-competitive atmosphere. It
was here, at the age of 10, that he wrote his first article, on the
spread of fascism, following the fall of Barcelona to Francisco
Franco's fascist army in the Spanish Civil War. At the age of 12,
Chomsky moved on to secondary education at Central High School, where
he joined various clubs and societies and excelled academically, but
was troubled by the hierarchical and regimented method of teaching
used there. During the same time period, Chomsky attended the
Hebrew High School at Gratz College. From the age of 12 or 13, he
identified more fully with anarchist politics.
Chomsky's almae matres, the University of
Pennsylvania and the Harvard
Society of Fellows
In 1945, Chomsky, aged 16, embarked on a general program of study at
the University of Pennsylvania, where he explored philosophy, logic,
and languages and developed a primary interest in learning Arabic.
Living at home, he funded his undergraduate degree by teaching
Hebrew. However, he was frustrated with his experiences at the
university, and considered dropping out and moving to a kibbutz in
Mandatory Palestine. His intellectual curiosity was reawakened
through conversations with the Russian-born linguist Zellig Harris,
whom he first met in a political circle in 1947. Harris introduced
Chomsky to the field of theoretical linguistics and convinced him to
major in the subject. Chomsky's B.A. honors thesis was titled
"Morphophonemics of Modern Hebrew", and involved his applying Harris's
methods to the language. Chomsky revised this thesis for his M.A.,
which he received at Penn in 1951; it would subsequently be published
as a book. He also developed his interest in philosophy while at
university, in particular under the tutelage of his teacher Nelson
From 1951 to 1955, Chomsky was named to the
Society of Fellows at
Harvard University, where he undertook research on what would become
his doctoral dissertation. Having been encouraged by Goodman to
apply, a significant factor in his decision to move to Harvard was
that the philosopher W. V. Quine was based there. Both Quine and a
J. L. Austin of the University of Oxford, would
strongly influence Chomsky. In 1952, Chomsky published his first
academic article, "Systems of Syntactic Analysis", which appeared not
in a journal of linguistics, but in The Journal of Symbolic Logic.
Being highly critical of the established behaviorist currents in
linguistics, in 1954 he presented his ideas at lectures given at the
University of Chicago
University of Chicago and Yale University. Although he had not
been registered as a student at
Pennsylvania for four years, in 1955
he submitted a thesis to them setting out his ideas on
transformational grammar; he was awarded his Ph.D. on the basis of it,
and it would be privately distributed among specialists on microfilm
before being published in 1975 as part of The Logical Structure of
Linguistic Theory. Possession of this Ph.D. nullified his
requirement to enter national service in the armed forces, which was
otherwise due to begin in 1955. George Armitage Miller, a
Professor at Harvard, read the Ph.D. and was impressed; together he
and Chomsky published a number of technical papers in mathematical
The work of anarcho-syndicalist
Rudolf Rocker (left) and democratic
George Orwell (right) significantly influenced the young
In 1947, Chomsky entered into a romantic relationship with Carol Doris
Schatz, whom he had known since they were toddlers, and they married
in 1949. After Chomsky was made a Fellow at Harvard, the couple
moved to an apartment in the
Allston area of Boston, remaining there
until 1965, when they relocated to the city's Lexington area. In
1953 the couple took up a Harvard travel grant in order to visit
Europe, traveling from England through France and Switzerland and into
Italy. On that same trip they also spent six weeks at Hashomer
HaZore'a kibbutz in the newly established Israel; although
enjoying himself, Chomsky was appalled by the Jewish nationalism and
anti-Arab racism that he encountered in the country, as well as the
pro-Stalinist trend that he thought pervaded the kibbutz's leftist
On visits to New York City, Chomsky continued to frequent the office
of Yiddish anarchist journal Freie Arbeiter Stimme, becoming enamored
with the ideas of contributor Rudolf Rocker, whose work introduced him
to the link between anarchism and classical liberalism. Other
political thinkers whose work Chomsky read included the anarchist
Diego Abad de Santillán, democratic socialists George Orwell,
Bertrand Russell, and Dwight Macdonald, and works by Marxists Karl
Liebknecht, Karl Korsch, and Rosa Luxemburg. His readings
convinced him of the desirability of an anarcho-syndicalist society,
and he became fascinated by the anarcho-syndicalist communes set up
during the Spanish Civil War, which were documented in Orwell's Homage
to Catalonia (1938). He avidly read leftist journal politics,
remarking that it "answered to and developed" his interest in
anarchism, as well as the periodical Living Marxism, published by
council communist Paul Mattick. Although rejecting its Marxist basis,
Chomsky was heavily influenced by council communism, voraciously
reading articles in Living
Marxism written by Antonie Pannekoek.
He was also greatly interested in the Marlenite ideas of the Leninist
League, an anti-Stalinist Marxist–Leninist group, sharing their
views that the
Second World War
Second World War was orchestrated by Western
capitalists and the Soviet Union's "state capitalists" to crush
Early career: 1955–66
Chomsky had befriended two linguists at the Massachusetts Institute of
Morris Halle and Roman Jakobson, the latter of whom
secured him an assistant professor position at
MIT in 1955. There
Chomsky spent half his time on a mechanical translation project, and
the other half teaching a course on linguistics and philosophy.
Chomsky had been recruited to
MIT by Jerome Wiesner, an influential
scientist who, at this time, was also involved in getting the US's
nuclear missile program established  Having brought such missile
research to MIT, Wiesner then became a nuclear strategy adviser to
both Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, before returning to
oversee research programmes at the Institute. However, despite its
military involvement, Chomsky has described
MIT as "a pretty free and
open place, open to experimentation and without rigid requirements. It
was just perfect for someone of my idiosyncratic interests and
work." In 1957
MIT promoted him to the position of associate
professor, and from 1957 to 1958 he was also employed by Columbia
University as a visiting professor. That same year, Chomsky's
first child, a daughter named Aviva, was born, and he published
his first book on linguistics, Syntactic Structures, a work that
radically opposed the dominant Harris–Bloomfield trend in the
field. The response to Chomsky's ideas ranged from indifference to
hostility, and his work proved divisive and caused "significant
upheaval" in the discipline.
Linguist John Lyons later asserted
that it "revolutionized the scientific study of language". From
1958 to 1959 Chomsky was a
National Science Foundation
National Science Foundation fellow at the
Institute for Advanced Study
Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.
In 1959 he published a review of B. F. Skinner's 1957 book Verbal
Behavior in the journal Language, in which he argued against Skinner's
view of language as learned behavior. Opining that Skinner ignored
the role of human creativity in linguistics, his review helped him to
become an "established intellectual", and he proceeded to found
MIT's Graduate Program in linguistics with Halle. In 1961 he was
awarded academic tenure, being made a full professor in the Department
of Modern Languages and Linguistics. He went on to be appointed
plenary speaker at the Ninth International Congress of Linguists, held
in 1962 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which established him as the de
facto spokesperson of American linguistics. He continued to
publish his linguistic ideas throughout the decade, including in
Aspects of the Theory of Syntax
Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (1966), Topics in the Theory of
Generative Grammar (1966), and Cartesian Linguistics: A Chapter in the
History of Rationalist Thought (1966). Along with Halle, he also
edited the Studies in
Language series of books for Harper and Row,
and extended the theory of generative grammar to phonology in The
Sound Pattern of English (1968).
He continued to receive academic recognition and honors for his work,
in 1966 visiting a variety of Californian institutions, first as the
Society of America Professor at the University of
California, and then as the Beckman Professor at the University of
California, Berkeley. His Beckman lectures would be assembled and
Mind in 1968. In this period, military
scientists were also interested in Chomsky’s linguistics. As former
Air Force Colonel, Anthony Debons, said: "much of the research
MIT by Chomsky and his colleagues [has] direct
application to the efforts undertaken by military scientists to
develop … languages for computer operations in military command and
control systems." Indeed, between 1963 and 1965, Chomsky was a
consultant for a military sponsored project "to establish natural
language as an operational language for command and control." One of
Chomsky's students who also worked on this project, Barbara Partee,
says that this research was justified to the military on the basis
that "in the event of a nuclear war, the generals would be underground
with some computers trying to manage things, and that it would
probably be easier to teach computers to understand English than to
teach the generals to program."
However, these scientists eventually found Chomsky’s theories
unworkable for their computer systems. Other subsequent difficulties
with the theories led to various debates between Chomsky and his
critics that came to be known as the "
Linguistics Wars", although they
revolved largely around debating philosophical issues rather than
Vietnam War activism and rise to prominence: 1967–75
[I]t does not require very far-reaching, specialized knowledge to
perceive that the United States was invading South Vietnam. And, in
fact, to take apart the system of illusions and deception which
functions to prevent understanding of contemporary reality [is] not a
task that requires extraordinary skill or understanding. It requires
the kind of normal skepticism and willingness to apply one's
analytical skills that almost all people have and that they can
Chomsky on the Vietnam War
Chomsky first involved himself in active political protest against
U.S. involvement in the
Vietnam War in 1962, speaking on the subject
at small gatherings in churches and homes. However, it was not
until 1967 that he publicly entered the debate on United States
foreign policy. In February he published a widely read essay in
The New York Review of Books
The New York Review of Books entitled "The Responsibility of
Intellectuals", in which he criticized the country's involvement in
the conflict; the essay was based on an earlier talk that he had given
to Harvard's Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. He expanded on his
argument to produce his first political book, American Power and the
New Mandarins, which was published in 1969 and soon established him at
the forefront of American dissent. His other political books of
the time included At
War with Asia (1971), The Backroom Boys (1973),
For Reasons of State (1973), and
Peace in the Middle East? (1975),
published by Pantheon Books. Coming to be associated with the
New Left movement, he nevertheless thought little of
New Left intellectuals
Herbert Marcuse and Erich Fromm, and
preferred the company of activists to intellectuals. Although The
New York Review of Books did publish contributions from Chomsky and
other leftists from 1967 to 1973, when an editorial change put a stop
to it, he was virtually ignored by the rest of the mainstream
press throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Along with his writings, Chomsky also became actively involved in
left-wing activism. Refusing to pay half his taxes, he publicly
supported students who refused the draft, and was arrested for being
part of an anti-war teach-in outside the Pentagon. During this
time, Chomsky, along with Mitchell Goodman, Denise Levertov, William
Sloane Coffin, and Dwight Macdonald, also founded the anti-war
collective RESIST. Although he questioned the objectives of the
1968 student protests, Chomsky gave many lectures to student
activist groups; furthermore, he and his colleague Louis Kampf began
running undergraduate courses on politics at MIT, independently of the
conservative-dominated political science department.
During this period, MIT's various departments were researching
helicopters, smart bombs and counterinsurgency techniques for the war
in Vietnam and, as Chomsky says, "a good deal of [nuclear] missile
guidance technology was developed right on the
MIT campus". As
Chomsky elaborates, "[
MIT was] about 90% Pentagon funded at that time.
And I personally was right in the middle of it. I was in a military
lab ... the Research Laboratory for Electronics." By 1969,
student activists were actively campaigning "to stop the war research"
at MIT. Chomsky was sympathetic to the students but he also
thought it best to keep such research on campus and he proposed that
it should be restricted to what he called "systems of a purely
defensive and deterrent character".
MIT had six of its anti-war
student activists sentenced to prison terms. Chomsky says MIT's
students suffered things that "should not have happened." However,
Chomsky has also claimed that
MIT has "quite a good record on civil
liberties". In 1970 Chomsky visited the Vietnamese city of Hanoi
to give a lecture at the
Hanoi University of Science and Technology;
on this trip he also toured Laos to visit the refugee camps created by
the war, and in 1973 he was among those leading a committee to
commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the
War Resisters League.
Richard Nixon placed Chomsky on his 'Enemies List'.
As a result of his anti-war activism, Chomsky was ultimately arrested
on multiple occasions, and U.S. President
Richard Nixon included him
on the master version of his Enemies List. He was aware of the
potential repercussions of his civil disobedience, and his wife began
studying for her own Ph.D. in linguistics in order to support the
family in the event of Chomsky's imprisonment or loss of
MIT – despite being under some pressure to
do so – refused to fire him due to his influential standing in the
field of linguistics. His work in this area continued to gain
international recognition; in 1967 he received honorary doctorates
from both the
University of London
University of London and the University of Chicago
. In 1970, Loyola University and
Swarthmore College also awarded
him honorary D.H.L.'s, as did
Bard College in 1971, Delhi University
in 1972, and the
University of Massachusetts
University of Massachusetts in 1973.
In 1971 Chomsky gave the
Bertrand Russell Memorial Lectures at the
University of Cambridge, which were published as Problems of Knowledge
and Freedom later that year. He also delivered the
Whidden Lectures at
McMaster University, the
Huizinga Lecture at
Leiden University in the
Netherlands, the Woodbridge Lectures at Columbia University, and the
Kant Lectures at Stanford University. In 1971 he partook in a
televised debate with French philosopher
Michel Foucault on Dutch
television, entitled Human Nature:
Justice versus Power. Although
largely agreeing with Foucault's ideas, he was critical of
post-modernism and French philosophy generally, believing that
post-modern leftist philosophers used obfuscating language which did
little to aid the cause of the working-classes and lambasting
France as having "a highly parochial and remarkably illiterate
culture". Chomsky also continued to publish prolifically in
linguistics, publishing Studies on Semantics in Generative Grammar
(1972), an enlarged edition of
Mind (1972), and
Language (1975). In 1974 he became a corresponding
fellow of the British Academy.
Edward Herman and the Faurisson affair: 1976–80
See also: Cambodian genocide denial § Chomsky and Herman
Noam Chomsky (1977)
Throughout the late 1970s and 1980s, Chomsky's publications expanded
and clarified his earlier work, addressing his critics and updating
his grammatical theory. His public talks often generated
considerable controversy, particularly when he criticized actions of
the Israeli government and military, and his political views came
under attack from right-wing and centrist figures, the most prominent
of whom was Alan Dershowitz. Chomsky considered Dershowitz "a complete
liar" and accused him of actively misrepresenting his position on
issues. Furthermore, during the early 1970s he had begun
collaborating with Edward S. Herman, who had also published critiques
of the U.S. war in Vietnam. Together they authored
Counter-Revolutionary Violence: Bloodbaths in Fact & Propaganda, a
book which criticized U.S. military involvement in Southeast Asia and
highlighted how mainstream media neglected to cover stories about
these activities; the publisher Warner Modular initially accepted it,
and it was published in 1973. However, Warner Modular's parent
company, Warner Communications, disapproved of the book's contents and
ordered all copies to be destroyed.
While mainstream publishing options proved elusive, Chomsky found
support from Michael Albert's South End Press, an activist-oriented
publishing company. In 1979, Chomsky and Herman revised
Counter-Revolutionary Violence and published it with South End Press
as the two-volume The Political Economy of Human Rights. In this
they compared U.S. media reactions to the Cambodian genocide and the
Indonesian occupation of East Timor. They argued that because
Indonesia was a U.S. ally, U.S. media ignored the East Timorese
situation while focusing on that in Cambodia, a U.S. enemy.
Taking a particular interest in the situation in East Timor, Chomsky
testified on the subject in front of the United Nations' Special
Committee on Decolonization in both 1978 and 1979, and attended a
conference on the occupation held in
Lisbon in 1979. The
following year, the Marxist academic,
Steven Lukes authored an article
Times Higher Education Supplement
Times Higher Education Supplement accusing Chomsky of
betraying his anarchist ideals and acting as an apologist for
Cambodian leader Pol Pot. Laura J. Summers and Robin Woodsworth
Carlsen replied to the article, arguing that Lukes completely
misunderstood Chomsky and Herman's work. The controversy damaged his
reputation, and Chomsky maintains that his critics deliberately
printed lies about him in order to defame him.
Although Chomsky had long publicly criticized
totalitarianism more generally, his commitment to freedom of speech
led him to defend the right of French historian
Robert Faurisson to
advocate a position widely characterized as Holocaust denial. Without
Chomsky's knowledge, his plea for the historian's freedom of speech
was published as the preface to Faurisson's 1980 book Mémoire en
défense contre ceux qui m'accusent de falsifier l'histoire.
Chomsky was widely condemned for defending Faurisson, and
France's mainstream press accused Chomsky of being a Holocaust denier
himself, refusing to publish his rebuttals to their accusations.
Critiquing Chomsky's position, sociologist
Werner Cohn later published
an analysis of the affair titled Partners in Hate:
Noam Chomsky and
the Holocaust Deniers. The
Faurisson affair had a lasting,
damaging effect on Chomsky's career, and Chomsky did not visit
France, where the translation of his political writings was delayed
until the 2000s, for almost thirty years following the
Reaganite era and work on the media: 1980–89
The election of Republican Party candidate
Ronald Reagan to the U.S.
Presidency in 1980 marked a period of increased military intervention
in Central America. In 1985, during Nicaragua's Contra
War – in
which the U.S. supported the Contra militia against the Sandinista
government – Chomsky travelled to
Managua to meet with workers'
organizations and refugees of the conflict, giving public lectures on
politics and linguistics. Many of these lectures would be
published in 1987 as On Power and Ideology: The
In 1983 he published The Fateful Triangle, an examination of the
Israel-Palestine conflict and the place of the U.S. within it, arguing
that the U.S. had continually used the conflict for its own ends.
In 1988, Chomsky then visited the
Palestinian territories to witness
the impact of Israeli military occupation.
In 1988, Chomsky and Herman published Manufacturing Consent: The
Political Economy of the Mass Media, in which they outlined their
propaganda model for understanding the mainstream media; there they
argued that even in countries without official censorship, the news
provided was censored through four filters which had a great impact on
what stories are reported and how they are presented. The book
was adapted into a 1992 film, Manufacturing Consent:
Noam Chomsky and
the Media, which was directed by
Mark Achbar and Peter Wintonick.
In 1989, Chomsky published Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in
Democratic Societies, in which he critiqued what he sees as the
pseudo-democratic nature of Western capitalist states.
By the 1980s, a number of Chomsky's students had become leading
linguistic specialists in their own right, expanding, revising, and
expanding on Chomsky's ideas of generative grammar. By the end of
the 1980s, Chomsky had established himself as a globally recognized
Increased political activism: 1990–present
In the 1990s, Chomsky embraced political activism to a greater degree
than before. Retaining his commitment to the cause of East
Timorese independence, in 1995 he visited Australia to talk on the
issue at the behest of the East Timorese Relief Association and the
National Council for East Timorese Resistance. The lectures that
he gave on the subject would be published as Powers and Prospects in
1996. As a result of the international publicity generated by
Chomsky, his biographer Wolfgang Sperlich opined that he did more to
aid the cause of East Timorese independence than anyone but the
investigative journalist John Pilger. After East Timor's
independence from Indonesia was achieved in 1999, the Australian-led
International Force for East Timor
International Force for East Timor arrived as a peacekeeping force;
Chomsky was critical of this, believing that it was designed to secure
Australian access to East Timor's oil and gas reserves under the Timor
Chomsky at the
World Social Forum
World Social Forum (Porto Alegre) in 2003
Chomsky retired from full-time teaching, although as an Emeritus
he nevertheless continued to conduct research and seminars at
September 11 attacks
September 11 attacks in 2001, Chomsky was widely
interviewed, with these interviews being collated and published by
Seven Stories Press in October. Chomsky argued that the ensuing
War on Terror
War on Terror was not a new development, but rather a continuation of
U.S. foreign policy
U.S. foreign policy and its concomitant rhetoric that had
been pursued since at least the Reagan era of the 1980s. In 2003
he published Hegemony or Survival, in which he articulated what he
called the United States' "imperial grand strategy" and critiqued the
Iraq War and other aspects of the '
War on Terror.'
Chomsky toured the world with increasing regularity during this
period, giving talks on various subjects. In 2001 he gave the
D.T. Lakdawala Memorial Lecture in New Delhi, India, and in 2003
visited Cuba at the invitation of the Latin American Association of
Social Scientists. In 2002 Chomsky visited Turkey in order to
attend the trial of a publisher who had been accused of treason for
printing one of Chomsky's books; Chomsky insisted on being a
co-defendant and amid international media attention the Security
Courts dropped the prosecution on the first day. During that
trip, Chomsky visited Kurdish areas of Turkey and spoke out in favour
of the Kurds' human rights. A supporter of the World Social
Forum, he attended their conferences in Brazil in both 2002 and 2003,
also attending the Forum event in India.
His wife, Carol, died in December 2008.
Chomsky speaking in support of the
Occupy movement in 2011
Chomsky was drawn to the energy and activism of the Occupy movement,
delivering talks at encampments and producing two works that
chronicled its influence, first Occupy a pamphlet, in 2012, then, in
2013, Occupy: Reflections on Class War, Rebellion and Solidarity. Both
were published by Zuccotti Park Press. His analysis included a
critique that attributed Occupy's growth as a response to a perceived
abandonment of the interests of the white working class by the
In late 2015, Chomsky announced his support for
Vermont U.S. senator
Bernie Sanders in the upcoming 2016 United States presidential
In early 2016, Chomsky was publicly rebuked by President Recep Tayyip
Erdoğan of Turkey after he signed an open letter condemning the
Turkish leader for his anti-Kurdish repression and supporting
terrorism. Chomsky accused Erdoğan of hypocrisy and added that
the Turkish president supports al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, the
al-Nusra Front. Chomsky also criticized the U.S.'s close ties
with Saudi Arabia and U.S. involvement in Saudi Arabian-led
intervention in Yemen, highlighting that Saudi has "one of the most
grotesque human rights records in the world".
In 2016, the documentary
Requiem for the American Dream was released,
summarizing his views on capitalism and economic inequality through a
Requiem for the American Dream was
published as a book in 2017, and is a furthering of the ideas put
forward in the 2016 documentary (Seven Stories Press).
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Chomsky called
Donald Trump an
"ignorant, thin-skinned megalomaniac" and a "greater evil" than
Hillary Clinton. Asked about claims that Russia interfered in the U.S.
presidential election through hacking, Chomsky said: "It’s possible,
but it’s a kind of strange complaint in the United States. The U.S.
has been interfering with, and undermining, elections all over the
world for decades and is proud of it."
Chomsky announced in 2017 that he would be leaving
MIT and start
teaching at the
University of Arizona
University of Arizona in 2018.
What started as purely linguistic research ... has led, through
involvement in political causes and an identification with an older
philosophic tradition, to no less than an attempt to formulate an
overall theory of man. The roots of this are manifest in the
linguistic theory ... The discovery of cognitive structures
common to the human race but only to humans (species specific), leads
quite easily to thinking of unalienable human attributes.
Edward Marcotte on Chomsky's linguistic theory
Within the field of linguistics, McGilvray credits Chomsky with
inaugurating the "cognitive revolution". McGilvray also credits
him with establishing the field as a formal, natural science,
moving it away from the procedural form of structural linguistics that
was dominant during the mid-20th century. As such, some have
called him "the father of modern linguistics".
The basis to Chomsky's linguistic theory is rooted in biolinguistics,
holding that the principles underlying the structure of language are
biologically determined in the human mind and hence genetically
transmitted. He therefore argues that all humans share the same
underlying linguistic structure, irrespective of sociocultural
differences. In adopting this position, Chomsky rejects the
radical behaviorist psychology of B. F. Skinner which views the
mind as a tabula rasa ("blank slate") and thus treats language as
learned behavior. Accordingly, he argues that language is a
unique evolutionary development of the human species and is unlike
modes of communication used by any other animal species.
Chomsky's nativist, internalist view of language is consistent with
the philosophical school of "rationalism", and is contrasted with the
anti-nativist, externalist view of language, which is consistent with
the philosophical school of "empiricism".
Main article: Universal grammar
Since the 1960s, Chomsky has maintained that syntactic knowledge is at
least partially inborn, implying that children need only learn certain
parochial features of their native languages. Chomsky based his
argument on observations about human language acquisition, noting that
there is an enormous gap between the linguistic stimuli to which
children are exposed and the rich linguistic knowledge they attain
(see: "poverty of the stimulus" argument). For example, although
children are exposed to only a finite subset of the allowable
syntactic variants within their first language, they somehow acquire
the ability to understand and produce an infinite number of sentences,
including ones that have never before been uttered. To explain
this, Chomsky reasoned that the primary linguistic data (PLD) must be
supplemented by an innate linguistic capacity. Furthermore, while a
human baby and a kitten are both capable of inductive reasoning, if
they are exposed to exactly the same linguistic data, the human will
always acquire the ability to understand and produce language, while
the kitten will never acquire either ability. Chomsky labeled whatever
relevant capacity the human has that the cat lacks as the language
acquisition device (LAD), and he suggested that one of the tasks for
linguistics should be to determine what the LAD is and what
constraints it imposes on the range of possible human languages. The
universal features that would result from these constraints constitute
[Chomsky's] vision of a complex universe within the mind, governed by
myriad rules and prohibitions and yet infinite in its creative
potential, opens up vistas possibly as important as Einstein's
Daniel Yergin in
The New York Times
The New York Times Magazine
Transformational generative grammar
Main article: Transformational generative grammar
Beginning with his
Syntactic Structures (1957), a distillation of his
Logical Structure of Linguistic Theory (1955), Chomsky challenges
structural linguistics and introduces transformational grammar.
Chomsky's theory posits that language consists of both deep structures
and surface structures.
Surface structure 'faces out' and is
represented by spoken utterances, while deep structure 'faces inward'
and expresses the underlying relations between words and conceptual
Transformational grammar is a generative grammar (which
dictates that the syntax, or word order, of surface structures adheres
to certain principles and parameters) that consists of a limited
series of rules, expressed in mathematical notation, which transform
deep structures into well-formed surface structures. The
transformational grammar thus relates meaning and sound.
Set inclusions described by the Chomsky hierarchy
Main article: Chomsky hierarchy
The Chomsky hierarchy, sometimes referred to as the
Chomsky-Schützenberger hierarchy, is a containment hierarchy of
classes of formal grammars. The hierarchy imposes a logical structure
across different language classes and provides a basis for
understanding the relationship between grammars (devices that
enumerate the valid sentences within languages). In order of
increasing expressive power it includes regular (or Type-3) grammars,
context-free (or Type-2) grammars, context-sensitive (or Type-1)
grammars, and recursively enumerable (or Type-0) grammars. Each class
is a strict subset of the class above it, i.e., each successive class
can generate a broader set of formal languages (infinite sets of
strings composed from finite sets of symbols, or alphabets) than the
one below. In addition to being important in linguistics, the
Chomsky hierarchy is also relevant in theoretical computer science,
especially in programming language theory, compiler construction,
and automata theory.
Main article: Minimalist program
Since the 1990s, much of Chomsky's research has focused on what he
calls the Minimalist Program (MP), in which he departs from much of
his past research and instead attempts to simplify language into a
system that relates meaning and sound using the minimum possible
faculties that could be expected, given certain external conditions
that are imposed on us independently. Chomsky dispenses with concepts
such as 'deep structure' and 'surface structure' and instead places
emphasis on the plasticity of the brain's neural circuits, along with
which comes an infinite number of concepts, or 'Logical Forms'.
When exposed to linguistic data, the brain of a hearer-speaker then
proceeds to associate sound and meaning, and the rules of grammar that
we observe are in fact only the consequences, or side effects, of the
way that language works. Thus, while much of Chomsky's prior research
has focused on the rules of language, he now focuses on the mechanisms
that the brain uses to create these rules.
Main article: Political positions of Noam Chomsky
The second major area to which Chomsky has contributed—and surely
the best known in terms of the number of people in his audience and
the ease of understanding what he writes and says—is his work on
sociopolitical analysis; political, social, and economic history; and
critical assessment of current political circumstance. In Chomsky's
view, although those in power might—and do—try to obscure their
intentions and to defend their actions in ways that make them
acceptable to citizens, it is easy for anyone who is willing to be
critical and consider the facts to discern what they are up to.
James McGilvray, 2014
Chomsky's political views have changed little since his
childhood, when he was influenced by the emphasis on political
activism that was ingrained in Jewish working-class tradition. He
usually identifies as an anarcho-syndicalist or a libertarian
socialist. He views these positions not as precise political
theories but as ideals that he thinks best meet the needs of humans:
liberty, community, and freedom of association. Unlike some other
socialists, such as those who accept Marxism, Chomsky believes that
politics lies outside the remit of science; however, he still
roots his ideas about an ideal society in empirical data and
empirically justified theories.
In Chomsky's view, the truth about political realities is
systematically distorted or suppressed through elite corporate
interests, who use corporate media, advertising, and think tanks to
promote their own propaganda. His work seeks to reveal such
manipulations and the truth that they obscure. He believes that
"common sense" is all that is required to break through the web of
falsehood and see the truth, if it (common sense) is employed using
both critical thinking skills and an awareness of the role that
self-interest and self-deception plays both on oneself and on
others. He believes that it is the moral responsibility of
intellectuals to tell the truth about the world, but claims that few
do so because they fear losing prestige and funding. He argues
that, as such an intellectual, it is his duty to use his privilege,
resources, and training to aid popular democracy movements in their
Although he had joined protest marches and organized activist groups,
he identifies his primarily political outlet as being that of
education, offering free lessons and lectures to encourage wider
political consciousness. His political writings have covered a
wide range of topics, although there are a number of core themes
throughout much of his work. He is a member of the Industrial
Workers of the World international union, and sits on the interim
consultative committee of the International Organization for a
United States foreign policy
Chomsky and Enrique Dussel, who left Argentina in reaction to the
Dirty War in the 1970s and 1980s
Chomsky has been a prominent critic of U.S. imperialism. His
published work has focused heavily on criticizing the actions of the
United States, such as the U.S.-backed state terror campaign
against left-wing dissidents across Latin America known as Operation
Condor. Chomsky believes that the basic principle of the foreign
policy of the United States is the establishment of "open societies"
that are economically and politically controlled by the U.S. and where
U.S.-based businesses can prosper. He argues that the U.S. seeks
to suppress any movements within these countries that are not
compliant with U.S. interests and ensure that U.S.-friendly
governments are placed in power. When discussing current events,
he emphasizes their place within a wider historical perspective.
He believes that official, sanctioned historical accounts of U.S. and
British imperialism have consistently whitewashed these nations'
actions in order to present them as having benevolent motives in
either spreading democracy or, in older instances, spreading
Christianity; criticizing these accounts, he seeks to correct
them. Prominent examples that he regularly cites are the actions
British Empire in India and Africa, and the actions of the U.S.
in Vietnam, the Philippines, Latin America, and the Middle East.
Chomsky explains his decision to focus on criticizing the U.S. over
other countries as being because, during his lifetime, the country has
militarily and economically dominated the world, and because its
liberal democratic electoral system allows for the citizenry to exert
an influence on government policy. His hope is that, by spreading
awareness of the negative impact that imperialism has on the
populations affected by it, he can sway the population of the U.S. and
other countries into opposing government policies that are imperialist
in their nature. He urges people to criticize the motivations,
decisions, and actions of their governments; to accept responsibility
for one's own thoughts and actions; and to apply the same standards to
others as one would apply to oneself.
He has been critical of U.S. involvement in the Israel–Palestine
conflict, arguing that it has consistently blocked a peaceful
settlement. Chomsky has long endorsed the left binationalist
program, seeking to create a democratic state in the
Levant that is
home to both Jews and Arabs. However, acknowledging the
realpolitik of the situation, Chomsky has also considered a two-state
solution on the condition that both nation-states exist on equal
terms. As a result of his criticisms of Israel, Chomsky was
barred from entering Israel in 2010.
Capitalism and socialism
Chomsky speaking at Chatham House, London, May 2014
In his youth, Chomsky developed a dislike of capitalism and the
selfish pursuit of material advancement. At the same time, he
developed a disdain for the authoritarian attempts to establish a
socialist society, as represented by the Marxist–Leninist policies
of the Soviet Union. Rather than accepting the common view among
American economists that a spectrum exists between total state
ownership of the economy on the one hand and total private ownership
on the other, he instead suggests that a spectrum should be understood
between total democratic control of the economy on the one hand and
total autocratic control (whether state or private) on the other.
He argues that Western capitalist nations are not really
democratic, because, in his view, a truly democratic society is
one in which all persons have a say in public economic policy. He
has stated his opposition to ruling elites, among them institutions
like the IMF, World Bank, and GATT.
Socialism will be achieved only insofar as all social
institutions—in particular, the central industrial, commercial, and
financial institutions of a modern society—are placed under
democratic control in a federal industrial republic of the sort that
Russell and others envisioned, with actively functioning workers'
councils and other self-governing units in which each citizen, in
Thomas Jefferson's words, will be "a direct participator in the
government of affairs."
Chomsky highlights that, since the 1970s, the U.S. has become
increasingly economically unequal as a result of the repeal of various
financial regulations and the rescinding of the Bretton Woods
financial control agreements. He characterizes the U.S. as a de
facto one-party state, viewing both the Republican Party and
Democratic Party as manifestations of a single "Business Party"
controlled by corporate and financial interests. Chomsky
highlights that, within Western capitalist liberal democracies, at
least 80% of the population has no control over economic decisions,
which are instead in the hands of a management class and ultimately
controlled by a small, wealthy elite.
Noting that this economic system is firmly entrenched and difficult to
overthrow, he believes that change is possible through the organized
co-operation of large numbers of people who understand the problem and
know how they want to re-organize the economy in a more equitable
way. Although acknowledging that corporate domination of media
and government stifle any significant change to this system, he sees
reason for optimism, citing the historical examples of the social
rejection of slavery as immoral, the advances in women's rights, and
the forcing of government to justify invasions to illustrate how
change is possible. He views violent revolution to overthrow a
government as a last resort to be avoided if possible, citing the
example of historical revolutions where the population's welfare has
worsened as a result of the upheaval.
Chomsky deems libertarian socialist and anarcho-syndicalist ideas to
be the inheritors of the classical liberal ideas of the Age of
Enlightenment, arguing that his ideological position revolves
around "nourishing the libertarian and creative character of the human
being." He envisions an anarcho-syndicalist future in which there
is direct worker control of the means of production, with society
governed by workers' councils, who would select representatives to
meet together at general assemblies. In this, he believes that
there will be no need for political parties. By controlling their
productive life, he believes that individuals can gain job
satisfaction, a sense of fulfillment, and purpose to their work.
He argues that unpleasant and unpopular jobs could be fully automated,
carried out by workers who are specially remunerated, or shared among
Amy Goodman and
Glenn Greenwald in April 2011
News media and propaganda
Chomsky's political writings have largely been focused on the two
concepts of ideology and power, or the media and state policy.
One of Chomsky's best-known works, Manufacturing Consent, dissects the
media's role in reinforcing and acquiescing to state policies, across
the political spectrum, while marginalizing contrary perspectives.
Chomsky claims that this 'free-market' version of censorship is more
subtle and difficult to undermine than the equivalent propaganda
system that was present in the Soviet Union. As he argues, the
mainstream press is corporate owned and thus reflects corporate
priorities and interests. Although acknowledging that many
American journalists are dedicated and well-meaning, he argues that
the choice of topics and issues featured in the mass media, the
unquestioned premises on which that coverage rests, and the range of
opinions that are expressed are all constrained to reinforce the
state's ideology. He states that, although the mass media will
criticize individual politicians and political parties, it will not
undermine the wider state-corporate nexus of which it is a part.
As evidence, he highlights that the U.S. mass media does not employ
any socialist journalists or political commentators. He also
points to examples of important news stories that have been ignored by
U.S. mainstream media because reporting on them would reflect badly
upon the U.S. state: For instance, it ignored the murder of Black
Fred Hampton with possible
FBI involvement, the massacres
Nicaragua by the U.S.-funded Contras, and the constant
reporting on Israeli deaths while ignoring the far larger number of
Palestinian deaths in the conflict between those two nations. To
remedy this situation, Chomsky calls for grassroots democratic control
and involvement of the media.
Chomsky considers most conspiracy theories to be fruitless,
distracting substitutes to thinking about policy formation in an
institutional framework, where individual manipulation is secondary to
broader social imperatives. He does not dismiss conspiracy
theories outright, but he does consider them unproductive to
challenging power in a substantial way. In response to the labeling of
his own thoughts as "conspiracy theory", Chomsky has replied that it
is very rational for the media to manipulate information in order to
sell it, like any other business. He asks whether
General Motors would
be accused of conspiracy if they deliberately selected what they would
use or discard to sell their product.
Chomsky's intellectual life had been divided between his work in
linguistics and his political activism, philosophy coming as a distant
third. Nonetheless, his influence among analytic philosophers has been
enormous ... he has persistently defended his views against all
takers, engaging in important debates with many of the major figures
in analytic philosophy throughout his career.
Zoltán Gendler Szabó, 2004
Chomsky has also been active in a number of philosophical fields,
including the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of language, and the
philosophy of science. In these fields he has been highly
critical of many other philosophers, in particular those operating
within the field of cognitive science.
Chomsky endeavors to keep his family life, linguistic scholarship, and
political activism strictly separate from one another, calling
himself "scrupulous at keeping my politics out of the classroom".
An intensely private person, he is uninterested in appearances
and the fame that his work has brought him. McGilvray suggested
that Chomsky was never motivated by a desire for fame, but that he was
impelled to tell what he perceived as the truth and a desire to aid
others in doing so. He also has little interest in modern art and
music. He reads four or five newspapers daily; in the U.S., he
subscribes to The
Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Wall Street
Journal, Financial Times, and The Christian Science Monitor. He
acknowledges that his income and the financial security that it
accords him means that he lives a privileged life compared to the
majority of the world's population. He characterizes himself as a
"worker", albeit one who uses his intellect as his employable
Despite having been raised Jewish, Chomsky is currently non-religious,
although he has expressed approval of forms of religion such as
liberation theology. He is known for his "dry, laconic wit",
and for the use of irony in his writings, and has attracted
controversy for labeling established political and academic figures
with terms like "corrupt", "fascist", and "fraudulent". Chomsky's
Steven Pinker has said that he "portrays people who disagree
with him as stupid or evil, using withering scorn in his rhetoric",
and that this contributes to the extreme reactions that he generates
from his critics. Chomsky avoids attending academic conferences,
including left-oriented ones such as the Socialist Scholars
Conference, preferring to speak to activist groups or hold university
seminars for mass audiences.
Chomsky was married to Carol Doris Schatz (Chomsky) from 1949 until
her death in 2008. They had three children together: Aviva
(b. 1957), Diane (b. 1960), and Harry (b. 1967). In 2014, Chomsky
married Valeria Wasserman.
Reception and influence
[Chomsky's] voice is heard in academia beyond linguistics and
philosophy: from computer science to neuroscience, from anthropology
to education, mathematics and literary criticism. If we include
Chomsky's political activism then the boundaries become quite blurred,
and it comes as no surprise that Chomsky is increasingly seen as enemy
number one by those who inhabit that wide sphere of reactionary
discourse and action.
Chomsky's legacy is as both a "leader in the field" of linguistics and
"a figure of enlightenment and inspiration" for political
dissenters. Despite his academic success, his political
viewpoints and activism have resulted in him being distrusted by the
mainstream media apparatus, and he is regarded as being "on the outer
margin of acceptability."
Linguist John Lyons remarked that within a few decades of publication,
Chomskyan linguistics had become "the most dynamic and influential"
school of thought in the field. By the 1970s, his work had also
come to exert a considerable influence on philosophy, while a
poll conducted by Minnesota State University found Syntactic
Structures to be the single most important work in the field of
cognitive science. In addition, his work in automata theory and
Chomsky hierarchy has become well known in computer science, and
he is much cited within the field of computational
Chomsky's work contributed substantially to the decline of behaviorist
psychology; in addition, some arguments in evolutionary
psychology are derived from his research results. Nim Chimpsky, a
chimpanzee who was the subject of a study in animal language
acquisition at Columbia University, was named after Chomsky in
reference to his view of language acquisition as a uniquely human
The 1984 Nobel Prize laureate in Medicine and Physiology, Niels Kaj
Jerne, used Chomsky's generative model to explain the human immune
system, equating "components of a generative grammar ... with
various features of protein structures". The title of Jerne's
Stockholm Nobel Lecture was "The Generative Grammar of the Immune
System". His theory of generative grammar has also carried over
into music theory and analysis.
Jorge Majfud at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
in April 2016
MIT press release found that Chomsky was cited within the Arts and
Humanities Citation Index more often than any other living scholar
from 1980 to 1992.
Despite their respect for his intellectual contribution, a number of
linguists and philosophers have been very critical of Chomsky's
approach to language. These critics include Christina Behme, Rudolph
Botha, Vyvyan Evans, Daniel Everett, Chris Knight, Bruce Nevin and
Chomsky's approach to academic freedom has led him to give support to
MIT academics whose actions he deplores. In 1969, when Chomsky heard
that Walt Rostow, a major architect of the Vietnam war, wanted to
return to work at MIT, Chomsky threatened "to protest publicly" if
Rostow was "denied a position at MIT". Then, in 1989, when Pentagon
adviser, John Deutch, wanted to be the President of MIT, Chomsky
supported his candidacy. Later, when Deutch became head of the CIA,
The New York Times
The New York Times quoted Chomsky as saying, "He has more honesty and
integrity than anyone I've ever met.... If somebody's got to be
running the C.I.A., I'm glad it's him."
[Chomsky's] become the guru of the new anti-capitalist and Third World
movements. They take his views very uncritically; it's part of the
Seattle mood – whatever America does is wrong. He confronts
orthodoxy but he's becoming a big simplifier. What he can't see is
Third World and other regimes that are oppressive and not controlled
Fred Halliday, 2001
Chomsky biographer Wolfgang B. Sperlich characterizes the linguist and
activist as "one of the most notable contemporary champions of the
people", while journalist
John Pilger described him as a "genuine
people's hero; an inspiration for struggles all over the world for
that basic decency known as freedom. To a lot of people in the margins
– activists and movements – he's unfailingly supportive."
Arundhati Roy called him "one of the greatest, most radical public
thinkers of our time", and
Edward Said thought him to be "one of
the most significant challengers of unjust power and delusions".
Fred Halliday stated that by the start of the 21st century, Chomsky
had become a "guru" for the world's anti-capitalist and
anti-imperialist movements. The propaganda model of media
criticism that he and Herman developed has been widely accepted in
radical media critiques and adopted to some level in mainstream
criticism of the media, also exerting a significant influence on
the growth of alternative media, including radio, publishers, and the
Internet, which in turn have helped to disseminate his work.
However, Sperlich notes that Chomsky has been vilified by corporate
interests, particularly in the mainstream press. University
departments devoted to history and political science rarely include
Chomsky's work on their syllabuses for undergraduate reading.
Critics have argued that despite publishing widely on social and
political issues, Chomsky has no expertise in these areas; to this he
has responded that such issues are not as complex as many social
scientists claim and that almost everyone is able to comprehend them,
regardless of whether they have been academically trained to do so or
Bolivian Vice President
Álvaro García Linera
Álvaro García Linera with
Noam Chomsky in
New York, June 8, 2013
His far-reaching criticisms of
U.S. foreign policy
U.S. foreign policy and the legitimacy
of U.S. power have raised controversy. A document obtained
pursuant to a Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA) request from the U.S.
government revealed that the
Central Intelligence Agency
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
monitored Chomsky's activities and for years denied doing so. The CIA
also destroyed its files on Chomsky at some point in time, possibly in
violation of federal law. He has often received undercover police
MIT and when speaking on the Middle East, although he
has refused uniformed police protection. German newspaper Der
Spiegel described him as "the Ayatollah of anti-American hatred",
while conservative commentator
David Horowitz termed him "the most
devious, the most dishonest and ... the most treacherous
intellect in America", one whose work was infused with an
"anti-American dementia" and which evidences Chomsky's "pathological
hatred of his own country".
Writing in Commentary magazine, the
Jonathan Kay described Chomsky as "a hard-boiled
anti-American monomaniac who simply refuses to believe anything that
any American leader says".
His criticism of Israel has led to him being accused of being a
traitor to the Jewish people and an anti-Semite. Criticizing
Chomsky's defense of the right of individuals to engage in Holocaust
denial on the grounds that freedom of speech must be extended to all
Werner Cohn accused Chomsky of being "the most important
patron" of the Neo-Nazi movement, while the Anti-Defamation
League (ADL) accused him of being a Holocaust denier himself. The
ADL have been accused of monitoring Chomsky's activities, and
have characterized him as a "dupe of intellectual pride so overweening
that he is incapable of making distinctions between totalitarian and
democratic societies, between oppressors and victims". In turn,
Chomsky has claimed that the ADL is dominated by "Stalinist types" who
oppose democracy in Israel.
Alan Dershowitz considered Chomsky to
be a "false prophet of the left", while Chomsky has accused
Dershowitz of being on "a crazed jihad, dedicating much of his life to
trying to destroy my reputation".
According to McGilvray, many of Chomsky's critics "do not bother
quoting his work or quote out of context, distort, and create straw
men that cannot be supported by Chomsky's text".
In Spring 2017, Chomsky taught a short-term politics course at the
University of Arizona.
Academic achievements, awards, and honors
In 1970, Chomsky was named one of the "makers of the twentieth
century" by the London Times. In early 1969, he delivered the
John Locke Lectures at Oxford University; in January 1971, the
Bertrand Russell Memorial Lecture at the University of Cambridge; in
1972, the Nehru Memorial Lecture in New Delhi; in 1975, the
Whidden Lectures at McMaster University; in 1977, the Huizinga
Lecture in Leiden; in 1978, the Woodbridge Lectures at Columbia
University; in 1979, the Kant Lectures at Stanford University; in
Massey Lectures at the University of Toronto; in 1997, The
Davie Memorial Lecture on Academic Freedom in Cape Town; in 2011,
the Rickman Godlee Lecture at University College, London; and
Chomsky has received honorary degrees from many colleges and
universities around the world, including from the following:
American University of Beirut
Central Connecticut State University
International School for Advanced Studies
Islamic University of Gaza
Loyola University of Chicago
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
National Autonomous University of Mexico
National Tsing Hua University
National University of Colombia
National University of Comahue
Rovira i Virgili University
Santo Domingo Institute of Technology
Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa
University of Bologna
University of Buenos Aires
University of Calcutta
University of Cambridge
University of Chicago
University of Chile
University of Connecticut
University of Cyprus
University of Florence
University of La Frontera
University of Ljubljana
University of London
University of Massachusetts
University of Pennsylvania
University of St Andrews
University of Toronto
University of Western Ontario
Vrije Universiteit Brussel
In the United States, he is a member of the American Academy of Arts
and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, the Linguistic Society
of America, the American Philosophical Association, and the American
Association for the Advancement of Science. Abroad, he is a
member of the Utrecht
Society of Arts and Sciences, the Deutsche
Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina, a corresponding fellow of the
British Academy, an honorary member of the British Psychological
Society, and a foreign member of the Department of Social
Sciences of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts. In
addition, he is a recipient of a 1971 Guggenheim Fellowship, the 1984
American Psychological Association Award for Distinguished
Contributions to Psychology, 1988 the Kyoto Prize in Basic
Sciences, the 1996 Helmholtz Medal, the 1999 Benjamin Franklin
Medal in Computer and Cognitive Science, and the Dorothy Eldridge
Peacemaker Award. He is also a two-time winner of the Gustavus
Myers Center Award, receiving the honor in both 1986 and 1988, and the
Orwell Award for Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and
Clarity in Public Language, receiving the honor in both 1987 and
1989. He has also received the Rabindranath Tagore Centenary
Award from The Asiatic Society.
In 2004 Chomsky received the Carl-von-Ossietzky Prize from the city of
Oldenburg, Germany, to acknowledge his body of work as a political
analyst and media critic. In 2005, Chomsky received an honorary
fellowship from the Literary and Historical Society. In February
2008, he received the President's Medal from the Literary and Debating
Society of the National University of Ireland, Galway. Since
2009, he has been an honorary member of International Association of
Professional Translators and Interpreters (IAPTI).
In 2010, Chomsky received the
Erich Fromm Prize in Stuttgart,
Germany. In April 2010, Chomsky became the third scholar to
receive the University of Wisconsin's A.E. Havens Center's Award for
Lifetime Contribution to Critical Scholarship.
Megachile chomskyi holotype, a bee that was named after Chomsky
Chomsky has an
Erdős number of four.
Chomsky was voted the world's leading public intellectual in The 2005
Global Intellectuals Poll jointly conducted by American magazine
Policy and British magazine Prospect. In a list compiled
by the magazine
New Statesman in 2006, he was voted seventh in the
list of "Heroes of our time."
Viggo Mortensen and avant-garde guitarist
their 2003 album
Pandemoniumfromamerica to Chomsky. On January
22, 2010, a special honorary concert for Chomsky was given at Kresge
Auditorium at MIT. The concert, attended by Chomsky and dozens of his
family and friends, featured music composed by
Edward Manukyan and
speeches by Chomsky's colleagues, including
David Pesetsky of
Gennaro Chierchia, head of the linguistics department at Harvard
In May 2007, Jamia Millia Islamia, a prestigious Indian university,
named one of its complexes after Noam Chomsky.
In June 2011, Chomsky was awarded the Sydney
Peace Prize, which cited
his "unfailing courage, critical analysis of power and promotion of
human rights." Also in 2011, Chomsky was inducted into IEEE
Intelligent Systems' AI's Hall of Fame for "significant contributions
to the field of AI and intelligent systems."
In 2013, a newly described species of bee was named after him:
In 2014, he was awarded the Neil and Saras Smith Medal for Linguistics
by the British Academy: this medal is awarded "for lifetime
achievement in the scholarly study of linguistics".
In 2016, he was awarded the Int'l Courage of Conscience Award by the
Peace Abbey: this award was bestowed at
MIT "for his unrelenting
critique of U.S. foreign policy, capitalism and the globalization of
systems and structures of profit and greed".
In 2017 he was one of three recipients awarded the Seán MacBride
Peace Prize "for his tireless commitment to peace, his strong
critiques to U.S. foreign policy, and his anti-imperialism.".
Bibliography and filmography
Noam Chomsky bibliography and filmography
The Anti-Chomsky Reader
List of pioneers in computer science
List of peace activists
List of linguists
Political positions of Noam Chomsky
Mind and Brain portal
^ a b Otero, Carlos Peregrín, ed. (1994). Noam Chomsky: Critical
Assessments, Volumes 2–3. Taylor & Francis. p. 487.
^ Chomsky, Noam (1996). Class Warfare: Interviews with David
Barsamian. London: Pluto Press. pp. 28–29. The real importance
of Carey's work is that it's the first effort and until now the major
effort to bring some of this to public attention. It's had a
tremendous influence on the work I've done.
^ Barsky, Robert F. (1998). Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent. MIT
Press. p. 106. ISBN 978-0-262-52255-7.
^ a b Chomsky, Noam. "Personal influences, by
Noam Chomsky (excerpted
from The Chomsky Reader)". Chomsky.info. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
^ Sperlich, Wolfgang B. (2006). Noam Chomsky. Reaktion Books.
pp. 44–45. ISBN 978-1-86189-269-0.
^ Slife, Brent D. (1993). Time and Psychological Explanation: The
Spectacle of Spain's Tourist Boom and the Reinvention of Difference.
SUNY Press. p. 115. ISBN 978-0-7914-1469-9.
^ Farndale, Nigel. "
Noam Chomsky interview". The Daily Telegraph.
Retrieved May 15, 2016.
Noam Chomsky Reading List". Left Reference Guide. Retrieved January
^ Chomsky, Noam (September 22, 2011).
Noam Chomsky on the
Responsibility of Intellectuals: Redux. Ideas Matter. Event occurs at
09:23. Archived from the original on August 26, 2013. Retrieved
October 16, 2011.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 58.
^ Scott M. Fulton, III. "John W. Backus (1924–2007)". BetaNews,
^ a b c d e f Adams, Tim (2003-11-30). "Noam Chomsky: Thorn in
America's side". The Guardian. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
^ a b "Chomsky Amid the Philosophers". University of East Anglia.
Retrieved 8 January 2014.
^ Gould, S. J. (1981). "Official Transcript for Gould's deposition in
McLean v. Arkansas" (November 27).
^ Knuth, Donald E. (2003). "Preface: a mathematical theory of language
in which I could use a computer programmer's intuition". Selected
Papers on Computer Languages. p. 1.
^ LaFollette, Hugh, and Ingmar Persson, eds. (2013). The Blackwell
Guide to Ethical Theory (2 ed.). John Wiley & Sons.
ISBN 978-1-118-51426-9. CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter
^ Keller, Katherine (November 2, 2007). "Writer, Creator, Journalist,
and Uppity Woman: Ann Nocenti". Sequential Tart.
^ Stephen Prickett (2002). Narrative, Religion and Science:
Fundamentalism Versus Irony, 1700–1999. Cambridge University Press.
p. 234. ISBN 978-0-521-00983-6.
^ William D. Hart.
Edward Said and the Religious Effects of Culture.
Cambridge University Press. p. 116.
^ John R. Searle (June 29, 1972). "A
Special Supplement: Chomsky's
Revolution in Linguistics". NYREV, Inc.
Aaron Swartz (May 15, 2006). "The Book That Changed My Life". Raw
Thought. Retrieved 8 January 2014.
MIT Linguistics". Retrieved 2017-0
9-11 – via Facebook.
Noam Chomsky Joins UA Faculty". UANews.
^ Lyons 1978, p. xv; Barsky 1997, p. 9; McGilvray 2014,
^ Barsky 1997, pp. 9–10; Sperlich 2006, p. 11.
^ Barsky 1997, pp. 30–31.
^ a b Barsky 1997, pp. 11–13; Sperlich 2006, p. 11.
^ Barsky 1997, pp. 11–13.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 15.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 14; Sperlich 2006, pp. 11, 14–15.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 23; Sperlich 2006, pp. 12, 14–15, 67;
McGilvray 2014, p. 4.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 23.
^ Barsky 1997, pp. 17–19.
^ Barsky 1997, pp. 17–19; Sperlich 2006, pp. 16, 18.
^ Lyons 1978, p. xv; Barsky 1997, pp. 15–17; Sperlich
2006, p. 12; McGilvray 2014, p. 3.
^ Lyons 1978, p. xv; Barsky 1997, pp. 15–17; Sperlich
2006, p. 13; McGilvray 2014, p. 3.
^ Lyons 1978, p. xv; Barsky 1997, pp. 21–22; Sperlich
2006, p. 14; McGilvray 2014, p. 4.
^ Lyons 1978, p. xv; Barsky 1997, pp. 15–17.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 47; Sperlich 2006, p. 16.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 47.
^ Sperlich 2006, p. 17.
^ Barsky 1997, pp. 48–51; Sperlich 2006, pp. 18–19, 31.
^ Barsky 1997, pp. 51–52; Sperlich 2006, p. 32.
^ Barsky 1997, pp. 51–52; Sperlich 2006, p. 33.
^ Sperlich 2006, p. 33.
^ Lyons 1978, p. xv; Barsky 1997, p. 79; Sperlich 2006,
^ a b Sperlich 2006, p. 34.
^ Sperlich 2006, pp. 33–34.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 81.
^ Barsky 1997, pp. 83–85; Sperlich 2006, p. 36; McGilvray
2014, pp. 4–5.
^ Sperlich 2006, p. 36.
^ Sperlich 2006, p. 38.
^ Barsky 1997, pp. 13, 48, 51–52; Sperlich 2006,
^ Sperlich 2006, p. 20.
^ Sperlich 2006, pp. 20–21.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 82; Sperlich 2006, pp. 20–21.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 24; Sperlich 2006, p. 13.
^ Barsky 1997, pp. 24–25.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 26.
^ Barsky 1997, pp. 34–35.
^ Barsky 1997, pp. 36–40.
^ Barsky 1997, pp. 43–44.
^ Lyons 1978, p. xv; Barsky 1997, pp. 86–87; Sperlich
2006, pp. 38–40.
^ Chris Knight (2018). Decoding Chomsky; Science and revolutionary
Yale University Press., pp. x-xii, 16, 30, 246.
^ Knight 2018, pp. xi-xii; Snead, D. L. 1999. The Gaither Committee,
Eisenhower, and the Cold War.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 87.
^ Lyons 1978, p. xvi; Barsky 1997, p. 91.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 91; Sperlich 2006, p. 22.
^ Barsky 1997, pp. 88–91; Sperlich 2006, p. 40; McGilvray
2014, p. 5.
^ Barsky 1997, pp. 88–91.
^ Lyons 1978, p. 1.
^ Lyons 1978, p. xvi; Barsky 1997, p. 84.
^ Lyons 1978, p. 6; Barsky 1997, pp. 96–99; Sperlich 2006,
p. 41; McGilvray 2014, p. 5.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 119.
^ Barsky 1997, pp. 101–102, 119; Sperlich 2006, p. 23.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 102.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 103.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 104.
^ "Slideshow unBox the Chomsky Archive". MIT. Retrieved May 10,
^ Lyons 1978, p. xvi; Barsky 1997, p. 120.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 122.
^ A. Debons, 'Command and Control: Technology and Social Impact', in
F. Alt and M. Rubinoff, Advances in Computers, Vol.11, 1971. New
York/London 1971, p354; A. Newell in G. Bugliarello (ed.),
Bioengineering: An Engineering View, San Francisco 1968, p271.
^ C. Knight, 'When the Pentagon Looked to Chomsky’s
their Weapons Systems', 3 Quarks Daily, 12 March 2018 (citing Arnold
Zwicky, ‘Grammars of Number Theory: Some Examples’, Working Paper
W-6671, MITRE Corp., 1963, Foreword, last page).
^ Sperlich 2006, pp. 60–61.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 114.
^ Sperlich 2006, p. 78.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 120.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 122; Sperlich 2006, p. 83.
^ Lyons 1978, p. xvii; Barsky 1997, pp. 122–123; Sperlich
2006, p. 83.
^ Lyons 1978, pp. xvi–xvii; Barsky 1997, p. 163; Sperlich
2006, p. 87.
^ Lyons 1978, p. 5; Barsky 1997, p. 123.
^ Barsky 1997, pp. 134–135.
^ Barsky 1997, pp. 162–163; Sperlich 2006, p. 87.
^ Barsky 1997, pp. 162–163.
^ Lyons 1978, p. 5; Barsky 1997, pp. 127–129.
^ Lyons 1978, p. 5; Barsky 1997, pp. 127–129; Sperlich
2006, pp. 80–81.
^ Barsky 1997, pp. 121–122, 131.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 121; Sperlich 2006, p. 78.
^ Albert, Michael (2006). Remembering Tomorrow: From the politics of
opposition to what we are for, Seven Stories Press, pp. 97–99; C. P.
Otero (1988). Noam Chomsky:
Language and politics, Black Rose, p. 247.
^ White, G. D. (2000). Campus Inc.: Corporate power in the ivory
tower. Prometheus Books, pp. 445–446.
^ Stephen Shalom, "Review of Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent, by
Robert F. Barsky", New Politics, NS6(3), Issue 23. Retrieved October
^ Barsky 1997, pp. 121–122, 140-141; Albert 2006, p. 98; Knight
2016, p. 34.
^ Albert 2006, pp. 107–108; Knight 2016, pp. 36–38, 249.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 153; Sperlich 2006, pp. 24–25, 84–85.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 124; Sperlich 2006, p. 80.
^ Barsky 1997, pp. 123–124; Sperlich 2006, p. 22.
^ a b Barsky 1997, p. 143.
^ Lyons 1978, pp. xv–xvi; Barsky 1997, p. 120.
^ Lyons 1978, pp. xv–xvi; Barsky 1997, p. 143.
^ a b c Barsky 1997, p. 156.
^ Barsky 1997, pp. 192–195; Sperlich 2006, p. 52;
McGilvray 2014, p. 222.
^ Barsky 1997, pp. 192–195; Sperlich 2006, p. 53.
^ Barsky 1997, pp. 192–195.
^ a b Sperlich 2006, p. 51.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 175.
^ Barsky 1997, pp. 167, 170.
^ Barsky 1997, pp. 170–171.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 157.
^ Barsky 1997, pp. 160–162; Sperlich 2006, p. 86.
^ Sperlich 2006, p. 85.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 187; Sperlich 2006, p. 86.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 187.
^ This Chomsky-Herman thesis has been challenged by Sophal Ear, who
"argues that concurrent [media] coverage of human rights violations in
right-wing regimes in Chile and
South Korea exceeded the coverage
given to Cambodia" during the genocide: See Sharp, Bruce. "Averaging
Noam Chomsky and the Cambodia Controversy". Mekong.net.
Retrieved April 27, 2017.
^ Sperlich 2006, p. 103.
^ Barsky 1997, pp. 187–189.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 190.
^ Barsky 1997, pp. 179–180; Sperlich 2006, p. 61.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 185; Sperlich 2006, p. 61.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 184.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 78.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 185.
^ Birnbaum, Jean (June 3, 2010). "Chomsky à Paris: chronique d'un
malentendu". Le Monde des Livres. Retrieved 8 June 2010.
^ Aeschimann, Eric (31 May 2010). "Chomsky s'est exposé, il est donc
une cible désignée". Liberátion. Retrieved 8 June 2010.
^ Sperlich 2006, pp. 90–91.
^ Sperlich 2006, pp. 91, 92.
^ Sperlich 2006, p. 91.
^ Sperlich 2006, p. 99; McGilvray 2014, p. 13.
^ Sperlich 2006, p. 98.
^ Barsky 1997, pp. 160, 202; Sperlich 2006, pp. 127–134.
^ Sperlich 2006, p. 136.
^ Sperlich 2006, pp. 138–139.
^ Sperlich 2006, p. 53.
^ Sperlich 2006, p. 59.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 214.
^ a b Sperlich 2006, p. 104.
^ Sperlich 2006, p. 107.
^ Sperlich 2006, pp. 109–110.
^ a b c McGilvray 2014, p. 6.
^ a b c Sperlich 2006, p. 10.
^ Sperlich 2006, pp. 110–111.
^ Sperlich 2006, p. 143.
^ Sperlich 2006, pp. 114–118.
^ a b Sperlich 2006, p. 120.
^ U.S., Britain ignored 'culture of terrorism': Chomsky, The Hindu
November 4, 2001. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
^ a b Sperlich 2006, p. 25.
^ Sperlich 2006, pp. 112–113, 120.
^ Younge, Gary; Hogue, Kat Keene; theguardian.com (July 6, 2012).
"Noam Chomsky: 'The
Occupy movement just lit a spark' – video". The
Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
^ Lewis, Paul (June 19, 2015). "Inside the mind of Bernie Sanders:
unbowed, unchanged, and unafraid of a good fight". The Guardian.
London. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on January 17,
^ a b Weaver, Matthew (January 14, 2016). "Chomsky hits back at
Erdoğan, accusing him of double standards on terrorism". The
Guardian. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
^ Sengupta, Kim (May 12, 2015). "Turkey and Saudi Arabia alarm the
West by backing Islamist extremists the Americans had bombed in
Syria". The Independent.
^ "Chomsky: Saudi Arabia is the "Center of Radical Islamic Extremism"
Now Spreading Among Sunni Muslims".
Democracy Now!. May 17,
^ Gold, Daniel M. (January 28, 2016). "Review:
Noam Chomsky Focuses on
Financial Inequality in 'Requiem for the American Dream'". The New
York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 1, 2016.
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^ McGilvray 2014, p. 9.
^ McGilvray 2014, pp. 9–10.
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linguistics and remains the field's most influential
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Noam Chomsky is an Institute Professor and
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of modern linguistics, a philosopher, prolific author, and globally
influential political activist.
^ Tymoczko, Tom; Henle, Jim (2004-04-08). Sweet Reason: A Field Guide
to Modern Logic. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 101.
ISBN 978-0-387-98930-3. As the founder of modern linguistics,
Noam Chomsky, observed, each of the following sequences of words is
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jeziku u Sintaktičkim strukturama i Aspektima teorije sintakse Noama
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^ a b c McGilvray 2014, p. 159.
^ a b c McGilvray 2014, p. 161.
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^ a b McGilvray 2014, p. 160.
^ On Colombia: Noam Chomsky, introduction to Doug Stokes America’s
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^ Sperlich 2006, p. 92.
^ a b c McGilvray 2014, p. 13.
^ McGilvray 2014, pp. 14, 160.
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^ Sperlich 2006, p. 97; McGilvray 2014, p. 159.
^ Pilkington, Ed (May 16, 2010). "
Noam Chomsky barred by Israelis from
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^ "Israel: Chomsky ban 'big mistake'". Al Jazeera. Retrieved May 4,
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^ Sperlich 2006, p. 15.
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^ McGilvray 2014, pp. 164–165.
^ McGilvray 2014, p. 169.
^ McGilvray 2014, p. 170.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 211.
^ McGilvray 2014, p. 210.
^ a b McGilvray 2014, p. 14.
^ McGilvray 2014, pp. 14–15.
^ a b c McGilvray 2014, p. 15.
^ Sperlich 2006, p. 89; McGilvray 2014, p. 189.
^ Barsky 1997, p. 95.
^ McGilvray 2014, p. 199.
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^ McGilvray 2014, pp. 197, 202.
^ McGilvray 2014, pp. 201–202.
^ Rai 1995, p. 20.
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Cartesian Linguistics: A Chapter in the History of Rationalist Thought
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Knowledge of Language: Its Nature, Origin, and Use (1986)
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