1988 Kyoto Prize Laureates

Basic Sciences

Cognitive Science

Avram Noam Chomsky

/  Theoretical Linguist

1928 -

Institute Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Commemorative Lectures

Language and Mind: Challenges and Prospects


11 /11 Fri

Place:Kyoto International Conference Center


Cognitive Revolution –Approach from Language


11 /12 Sat

13:00 - 17:00

Place:Kyoto International Conference Center

Achievement Digest

Creation of the Theory of Generative Grammar and Substantial Contribution to the Formation and Development of Cognitive Science

He proposed “the theory of generative grammar” and marked the beginning of a major revolution in linguistics, which provided an ambitious program to explain the structure of the human mind. He has encouraged the formation of cognitive science by giving it a basis in his theory.

*This field then was Field of Cognitive Science (in the wide sense).


Dr. Chomsky is well recognized and respected for his revolutionary and epoch-making linguistical account titled, “The Generative Grammar Theory.” In this work, he established a highly developed system for elucidating the structure and workings of the human mind. This consequently gave birth to a new discipline known as cognitive science, a study built on an interdisciplinary collaboration of psychology, information science, linguistics, neurophysiology, and philosophy. Dr. Chomsky’s theory provides the underlying structural foundation for cognitive science.

Previous to the establishment of Dr. Chomsky’s Generative Grammar Theory, linguistical studies focused mainly on the recording of characteristic structures of each language and a subsequent classification thereof. However, they failed to establish an approach for illustrating linguistic universality. Linguistic philosophical principles were based on the notion that language was a behaviorally acquired experience learned from the surrounding environment and ignored the underlying intrinsical elements. Dr. Chomsky recognized that there was a general principle underlying the apparent disparities and differences and that this principle was common to all human languages. He reasoned that this universality was inherently common to human nature as it is rooted in the essence of humanity itself. By conducting research on the commonality of linguistic principles, Dr. Chomsky believed that not only linguistic structure, but also human mental processes, namely the structure of man’s inherently acquired reason, could be understood.

His Generative Grammar Theory was formulated on this essential concept. By taking a dynamic approach to syntactic rules as a means for generating sentences, he created a new scientific linguistical theory. Dr. Chomsky formulated his Generative Grammar Theory on a system of symbols, strictly defined by mathematical laws. His theoretical approach has become the basis for automata and mathematical linguistic theories which have since given rise to important fundamental developments in information science and computer science, in particular. The philosophical framework for Dr. Chomsky’s Generative Grammar Theory embodies the necessary elements worthy of world recognition as a basic science.

Along with the significant influences on linguistics and information science, Dr. Chomsky’s theory has led to the establishment of cognitive science, providing a sound theoretical basis. His work has also had a major influence on contemporary philosophy.

Dr. Chomsky is currently a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he is actively involved in research activities. He is still at the forefront of the field. By refining and extending his general theory, Dr. Chomsky has recently proposed “The Parameter Theory” which explains the grammatical differences between common universal structure and various languages. He is a true intellectual and a science man who conducts scientific research with peaceful intentions for the prosperity of humanistic values. He has trained and influenced many talented people and still maintains a dedicated and disciplined academic life.

Dr. Chomsky’s theoretical system remains an outstanding monument of 20th century science and thought. He can certainly be said to be one of the great academicians and scientists of this century.


Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
M. A., Graduate School, University of Pennsylvania
Ph. D. in Linguistics, University of PennsylvaniaAssistant Professor, MIT
Associate Professor, MIT
Professor, MIT
Institute Professor, MIT
Selected Awards and Honors
Honorary Degrees from the University of London and the University of Chicago
Honorary Degrees from Loyola University of Chicago, Swarthmore College, and Bard College
Honorary Degree from Delhi University (India)
APA Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions from The American Psychologist Association
Fellow of the British Psychologist Association and members of many academies
Major Works
Syntactic Structures
Aspects of the Theory of Syntax
Reflections or Language
Rules and Representations
Lectures on Government and Binding
Knowledge of Language

Profile is at the time of the award.