Chomsky was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His father, William Chomsky, was a specialist in Hebrew from a town in Ukraine later destroyed by the Nazis. His mother, Elsie Chomsky (born Simonofsky) came from Belarus, but unlike her husband, she grew up in the United States and spoke “English in New York.” Their first language was Yiddish, but according to Chomsky, in his family, the talk was outlawed: it was in effect a sort of “Jewish ghetto”, shared between a community “Yiddish” and “Hebrew.” It is in the latter life that his family was, “immersed in the culture and Hebrew literature.”
At the age of eight or nine years, Chomsky spent every Friday evening to read Hebrew literature. Later, he taught Hebrew. Despite this, and all the language work done during his career, he confessed: “the only language I speak and write correctly is English.”
According to his recollection, Chomsky wrote his first article to ten years, about the threat of the spread of fascism after the fall of Barcelona. From twelve or thirteen years, he came close anarchist ideas.
In 1945, he studied philosophy and linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania, among philosophers C. West Churchman and Nelson Goodman and linguist Zellig Harris. Teaching Harris included his discovery of transformations as qu’analyse the mathematical structure of language (mathematical functions of a sub-unit to another in all the sentences). Thereafter, Chomsky says they are operations of the production of a grammar out of context. Political ideas of Harris were also critical to the future direction of Chomsky.
In 1949, Chomsky married the linguist Carol Schatz. They have two daughters, Aviva (b. 1957) and Diane (1960), and a son, Harry (1967).
Chomsky supports his thesis in linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania in 1955. He continues the work begun during his thesis during the four years that he spent at Harvard as a Junior Fellow Harvard. In his memory, he began to develop some of the ideas he develops in his 1957 book, Syntactic Structures, perhaps his best known work in the field of linguistics.
Chomsky then joined the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1955 and was appointed professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics (now the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy) in 1961. Between 1966 and 1976, he holds the Chair P. Ferrari Ward of modern languages and linguistics. In 1976, under very rare Institute Professor is awarded. Chomsky has taught at MIT without interruption during the past fifty years.
At that time publicly committed Chomsky in politics: he became one of the main opponents of the Vietnam War with the publication in 1967 of his essay Responsibilities of Intellectuals in the New York Review of Books. Since then, Chomsky is known for his political views, that in his many books and at conferences around the world. His criticisms and often many times the U.S. foreign policy make it a controversial figure. Chomsky is very popular but the extreme left is the subject of much criticism from American liberals (mouvance equivalent left Social Democrats in Europe) and the American right, particularly because of his comments on the attacks of 11 September 2001.
The adjective eponymous Chomskyen was created to describe his ideas, but it is not appreciated by Chomsky himself.
Chomsky (1951). Morphophonemics of Modern Hebrew. Master’s thesis, University of Pennsylvania.
Chomsky, Noam (1996). Perspectives on Power. Montréal: Black Rose.
Hughes, Samuel (July/August 2001), “Speech!”, The Pennsylvania Gazette , retrieved on 3 September 2007.
Randy Harris, The Linguistics Wars, Oxford University Press, 1995.