The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Humanities and Social Sciences (Humanities) goes to Noam Chomsky.
The committee has selected Noam Chomsky as the winner, and first recipient, of the Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Humanities for his unparalleled contributions to the study of human language. Beginning with his seminal investigations in The Logical Structure of Linguistic Theory, Syntactic Structures, and Aspects of a Theory of Syntax, he set the study of the human mind and its products on a new and productive path, encompassing theoretical linguistics, psycholinguistics, cognitive science, and the philosophies of language and mind.
Chomsky taught us to think of language as an integrated system in which well-formed sentences are generated with the structures needed to connect produced or perceived sounds with cognitive systems interpreting their meanings. In doing so, he made what may be humanity’s most distinctive cognitive product understandable from both a scientific and a humanistic point of view. He also made the study of linguistic universals possible by showing us how to abstract commonalities in rule systems needed to describe languages from the superficial structures of their sentences, which might otherwise have made them seem incomparable.
The committee chose Professor Chomsky from a field containing many outstanding candidates. The candidates were assessed on the basis of the centrality of their roles in originating and sustaining the advances to knowledge to which they contributed, the scope of the programmatic shift in our thinking they promoted, and the demonstrable impact of their work in setting agendas for the disciplines drawing on their new ideas.