Noam Chomsky
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. . Chomsky, Noam, in full AVRAM NOAM CHOMSKY (b. Dec. 7, 1928,Philadelphia, Pa., U.S.), American linguist and political activist who founded transformational generative grammar, an original and highly influential system of linguistic analysis. . . . . His undergraduate and graduate years were spent at the University of Pennsylvania where he received his PhD in linguistics in 1955. During the years 1951 to 1955, Chomsky was a Junior Fellow of the Harvard University Society of Fellow9456

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First language acquisition

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Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky was

born on December 7,

1928 in Philadelphia,




Chomsky, Noam, in full AVRAM NOAM CHOMSKY (b. Dec. 7, 1928,Philadelphia, Pa., U.S.), American linguist and political activist who founded transformational generative grammar, an original and highly influential system of linguistic analysis.

His undergraduate and graduate years were spent at the University of

Pennsylvania where he received his PhD in linguistics in 1955. During

the years 1951 to 1955, Chomsky was a Junior Fellow of the Harvard

University Society of Fellows. While a Junior Fellow he completed his

doctoral dissertation entitled, "Transformational Analysis." The major

theoretical viewpoints of the dissertation appeared in the monograph

Syntactic Structure, which was published in 1957. This formed part of

a more extensive work, The Logical Structure of Linguistic Theory,

circulated in mimeograph in 1955 and published in 1975.

Chomsky was introduced to the study of linguistics by his father, a Hebrew scholar who worked within the framework of historical linguistics. He studied under the linguist Zellig S. Harris at the University of Pennsylvania and earned bachelor's (1949) and master's (1951) degrees there. The early stages of Chomsky's theories of language appear in his University of Pennsylvania Ph.D. dissertation, "Transformational Analysis" (1955). After receiving his degree, he began teaching modern languages and linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1955. He became a full professor there in 1961 and was appointed Ferrari P. Ward professor of foreign languages and linguistics in 1966.


Chomsky's work virtually defined the methods of linguistic analysis

used in the second half of the 20th century.

Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (1965),

Cartesian Linguistics (1966),

The Sound Pattern of English (with Morris Halle, 1968),

Language and Mind (1968; enlarged ed., 1972),

The Logical Structure of Linguistic Theory (1975),

and Reflections on Language (1975).

Language and Responsibility (1979)

discusses the relation of language and politics and the ramifications

of generative grammar.

Language and Problems of Knowledge (1988), further examine those


Chomsky also became well known for his opposition to the

United States' involvement in the Vietnam War during the late1960s and early '70s.

His books criticizing American foreign policy and the role

played by giant corporations and the mass media include

American Power and the New Mandarins (1969),

Towards a New Cold War (1982), Pirates & Emperors (1986),

On Power and Ideology (1987), Necessary Illusions:

Thought Control in Democratic Societies (1989), and

World Orders, Old and New (1994).







(language acquisition deviceLAD)












(Chomsky, 1965,p.47-59)

First language acquisition

  • Language was a creative act of the individual and that humans had an innate capacity for language,which by no means endowed by culture.

    -----Von Humboldt

  • The individuals potential for language is universal.


First language acquisition

  • Individuals potential for acquiring any language

  • Competence (Chomsky)

  • Irrelevant to cultural differences ,nor race differences

  • A spontaneous process

  • From babyhood

First Language Acquisition (FLA)first Language acquisition refers to childrens development of their first language, that is, the native language of the community in which a child has been brought up (naturally and successfully).

Stages of first language acquisition

In general, children begin uttering their first words sometimes during the second year of life. During the following 4 to 5 years, linguistic development occurs quite rapidly.

the prelinguistic stage (babbling age)

3 months: /k/, /u/

3-4 months: babbling speech like sounds

6 months: able to sit up; produce a number of different vowels and consonants (meaningless), deaf baby, baby born of non-speaking deaf parents also babble

  • the one-word stage holophrastic sentences

  • 2 year-old: use one word to serve a naming function, to refer to familiar people, toys, pets, drinks and objects in the childs environment, indicate certain actions and demands, or convey emotions.

  • Simple nouns and verbs

  • Very few functional words such as prep., art., and aux. verbs

  • Choose the most informative word that applies to the situation being commented upon

  • Overextension (underextension of reference): use the same word for things that have a similar appearance

  • the multiword stage

  • 2-3 year-old: the salient feature of the utterances at this stage ceases to be the number of words, but the variation in strings of lexical morphemes (telegraphic speech)

  • Lacking grammatical morphemes, but following the principles of sentence formation [make no word order errors at this stage]

  • 5 year-old: has an operating vocabulary of more than 2000 words









The classical theory


Aim: to make linguistics a science.

Work: syntactic structure

Feature:(1)emphasis on generative ability of language

(2)introduction of transformational rules

(3)grammatical description regardless of meaning.

The classical theory

  • There kinds of grammar: finite state grammar, Phrase structure grammar, transformational grammar.

  • A finite state grammar is the simplest type of grammar with a finite amount of apparatus,

    can generate an infinite number of sentence.

The classical theory

  • The ratsthe catthe dogchasesworriesdie.

The classical theory

  • Phrase structure grammar consists of phrase structure(ps) that formalize some of the traditional insights of constituent structure analysis. Phrase structure rules are as follows:

  • (1)S NP+VP

  • (2)VP Verb+NP

  • (3)NP NP(singular)

  • NP(plural)

  • (4)NP D+N

  • (5)NP(p) D+N+S

The classical theory

  • (6)D the

  • (7)N {man, ball, door, dog, book.}

  • (8)Verb Aux +V

  • (9)V {hit, take ,bite, eat}

  • (10)Aux Tense (+M) (+have+en)(+be+ing)

  • (11)Tense Present

  • Past

  • (12)M {will, can, may, shall}

  • The man hit the ball.

  • NP(Det(the)N(man))VP(V(hit)NP(Det(the)N(ball))))

The standard theory

  • Time :1965-1970

  • Work :Aspects of syntax

  • Problems which lead to the standard theory:

  • (1)an ordinary sentence can be transformed at will,negated ,passived, with certain added or deleted, without restrictions.

    (2)his rules may generated ill-formed sentences as well as well-formed ones. for example, with the rules S

NP+VP, and


V+NP, there might be generated the following two:

















The standard theory

  • In his aspects of the theory of syntax, Chomsky says that a generative grammar should consist of three components: syntactic, phonological, andsemantic.

The standard theory

  • (distinctive features)

The extended standard theory

  • The problems that lead to the revision of standard theory:(1)the transformational rules are too powerful, for they can move or delect linguistic segments, keep the original meaning intact, and vary according to specific circumstances.

  • (2)the standard theory holds that derived nouns have the same semantic properties with their corresponding verbs .

  • Beavers build dams.

  • Dans are built by beavers.

  • Not many arrows hit the target.

  • Many arrows didnt hit the target.

The extended standard theory

  • 1970-19791970197119731977

  • X-X-bartrace

The extended standard theory

  • Chomskys second revision involves the whole theorical framework, which can be illustrated by the following diagram:

The Revised Extended Theory

Government and binding is a theory of syntax in the tradition of transformational grammar developed principally by Chomsky in the 1980s.



John gave Bill a book.


John thought that he left his bookon the table.

John give a book to Bill.

minimalist program

  • minimalistprogram(me)(MP)

Chomsky's influence in linguistics

  • The most important is that which develops a broad general critique of Chomsky's work and advances some sort of alternative. Over the last thirty years a number of alternative approaches have been developed, which share some of Chomsky's assumptions but reject others. Particularly important in my view are Head-driven Phrase Structure Grammar (HPSG) and Lexical Functional Grammar (LFG).

  • In recent years, however, a number of linguists who were once quite close to Chomsky have rejected major elements of his approach. An important one is Frederick Newmeyer, who argues against Chomsky's idea that language variety is the result of a set of innate parameters in his book Possible and Probable Languages

  • In 1959, Chomsky published a review of the landmark book Burrhus Skinner Verbal Behavior in which Skinner gives an explanation and speculative behaviorist language. The linguistic behavior is defined as a learned behavior, leading to characteristic of being transmitted by the behavior already learned by other individuals, this theory provides an overall view of communicative behavior, much broader than generally accepted by linguists. Skinner's approach differs substantially from most traditional linguistic theories on the development of circumstances in which language is used, for example, ask for water use for him functionally different than involve water the word water, or that having to respond to someone who ask for water ...

  • These uses functionally different asking each a different explanation, the approach contrasts sharply with traditional notions of language and approach of psycholinguistics Chomsky focuses on the mental representations of the words and the words acquired which, once learned, can appear in all functions

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