Who is Chomsky? Describe Chomsky’s contribution to Linguistics.


Avram Noam Chomsky is one of the most influential scholars of the twentieth century. He has proved himself in multiple fields like linguistics, philosophy, cognitive science, logic, political criticism, human rights activities, social criticism, and so on. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 7, 1928. He is currently working as a Laureate Professor of Linguistics at the University of Arizona and Professor Emirates at MIT. Chomsky has written more than 150 books on linguistics, politics, war, human rights, and mass media. He is called the father of modern linguistics for his major contribution to Transformational Generative Grammar. He has also talked about ‘competence’ and ‘permanence’. Along with that, his ‘innate theory’ is another contribution to the field of knowledge.

According to Chomsky’s Transformational Generative Grammar, grammar is a body of knowledge owned by the language users which is the native speaker-listener. In the book Syntactical Structure and Aspects of the Theory of Syntax, he said that much of linguistic knowledge is innate. So, the children can learn their native language quite easily by only learning some parochial features. This innate knowledge is termed the “Universal Grammar”. The proof of this theory can be traced from the children’s process of learning their native language within a very short time. 

Chomsky proposes two terms- ‘competence’ and ‘performance’ which suggest the speaker’s competence and show the creative aspect of his linguistic ability. In simple words, competence means a person’s knowledge of his language and the underlying rules of the language. Performance is the practical field where he uses his knowledge of the language in an everyday real-life situations. In the book Aspects of the Theory of Syntax, Chomsky distinguished these two terms. Later he termed these two elements as ‘I-language’ which stands for internalized language, and E-language which is externalized language. 

Another popular theory developed by Chomsky is the ‘Innate Theory’. It is also known as ‘Innatist Theory’, ‘Nativist Theory’, or the ‘Mentalist Theory’. This theory is a reaction to the Behaviorist Theory proposed by B.F. Skinner. According to Chomsky, language is not merely a set of habits. It is governed by organized rules. The human brain can comprehend and perceive linguistic data because it is genetically equipped with a device called LAD (Language Acquisition Device).

 This device, as said by Chomsky, consists of Universal Grammar. He also says all language is formed with the universal ground. This does not mean all the language of the world is the same. It only points out that the human mind is structured in a specific way that can perceive a language innately. UG suggests a set of basic grammatical elements that are natural and common in all languages. That is why a child can learn its native language without learning anything. Chomsky identified these rules as ‘language universals.’ The innate grammar rules that a child discovers are termed ‘core grammar’ and the rules which are not included in UG are known as ‘peripheral grammar’.

In conclusion, Chomsky has introduced many new concepts in linguistics which has enriched the field of linguistic study to a great extent. That is why he has achieved the name “Father of Modern Linguistics”. So, his contribution to linguistics is highly influential in the modern era.