Chomsky and the Analytical Tradition

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Noam Chomsky's engagement with contemporary philosophy from the 1960s onwards has involved lengthy discussion with critics and others on the significance of linguistics for traditional and contemporary philosophy. This chapter draws the background to generative linguistics and shows how Chomsky's real philosophical achievement in this area was to pose an explanatory question that had previously been neglected. Generative grammar as a research field was initiated by Chomsky in the 1950s. Chomsky's cognitive turn was revolutionary, not least because it went against the philosophical grain vis-a-vis the role of formalism or logical analysis. P. Strawson had suggested that there is a Homeric struggle between those who favor a formal approach to natural language and those who favor a communicationintention approach. For Chomsky, the proper role of formalism in the realm of natural language is the framing of structural constraints on the consumption and production of language, both of which are cognitive capacities.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Companion to Chomsky
EditorsNicholas Allott, Terje Lohndal, Georges Rey
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781119598732
ISBN (Print)978-1-119-59870-1
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jun 2021


  • Cognitive capacities
  • Contemporary philosophy
  • Generative grammar
  • Homeric struggle
  • Natural language
  • Noam chomsky's engagement

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