Noam Chomsky: Linguist and Computer Scientist!

16Sep09

One of the courses I am taking this term is on the theory of Linguistics. We will study all sorts of cool things like how sentences and other groups of words are structured. My sociolinguistics course is also very interesting – I’ve been reading “The Story of French” by Julie Barlow and Jean-Benoît Nadeau. So far, I’ve read about the various historical dialects spoken in the area where France is now and how some of the languages evolved and about how a small language can be kept from going extinct.

Anyway, the reason I’m posting is that today in my Linguistics class, my prof said something that really made a lightbulb go off in my head. She mentioned the name Noam Chomsky in reference to his groundbreaking work in the grammar area of linguistics. What she mentioned (and I’m trying to translate the one sentence description she gave and I didn’t write down) was “qu’il a utilisé une approche générative”, not a structural approach like the previous guy she mentioned. In English, I think this is Generative grammar which relates in computer science to context-free grammars, which we studied in my Foundations of Sequential Programs course in 2nd year.

Based on my quick research, it appears that Chomsky worked primarily in the field of Linguistics (granted he does so now at MIT which is known more so for its technology programs and departments), but that some of his work can also be applied to formal languages in Computer Science.

I think that this link – this application to both fields is very intriguing! I hope to find other such links throughout my Introduction to Linguistics course this term!

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