Noam Chomsky and the History of Ideas1 An Elucidatory Exposition

P.P Giridhar


Abstract: Noam Chomsky incarnates rationalism in the study of language like no other man has or does in man’s history, it seems to me. I will attempt to elucidate this position, however inchoately and incompletely, by enumerating his revolutionarily perceptive contributions to the study of language as a phenomenon. There is so much conventional perceptual deadwood about language that its position in epistemological space needs to be clarified, and perspectivised, deadwood that has come down and continues to float down the canons in the social sciences and the humanities. Once clarified, people could agree or disagree. People now seem to disagree with some of these positions without understanding them! The paper will position Chomsky in his niche in the history of ideas about language, a niche which is noticeably distinctly different from that of a Panini, the great Indian grammarian or a Sibavahi, the great Arabic grammarian, the three of whom together form the great grammarian trio the world has seen 2 . The intervention is clearly more an elucidatory, albeit argumentative, exercise than an originally researched paper although of course it has to do with placing language in epistemological space.

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