Noam Chomsky to return to UA

wikipediaOn March 15, Noam Chomsky, a political commentator, social justice activist, and anarcho-syndicalist advocate, will be featured in a 4 p.m. session, “A Conversation With Noam Chomsky,” at the UA’s Centennial Hall.

The session is sponsored by the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences in cooperation with the Tucson Festival of Books and The Nation magazine. Chomsky is a longtime contributor to the magazine, which is helping sponsor his visit as part of its 150th anniversary celebration.

During the session, John Nichols, the Washington, D.C., correspondent for The Nation, will interview Chomsky on various topics. Attendees will be able to submit questions during the presentation by going online on any device with a Web browser. John Paul Jones III, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, will introduce Nichols and Chomsky.

“We are excited to be partnering with the Tucson Festival of Books and The Nation magazine to bring Dr. Chomsky back to Tucson,” Jones said. “This is a great opportunity for the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences to connect with the community by utilizing our academic network to bring one of the world’s preeminent thinkers and social activists to southern Arizona.”

Chomsky, a professor emeritus in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is credited with revolutionizing the field of linguistics.

Now in his mid-80s, Chomsky continues traveling, lecturing, writing and grabbing headlines. According to The New York Times, he is “arguably the most important intellectual alive,” as famous for his political involvement.

Chomsky has written more than 100 books, his most recent being “Propaganda & the Public Mind,” published this year, and “Masters of Mankind: Essays & Lectures, 1969-2013,” published in 2014.

While at the UA, Chomsky again will spend time with the faculty and students in the Department of Linguistics in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

“We’re thrilled, of course,” said Simin Karimi, professor and head of the Department of Linguistics. “Many of the faculty, myself included, maintain professional relationships with Chomsky.”

“We have an unusually large number of people who were either Noam’s students or departmental fellows,” says Tom Bever, a Regents’ Professor of Linguistics and Cognitive Science. “Indeed, the joke in the linguistics world is a that UA linguistics is MIT West.”

Bever was one of the first graduate students in the linguistics program started at MIT by Chomsky and Morris Halle. Even though Bever and Chomsky have not collaborated directly since, they have enjoyed a collegial give-and-take over the years.

Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini, a UA professor of linguistics and cognitive science, met Chomsky in May 1974 when he organized a conference on biolinguistics — the first of its kind — with Chomsky and Salvador Luria, a giant of early molecular genetics and a Nobel laureate. Since then, they have worked together repeatedly, especially when Piattelli-Palmarini was stationed at MIT from 1985 to 1994, and then again in 2005.

“In the last 30 years or so, I cannot think of another author who has influenced my thinking, my writing and my teaching more than Chomsky,” Piattelli-Palmarini said.

In addition to Bever and Piattelli-Palmarini, UA linguists Diana Archangeli, Heidi Harley, Andrew Carnie and Andrew Barss each has spent time at MIT’s linguistics department as fellows.

“I am a Chomskyan syntactician. The name says it all,” said Carnie, the UA’s provost. “The very paradigm I work in wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Chomsky. He’s not only reinvented the discipline once, he’s done it multiple times.”

Doors open at 3 p.m. Free tickets are available on the same day beginning at noon at the Centennial Hall box office.


  1. Chomsky has a unique view of history; I didn’t say he was an expert. I read both Gagnon’s books and Chomsky’s article about how history should be told and found both interesting, but I didn’t agree with either one of them. All history reporting is slanted because it is largely interpretive. If one was an Arian Christian, Clovis was a demonic monster who killed Arian Christians in the name of God just to get their possessions. If you were a Nicean Christian, Clovis was just short of being a saint because he slaughtered people who were considered to be heretics. Chomsky’s historical views are debatable; that doesn’t mean that I agree with him.

  2. Noam Chomsky has a unique view of how history should be taught. Compared to Gagnon who insists that students do not need to hear all of the details of history, Chomsky advocates telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. That means students should know ALL of the details of the Founding Fathers, which would shock most people compared to the scrubbed history in school history books. The details of how the US became involved in the Vietnam War may cause the student to wonder why LBJ ever thought that we could win a war there. Chomsky’s an interesting fellow.

    • You have more faith in Chomsky’s expertise in history than I. Chomsky could do a whole lot better at the truth telling thing–especially the whole truth part. The textbooks who deal with the Founding Fathers contain a very slanted view, citing provably false “facts” and neglecting, for example, the writers of the Federalist Papers. The textbook authors tend to be as far left as Chomsky but I’m sure there is material that he considers damaging that they left out.
      (I came to distrust Chomsky’s writings about language development–he is a linguist; I am a psychologist–long before he got into being an expert on history.)

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