To contemporary followers of countercultural theory, Noam Chomsky is identified primarily with his outspoken critique of contemporary media politics, and is largely considered a political dissident. These qualities certainly guarantee that he will not be forgotten in the annals of socio-political punditry.
Of course, that’s a small measure for someone who, a year before he turned 40, became celebrated among the intellectual glitterati for his revolutionary contributions to linguistics. In extremely simple terms, Chomsk hypothesized that language was biologically inherent to humans, and that we are all born with a universal grammar. He thus asserts that the principles of language are innately fixed within our biology, and the differences between them lie primarily in parameters. (Huen, 2002).
Critics have taken issue with Chomsky’s theories – some aspects of which Chomsky has occasionally gone back to revise – simply because it attributes the structure of an ‘abstract’ language to biological nature. Traditional language acquisition theory emphasizes process-oriented emergent learning, which is difficult to reconcile with Chomsky’s ideas.
Chomsky’s approach to language is consistent in rationalist terms. While he has frequently expressed disinterest in socially constructed ideas about knowledge such as post-structuralism, he contends that his problem lies not in its validity, but in the rationalist hypocrisy in exalting innate-based approaches to the physical sciences, and dismissing the same approach when used on issues of the mind. Chomsky calls it a “pernicious epistemological dualism” where “questions of mind are just studied differently than questions of body” even though “the logic is the same.” (Olson & Faigley, 1991)
Huen, Kenny. (2002). Chomsky for Philosophers. University of Chicago Philosophy Project. Retrieved March 13, 2008 from: http://www.personal.kent.edu/~pbohanbr/Webpage/New/ newintro.html
Olson, G. & Faigley, L. (1991) Language, Politics, and Composition. Journal of Advanced Composition, Volume 11, No. 1. Retrieved March 13, 2008 from: http://www.chomsky.info/ interviews/1991—-.htm