Language Lessons


is the 71st birthday of Noam Chomsky, considered by many to be the most influential linguist of the 20th century.

Chomsky revolutionized the field of theoretical linguistics in 1957 with the publication of Syntactic Structures, a book that challenged the prevailing theory that humans learn language through training and experience, much as they learn other habits. Instead, Chomsky proposed that people have an innate ability to understand the rules of grammar, which explains how even young children can create grammatically correct sentences they have never heard before. Chomsky theorized that these rules, known as "grammatical transformations," are somehow hardwired into the brain and are basically the same for every language. The theory remains controversial.

Chomsky, who has spent most of his career as a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, is well-known for his left-leaning political views; in the '60 and early '70s, he was a vocal opponent of the United States' involvement in Vietnam.

[Source: Britannica Online]