I was thrilled to hear that the revered linguist Noam Chomsky will be visiting Wales in the new year to give a talk at Cardiff University.
While studying for my degree in Modern Languages, I was introduced to Chomsky’s theory of Universal Grammar. I was instantly captivated, not only by this ground-breaking linguistic philosophy, but also by the man himself. Chomsky was born in the USA to Jewish immigrants in 1928, a child of the Great Depression and heavily influenced by the impact of World War II.
Before he had even reached the age of 30 he had published ‘Syntactic Structures’ which was to revolutionise the study of language by holding it to be an integral part of biology and psychology. He was, as I understand it, the first person to conclude that humans have an innate language organ, which I find extraordinary to this day. His work (having penned more than 150 books and articles) has led to his being awarded honorary degrees from more than 30 educational institutions worldwide.
The title of Chomsky’s speech on 11 March 2011 will, sadly for me, be ‘The current crisis in the Middle East’. Unrelated to linguistics it may be, but I’m confident that it will be fascinating nonetheless; for while I know Professor Chomsky primarily from my linguistics textbooks, many others, particularly in recent times, are more familiar with his work as a philosopher and political activist. Widely considered America’s number one dissident, his views are strong and his opinions forthright… and that’s why I’ll be booking my place to listen to whatever he has to say.