The language we use each and every day is changing, with new words, colloquialisms and hybrids seemingly turning up all the time, much to the chagrin of the pedants and purists. Emojis are even being recognized as a language now, as covered in our recent article. Now’s time to look at the linguists that change the world.
However, this is nothing new. The words we use in our daily lives have been sculpted and shaped over thousands of years and continue to be honed and formed as we develop and evolve.
But who are the people that change the world? Who are the linguists that we must thank?
From Panini, often referred to as the Father of Linguistics back in 4BC, to Shakespeare, through to modern day icons such as Snoop Dogg and reality TV stars; we continually witness organic changes in the language we use.
Most recently, and possibly better known in academic circles, is the in/famous Noam Chomsky.
Chomsky is an American linguist who has continually pushed the envelope further than any of the philological predecessors. Over his half a century career, Professor Chomsky’s formulations on the idea of transformational and universal grammar have single-handedly revolutionized how languages are studied today.
Whilst experts before him had considered languages were somehow deeply connected to one another; Chomsky went against conventional thought by declaring that language itself was indeed not just a means of communication, but was, in fact, a mode of thought itself. He argued that linguistic structures are genetically inherent naturally within humans regardless of socio-cultural differences.
He proposed that language is much like walking. Although we learn by example, we are all born with a fundamental understanding of the underlying mechanisms of language. Chomsky came up with a theory of “universal grammar” which is the reason why we can recognize grammatically correct yet nonsensical phrases, such as his well-known “colourless green ideas sleep furiously.”
Subsequently, Noam Chomsky changed how we think about the learning of language entirely, and thus changed the world. Regarded as one of the most important (and political) thinkers of our time, he still works at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as an octogenarian who is often still in the press for his political views and outspoken nature.
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