(b. 1928) American theoretical linguist
professor of modern languages and linguistics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, after Saussure the most important figure in modern linguistics. Two of his books, in particular, proposed a radically new view of the nature and analysis of language: Syntactic Structures (1957) and Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (1965). Following on from the systems of grammatical analysis developed by L. Bloomfield and Chomsky's teacher Zelling Harris, Chomsky's ‘generative grammar’ proposes a set of ‘deep structure’ grammatical rules which produce a set of sentences at the ‘surface structure’ of language. A grammar of a language would be a set of rules which generates ‘all and only the correct sentences of the language’. The significance of his emphasis is that it brings linguistic analysis closer to analyses of mental operations such as are conducted by psychologists and logicians.