Syntactic Errors In The Use Of Punctuation English Language Essay



In written English, punctuation is vital to have a proper understanding of sentences. The sheer negligence regarding the proper use of the punctuation marks , might lead to total misunderstanding of the subject. These aspects should be given much emphasis during the schooling period so as to inculcate the proper understanding of it. The errors which occur in these regard are often compensated with the fact that meaning of the sentence is obviously understood.

Efficient use of punctuation marks would lead to form a flowery script which is shortened in length but heightened in meaning. Proper understanding of this subject would lead to easy deciphering of complex writings.

1.1 History:

The first writing systems were mostly logographic and/or syllabic, for example Chinese and Maya script, and they do not necessarily require punctuation, especially spacing. This is because the entire morpheme or word is typically clustered within a single glyph, so spacing does not help as much to distinguish where one word ends and the other starts. Disambiguation and emphasis can easily be communicated without punctuation by employing a separate written form distinct from the spoken form of the language that uses slightly different phraseology. Even today, formal written modern English differs subtly from spoken English because not all emphasis and disambiguation is possible to convey in print, even with punctuation.

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The earliest alphabetic writing had no capitalization, no spaces and few punctuation marks. This worked as long as the subject matter was restricted to a limited range of topics (e.g., writing used for recording business transactions). Punctuation is historically an aid to reading aloud (vis George Bernard Shaw).

The oldest known document using punctuation is the Mesha Stele (9th century BC). This employs points between the words and horizontal strokes between the sense section as punctuation.

The Greeks were using punctuation marks consisting of vertically arranged dots - usually two (cf. the modern colon) or three - in around the 5th century BC. Greek playwrights such as Euripides and Aristophanes used symbols to distinguish the ends of phrases in written drama: this essentially helped the play's cast to know when to pause. In particular, they used three different symbols to divide speeches, known as commas (indicated by a centered dot), colons (indicated by a dot on the base line), and periods or full stops (indicated by a raised dot).

The Romans (circa 1st century BC) also adopted symbols to indicate pauses.

Punctuation developed dramatically when large numbers of copies of the Christian Bible started to be produced. These were designed to be read aloud and the copyists began to introduce a range of marks to aid the reader, including indentation, various punctuation marks and an early version of initial capitals. St Jerome and his colleagues, who produced the Vulgate translation of the Bible into Latin, developed an early system (circa 400 AD); this was considerably improved on by Alcuin. The marks included the virgule (forward slash) and dots in different locations; the dots were centered in the line, raised or in groups.

The introduction of a standard system of punctuation has also been attributed to Aldus Manutius and his grandson. They have been credited with popularizing the practice of ending sentences with the colon or full stop, inventing the semicolon, making occasional use of parentheses and creating the modern comma by lowering the virgule.

The use of punctuation was not standardized until after the invention of printing. According to the 1885 edition of The American Printer, children such as noted the importance of punctuation in various sayings:

Charles the First walked and talked half an hour after his head was cut off.

With a semi-colon and a comma added it reads;

Charles the First walked and talked; half an hour after, his head was cut off.

Shortly after the invention of printing, the necessity of stops or pauses in sentences for the guidance of the reader produced the colon and full point. In process of time, the comma was added, which was then merely a perpendicular line, proportioned to the body of the letter. These three points were the only ones used until the close of the fifteenth century, when Aldo Manuccio gave a better shape to the comma, and added the semicolon; the comma denoting the shortest pause, the semicolon next, then the colon, and the full point terminating the sentence. The marks of interrogation and admiration were introduced many years after.[3]

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The standards and limitations of evolving technologies have exercised further pragmatic influences. For example, minimisation of punctuation in typewritten matter became economically desirable in the 1960s and 1970s for the many users of carbon-film ribbons, since a period or comma consumed the same length of expensive non-reusable ribbon as did a capital letter.

1.2 Other Languages:

Other European languages use much the same punctuation as English. The similarity is so strong that the few variations may confuse a native English reader. Quotation marks are particularly variable across European languages. For example, in French and Russian, quotes would appear as: « Je suis fatigué. » (in French, each "double punctuation", as the guillemet, requires a non-breaking space; in Russian it does not).

In Greek, the question mark is written as the English semicolon, while the functions of the colon and semicolon are performed by a raised point (·), known as the ano teleia (άνω τελεία).

Spanish uses an inverted question mark at the beginning of a question and the normal question mark at the end, as well as an inverted exclamation mark at the beginning of an exclamation and the normal exclamation mark at the end.

Arabic, Urdu, and Persian languages-written from right to left-use a reversed question mark:؟, and a reversed comma: ، . This is a modern innovation; pre-modern Arabic did not use punctuation. Hebrew, which is also written from right to left, uses the same character as in English (?).

Originally, Sanskrit had no punctuation. In the 17th century, Sanskrit and Marathi, both written in the Devanagari script, started using the vertical bar (|) to end a line of prose and double vertical bars (||) in verse.

Texts in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean were left unpunctuated until the modern era. In unpunctuated texts, the grammatical structure of sentences in classical writing is inferred from context. Most punctuation marks in modern Chinese, Japanese, and Korean have similar functions to their English counterparts; however, they often look different and have different customary rules.



2.0 Punctuation

.Punctuation marks are symbols which indicate the structure and organization of written language, as well as intonation and pauses to be observed while reading.

In written English language, punctuation marks are very vital to disambiguate the meaning of sentences.

For example:

"disciple, without his master, is nothing" and "disciple: without his, master is nothing" have greatly different meanings.

Similarly, "Michael walked and talked half an hour after his head was cut off" is different from; "Michael walked and talked; half an hour after, his head was cut off".

2.1 Apostrophe

The apostrophe is a punctuation mark, and sometimes a diacritic mark, in languages that use the Latin alphabet or certain other alphabets.

In English, it serves two main purposes-

1.the omission of letters:

For example: a. won't stands for will not,

b. doesn't stands for does not.

2.the marking of possessives:

For example:

The teachers' salary - means the salary of many teachers and not one ,

The sorcerers' apprentice.

Though the use in forming certain plurals is sometimes accepted. An apostrophe is different from the closing single quotation mark (usually rendered identically but serving a different purpose), and from the similar-looking prime ( ′ ), which is used to indicate measurement in feet or arc minutes.

Importance for disambiguation

Each of the four phrases shown below has a distinct meaning:

Mr. Johnson's friend's football (the football belongs to a friend of Mr. Johnson)

Mr. Johnson's friends' football ( the football belongs the many friends of Mr. Johnson)

Mr Johnsons' friends' football (the football belongs to the many friends of many Mr. Johnsons)

Mr. Johnsons' friend's football (the football belongs to a common friend of many Mr. Johnsons)

2.3 Brackets

2.3.1. Parentheses ( )

Parentheses -also called simply brackets , or round brackets, curved brackets, oval brackets, or, colloquially, parens-contain material that could be omitted without destroying or altering the meaning of a sentence.

Round Brackets are often used to add supplementary information, to the main content.

For example: "Dr. Stephen Hawking (Head of the Department, Applied mathematics and Theoretical physics, University of Cambridge ) spoke about the changing scenario of Quantum Physics."

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They can also be used to indicate shorthand for "either singular or plural" for nouns-e.g., "the tender(s)"- or also for "either masculine or feminine" in some languages with grammatical gender.

Parentheses may also be inserted (with one set (such as this) inside another set). This is not commonly used in formal writing (though sometimes other brackets [especially brackets] will be used for one or more inner set of parentheses [in other words, secondary {or even tertiary} phrases can be found within the main sentence])

2.3.2. Square brackets [ ]

Square brackets-also called simply brackets -are mainly used to enclose explanatory or missing material usually added by someone other than the original author, especially in quoted text.

Examples are:

"I misunderstood it [the letter from the Insurance company], but I must refuse [the offer]"

"the future of the Axis [the Germans and the Japanese] is in great danger".

They are also be used to modify quotations.

For example, if referring to someone's statement "He hates to go for shopping", one could write: She "hate[s] to go for shopping".


a. The bracketed expression "[sic]" is used to indicate the errors that are "thus in the original"

b. a bracketed ellipsis [...] is often used to indicate the deleted material

c. bracketed comments indicate when original text has been modified for further clarity.

For example:

"I'd like to appreciate the efforts and thank [several unimportant people] and my collegues [sic] for their hard work, patience [...] and support [emphasis added]".

In translated works, the brackets are used to signify the same word or phrase in the original language to avoid ambiguity.

For example: He is skilled in the art of the Marshall defense [a famous chess opening].

2.3.3.Curly brackets { }

Curly brackets-also called braces, (popularly known as flower brackets in India)


These are sometimes used in prose to indicate a series of equal choices.

For example: "Select your weapon {axe, sword, hammer, spear} and start the fight".

They are used in a specialized ways in poetry and music (to mark repeats or joined lines). In mathematics they are used to delimit sets. In many programming languages, they enclose the groups of statements. Such languages (C and C++ being one of the best-known examples) are therefore called curly bracket languages. Some people use a brace to signify movement in a particular direction.

The words brace and bracket are mistakenly treated as a synonym for each other.

2.4. Colon ( : )


A colon informs the reader that the following statement proves, explains or simply provides elements of what is referred to before.

The following classification of the functions that a colon may have, given by Luca Serianni (a pioneer of the colon) for Italian usage, is generally valid for English and many other languages:

Syntactical-deductive: introduces the logical consequence, or effect, of a fact stated before

There was only one possible explanation: the train had never arrived.

Syntactical-descriptive: introduces a description-in particular, makes explicit the elements of a set

I have three brothers: Thomas, James and Harry.

Appositive: introduces a sentence with the role of apposition with respect to the previous sentence.

Peter could not speak: he was drunk.

Segmental: it introduces a direct speech, in combination with quotation marks and dashes. The segmental function was once a common means of indicating an unmarked quotation on the same sentence.

The following example is from Fowler's grammar book, The King's English:

Benjamin Franklin proclaimed the virtue of frugality: a penny saved is a penny earned.

It is commonly used to introduce speech in a dialogue (such as a script):

For example: Harry: Sam, where is the fountain pen I left over here.

Sam: Its there inside your pocket.

A colon may also be used for the following:

Introduction of a definition

Alpha: the first letter in the Greek alphabet

Hypernym of a word: a word having a wider meaning than the given one; e.g., Mercedes Benz S-class is a hypernym of vehicle.

separation of the chapter and the verse numbers indication in many references to religious scriptures, and also epic poems; it was also used for chapter numbers in roman numerals

John 5:17-18 (or John V:17-18) (cf. chapters and verses of the Holy Bible)

separation of hours, minutes and seconds when reporting the time of day (cf. GMT 9824; alternatively, a period (.) may be used )

The concert finished at 15:56

This file was last modified today at 12:02:09

separation of a title and the corresponding subtitle

Lord of the Rings: The return of the King

2.5 Comma

The comma ( , ) has the same shape as an apostrophe or single closing quotation mark in many typefaces, but it differs from them in being placed on the baseline of the text..

The comma is used in many contexts and languages, basically for separating things. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word comma comes directly from the Greek word komma (κόμμα), which means something cut off or a short clause.


The comma are used to perform a number of functions in English writing. It is used in many other languages, particularly European ones, although the rules on comma usage vary.

Commas are used to separate items in lists:

For example: They own a car, a book shop, ten cycles and one house.

In English language a comma may or may not be used before the final conjunction (and, or, nor) in a list of more than two elements. A comma used in such a kind of position is called a serial comma or an Oxford or Harvard comma. In some cases use or omission of such a comma may help to avoid ambiguity:

Use of serial comma disambiguating:

I spoke to the officers, Samuel and Tommy. - could be either the officers and Samuel and Tommy or the officers, who are Samuel and Tommy (I spoke to two people).

I spoke to the officers, Samuel, and Tommy. - must be the officers and Samuel and Tommy.

Omission of serial comma disambiguating:

I thank my father, Mark Smith and Thomson. - The writer is thanking three people: the writer's father and Mark Smith (who is not the writer's father) and Thomson.

I thank my father, Mark Smith, and Thomson. - Could be either my father and Mark Smith and Thomson or Thomson and my father, who is Mark Smith.

In English language a comma may or may not be used before the final conjunction (and, or, nor) in a list of more than two elements. A comma used in such a kind of position is called a serial comma or an Oxford or Harvard comma. In some cases use or omission of such a comma may help to avoid ambiguity:

Parenthetical phrases

Commas are often used to enclose parenthetical words and phrases within a sentence (i.e. information which is not essential to the meaning of the sentence). Such phrases are both preceded and followed by a comma, unless that would result in a doubling of punctuation marks, or the parenthetical is at the start or end of the sentence. The following are examples of types of parenthetical phrases:

Introductory phrase: Once upon a time, Kevin ate an apple..

Address: Kevin ate the muffin, Your Honor.

Interjection: Kevin ate the muffin, gosh darn it!

Aside: Kevin, if you don't mind my telling you this, ate the muffin.

Appositive: Kevin, a tall and handsome man, ate the muffin.

Absolute phrase: Kevin, his eyes flashing with rage, ate the muffin.

Free modifier: Kevin, chewing with unbridled fury, ate the muffin.

Resumptive modifier: Kevin ate the muffin, a muffin which no man had yet chewed.

Summative modifier: Kevin ate the muffin, a feat which no man had attempted.

Between adjectives

A comma is used to separate coordinate adjectives which directly and equally modify the following noun. Adjectives are considered coordinate if the meaning would be the same if their order were reversed or if and were placed between them. For example:

The dull, incessant droning but the cute little hut.

The devious lazy green frog suggests there are lazy green frogs (one of which is devious), while the devious, lazy red frog does not carry this connotation.

Before quotes

A comma is used to signify a quote material that is the grammatical object of an active verb of speaking or writing, as in Mr. Kepler says, "You should be aware of your responsibilities." Quotations that follow and support an assertion should be set off by a colon rather than a comma.

In dates

When a date is written as a month followed by the day followed by the year, a comma separates the day from the year: November 8, 1990. It is recommend that the year be treated as a parenthetical, requiring a second comma after it: "Feb. 14, 1987, was the target date."

In case of geographical names

Commas are used to separate regions of geographical references, such as a city and the state (Mumbai, Maharashtra) or city and country (Delhi, India). It is also recommend that the second element be treated as a parenthetical, requiring a second comma after: "The plane landed in Deihi, India, that evening."

In many countries, such as US, the postal services encourages the writing of address labels without any punctuation (and all in capital letters).

In representing large numbers, English texts use commas (or spaces) to separate each group of three digits taken together. This is often done for numbers of six or more digits, and optionally for five (or even four) digits. However, in many other languages the comma is used as a decimal separator, equivalent to the decimal point. In addition, the comma may not be used for this purpose at all in certain number systems, e.g. the SI writing style, and a space may be used to separate every three digits instead.

In names

Commas are used when writing names that are presented surname first: Pointing, Ricky. They are also used before many titles that follow a name: Ricky Pointing, Captain. Commas however may be used incorrectly if put after a clause, then followed by a name.

Differences between American and British usage of comma

The comma and the quotation mark pairing can be used in several other ways. In American English, the comma is included inside a quotation, no matter what the circumstances might be .

For example:

My mother gave me the nickname "Tommy," which really made me angry.

However, in British English, punctuation is only placed within quotation marks if it is part of what is being quoted or referred to. Thus:

My mother gave me the nickname 'Tommy', which really made me angry.

2.6. Dash

A dash is a punctuation mark, similar in appearance to a hyphen, but a is longer and is used differently. The most commonly used versions of the dash are the en dash (-) and the em dash

En dash

The en dash, or n dash, n-rule, etc., (-) is usually half the width of an em dash.

The en dash is used in ranges:

For example: 8-11 years, read as "eight to eleven years".

Ranges of values

The en dash is often used to indicate a closed range (a range with clearly defined and non-infinite upper and lower boundaries) of values, such as those between dates, times, or numbers.

Some examples of this usage:

June-July 1966

10:00-11:00 p.m.

For ages 13-15

pp. 381-515

President Jimmy Carter (1907-1941)

It is also considered inappropriate to use the en dash in place of the words to or and in phrases that follows the forms from ... to ... and between ... and ...

Relationships and connections

The en dash can be used to contrast values, or illustrate a relationship between two things.

Some examples of this usage:

Sri Lanka beat India 7-3.

Kolkata - Mumbai flight (though some sources say that Kolkata to Mumbai flight is more appropriate because Kolkata is a single name composed of two valid words; with a dash the phrase is ambiguous and could mean either Flight from Kolkata to Mumbai or from Kolkata to Mumbai)

Father-son relationship

The Assembly voted 5-2 to uphold the decision.

The Steenbok-Steven bill

Compound adjectives

The en dash can be used instead of a hyphen in compound adjectives in which one part consists of two words or the hyphenated word:

The non-Columbian part of the world

The post-Gulf-war era



Do we always use the proper grammar ? The fact is that grammar is getting more liberal every day. Common usage has put a stamp of approval on many expressions, which modern grammar research reports that these expressions have become universal in educated speech.

However, such a liberal policy does not mean that all the bars are down . There are still essentials of good English that the cultivated speaker carefully observes.

Hence, the proper use of punctuation, appropriate selected of words and simplicity in the manner of expression still remain the basic necessity English Language .


Avram Noam Chomsky ( born December 7, 1928), known as Noam Chomsky, is an American linguist philosopher, cognitive scientist, and political activist. He is an Institute Professor and professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Chomsky is well known in the academic and scientific community as one of the fathers of modernlinguistics, and a major figure of analytic philosophy. Since the 1960s, he has become known more widely as a political dissidentand an anarchist, referring to himself as a libertarian socialist. Chomsky is the author of more than 150 books and has received worldwide attention for his views, despite being typically absent from the mainstream media.

In the 1950s, Chomsky began developing his theory of generative grammar, which has undergone numerous revisions and has had a profound influence on linguistics. His approach to the study of language emphasizes "an innate set of linguistic principles shared by all humans" known as universal grammar, "the initial state of the language learner," and discovering an "account for linguistic variation via the most general possible mechanisms." He elaborated on these ideas in 1957's Syntactic Structures, which then laid the groundwork for the concept of transformational grammar. He also established the Chomsky hierarchy, a classification of formal languages in terms of their generative power. In 1959, Chomsky published a widely influential review of B. F. Skinner's theoretical book Verbal Behavior. In this review and other writings, Chomsky broadly and aggressively challenged the behaviorist approaches to studies of behavior and language dominant at the time, and contributed to the cognitive revolution in psychology. His naturalistic approach to the study of language has influenced the philosophy of language and mind.

Beginning with his opposition to the Vietnam War, first articulated in his 1967 essay "The Responsibility of Intellectuals" and later extended in his American Power and the New Mandarins (1969), Chomsky established himself as a prominent critic of U.S. foreign and domestic policy. He has since become an outspoken political commentator and a dedicated activist; he is a self-declared anarcho-syndicalist] and alibertarian socialist, principles he regards as grounded in the Age of Enlightenment and as "the proper and natural extension of classical liberalism into the era of advanced industrial society."

Chomsky's social criticism has also included Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988), co-written withEdward S. Herman, an analysis articulating the propaganda model theory for examining the media.

According to the Arts and Humanities Citation Index in 1992, Chomsky was cited as a source more often than any other living scholar from 1980 to 1992. He is also the eighth most cited source of all time, and is considered the "most cited living author". He is also considered a prominent cultural figure, while his status as a leading critic of U.S. foreign policy has made him controversial.



Life and Career :

Chomsky was born on the morning of December 7, 1928 to Jewish parents in the affluent East Oak Lane neighborhood of Philadelphia,Pennsylvania, the son of noted professor of Hebrew at Gratz College and IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) member William Chomsky(1896-1977), a native of Ukraine. His mother, Elsie Chomsky (née Simonofsky), a native of what is present-day Belarus, grew up in the United States and, unlike her husband, spoke "ordinary New York English." Chomsky's parents' first language was Yiddish, but Chomsky said it was "taboo" in his family to speak it. Although his mother was part of the radical activism in the 1930s, Chomsky was largely influenced by his uncle who, having never passed 4th grade, owned a newsstand that acted as an "intellectual center professors of this and that argu all night."  Chomsky was also influenced by being a part of a Hebrew-based, Zionist organization as well as hanging around anarchist bookstores.

He describes his family as living in a sort of "Jewish ghetto," split into a "Yiddish side" and "Hebrew side," with his family aligning with the latter and bringing him up "immersed in Hebrew culture and literature," though he means more a "cultural ghetto than a physical one." Chomsky also describes tensions he personally experienced with Irish Catholics and German Catholics and anti-semitism in the mid-1930s. He recalls "beer parties" celebrating the fall of Paris to the Nazis. In a discussion of the irony of his staying in the 1980s in a Jesuit House in Central America, Chomsky explained that during his childhood, "We were the only Jewish family around. I grew up with a visceral fear of Catholics. They're the people who beat you up on your way to school. So I knew when they came out of that building down the street, which was the Jesuit school, they were raving anti-Semites. So childhood memories took a long time to overcome."

Chomsky remembers the first article he wrote was at age 10 while a student at Oak Lane Country Day School about the threat of the spread of fascism, following the fall of Barcelona in the Spanish Civil War. From the age of 12 or 13, he identified more fully with anarchist politics.

A graduate of Central High School of Philadelphia, Chomsky began studying philosophy and linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania in 1945, taking classes with philosophers such as C. West Churchman and Nelson Goodman and linguist Zellig Harris. Harris's teaching included his discovery of transformations as a mathematical analysis of language structure (mappings from one subset to another in the set of sentences). Chomsky referred to the morphophonemic rules in his 1951 Master's Thesis, The Morphophonemics of Modern Hebrew, as transformations in the sense of Carnap's 1938 notion of rules of transformation (vs. rules of formation), and subsequently reinterpreted the notion of grammatical transformations in a very different way from Harris, as operations on the productions of a context-free grammar (derived from Post production systems). Harris's political views were instrumental in shaping those of Chomsky. Chomsky earned a BA in 1949 and an MA in 1951.

In 1949, he married linguist Carol Schatz. They remained married for 59 years until her death from cancer in December 2008. The couple had two daughters, Aviva (b. 1957) and Diane (b. 1960), and a son, Harry (b. 1967). With his wife Carol, Chomsky spent time in 1953 living in HaZore'a, a kibbutz in Israel. Asked in an interview whether the stay was "a disappointment" Chomsky replied, "No, I loved it," however he "couldn't stand the ideological atmosphere" and "fervent nationalism" in the early 1950s at the kibbutz, with Stalin being defended by many of the left-leaning kibbutz members who chose to paint a rosy image of future possibilities and contemporary realities in the USSR.[27] Chomsky notes seeing many positive elements in the commune-like living of the kibbutz, in which parents and children lived in rooms of separate houses together, and when asked whether there were "lessons that we have learned from the history of the kibbutz," responded, that in "some respects, the Kibbutzim came closer to the anarchist ideal than any other attempt that lasted for more than a very brief moment before destruction, or that was on anything like a similar scale. In these respects, I think they were extremely attractive and successful; apart from personal accident, I probably would have lived there myself - for how long, it's hard to guess."

Chomsky received his PhD in linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1955. He conducted part of his doctoral research during four years at Harvard University as a Harvard Junior Fellow. In his doctoral thesis, he began to develop some of his linguistic ideas, elaborating on them in his 1957 book Syntactic Structures, one of his best-known works in linguistics.

Chomsky joined the staff of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1955 and in 1961 was appointed full professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics (now the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy). From 1966 to 1976 he held the Ferrari P. Ward Professorship of Modern Languages and Linguistics, and in 1976 he was appointed Institute Professor. As of 2010, Chomsky has taught at MIT continuously for 55 years.

In February 1967, Chomsky became one of the leading opponents of the Vietnam War with the publication of his essay, "The Responsibility of Intellectuals", in The New York Review of Books. This was followed by his 1969 book, American Power and the New Mandarins, a collection of essays that established him at the forefront of American dissent. His far-reaching criticisms of U.S. foreign policy and the legitimacy of U.S. power have made him a controversial figure: largely shunned by the mainstream media in the United States, he is frequently sought out for his views by publications and news outlets internationally. In 1977 he delivered the Huizinga Lecture in Leiden, The Netherlands, under the title: Intellectuals and the State.

Chomsky has received death threats because of his criticisms of U.S. foreign policy. He was also on a list of planned targets created by Theodore Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber; during the period that Kaczynski was at large, Chomsky had all of his mail checked for explosives. He states that he often receives undercover police protection, in particular while on the MIT campus, although he does not agree with the police protection.

Chomsky resides in Lexington, Massachusetts and travels often, giving lectures on politics.



Contribution to Linguistics :

Chomskyan linguistics, beginning with his Syntactic Structures, a distillation of his Logical Structure of Linguistic Theory (1955, 75), challenges structural linguistics and introduces transformational grammar. This approach takes utterances (sequences of words) to have a syntax characterized by a formal grammar; in particular, a context-free grammar extended with transformational rules.

Perhaps his most influential and time-tested contribution to the field, is the claim that modeling knowledge of language using a formal grammar accounts for the "productivity" of language. In other words, a formal grammar of a language can explain the ability of a hearer-speaker to produce and interpret an infinite number of utterances, including novel ones, with a limited set of grammatical rules and a finite set of terms. He has always acknowledged his debt to Paini for his modern notion of an explicit generative grammar although it is also related to Rationalist ideas of a priori knowledge.

It is a popular misconception that Chomsky proved that language is entirely innate and discovered a "universal grammar" (UG). In fact, Chomsky simply observed that while a human baby and a kitten are both capable of inductive reasoning, if they are exposed to exactly the same linguistic data, the human child will always acquire the ability to understand and produce language, while the kitten will never acquire either ability. Chomsky labeled whatever the relevant capacity the human has which the cat lacks the "language acquisition device" (LAD) and suggested that one of the tasks for linguistics should be to figure out what the LAD is and what constraints it puts on the range of possible human languages. The universal features that would result from these constraints are often termed "universal grammar" or UG.

The Principles and Parameters approach (P&P)-developed in his Pisa 1979 Lectures, later published as Lectures on Government and Binding (LGB)-makes strong claims regarding universal grammar: that the grammatical principles underlying languages are innate and fixed, and the differences among the world's languages can be characterized in terms of parameter settings in the brain (such as the pro-drop parameter, which indicates whether an explicit subject is always required, as in English, or can be optionally dropped, as in Spanish), which are often likened to switches. (Hence the term principles and parameters, often given to this approach.) In this view, a child learning a language need only acquire the necessary lexical items (words, grammatical morphemes, and idioms), and determine the appropriate parameter settings, which can be done based on a few key examples.

Proponents of this view argue that the pace at which children learn languages is inexplicably rapid, unless children have an innate ability to learn languages. The similar steps followed by children all across the world when learning languages, and the fact that children make certain characteristic errors as they learn their first language, whereas other seemingly logical kinds of errors never occur (and, according to Chomsky, should be attested if a purely general, rather than language-specific, learning mechanism were being employed), are also pointed to as motivation for innateness.

More recently, in his Minimalist Program (1995), while retaining the core concept of "principles and parameters," Chomsky attempts a major overhaul of the linguistic machinery involved in the LGB model, stripping from it all but the barest necessary elements, while advocating a general approach to the architecture of the human language faculty that emphasizes principles of economy and optimal design, reverting to a derivational approach to generation, in contrast with the largely representational approach of classic P&P.

Chomsky's ideas have had a strong influence on researchers of the language acquisition in children, though many researchers in this area such as Elizabeth Bates and Michael Tomasello argue very strongly against Chomsky's theories, and instead advocate emergentist or connectionist theories, explaining language with a number of general processing mechanisms in the brain that interact with the extensive and complex social environment in which language is used and learned.

His best-known work in phonology is The Sound Pattern of English (1968), written with Morris Halle (and often known as simply SPE). This work has had a great significance for the development in the field. While phonological theory has since moved beyond "SPE phonology" in many important respects, the SPE system is considered the precursor of some of the most influential phonological theories today, including autosegmental phonology, lexical phonology and optimality theory. Chomsky no longer publishes on phonology.

Generative grammar.

The Chomskyan approach towards syntax, often termed generative grammar, studies grammar as a body of knowledge possessed by language users. Since the 1960s, Chomsky has maintained that much of this knowledge is innate, implying that children need only learn certain parochial features of their native languages. The innate body of linguistic knowledge is often termed Universal Grammar. From Chomsky's perspective, the strongest evidence for the existence of Universal Grammar is simply the fact that children successfully acquire their native languages in so little time. Furthermore, he argues that there is an enormous gap between the linguistic stimuli to which children are exposed and the rich linguistic knowledge they attain (the "poverty of the stimulus" argument). The knowledge of Universal Grammar would serve to bridge that gap.

Chomsky's theories have been immensely influential within linguistics, but they have also received criticism. One recurring criticism of the Chomskyan variety of generative grammar is that it is Anglocentric and Eurocentric, and that often linguists working in this tradition have a tendency to base claims about Universal Grammar on a very small sample of languages, sometimes just one. Initially, the Eurocentrism was exhibited in an overemphasis on the study of English. However, hundreds of different languages have now received at least some attention within Chomskyan linguistic analyses. In spite of the diversity of languages that have been characterized by UG derivations, critics continue to argue that the formalisms within Chomskyan linguistics are Anglocentric and misrepresent the properties of languages that are different from English. Thus, Chomsky's approach has been criticized as a form of linguistic imperialism. In addition, Chomskyan linguists rely heavily on the intuitions of native speakers regarding which sentences of their languages are well-formed. This practice has been criticized on general methodological grounds. Some psychologists and psycholinguists,  though sympathetic to Chomsky's overall program, have argued that Chomskyan linguists pay insufficient attention to experimental data from language processing, with the consequence that their theories are not psychologically plausible. Other critics (see language learning) have questioned whether it is necessary to posit Universal Grammar to explain child language acquisition, arguing that domain-general learning mechanisms are sufficient.

Today there are many different branches of generative grammar; one can view grammatical frameworks such as head-driven phrase structure grammar, lexical functional grammar and combinatory categorial grammar as broadly Chomskyan and generative in orientation, but with significant differences in execution.

Chomsky hierarchy

Chomsky is famous for investigating various kinds of formal languages and whether or not they might be capable of capturing key properties of human language. His Chomsky hierarchypartitions formal grammars into classes, or groups, with increasing expressive power, i.e., each successive class can generate a broader set of formal languages than the one before. Interestingly, Chomsky argues that modeling some aspects of human language requires a more complex formal grammar (as measured by the Chomsky hierarchy) than modeling others. For example, while a regular language is powerful enough to model English morphology, it is not powerful enough to model English syntax. In addition to being relevant in linguistics, the Chomsky hierarchy has also become important in computer science (especially in compiler construction and automata theory).



Awards and Achievements:

In the spring of 1969, he delivered the John Locke Lectures at Oxford University; in January 1970, the Bertrand Russell Memorial Lecture at University of Cambridge; in 1972, the Nehru Memorial Lecture in New Delhi; in 1977, the Huizinga Lecture in Leiden; in 1988 the Massey Lectures at the University of Toronto, titled "Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies"; in 1997, The Davie Memorial Lecture on Academic Freedom in Cape Town, and many others.