LOL linguist

I can haz transformational grammar?

Via Justin Bernacki and Trust me, I'm a linguist.


  1. So sad that if he’s acknowledged at all in the U.S., it’s merely as a linguist. Not that his accomplishments in that field are anything at all to sneeze at, but he’s a towering, legendary intellectual globally for far different reasons.

    1. “LOL linguist, philosopher, logician, historian, political critic, cognitive scientist, professor and activist” doesn’t exactly make for a snappy title.

    2. That’s not really true. In my experience, he’s almost more well known as an activist here, than as a linguist. At least among people of my generation. I went with linguist because that seemed relevant to the LOLcat language thing and because of the alliteration. 

      1. Maybe millie is saying he’s not taken seriously as anything but a linguist in this country, and I think that’s probably true.

          1. Where?  I haven’t once seen Chomsky’s views cited in the news media (except to denigrate him as a crazy moonbat liberal, which is precisely the opposite of what I meant by “taking him seriously”).

          2. Well, fair enough maybe. But he’s been on Maher’s show for example, as well as shows like Charlie Rose. I think him being dismissed probably has to do with the general right-ward shift of the culture in general and then the fragmentation of the media into more specific “interests groups”.  Back in the 60s he was on TV far more, I’d suspect.  I know he was on Buckley’s show back in the day.  I think maybe the problem is not the media being loath to give voice to leftists, but the more general anti-intellectual orientation of the media as of late.

          3. When I was growing up, there were frequent panics in our local churches about Satanic music. I noticed that they never singled out bands that were explicitly Satanic, focusing instead on the progressive rock band Rush. I borrowed an album from a friend in order to listen to the lyrics and realized they were actually Humanist. The preachers recognized that devil worship is not a serious alternative for a believer, but Humanism is a sound and sensible alternative to religious belief, and therefore more threatening than devil worship.

            Point is, talking heads single out Noam Chomsky as a crazy moonbat liberal because they recognize him as a serious threat.

          4. “I borrowed an album from a friend in order to listen to the lyrics and realized they were actually Humanist.”  Uh, they’re mostly based on Ayn Rand’s anti-humanist philosophy.  (“You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill.”) That and the inconsistent quality of their music are the only things about Rush I don’t love.

            But I agree with you and mindysan otherwise.

          5. When I used to regularly read the leading US newspapers (something I gave up after 2003, just too many planted, phony stories) I routinely read articles on anything and everything uttered by Chomsky in the NY Times, WaPo, and outlying papers.

            But he’s a fraud…..

            His papers on the Kennedy administration were lies; his book “Camelot Revisited” contained lies without any supporting data, and his recent talks have strongly supported Wall Street as an apologist.

            He’s a fraud…..

          6.  Reply to Sgt. Doom: I don’t know if I’d call him a fraud (also citation for his supposed lying thing), but I have deep reservation on his views of the Balkan Wars, to be perfectly frank.  I just find him to be on the wrong side of history there.  He tends to ignore what happened to the Albanian population in his rush to condemn the UN/NATO/US bombings of Serbia proper…  This doesn’t mean the Milosevic regime was innocent, as he kind of indicates.

        1. When I took an Intro to Linguistics course as an undergraduate student, I was surprised to see his name in my textbook, and thought that there must be two famous Noam Chomskys (Chomskies?) in this world. I only knew him as a political critic throughout my high school and early college years until I took that course.

          1. Right, and I was also aware of him in that respect.  But our mutual awareness of Chomsky’s political criticism has no bearing on whether it’s taken seriously in the USA in any broad sense (which is what I’m disputing).

          2. I’m with wysinwyg, and I’m sorry for any confusion, Maggie. I wasn’t criticizing your title, only commenting that he’s just as noteworthy for his political writings and activism, and I wish he’d get more (hell, any) mainstream U.S. recognition for that.

    3. I agree with Maggie… I’m familiar with Chomsky from his activism, especially in regards to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  My husband, though, is a bit more familiar with his work on linguistics.  I think it depends on what you have an interest in.  Frankly, he is one of the giants amongst public intellectuals in American life. That fact that quite a few people outside the field of linguistics know who he is (whether they like him or not) attests to that fact…  

    4. No Chomsky, no CFGs.
      No CFGs, no compilers.
      No compilers, no high-level languages.
      No high-level languages, no internet.
      No internet, no Boing Boing.

    5. My experience is the opposite.  If you’re at all involved in the field of linguistics, of course his name is going to come readily to mind.  But the number of people who are concerned about linguistics is teeny tiny (ask the person next to you to name a linguist other than Chomsky!)[1] compared to those interested in the many social issues Chomsky’s known for.  

      [1] My answer was George Lakoff.  Though it really should have been Ferdinand de Saussure.

      1. Yes, and even in linguistics, it also really depends on what subfield of linguistics you’re in. For me, I’m not into syntax, so Chomsky-as-linguist doesn’t come up too often when I’m doing sociolinguistics research.

      2.  I met Ferdinand de Saussure / on a [site] like this
        On [linguistics] he said I’m not so sure / I even know what it is

    6.  The US media excludes the Left systematically.  The “left” as far as corporate media is concerned are moderates like Clinton and Obama.  The best way to crush dissent is to control whether or not anyone even knows that dissent exists.

    1.  The smartest people I know and the most committed activists I know generally have desks that look something like that…  I can’t tell you the insane office of my MA thesis adviser!  His office is impossible…

    2. One might suspect the piles for being so much set dressing, but I have yet to walk into a professor’s office and not find the office looking just like that.  I would be mildly alarmed if I found them tidy and organized.  Each prof will swear there is an organizational principle at work in the chaos.  They can usually lay their hands on exactly what they are looking for, however deeply buried.  Awesome.

  2. …and at another intersection of Chomsky and internet memes: (head to 3:19)

  3. I nearly called my dog Chompsky, so that when he did something wrong, I could say, “No(am), Chompsky”.
    He ended up being called Shuggie, a good Scottish name for a Westie.

    1. He doesn’t do “brief,” he does “intelligent and informed.” That’s why you never see him among the talking heads on TV News Networks.

      1. I interviewed him several times via email — sometimes out of personal curiosity, sometimes for public quoting, at other times for anonymous quoting — and yes, he can give brief interviews (though that’s of course not in any way in conflict to “intelligent”; he’s a great man who speaks language that’s straight to the point and understandable).

          1. Maybe this is an issue with propaganda-style TV channels. But perhaps Boing Boing and Maggie Koerth-Baker can try it. He has a lot to say, and it’s even more interesting than the Lolcat format presented above.

  4. As we listen to Chomsky contemplate the evils of capitalism, we may want to take into account the likelihood that he holds at the very least a six-digit retirement portfolio.

    1. If a wealthy person notes flaws in the American Capitalist system their opinion is invalid because they are obviously a hypocrite.

      If a poor person notes flaws in the American Capitalist system their opinion is invalid because it’s obviously just a case of sour grapes.

      1. I’ve heard Chomsky say many times that capitalism as conceived by Adam Smith is a sensible system and it’s only the 20th century perversions of capitalism that he argues against.  I’m still trying to figure out where Chomsky said or implied that talented and hard-working people shouldn’t be successful.

        1. Right, but modern discourse doesn’t allow for such subtleties. You’re either a CAPITALIST or a SOCIALIST! A CONSERVATIVE or a LIBERAL! WITH US or AGAIST US!

        2. I’m not sure if the definition of capitalism has been Newspeaked or has always been vague, but I see it used to mean two completely different things: One is the free market, which no one has a problem with, and the other is the practice of making money merely by owning stuff (that is, capital) which is a failure state of the free market that leads to a defacto hereditary aristocracy.

    2. A “six-digit retirement portfolio”? Woo Hoo!!!!

      So, if my retirement portfolio (which is a joke term given that interest rates are about a tenth of a percent) is $999,999, and I have to make it last for 20 years, that’s $50,000 before taxes. I’m only 55, and my health care costs are $8,000 per year. They’ll only get higher. Those six digits are going to leave me eating a lot of ramen.

      1. $100,000 is six digits. If he meant $999,999, he’d probably have added a dollar and called it seven digits. So everything you just said, times ten. I’ve run the numbers many times. I’m not quite sure how the current retired generation managed to retire.

  5. I can’t believe no one’s mentioned this yet:

    The Horsies (of Austin, Texas) doing their song, “Noam Chompsky” in a very danceable little 1993 live gig; I admit the sound on this live version’s a bit subpar.

    The better audio with intelligible audio clips from Chompsky himself, from their album “Trouble Down South”:

    God I miss The Horsies…

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