Program #CHON-LING019. Recorded in Princeton, NJ on November 12, 2013.
Chomsky begins by describing a formative experience in his early linguistics career. In 1946 he realized that The Bible was mistranslated. The Bible begins “In the beginning god created...“ That’s a mistranslation due to grammatical errors by Masoretic scholars who put the vowels in around the 8th century. Young Noam at 18 years old figured that if the first couple of words in The Bible can be wrong in the authoritative text, and wrong in translation, and nobody noticed it for 1000 years, there’s got to be something interesting to learn about language. He goes on to say that “the more you look the more you find everything is misunderstood. And when you think about it a little more, that’s not terribly that surprising. That’s the way the history of sciences work.”
In this lecture and discussion Chomsky reviews the state of understanding of language at the origins of generative grammar, the ways questions were reformulated and new ones devised, what progress has been made and what new problems and difficulties have arisen, and what seems within reach in Linguistics.
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