Noam Chomsky

(1928 / East Oak Lane, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Noam Chomsky Quotes

  • ''From now on I will consider a language to be a set (finite or infinite) of sentences, each finite in length and constructed out of a finite set of elements. All natural languages in their spoken or written form are languages in this sense.''
    Noam Chomsky (b. 1928), U.S. linguist, philosopher. Syntactic Structures, p. 13, Mouton (1971).
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  • ''Syntax is the study of the principles and processes by which sentences are constructed in particular languages. Syntactic investigation of a given language has as its goal the construction of a grammar that can be viewed as a device of some sort for producing the sentences of the language under analysis.''
    Noam Chomsky (b. 1928), U.S. linguist, philosopher. Syntactic Structures, p. 11, Mouton (1971).
  • ''The intellectual tradition is one of servility to power, and if I didn't betray it I'd be ashamed of myself.''
    Noam Chomsky (b. 1928), U.S. linguist, political analyst. "The Late Show," BBC2 (Nov. 25, 1992). television interview, excerpted in Guardian (London, Nov. 23, 1992). Responding to an accusation of betrayal by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr..
  • ''U.S. international and security policy ... has as its primary goal the preservation of what we might call "the Fifth Freedom," understood crudely but with a fair degree of accuracy as the freedom to rob, to exploit and to dominate, to undertake any course of action to ensure that existing privilege is protected and advanced.''
    Noam Chomsky (b. 1928), U.S. linguist, political analyst. The Culture of Terrorism, preface (1988).
  • ''We can imagine a society in which no one could survive as a social being because it does not correspond to biologically determined perceptions and human social needs. For historical reasons, existing societies might have such properties, leading to various forms of pathology.''
    Noam Chomsky (b. 1928), U.S. linguist, political analyst. "A Philosophy of Language," Language and Responsibility (1979).
  • ''The syntactic component of a grammar must specify, for each sentence, a deep structure that determines its semantic interpretation and a surface structure that determines its phonetic interpretation.''
    Noam Chomsky (b. 1928), U.S. mathematical linguist, philosopher, psychologist, political critic. Aspects of the Theory of Syntax, p. 15 (1965). On the fundamental distinction of the author's transformational grammar.
  • ''Hence, a generative grammar must be a system of rules that can iterate to generate an indefinitely large number of structures. This system of rules can be analyzed into the three major components of a generative grammar: the syntactic, phonological, and semantic components.''
    Noam Chomsky (b. 1928), U.S. linguist, philosopher. Aspects of the Theory of Syntax, p. 15, M.I.T. Press (1965).
  • ''We thus make a fundamental distinction between the competence (the speaker-hearer's knowledge of his language) and performance (the actual use of language in concrete situations).''
    Noam Chomsky (b. 1928), U.S. mathematical linguist, philosopher, psychologist, political critic. Aspects of the Theory of Syntax, p. 3 (1965). Drawing the author's key distinction for dismissing raw empirical data as providing direct counter-evidence to his linguistic theories of grammar.
  • ''If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all.''
    Noam Chomsky (b. 1928), U.S. linguist, political analyst. television interview with John Pilger on "The Late Show," Nov. 25, 1992, BBC2. excerpted in Guardian (London, Nov. 23, 1992).

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