Noam Chomsky Linguistics has influenced greatly in all areas of linguistics.The basis of Modern linguistics is Professor Noam chomsky. He is Thinker,philosopher and great linguist.His influence can he seen in many ways, from the expansion of linguistics as an academic subject in the wake of his early work on the nature of grammars to the way in which even linguists who do not agree with him define their position in relation to his. His ideas have attracted many brilliant people to take up linguistics and contribute to the Study of language. He has become common to talk of a ‘Chomskyan revolution’ in linguistics permeated the way in which language was viewed and w as discussed.
Chomsky is also a renowned political philosopher and activist, but while his views in the political field have been argued to he congruent with his views about language, this part of his work will not be considered. Furthermore, since Chomsky’s ideas about language have implications for the workings of the human mind, Chomsky’s work is also regularly cited by psychologists. Again, that aspect of his work w ill receive very little attention here.
The centrality of syntax
Traditional European grammar usually gives syntax a rather minor role. To a certain extent, of course, this depends on the language being described, with descriptions of more analytic languages perforce devoting more space to syntactic matters. But descriptions of highly inflecting European languages typically have a brief section on the phonology of the language concerned, a lot of information on the inflectional morphology of the language concerned, and some relatively brief sections with headings such as ‘Uses of the dative’ or ‘Sequence of tenses’ which considered the interface between morphology and syntax.
For Chomsky, this is entirely back to front. A language is a set of sentences, and what allows a speaker to producc and a hearer to understand these sentences is the ability to manipulate syntactic structure. Chomsky focuses on that part of grammar which most previous commentators had simply presupposed or ignored: the ability to produce and understand sentences
For Chomsky, phonology and semantics are dependent on syntax, and these other components of the grammar take the output of the syntactic component and turn into a spoken utterance or a semantic representation. In early work, morphology is dealt with as part of the syntax, in Liter work it is dealt with as part of the lexicon, but in neither case is it central to the workings of the grammar.In many ways this is Chomsky’s most successful innovation, and is now taken as axiomatic by many linguists.
Being A Language Student, You Must Have Proper Understanding Of Noam Chomsky Linguistics Theory.
Idealization of data
Chomsky points out that researchers in the hard sciences such as chemistry and physics standard discount factors which might confound their experimental results: the effect of air resistance on the effect of gravity on falling bodies, for example. The kinds of factors that Chomsky wants to exclude in the study of language arc those that divert attention from the underlying generalizations, just as would be the case in chemistry or physics. These factors arc not well defined, but in principle the idea of idealization of data seems uncontroversial, and has probably always been part of the business of a linguist or grammarian, who would otherwise be faced with too much variability to be able to produce a coherent description. What is different about Chomsky, in this regard, is that he is quite open about his procedure.
The ideal speaker-listener
Perhaps the most important statement about the idealisation of data is made in a passage which has become famous or infamous (depending on one’s point of view):
Linguistic theory is concerned primarily with an ideal speaker listener, in a completely homogeneous speech-community, who knows its language perfectly and is unaffected by such grammatically irrelevant conditions as memory limitations distractions, shifts of attention and interest, and errors (random or characteristic) in applying his know ledge of the language in actual performance.
This statement has been attacked on many sides, not least by variationist sociolinguists w ho have pointed out the unnaturalness of a homogeneous speech-community, and who have a built a whole branch of linguistics devoted to examining precisely the lack of homogeneity in speech-communities. While it would be preposterous to deny the value of the variation programmer, the success of this branch of linguistics is not a criticism of Chomsky’s proposal in the passage cited. Of course, speech errors arc sometimes used as evidence to support theories of how the mind accesses stored material and manipulates linguistic strings, but that is a separate matter.
Competence and performance, l-language and E-language
Chomsky also distinguishes between the speakers’ actual knowledge of the language, which is termed Chomsky and the use of that knowledge, which is termed PERFORMANCE. The errors listed above are presumably performance errors. Any piece of text (spoken or written) represents a performance of language, which will match the speaker’s competence more or less inaccurately. Thus performance is often taken as a poor guide to competence, but competence is the object of study for the linguist.
As with so many of the claims Chomsky makes, this one has been the subject of criticism, some focusing on the structured nature of variation within performance and the correspondingly variable nature of competence, some
focusing on the performance as a body of evidence whose close analysis can lead to a more sophisticated appreciation of how the speaker-listener’s competence might be structured (the first of these criticisms comes from sociolinguists, the second from corpus linguists and psycho linguists). It also seems that it can he difficult to tell whether a particular phenomenon is best seen as a matter of competence or a matter of performance, despite the apparently clear-cut division between the two .
Generativism and transformationalism
Chomskyan grammar in the earl) days was regularly termed ‘generative-transformation’, and while the label is less used today, the principles remain unchanged.
The term ‘generate’ in generative is to be understood in a mathematical sense, w hereby the number one and the notion of addition can be used to generate the set of integers or where 2″ can be used to generate the sequence 2, 4, 8, 16…. In linguistics a generative grammar is one which contains a series of rules (sec section 6) which simultaneously (a) confirm (or otherwise) that a particular string of elements belongs to the set of strings compatible with the grammar and (b) provide at least one grammatical description of the string (if there is more than one description, the string is ambiguous)
. It is explicit about what is compatible with it. This is in direct contrast to most pedagogical grammars, which leave a great deal of w hat is and is not possible up to the intuition of the learner. In practice, this often leads to disputes about how much the grammar is expected to account for. To use a famous example of Chomsky’s (1957: 15), is Colour/ess green idem sleep furiously to be accepted as a sentence generated by the grammar, on a par with Fearless.
The second thing to notice is that although the rules in linguistics arc usually stated as operations which look as though they are instructions to produce a particular string, in principle they are neutral between the speaker and the listener, merely stating that the string in question does or does nut have a coherent parse.
Grammatical and acceptability
if it is generated by the grammar, and ungrammatical if it is not. Since we do not have complete generative grammars of English (or any other language) easily available, this is generally interpreted as meaning that a string is grammatical if some linguist believes it should be generated by the grammar, and ungrammatical otherwise. Given what was said above, it should be clear that there is a distinction to be drawn between strings which are grammatical and those which are ACCEPTABLE, that is. judged by native speakers to he part of their language. Colorless green ideas sleep furiously is possibly grammatical, but may not be acceptable in English (though poems have been written using the string). There’s lots of people here today is certainly acceptable, but it might not be grammatical if the grammar in question requires the verb to agree with the lots (compare Lots of people are/*is here today). Although the asterisk is conventionally used to mark ungrammatical sequences (this generalises on its meaning in historical linguistics, where it indicates ‘unattested’), it is sometimes used to mark unacceptable ones.
Deep structure and surface structure
Chomsky (1957) argues that context-free phrase structure rules (see section 6) arc not sufficient to generate natural languages. This claim has been vigorously
Surface structure is the immediate input into the rules which provide a pronunciation of the sentence under consideration, wihle Structure is the input to the semantic component, and still contains some empty elements such as traces, which are not pronounced at all.
(5) a. I can put up Kim
b. I can put Kim up.
(6) a. I can’t stand olives,
b. Olives, I can’t stand.
The evaluation of grammars
According to Chomsky , grammars can hope to achieve one of three levels of adequacy. \ grammar that is observational advocate contains sufficient information to reproduce just the data on which it is based. A grammar is adequate if it contains sufficient information not only to account for the input data, but to assign a structure which reflects precisely those patterns in the data that are captured by the intuitions of the native speaker. Finally, a grammar is adequate if it derives from a linguistic theory which allows the selection of the best possible descriptively adequate grammar from those which arc compatible with the data. Chomsky has consistently sought explanatory adequacy. However we may phrase this requirement, what it translates as is a push to find out why particular patterns should occur in individual languages, why languages should differ in the observed patterns, and what fundamental principles govern the kinds of pattern that are observed.
Realism and Mentalism
A particularly strong formulation of the realist. ‘In linguistics, there is an overriding principle – an arbiter to judge correctness or incorrectness of theoretical constructs: if the construct corresponds to the human brain’s treatment of language, it is correct; if not, incorrect’. Even with such a strong statement, it can be difficult to say whether some construct is, as the jargon has it, psychologically real. Does it mean that the human mind deals with the data in a manner which is essentially parallel to the way in which it is treated in the linguistic theory, or does it mean that the individual constructs of the theory (for example, the individual rules, movements, components) have counterparts in the human mind?
Language as a mental ‘organ’
Chomsky and his followers talk about language as a mental organ, a figure which makes One think about gall-bladders and hearts, and which is misleading in the sense that the language ’organ’ does not appear to have any localisation unity which would differentiate it from the brain: the functions of language appear to be distributed through the brain
Ii should be said that many of these reasons have been challenged, with a greater or lesser degree of success. There is, for example, a large literature devoted to the idea that some animals other than humans have linguistic abilities. My personal judgement about this literature is that it is ultimately not convincing, and that the astonishing abilities demonstrated by some of the animals that have been studied still do not approach the even more astonishing abilities demonstrated by human children.
Similarly, the notion of critical period has been questioned, as has the notion of the poverty of the stimulus, that is, the idea that we are presented with insufficient data from which to deduce the form of a linguistic system. In the end, though, the crunch question here is to w hat extent humans are specifically pre-programmed for language, and how far language is a by-product of other things for which humans are hard-wired. The (Chomskyan answer is that there is a specific language faculty. Yet w hen we look at the evidence from the gene, fancifully dubbed by the popular press a ‘gene of speech’, and important because it is the first time it has been shown that a fault in an individual gene can cause lack of ability to use language fully, it turns out that the gene affects, among other things, the ability to articulate smoothly. While this may be a necessary facility for the efficient exploitation of spoken language, in itself it docs not provide any evidence for the hard-wiring of anything as specific as language.
If we accept that the language faculty is hard-wired into humans in an organ-like way, we must nevertheless accept that what humans have is a facility to acquire language, rather than the facility to acquire a particular language. Orphans whose parents spoke one language and who are adopted at an early age by speakers of a different language in a different country end up speaking the language of their adoptive community, and do not have any built-in benefit , at some later stage, they wish to learn the language of their biological parents. So what is universal to humans is the ability, in the appropriate conditions, to learn a language, any language. If we accept the points made in the last section, though, children w ill not be given enough input to allow them to construct the linguistic system of Knglish or Sierra Miwok for themselves.
Thus, the argument runs, they must have, at birth, certain specifically linguistic expectations in order for them to develop a language from the impoverished data they will actually be provided with. This set of expectations or pre-programmed know ledge is Universal Grammar (often abbreviated as LG). If linguists knew the contents of UG, they would he able to work out how children learn languages so quickly, and how languages must pattern in order to fulfil the requirements of LG, and thus why a particular descriptively adequate grammar might he better than another descriptively adequate grammar of the same language. Unfortunately, UG is not available for perusal, and its form must be deduced from the actual languages we can observe. W e can see the main thrust of the Chomsky-an research enterprise as being the uncovering of UG on the basis of data from natural languages.