Noam Chomsky Dissertation

As Zellig S. Harris’s student, Chomsky was deeply immersed in structural linguistics, and his first works were attempts to extend the method in Harris’s book Methods in Structural Linguistics, published in 1951, as in Chomsky 1951. Harris had one sentence transform into another, and Chomsky soon discovered data that could not be captured using such a method, as discussed in Chomsky 1957 and Chomsky 1962. Instead, Chomsky had to appeal to abstract structures, and this is what he did in two of his most famous, and groundbreaking, works: The Logical Structure of Linguistic Theory (LSLT) (Chomsky 1975) and Syntactic Structures (Chomsky 1957). Chomsky 1975 was written while Chomsky was a junior fellow of the Society of Fellows at Harvard University and completed in 1955. It was published only in 1975, with a comprehensive introduction that outlines the development of the manuscript. Whereas both of these texts are concerned with formal details, Chomsky 1959, a review of B. F. Skinner’s book Verbal Behavior, focused on questions of language use and creativity. This review quickly gained fame for demonstrating the fundamental problems of behaviorism. Chomsky 1965 outlines a theory of language embedded in the human mind (see also Chomsky 1964). The first chapter of this book is essential reading for anyone who wants to attain a basic understanding of Chomsky’s ideas. In this chapter, he attempts to define a distinct, scientific project for linguistics: “scientific” because it aims to explain what underlies individual linguistic abilities, and “distinct” because the properties of human language appear to be special. Chomsky 1957, Chomsky 1959, and Chomsky 1965 are quite accessible and still relevant to contemporary debates.

  • Chomsky, Noam. 1951. Morphophonemics of modern Hebrew. MA thesis, Univ. of Pennsylvania.

    E-mail Citation »

    In this thesis, Chomsky discusses certain morphophonemic alternations in modern Hebrew. He is particularly concerned with the simplicity of this grammar and how to design other such grammars.

  • Chomsky, Noam. 1955. Transformational analysis. PhD diss., Univ. of Pennsylvania.

    E-mail Citation »

    This doctoral dissertation was based on one chapter from Chomsky 1975.

  • Chomsky, Noam. 1957. Syntactic structures. Janua Linguarum 4. The Hague: Mouton.

    E-mail Citation »

    Chomsky’s first published book, introducing transformational syntax. This book also contains the important discoveries and insights regarding the English auxiliary system that were used to motivate abstract structures.

  • Chomsky, Noam. 1959. Verbal behavior. Edited by B. F. Skinner. Language 35.1: 26–58.

    DOI: 10.2307/411334E-mail Citation »

    This famous review of B. F. Skinner’s Verbal Behavior gave behaviorism the silver bullet and laid the ground for modern cognitive science. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Chomsky, Noam. 1962. A transformational approach to syntax. In Proceedings of the Third Texas Conference on Problems of Linguistic Analysis in English, May 9–12, 1958. Edited by Archibald A. Hill, 124–148. Austin: Univ. of Texas Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    An outline of a transformational approach to syntax, including a comparison with the work of Zellig S. Harris.

  • Chomsky, Noam. 1964. Current issues in linguistic theory. Papers presented at the Ninth International Congress of Linguists, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1962. Janua Linguarum 38. The Hague: Mouton.

    E-mail Citation »

    This short book details the goals of linguistic theory and the nature of structural descriptions for both syntax and phonology.

  • Chomsky, Noam. 1965. Aspects of the theory of syntax. MIT Research Laboratory of Electronics Special Technical Report 11. Cambridge, MA: MIT.

    E-mail Citation »

    One of Chomsky’s most important publications. The first chapter (pp. 3–62) defines his way of approaching the study of language as a component of the human mind and emphasizes the goal that theory should account for how a child can acquire a language. The theory described here is known as the standard theory.

  • Chomsky, Noam. 1975. The logical structure of linguistic theory. New York: Plenum.

    E-mail Citation »

    Chomsky’s monumental work, completed in 1955 and published in 1975. Lays out the formal basis for a complete theory of linguistic structure. The concepts and technical notions (level of representation and syntactic transformation, among many others) that became central to linguistic theorizing were introduced in this text.

  • Noam Chomsky

    MIT Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, 2002

    Noam Chomsky was born on December 7, 1928 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 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 joined the staff of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1955 and in 1961 was appointed full professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics (now the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy.) From 1966 to 1976 he held the Ferrari P. Ward Professorship of Modern Languages and Linguistics. In 1976 he was appointed Institute Professor.

    During the years 1958 to 1959 Chomsky was in residence at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, NJ. In the spring of 1969 he delivered the John Locke Lectures at Oxford; in January 1970 he delivered the Bertrand Russell Memorial Lecture at Cambridge University; in 1972, the Nehru Memorial Lecture in New Delhi, and in 1977, the Huizinga Lecture in Leiden, among many others.

    Professor Chomsky has received honorary degrees from University of London, University of Chicago, Loyola University of Chicago, Swarthmore College, Delhi University, Bard College, University of Massachusetts, University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Amherst College, Cambridge University, University of Buenos Aires, McGill University, Universitat Rovira I Virgili, Tarragona, Columbia University, University of Connecticut, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, University of Western Ontario, University of Toronto, Harvard University, University of Calcutta, and Universidad Nacional De Colombia. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Science. In addition, he is a member of other professional and learned societies in the United States and abroad, and is a recipient of the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award of the American Psychological Association, the Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences, the Helmholtz Medal, the Dorothy Eldridge Peacemaker Award, the Ben Franklin Medal in Computer and Cognitive Science, and others.

    Chomsky has written and lectured widely on linguistics, philosophy, intellectual history, contemporary issues, international affairs and U.S. foreign policy. His works include: Aspects of the Theory of Syntax; Cartesian Linguistics; Sound Pattern of English (with Morris Halle); Language and Mind; American Power and the New Mandarins; At War with Asia; For Reasons of State; Peace in the Middle East?; Reflections on Language; The Political Economy of Human Rights, Vol. I and II (with E.S. Herman); Rules and Representations; Lectures on Government and Binding; Towards a New Cold War; Radical Priorities; Fateful Triangle; Knowledge of Language; Turning the Tide; Pirates and Emperors; On Power and Ideology; Language and Problems of Knowledge; The Culture of Terrorism; Manufacturing Consent (with E.S. Herman); Necessary Illusions; Deterring Democracy; Year 501; Rethinking Camelot: JFK, the Vietnam War and US Political Culture; Letters from Lexington; World Orders, Old and New; The Minimalist Program; Powers and Prospects; The Common Good; Profit Over People; The New Military Humanism; New Horizons in the Study of Language and Mind; Rogue States; A New Generation Draws the Line; 9-11; and Understanding Power.

    0 thoughts on “Noam Chomsky Dissertation

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *