Media: MIT Libraries Receive Papers of Noam Chomsky
Theresa A. Tobin
Discipline of Linguistics
CAMBRIDGE, Mass., February 9, 2012 – MIT’s Libraries were recently
chosen to be the stewards of the personal archives of noted linguist, political
activist, and Institute Professor emeritus Noam Chomsky. The significant
collection spans a long and distinguished career, beginning when Chomsky
joined MIT in 1955 in the Research Laboratory of Electronics, through his
years as a professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics,
then as Institute Professor.
Often referred to as “the father of modern linguistics,” Chomsky
revolutionized the field of linguistics and paved the way for transformational
grammar and universal grammar. His book Syntactic Structures (1957) was
considered groundbreaking. He also made significant
contributions to the fields of psychology, cognitive science, philosophy of
language and philosophy of mind.
"It's fitting that Professor Chomsky’s papers will remain at MIT as a resource
for future generations of scholars. He revolutionized the way we think about
the linguistic sciences and the cognitive mechanisms of language
acquisition, and his ideas in many realms have had profound influence on
scholarship and public discourse here at MIT and worldwide,” MIT President
Susan Hockfield said.
Over the years, Chomsky has been awarded numerous prizes, including the
Kyoto Prize in 1988 and the MIT Killian Award for the academic year 1991-
1992. Most recently, he won the Sydney Peace Prize in 2011. He is a
member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of
Arts and Sciences.
“Over the last fifty years, Noam Chomsky has not only created the
building blocks of linguistic theory and understanding, but has built a
remarkable and unique department of Linguistics that has nurtured several
generations of linguists who have taken theirMIT experience into and across
It is wonderful that Noam's papers, which span this long period of growth
and development, will be available to scholars for many years to come,” MIT
Dean of Humanities Deborah Fitzgerald said.
The collection also reflects Chomsky’s political activism and outspoken
support for freedom of speech and social justice. He was once quoted as
saying, “If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise,
we don't believe in it at all” (Guardian (UK), Nov.23, 1992). He has authored
numerous works on the topic, including American Power and the New
Mandarins (1969), Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy
of the Mass Media (1988), Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the ssault
on Democracy (2006), and Hopes and Prospects (2010).
The addition of Chomsky’s personal archives, and a large portion of his
personal library, augments a small existing collection of Chomsky’s papers
already in the care of the MIT Libraries’ Institute Archives.
“With this addition, the collection will be a complete archival resource that will
provide researchers with unique insight into Professor Chomsky’s thinking,
and the development of the field of linguistics, as well as his views on
significant issues in social activism from post-WWII through current day,” MIT
Institute Archivist Tom Rosko said.
Staff from the MIT Libraries and Institute Archives and Special Collections
are in the beginning stages of transferring material to the Archives. Initial
work in organizing the Chomsky collection will occur this year, with additional
work on improving access to the collection, including online access to
portions of it, continuing over the next several years. When the work is done,
scholars will have unprecedented access to an enormous depth and breadth
of material from one of the world’s most renowned linguists and top
|Date Posted:||February 14, 2012|