|Birth: ||Jul. 1, 1930|
|Death: ||Dec. 19, 2008|
Carol Chomsky, a linguist and education specialist whose work helped illuminate the ways in which language comes to children, died on Friday at her home in Lexington, Mass. She was 78.
The cause was cancer, her sister-in-law Judith Brown Chomsky said.
A nationally recognized authority on the acquisition of spoken and written language, Professor Chomsky was on the faculty of the Harvard Graduate School of Education from 1972 until her retirement in 1997. In retirement, she was a frequent traveling companion of her husband, the linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky, as he delivered his public lectures.
Carol Chomsky was perhaps best known for her book, "The Acquisition of Syntax in Children From 5 to 10" (M.I.T. Press), which was considered a landmark study in the field when it appeared in 1969. In it, she investigated children's tacit, developing awareness of the grammatical structure of their native language, and their ability to use that awareness to extract meaning from increasingly complex sentences over time.
Young children, Professor Chomsky found, could distinguish no difference in meaning between superficially similar sentences like "John promised Bill to shovel the driveway" and "John told Bill to shovel the driveway" — they could not discern who did the shoveling in each case. Older children, she found, could do so automatically, without having been formally taught.
Where earlier investigators had concluded that the acquisition of syntax — the grammatical structure of sentences — is complete by the time a child is 5, Professor Chomsky demonstrated that when it came to syntactically complex constructions, at least, acquisition is far from finished at that age.
Professor Chomsky's later research focused on children's acquisition of the written word. In the late 1970s, she developed a technique for helping struggling readers attain greater fluency. She had the students silently read a passage while a tape recording of the passage played along. The process was repeated until the student could read the text fluently, without the tape. The technique, known as repeated reading, has been widely used in classrooms ever since.
Still later, Professor Chomsky turned her attention to educational technology, creating software that develops reading-comprehension skills.
Carol Doris Schatz was born in Philadelphia on July 1, 1930. She married Noam Chomsky, whom she had known since childhood, in 1949. In 1951, she earned a bachelor's degree in French from the University of Pennsylvania.
In the 1960s, faced with the possibility that her husband would be jailed for his activities in opposition to the Vietnam War, Carol Chomsky resumed her education: a doctorate would be useful should she need to become the sole family breadwinner. Though that prospect did not materialize, she earned a Ph.D. in linguistics from Harvard in 1968.
Besides her husband, the Institute Professor and emeritus professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Professor Chomsky is survived by their three children, Aviva Chomsky, a professor of Latin American history at Salem State College in Salem, Mass.; Diane Chomsky of Mexico City; and Harry Chomsky, of Albany, Calif.; a brother, J. Leonard Schatz of Burlington, Mass.; and five grandchildren.
(Fox, Margalit. "Carol Chomsky, 78, Linguist and Educator, Dies (New York Times obituary". http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/21/us/21chomsky-carol.html?_r=1. 20 December, 2008. 21 March 2010)
Created by: JPAT
Record added: Mar 21, 2010
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