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Noam Chomsky: biography of an anti-system linguist

Noam Chomsky: biography of an anti-system linguist

September 17, 2023

Today there are few thinkers and researchers with the reputation of Noam Chomsky . His interventions in the media are constantly circulating on the Internet, the interviews he offers have massive audience levels and he has even sneaked into the odd song, like this one from Espaldamaceta.

It is not strange. Chomsky is a controversial person, and curiously it is not for selling his life in pieces of exclusives or for having a breakthrough aesthetic, as is frequent in today's celebrity. Noam Chomsky is known for his ideas in two seemingly disconnected fields: politics and linguistics (wave psycholinguistics).

Then we will go over the details of his life trajectory to this day.

Chomsky's childhood

Noam Chomsky was born in 1928 in the American city of Philadelphia, within the family formed by the marriage of William Chomsky and Elsie Simonofsky, both scholars of the Hebrew language and originating in Eastern Europe (the current Ukraine and Belarus, respectively) . Both Noam Chomsky and his younger brother, David Eli Chomsky, they were educated in an environment of respect for the Jewish roots of their lineage , and also impregnated the activist spirit of their parents, very influenced by the left Zionism that in Israel was reflected in the emergence of kibbutz communes.

During his childhood and his entry into adolescence, Noam Chomsky developed a vocational habit based on reading essays on politics. This, together with the fact that from a very young age he frequented environments related to the anti-system left, led him to situate himself ideologically in anarchism . Like researchers like Viktor Frankl, he began writing his reflections at a very young age, before he was 13 years old.

The entrance to the university

In 1945, Chomsky began a university career in the world of the humanities and, specifically, philosophy and Semitic languages, all from the classrooms of the University of Philadelphia. The contact with the linguist Zellig Harris during his university years made him decide to focus his studies on linguistics. In 1949, in addition, it would marry with Carol Doris Schatz (soon well-known like Carol Chomsky), that would get to be also a well-known linguist.

But the studies and interests of Noam Chomsky went far beyond the study of languages ​​themselves. His first research, conducted from Harvard between 1951 and 1955, came to have implications on other issues of the concern of psychology, such as the processes by which language and mental structures may appear. This led him to face the behavioral explanation of the appearance and learning of the languages ​​held by B. F. Skinner, among others.

In the field of psycholinguistics, Noam Chomsky is known for his theory of Universal Grammar and his ideas on the development of language based on genetic inheritance, something that was used by evolutionary psychologists like Steven Pinker to explain the nature of language in the Humans. You can read more about this topic in this article about Chomsky's theories.

The activist Noam Chomsky

In parallel to all these research activities, the curiosity that Noam Chomsky felt about the issues related to politics and the development of capitalism did not cease. That's why this researcher was combining his studies on linguistics with the reading of political essays , the writing of reflections and articles and the holding of conferences in which he has been fiercely criticizing the system of structural relations and the distribution of wealth that he relates to the essence of capitalism, while also criticizing certain aspects from the left that he calls authoritarian.

Noam Chomsky has also placed the objective of his dialectic darts on the policy of the United States and its repressive role at the international level, favoring coups and intervening militarily in foreigners for reasons that can hardly be related to self-defense. No wonder he was directly opposed to the participation of his country in the Vietnam War, for which he was arrested .

Noam Chomsky today

In recent years, due to his advanced age, Noam Chomsky has withdrawn from teaching, but continues appearing before the media to support new initiatives of the left . Since the 1990s, especially, Noam Chomsky has been focusing on the commentary on the political agenda and the development of inequalities, something that has won him many enmities in a country as liberal as the United States.

The fact that it offers visibility to ideologies related to anarchism and that has shown support for movements such as Occupy Wall Street has turned him into a person who, despite not being overly pampered by the mainstream media, arouses a lot of interest.

Noam Chomsky has also remarried, after the death of his first wife in 2008. His current partner is Valeria Wasserman.

How the Great Intellect of Noam Chomsky Was Shaped: Biography, University, Political History (1997) (September 2023).

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