Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky at the world social forum 2003

Avram Noam Chomsky [ˈævɹəmˈnoʊəmˈtʃɑːmskɪ] (* 7. December 1928 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the USA) is a professor for linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (WITH).

It developed afterit designated Chomsky hierarchy, its contributions to the general linguistics promoted the fall of the Behaviorismus and the ascent of the cognitive science. Beside its linguistic work Chomsky is considered as one of the most important political intellectual North America and is as sharp critics of the US-AmericanForeign policy admits. It is trailer of the anarchy mash and member of the Industrial Workers OF the World.

Table of contents


Chomsky became to 7. December1928 in Philadelphia (Pennsylvania, the USA) as a son of the Jewish scholar William Chomsky born. In the year 1945 it began to study at the University OF Pennsylvania philosophy and linguistics. Among its teachers the linguist cellular Harris ranked and the philosopher Nelson Goodman. Chomskys anarchist convictions developed already into the 1940er years. Of great importance one was thereby the argument with the anarchist experiments during the Spanish of civil war. Chomsky had contacts in this time also to zionistischen organizations.

Beginning of the 1950er years studied it some years to the Harvard University, until it attained a doctorate to 1955 at the university of Pennsylvania in linguistics. In its doctor work The Logical Structure OF linguistics Theory it already began with it, some thatTo develop ideas, which he prepared 1957 in its book Syntactic Structures, one of the most well-known works of linguistics.

After the award taught Chomsky first as Assistenzprofessor, since 1961 as a tidy professor for linguistics and philosophy at the MassachusettsInstitutes OF Technology. Into the 1960er years its revolutionary linguistic work was world-wide recognized, since that time it is considered as one of the most important theoreticians in this area.

academic working

Noam Chomsky formalized the representation of natural speeches: ThoseInnovation was to define the special language expressions with the help of a meta language recursively. The classes of grammars, derived from the meta language , can be divided into a hierarchy, which is called today Chomsky hierarchy. Its work places an important milestone for linguistics.

Formal languages and the Chomsky hierarchy play also in computer science an important role, in particular in the complexity theory and in the building of compilers. Modern researchers such as Steven Pinker develop on Chomskys methodology .

Together with the work Alan Turings justify itand structural ranges and formalisms of natural speeches of a mathematical view make their own range in mathematics accessible, among other things with the result that machine translations are possible in principle.

For many researchers within the computer linguistics Chomskys theories apply, in particular those Generative transformational grammar and its Government and being thing - beginnings, however become outdated for approximately 1980 as important pioneer achievement, however as today, if they refer to natural speeches - contrary to programming languages and other formal languages, where its formalisms furtherwith profit to be used can.

Noam Chomsky is since 1965 a prominent left critic of the US-American foreign policy. Its lectures are published except in books partly also on CDs, which appear for example on the label alternative Tentacles of Jello Biafra.

Together with Edward S. Herman tried Chomsky in the propaganda model to explain, how mass media in the capitalistic surrounding field arrange the reporting in such a way that the interests of the government and the Oberschicht remain protected.

contributions to linguistics

Chomskys first book Syntactic Structures is a shortened, reworked excerpt from its far more extensive doctor work Logical Structure OF linguistics Theory, to which he introduced the transformational grammar. The theory takes expressions (words, cliches, sentences) and sets it with „surface textures “in connection, thoseagain with abstrakteren depth structures correspond. (A rigid and clear distinction between surface and depth structures is not any longer made today in present versions of the theory.) shaping rules to determine together with the rules for the structure of cliches and other structure principles both thoseProduction and the interpretation of expressions. With a limited equipment of grammatical rules and a finite number of words an unlimited quantity of sentences can be formed, among them such, which were said never before. The ability, our expressionsin this way to structure, a part of the genetic program of humans is innate and thus. This is called universal grammar. We are generally just as little conscious of these structure principles us like we it us most of our biological and cognitive characteristicsare.

Chomskys linguistic theories went through different stages, which are usually designated in the technical literature after the paradigm-setting publications Chomskys:

the MP at the beginning of the 1990er years) strict requirements place Derivation By phase (Federal Post Office) against the universal grammar. Grammatical principles underlying languages are fixed and innate, the difference between the world languages can by settingParameters in the brain to be characterized, which is often compared with switches (for example the drop of per - parameter, which indicates whether an explicit subject is always needed as into English or German - drop of per, or it as in the Spanish or Italian to also be omitted can +prodrop). As a function of these parameters languages exhibit grammatical characteristics, which any longer additionally not to be learned to have. A child, who learns a language, must acquire only the necessary lexical units (words) and morphemes and the parameters on suitable valuesspecifies, what already on the basis fewer examples can take place.

Chomskys approach is motivated by several observations. First the speed surprised it, with which children learn languages. Further it stated that children in the whole world speak in a similar waylearn. Finally he noticed that children make certain typical errors, if they learn their first language, whereas other obviously logical errors do not arise.

Chomskys ideas had a strong influence on the investigation of the childlike language acquisition. Most within this rangeChomskys theories reject and prefer working scientist however Emergenz - or Konnektionismustheorien, which develop on general processing mechanisms in the brain. In the long run however practically all linguistic theories remain controversially, and so also the investigation of the language acquisition becomes from Chomsky'Perspective continued.

Recently the theory came also again into the criticism, since there are signs that into stone-temporal hunter and. Collecting tank cultures it still no fully developed universal grammar gave, what also with a reduced cognitive world understanding of this primitive or earlyPopulations is connected (a time term - no or rudimentary tenses, absence in principle of mathematical abilities - no number words, no ability to recursion - no subordinate clauses, are not missing hardly or small culture achievements - Künstl. Representations). This question becomes z.Zt. examines intensively.

[] If Generative

grammar Chomskys

approach work on often generative grammar to the syntax, mentioned, although she is very common, by many - in particular through outside of the USA working - researcher was questioned. Chomskys syntactic analyses are often high-grade abstract.They are based on the careful investigation of the border between grammatical and ungrammatikalischen samples in concrete languages (compares in such a way specified pathological case, which plays a similarly meaning role in mathematics). Such grammatical decisions can exactly taken however onlyby native speakers to be met. Therefore linguists concentrate usually on the own native language and/or languages, which controls her flowing, usually English, French, German, Dutch, Italian, Japanese or one of the Chinese languages. Sometimes one failsAnalysis of the generativen grammar, if it is applied to a language, which was not studied before. If new languages are investigated, this leads usually to numerous corrections at the concept of the generativen grammar. The requirements, those to linguistic Universalien (statements, thoseto all languages) to be placed, constantly became in the course of the time more apply. Kaynes suggestion from the 1990er years for example that all languages have a which is the basis subject verb object order, would not have been plausible into the 1960er years. One of the main motivationsfor an alternative view, the functional typologischen understanding or the language typology (often with Joseph the Greenberg in connection one brings), it is, to justify hypotheses of the linguistic Universalien on the study as large a variety from languages as possible to the discovered variations tooclassify and theories to form, which develop on this classification. Chomskys beginning is too in detail and too much to the knowledge of native speakers related, in order to follow this method, although its beginning in the course of the time on a broad spectrumfrom languages application found.

Chomsky hierarchy

Chomsky is, independently of it, to what extent its results represent keys to understand human language, famous for its investigations of formal languages. Its Chomsky hierarchy divides the formal grammar into classes of increasing expression strength. Each followingClass can lead to a broader set of formal languages as the preceding. Interestingly enough it represents the view that the description of some aspects of the language need a formal grammar more complex in the sense of the Chomsky hierarchy than the description of other aspects. For example is enougha regular language out to describe the English morphology is however not strongly enough, in order to describe also the English syntax. The Chomsky hierarchy is special over their meaning for linguistics outside to an important element of theoretical computer science,the building of compilers become, since it important connections and isomorphicisms with the automata theory have.

criticism at Chomskys linguistics

although Chomskys view the most well-known of linguistics is, became its opinions criticized. The probably most well-known alternative to Chomskys point of viewis that of George Lakoff and Mark of Johnson. Their cognitive linguistics represents an advancement of its beginning, differs however in substantial characteristics significantly. In particular Lakoff and Johnson denied the neocartesianischen beginnings in Chomskys theory and stated that itnot in a the position is to put down over it account to what extent perception can be represented.

As already notices, the point of view of the Konnektionisten is not compatible with the Chomskys. Likewise some newer currents are in the psychology, like for example the discourse psychology orsituated cognition the constructionalistic cognitive science, incompatibly with Chomskys opinions.

Philosopher in the tradition Ludwig of joke gene stone, as for instance Saul Kripke, criticize that Chomskianer estimate the role of rule-based human perception in principle wrongly. Similarly philosophers contradict more phenomenologically, more existentialistischer andhermeneutischer traditions the abstract, neorationalistischen aspect of Chomskys thought building. Best this criticism represents stroke ore Dreyfus, which admits also by its steady Polemik against the concept of artificial intelligence is.

contributions to the psychology

Chomskys linguistic workaffected considerably the development of the psychology in 20. Century. Its theory of a universal grammar was a direct attack on the established behavioristischen theories of its time and had substantial effects on the scientific understanding of the childlike language acquisition and the human ability toInterpretation of language. Even if the large theses of the principle and parameter model described above are violently disputed, the fundamental principles of the theory Chomskys are today generally recognized.

1959 published Chomsky its criticism at B.F. Skinners „verbal Behaviour “, a book, inthe prominent representative in the first half of the 20. Century it maintained prevailing behavioristischen psychology that language primarily a behavior (English.behavior) is. This behavior, as Skinner further, can as every other behavior - of tail whisksa dog up to the conception of a Klaviervirtuosen - by reward to be formed. Language is acquired after Skinner completely over models and over conditioning by the environment.

Chomskys criticism at Skinners methodology and its fundamental acceptance prepared the way fora revolution against the behavioristische doctrine. In its book „Cartesiani linguistics “of 1966 and other resuming work developed Chomsky an explanation of the human language ability, which unfolded a model character also for investigations within other fields of the psychology. Many aspects of the present conceptfrom the function mode of the spirit rise directly ideas, which found their first convincing contemporary author in Chomsky.

Here above all three core thoughts are to be held. First of all, he stated, is cognitive the spirit. That means that it actually mental conditions, convictions, doubtsetc. contains. Earlier opinions rejected with the argument that it only cause effect relations - for example the kind „if you ask me, whether I want X, I Y will say “- concern. In the contradiction for this Chomsky showed thatit is better to understand the spirit in such a way as if one would have to do it with Gegenständlichem such as convictions or also unconscious one.

Secondly it stated that a majority was already innate its that the adult spirit can do. It would comeno child into the world, who already speaks a language, but all is born with the ability to the language acquisition, which even permits it to absorb in few years directly several languages almost. Psychologists extended this thesis the far over field thatLanguage outside. The spirit of the newborn child is not regarded today any more than blank sheet.

Finally Chomsky from the concept of modularity developed a crucial characteristic of the cognitive architecture of the spirit. The spirit is compound from an accumulation of cooperating specialized subsystems,communicated however only reduced with one another. This conception differs strongly from the old idea that each bit information in the spirit can be called up by every other cognitive process. (Optical deceptions for example cannot be switched off, even then not,if one knows the fact that it concerns illusions.)

political activities

into the 1960er years began Chomsky to articulate itself in the public more clearly politically. Since 1964 it protested against the intervention of the USA in Viet Nam.1969 it published “America and the new Mandarine”, a collection of essays over the Viet Nam war. Chomsky position just as clearly referred against the US-American policy in Cuba, Haiti, east Timor, Nicaragua, in the Middle East conflict and opposite that“Rogue states “as well as to the second gulf - and to the Kosovokrieg, for the question of the human rights, to globalization and neoliberaler world order. Today it, apart from its far undisputed meaning for linguistics, is to one of the most important critics of the US foreign policy,the political world order and the power of the mass media become.

In the “New York Time Book Review " Chomsky was called once the “ most important intellectual one of the present “. Noam Chomsky for this: “The quotation was published by a publishing house house. But thereone should read always very exactly: If one checks the original, then it is called further: “if this the case is, as can it then such nonsense over the American foreign policy write?” One never quotes this additive. But over honestlyto be: There would not be it, I would believe, I make somewhat wrong. “

Noam Chomsky applies in view to its political bibliography as “the usually-quoted outsiders of the world”. It is regarded as one the Vorsprecher and Vordenker of the anti-globalization movement.

Critichowever to him a simple conception of the world, only the colors black and white, only pressure and counter-pressure accuse know and therefore the USA and Israel always injustice, which would have liberations movement of the earth always right.

A controversy solved the case of theFrench professor Robert Faurisson out, which in France 1991 for its Holocaustleugnung were condemned to a fine. Chomsky had signed a Petition in the autumn 1979 on request of Serge Thion, a French dear-ore-acre-socialist spirit scientist, for the defense of the free speech Faurissons.An essay about liberty of opinion, written by Chomsky, was printed later short time without its knowledge than preface in Faurissons book. Chomsky knows itself several times on it that its own convictions those are opposite Faurissons diametrial, it however nevertheless forthe free speech of each humans begins. Regardless of its this is laid out for him gladly of “critics” as Holocaustleugnung.


Rezeption in Deutschland

Es ist nicht uninteressant zu beobachten, gerade auch im Hinblick auf Chomskys eigene Arbeiten zur Kontrolle über die Medien, dass Chomskys politische Schriften in Deutschland zunächstin the Suhrkamp publishing house appeared, there however starting from the 1980er years again were not then presented. Chomsky disappeared, at least in Germany, as political critics completely from the horizon of the Mainstreams, over there only toward end of the 90's of the twentieth century againto emerge (Lit.: Bor, 1981).

Chomskys linguistic work, in particular its appointment to William of Humboldt in Cartesian Linguistics, were submitted already soon of a sharp philosophical and historical criticism.

quotations (translated)

  • an intellectual to be, is an appointment for everyone: it means to use the own understanding in order to get affairs going, which are important for mankind. Some people are privileged, powerfully and usually conformalistic enough, in order to take their way into the public. That makes itby any means more intellectually than a Taxifahrer, that coincidentally over the same things does not think and that possibly more intelligently and less superficially than it. Because that is a question of power. “ Source: CommonSense interview (, 03. May 2002 (English)
  • “… thoseCitizens of democratic societies should visit courses for mental self-defense, around itself manipulation and control to resist to be able… “ source: “Media control” of Noam Chomsky (2003), dt. First edition. (see in addition also Mind Security)

see also



a complete list of the scientific publications is on Chomskys homepage [2] to ALSO.

  • Noam Chomsky: Syntactic Structures.Mouton, the Hague 1957; asReproduction available: Walter de Gruyter, Berlin and New York, 1989, ISBN 9027933855
  • Noam Chomsky: Aspects OF the Theory OF syntax, 1965, ISBN 0262530074
  • Noam Chomsky: LANGUAGE and at least. Harcourt Brace & World, Inc., New York 1968; dt.: Language andSpirit. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt/Main 1999, ISBN 3518276190
  • Noam Chomsky: Rules and Representations, 1980, ISBN 0231048270 (new edition 2005. Bound expenditure: ISBN 0231132700, expenditure for paperback: ISBN 0231132719. German: Rules and representations, ISBN 3518079514)
  • Noam Chomsky: Lectures onGovernment and being thing, 1981, ISBN 3110141310
  • Noam Chomsky: Knowledge OF LANGUAGE. Its Nature, Origin and Use, 1986, ISBN 0275917614
  • Noam Chomsky: LANGUAGE and Thought, 1993, ISBN 1559210761
  • Noam Chomsky: The minimalist Program, 1995, ISBN 0262531283

political works

excerpts from some its books are available on Chomskys of private homepage on-line [3].

  • Noam Chomsky: American power and the new mandarines. Pantheon Books, New York 1969; dt.: America and the new Mandarine. Political one andtime-historical essays. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt/Main 1969
  • Noam Chomsky: From state policy. (in it: “Remarks on the anarchy mash” [4], page 104-121), Frankfurt 1974.
  • Noam Chomsky: “Human Rights” and American foreign policy. o.O. 1978
  • Noam Chomsky: Manufacturing Consent - The Political Economy OFthe measure of Media. New York 1988, ISBN 0375714499
  • Noam Chomsky: Language and politics., therein among other things: 'The today's relevance of the Anarchosyndikalismus ', page 214 FF., Philo publishing house 1999.
  • Noam Chomsky: Profit of over People - Neoliberalism and global order.Seven StoriesPress, New York 1998, ISBN 1888363827; dt.: Profit of over People - Neoliberalismus and global world order. Europe publishing house, Hamburg 2000, ISBN 320376010X
  • Noam Chomsky: Rogue States: The Rule OF Force in World Affairs. To South end press, Cambridge 2000, ISBN 0896086119
  • Noam Chomsky: Was against People. Human rights and rogue states. Europe publishing house, Hamburg 2001, ISBN 3203760118
  • Noam Chomsky: 9-11. Seven Stories press, New York 2001, ISBN 1583224890; dt.: The Attack - background and consequences. Europe publishing house, Hamburg 2002, ISBN 3203760134
  • Noam Chomsky: Open wound the Middle East. Israel, the Palestinians and the US politics. Europe publishing house, Hamburg 2002, ISBN 3203760142
  • Noam Chomsky: Media control. Europe publishing house, Hamburg 2003, ISBN 3203760150
  • Noam Chomsky: Hybris. Europe publishing house, Hamburg 2003, ISBN 3203760169

a outstanding overview overChomskys political opinions offers:

  • Noam Chomsky; Peter Mitchell, John Schieffel (Hrsg.): Understanding power: The Indispensable Chomsky. New ones press, o.O. 2002, ISBN 1565847032; dt.: An anatomy of power. The Chomsky reader. Europe publishing house, Hamburg 2004, ISBN 320376007X

the very detailed proofsand footnotes to this work are available in the Internet under

over Chomsky

  • Robert F. Barsky: Noam Chomsky: A would run OF Dissent. WITH press, o.O. 1998, ISBN 0262522551; dt.: Noam Chomsky - Libertärer transverse philosopher.Edition8, Zurich 1999, ISBN 3859900129
  • Alison Edgley: The social and political thought OF Noam Chomsky. Routledge, London 2001. 205 S. ISBN 0-415-20586-7
  • Michael head, Larissa MacFarquhar (Hrsg.): Who is Noam Chomsky? Europe Verl., Hamburg; Vienna 2003. 134 S. ISBN 3-203-76018-5
  • DavidBarsamian (Hrsg.):Propaganda and the publicly mind: conversations with Noam Chomsky. Pluto press, London 2001. 252 S. ISBN 0-7453-1788-X
  • Peter Collier, David Horovitz (Hg.): The anti- Chomsky reader [5] Encounter Books, New York 2004. 260 S. ISBN: 189355497X
work on []


  • Tilman Bor: Language opinions: The term of the human speech in language philosophy William of Humboldts. Klett Cotta, Stuttgart 1981. ISBN of 3-12-913530-8


  • Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media. Direction: Mark oh bar, Peter Wintonick, Canada 1992
  • Power and terror. Noam Chomsky. Discussions after 9/11. Direction: John Junkermann, Japan 2003
  • Noam Chomsky: Rebel Without A break. (TV), direction: Pascoe wants, 2003

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