LINGUIST List 23.750

Tue Feb 14 2012

Media: MIT Libraries Receive Papers of Noam Chomsky

Editor for this issue: Brent Woo <>

Date: 14-Feb-2012
From: Theresa A. Tobin <>
Subject: MIT Libraries Receive Papers of Noam Chomsky
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CAMBRIDGE, Mass., February 9, 2012 – MIT’s Libraries were recentlychosen to be the stewards of the personal archives of noted linguist, politicalactivist, and Institute Professor emeritus Noam Chomsky. The significantcollection spans a long and distinguished career, beginning when Chomskyjoined MIT in 1955 in the Research Laboratory of Electronics, through hisyears as a professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics,then as Institute Professor.

Often referred to as “the father of modern linguistics,” Chomskyrevolutionized the field of linguistics and paved the way for transformationalgrammar and universal grammar. His book Syntactic Structures (1957) wasconsidered groundbreaking. He also made significantcontributions to the fields of psychology, cognitive science, philosophy oflanguage and philosophy of mind.

"It's fitting that Professor Chomsky’s papers will remain at MIT as a resourcefor future generations of scholars. He revolutionized the way we think aboutthe linguistic sciences and the cognitive mechanisms of languageacquisition, and his ideas in many realms have had profound influence onscholarship and public discourse here at MIT and worldwide,” MIT PresidentSusan Hockfield said.

Over the years, Chomsky has been awarded numerous prizes, including theKyoto 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 amember of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy ofArts and Sciences.

“Over the last fifty years, Noam Chomsky has not only created thebuilding blocks of linguistic theory and understanding, but has built aremarkable and unique department of Linguistics that has nurtured severalgenerations of linguists who have taken theirMIT experience into and acrossthe globe.

It is wonderful that Noam's papers, which span this long period of growthand development, will be available to scholars for many years to come,” MITDean of Humanities Deborah Fitzgerald said.

The collection also reflects Chomsky’s political activism and outspokensupport for freedom of speech and social justice. He was once quoted assaying, “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 authorednumerous works on the topic, including American Power and the NewMandarins (1969), Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economyof the Mass Media (1988), Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the ssaulton Democracy (2006), and Hopes and Prospects (2010).

The addition of Chomsky’s personal archives, and a large portion of hispersonal library, augments a small existing collection of Chomsky’s papersalready in the care of the MIT Libraries’ Institute Archives.

“With this addition, the collection will be a complete archival resource that willprovide researchers with unique insight into Professor Chomsky’s thinking,and the development of the field of linguistics, as well as his views onsignificant issues in social activism from post-WWII through current day,” MITInstitute Archivist Tom Rosko said.

Staff from the MIT Libraries and Institute Archives and Special Collectionsare in the beginning stages of transferring material to the Archives. Initialwork in organizing the Chomsky collection will occur this year, with additionalwork on improving access to the collection, including online access toportions of it, continuing over the next several years. When the work is done,scholars will have unprecedented access to an enormous depth and breadthof material from one of the world’s most renowned linguists and topintellectual minds.

Linguistic Field(s): Discipline of Linguistics

Page Updated: 14-Feb-2012