According to Thomas Kuhn, the revolution of knowledge occurs when the paradigm being utilized in an era can be denied by the occurrence of the new paradigm. In linguistics era, it was recorded when the structuralism paradigm, introduced by Ferdinand de Saussure , the founding father of structuralism, was contrasted by the occurrence of the new paradigm mentalism (GTG)which was first echoed by Noam Chomsky . According to structuralism, which strongly influenced by behaviorism paradigm, in acquiring language proficiencies, human learn from the surrounding. The process of transformation of language skills in human mind was through the relation between stimulus and response pattern, further they argued that the human’s mind when he was born was just like a blank paper, tabula rasa, so he/she learned through the surrounding about everything; those were the main thought of the behaviorism’ learning theory. However, the GTG denied those by proposing a new theory which says that language is innate, human is granted by God with language competence since he/ she was born. Therefore, the process of language acquisition is not in the form of relation between stimulus and responses through the surrounding interaction, for he/she has already been furnished that ability in his/her mind. The interaction committed with the surrounding is a kind of media to develop that ability.

In the structure of language, structuralism believes that the structure of language is just the same as the structure of building, so it is built from the smallest unit, in this case is word, word builds phrase, phrase builds clause, clause builds sentence, sentence builds paragraph and so forth. However, this postulate is questioned by the GTG, they claimed that the explanation given by the structuralism is not as adequate as it is required to elucidate what is beyond the surface, in the other words, the deep structure of the language. According to GTG, the postulate of the structuralism has not touched yet the occurrence of deep structure of language.

Now the question is, is it true that Chomsky was the whistle blower of that revolution? By studying more deeply about the history of language development we can reveal that question. Many provided information state that the embryo of theory of innateness in language acquisition was first introduced by Descrates, he claimed that human is granted by God with what so called ‘language usage creativity’ since he/she was born, this was the fundamental assumption underlying the theory of innateness proposed by Chomsky . The second linguist that has to be considered is Juan Huarte, he divided human intelligence into three kinds; first, docile wit: all creatures have ability to seize the signs given by nature with their senses (instinct); second, normal human ingenio (normal intelligence): human has an ability to acquire knowledge from various sources by means of their senses of data and build a cognitive system, and it can be developed automatically in their brain; the last, true creativity: human is granted with the ability to invent totally new things. Moreover, among those three only human have all of them; animal and automaton are only on the stage of docile wit.

In addition, the other thought which underlies the Chomsky’s theory is grammar philosophy, these grammarians’ thought can be found in their legacy, Port Royal Grammar, which contains their vision on the structure of language, in it, they argued the smallest unit in language is not word and inflectional, but phrase. They distinguished between the term meaning and sound as deep and surface structure which later on becomes the fundamental foundation of the theory deep and surface structure in GTG. The last linguist who has strong influence to Chomsky’s ideas is Wilhelm Von Humboldt, he introduced his ideas in the form of postulate, his postulate stated that human has ability to create unlimited sentences with the explanations of the relationship between deep and surface structure and connect it with the representation of sounds and meanings in which it does not contrast with phonology and semantics.

Therefore, all those evidences show that it was not Chomsky who blown the whistle of the revolution, for almost all his ideas come from the previous experts of linguistics discussed above. Chomsky was the one who continued and perfected those ideas to reject the structuralism paradigm.
Share this article :


  1. I agree bosss....

  2. I have to make a presentation for university about this topic.
    "Chomsky and his Heritage: Generative Transformational Grammar"

    Do you have any literature recommendations?

    Best regards

  3. hi there, so sorry I never check this blog.
    do you still need the references for your presentation! I have Chomsky's book "language and mind", if u need it still, I can provide it for u in this blog to download for free. tq


If you have other contemporary issues, questions, suggestions, criticisms, disagreements, or even rejections, please leave comment politely...

Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter
Recommend us on Google Plus