Carol Chomsky, Linguist

Womens History Month general

Carol Chomsky was a prolific linguist and known for her research and development of childhood language and reading. She is considered a hero in the world of language and has earned a place in Women’s History! Carol Doris Schatz was born in Philadelphia on July 1, 1930. She married Noam Chomsky in 1949, the two having known each other since she was five years old and he was seven. Her mother had been a teacher at a Hebrew school where his father was the principal. She was awarded a bachelor’s degree in French from the University of Pennsylvania in 1951.

She earned a doctoral degree in linguistics from Harvard University in 1968, having attended the school in order to ensure that she would be able to make a living in the event that her husband would be sent to jail for his active opposition to the Vietnam War.

Chomsky’s best-known book is The Acquisition of Syntax in Children From 5 to 10 (1969). The book investigated how children develop an understanding of the underlying grammatical structure of their native language, as well as how they use this skill to interpret sentences of increasing complexity as they get older. Despite earlier scientific beliefs that children complete their acquisition of syntax by the age of five, Chomsky’s research showed that children continue to develop the skills needed to understand complex constructions beyond that age.

As part of her research to understand how children develop the ability to read, she developed a method in the late 1970s called repeated reading, in which children would read a text silently while a recording of the text was played. The child would repeat the process until the text could be read fluently without the tape. Research showed that four readings accompanied by a recording could be enough to provide added reading fluency for most children. More than 100 studies have been performed on the technique, with most finding statistically significant improvements in reading speed and word recognition.


The Acquisition of Syntax in Children from 5 to 10 by Carol Chomsky

Inside Lebanon: Journey to a Shattered Land with Noam and Carol Chomsky, Edited by Assaf Kfoury

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