Noam Chomsky

Noam Avram Chomsky was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 7, 1928. He received his early education at Oak Lane Country Day School and Central High School, Philadelphia. He continued his education at the University of Pennsylvania where he studied linguistics, mathematics, and philosophy. In 1955, he received his Ph. D. from the University of Pennsylvania, however, most of the research leading to this degree was done at Harvard between 1951 and 1955. Since receiving his Ph. D., Chomsky has taught at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he now holds the Ferrari P. Ward Chair of Modern Language and Linguistics. Noam was married to Carol Schatz on December 24, 1949 and has two children.

Chomsky has made his reputation in linguistics. He learned some of the historical principles of linguistics from his father, William, who was a Hebrew scholar. In fact, some of his early research, which he did for his Masters, was on the modern spoken Hebrew language. Among his many accomplishments, he is most famous for his work on generative grammar, which developed from his interest in modern logic and mathematical foundations. As a result, he applied it to the description of natural languages. As a student, Noam was heavily influenced by Zellig Harris, who was Professor of Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. It was Chomsky’s sympathy to Harris’s political views that steered him toward work as a graduate student in linguistics.

Noam has always been interested in politics, and it is said that politics has brought him into the linguistics field. His political tendencies toward socialism and anarchism are a result of what he calls “the radical Jewish community in New York.” Since 1965 he has become one of the leading critics of U.S. foreign policy. He published a book of essays called American Power and the New Mandarins which is considered to be one of the most substantial arguments ever against American involvement in Vietnam.

Chomsky is very respected and has been honored numerous times in the academic arena. He has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of London and the University of Chicago, as well as having been invited to lecture all over the world. In 1967, he delivered the Beckman Lectures at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1969, he presented the John Locke Lectures at the University of Oxford and Sherman Memorial Lectures at the University of London. Noam Chomsky was born December 7, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of William Chomsky, an emigrant from Russia. His father was a teacher of Hebrew and published a scholarly edition of a medieval Hebrew grammar. Between 1940 and1945 he became acquainted with the workings of the socialist-anarchist New York City Jewish intellectual community and considered emigrating to Israel to work for Arab-Jewish cooperation.

Between 1945 and1950 Chomsky was a student at the University of Pennsylvania and began his study of linguistics. During this time, he proofread Zellig Harris’s Methods in Structural Linguistics and developed a sympathy for Harris’s ideas on politics. He was also a student of Nelson Goodman, the radical-empiricist philosopher. In 1951, he accepted nomination by Goodman as a Junior Fellow to Harvard University. In 1953, Chomsky traveled to Europe. En route, he resolved that his attempt to formalize structural linguistics would not work because language was a highly abstract generative phenomenon. Determined that his further work should concern models of this phenomenon.

During the year of 1955, he left his fellowship at Harvard and obtained a position at MIT where he taught for the next 19 years. He was also married to Carol Chomsky, a Professor at Harvard. Noam now holds Ferrari P. Ward Chair of Modern Languages and Linguistics. Between 1965 and1973, he played a major role in the American resistance against the Vietnamese policy of the United States Government, he published views on Southeast Asia and United States policy in magazines such as New York Review of Books and Ramparts and spent a week in North Vietnam just before Cambodian invasion. Truly, Noam Chomsky is an impressive man.

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