60 Noam Chomsky Quotes from the Father of Linguistics

Find inspiration in these Noam Chomsky quotes from the Father of Linguistics.

Noam Chomsky is famously known for changing the way that people think about and study linguistics.

He was taught as a child how to be a free thinker and throughout life challenged ideas instead of just accepting what was already taught and believed.

Chomsky was a philosopher, historian, scientist and eventually became a political and social activist.

He turned his attention to many different areas but he is most known for being a founder of cognitive science.

The Noam Chomsky quotes below show and portray many of his beliefs and ideas.


Don’t forget to also check out these common sense quotes and words of wisdom.

Check out our most popular quote article, a list of short inspirational quotes for daily inspiration. 

Check out our entire collection of motivational quotes here. 

Wise Noam Chomsky quotes

1. “We shouldn’t be looking for heroes, we should be looking for good ideas.” – Noam Chomsky

Everyday Application: The idea of a hero coming along to save us from our battles is nice. However, instead of waiting for somebody to come along and solve the problems for us, we should use our innovative ability to come with new ideas. How could a new idea you thought of help you (or someone else)?

2. “If you want to achieve something, you build the basis for it.” – Noam Chomsky

Everyday Application: You rarely just get catapulted to the height of success by accident. Sure, it does happen sometimes…However, most of the success stories you see today, all have back stories that involve struggle, sacrifice, and years of work. Those steps are the foundation most of us need to successful, so don’t try and skip it!

3. “You never need an argument against the use of violence, you need an argument for it.” – Noam Chomsky

Everyday Application: Adults tell children all the time to “use their words and not their hands” or “violence isn’t the answer.” How quick we can sometimes forget our own advice. Violence is insidious and shouldn’t be the answer. Almost always, there is a better way.

4. “It is important to bear in mind that political campaigns are designed by the same people who sell toothpaste and cars.” – Noam Chomsky

Everyday Application: This one is just a friendly reminder that all politicians are products of a system. Now, I am not saying they are all bad, but they all have managers and employees whose job it is to sell them to the rest of us. Do a little research beyond what their campaign and supporters says. Much like you would open the hood of a car, even though the salesman assures you it is in working order…

5. “Everyone knows that when you look at a television ad, you do not expect to get information. You expect to see delusion and imagery.” – Noam Chomsky

Everyday Application: The goal of TV networks is to make money for them and their advertisers. Delusion and imagery are what they thrive on. Remember that not everything is what it seems.

6. “Debt is a social and ideological construct, not a simple economic fact.” – Noam Chomsky

Everyday Application: A social construct is simply an idea that has been created and accepted by the people of a society. Keynesianism economics speaks further about how this idea of indebtedness is unsustainable in today’s world.

7. “Censorship is never over for those who have experienced it. It is a brand on the imagination that affects the individual who has suffered it, forever.” – Noam Chomsky

Everyday Application: Being suppressed is a terrible feeling. When your art, writing, or other work is being censored it will affect your imagination. Imagination helps with social development, emotional, physical, and problem solving skills, just to name a few! Protect the right to imagine things!

8. “As a research tool, the internet is invaluable.” – Noam Chomsky

Everyday Application: The internet opened up the ability to find research. However, be cautious and understand the difference between actual research, and just something you saw on the internet. Anyone can put anything out here, that doesn’t make it true!

9. “There’s a tremendous gap between public opinion and public policy.” – Noam Chomsky

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Everyday Application: What the majority of us believe to be right, and the policy created to govern these things has a large gap. The best things we can do to bridge these gaps are: be informed about elections and candidates, run for office, and support others who are fighting for causes that matter to you!

10. “Public opinion can be influential, the media can be influential.” – Noam Chomsky

Everyday Application: Both of these are two powerful tools when it comes to creating new ideas or policies. They can also be influential in sparking change. Coupled with education, knowledge, and research, you just might be able to make a difference!

Noam Chomsky quotes about politics

11. “If voting could actually change anything, it would be illegal.” – Noam Chomsky

Everyday Application: Our electoral system and whether individual votes count is a popular political debate. Many people are disheartened by the whole process, and never see the change we vote for. Should you bother voting is really a personal question. Check out this article for more about voting.

12. “The media want to maintain their intimate relation to state power. They want to get leaks, they want to get invited to the press conferences. They want to rub shoulders with the Secretary of State, all that kind of business. To do that, you’ve got to play the game, and playing the game means telling their lies, serving as their disinformation apparatus.” – Noam Chomsky

13. “The point of public relations slogans like “Support Our Troops” is that they don’t mean anything… that’s the whole point of good propaganda. You want to create a slogan that nobody is going to be against and I suppose everybody will be for, because nobody knows what it means, because it doesn’t mean anything. But its crucial value is that it diverts your attention from a question that does mean something, do you support our policy? And that’s the one you’re not allowed to talk about.” – Noam Chomsky

Everyday Application: Slogans are catchy and meant to rally the masses. However, they don’t really mean anything. For instance, everyone can agree that the military is a dangerous job. It is made up of men and women who put their lives on the line for you and me. However, that doesn’t mean that we all agree on how many troops (if any) should go somewhere. That doesn’t mean that people don’t support the troops. Be careful of political slogans…they will almost always divide us more!

14. “The best defense against democracy is to distract people.” – Noam Chomsky

15. “Neoliberal democracy. Instead of citizens, it produces consumers. Instead of communities, it produces shopping malls. The net result is an atomized society of disengaged individuals who feel demoralized and socially powerless. In sum, neoliberalism is the immediate and foremost enemy of genuine participatory democracy, not just in the United States but across the planet, and will be for the foreseeable future.” – Noam Chomsky

16. “In the US, there is basically one party – the business party. It has two factions, called Democrats and Republicans, which are somewhat different but carry out variations on the same policies. By and large, I am opposed to those policies. As is most of the population.” – Noam Chomsky

17. “You can’t have meaningful political democracy without functioning economic democracy.” – Noam Chomsky

18. “Governments will use whatever technology is available to combat their primary enemy – their own population.” – Noam Chomsky

19. “Democracy was regarded as entering into a crisis in the 1960s. The crisis was that large segments of the population were becoming organized and active and trying to participate in the political arena.” – Noam Chomsky

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20. “Ever since I’ve had any political awareness, I’ve felt either alone or part of a tiny minority.” – Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky quotes about language

21. “The most striking aspect of linguistic competence is what we may call the ‘creativity of language,’ that is, the speaker’s ability to produce new sentences, sentences that are immediately UNDERSTOOD by other speakers although they bear no physical resemblance to sentences which are ‘familiar.” – Noam Chomsky

22. “A language is not just words. It’s a culture, a tradition, a unification of a community, a whole history that creates what a community is. It’s all embodied in a language.” – Noam Chomsky

23. “The fact is that if you have not developed language, you simply don’t have access to most of the human experience, and if you don’t have access to experience, then you’re not going to be able to think properly.” – Noam Chomsky

24. “There are very deep and restrictive principles that determine the nature of human language and are rooted in the specific character of the human mind.” – Noam Chomsky

25. “In fact, by universal grammar, I mean just that system of principles and structures that are the prerequisites for acquisition of language, and to which every language necessarily conforms.” – Noam Chomsky

26. “Human language appears to be a unique phenomenon, without significant analog in the animal world.” – Noam Chomsky

27. “Plainly, children learn their language. I don’t speak Swahili. And it cannot be that my language is ‘an innate property of our brain.’ Otherwise, I would have been genetically programmed to speak (some variety of) English.” – Noam Chomsky

28. “Language is a weapon of politicians, but language is a weapon in much of human affairs.” – Noam Chomsky

29. “There is undoubtedly much to learn about the social uses of language, for communication or for other purposes.” – Noam Chomsky

30. “There’s a tremendous amount of language loss. Most of the attention is given to indigenous languages, which makes sense, but some of the most dramatic language loss is in Europe.” – Noam Chomsky

Thought-provoking Noam Chomsky quotes

31. “Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so.” – Noam Chomsky

Everyday Application: Optimism, hope, and belief are integral parts of being successful. Optimism also gives us strength to keep going when times are tough. If you are working toward a better future, there will be hard times and optimism can help you keep going.

32. “I like the cold weather. It means you get work done.” – Noam Chomsky

Everyday Application: This might sound crazy, but studies have shown that there are several benefits to being exposed to cold weather. One of those is increased brain function! It also reduces inflammation and lowers the risk of disease.

33. “Tough love is just the right phrase: love for the rich and privileged, tough for everyone else.” – Noam Chomsky

34. “Like most technology, the internet has mixed effects. It’s a neutral instrument.” – Noam Chomsky

Everyday Application: Most things, not just technology, have mixed effects. Exercise has many benefits, however, if you go to hard at it, you can really hurt yourself. Sleep is essential, but too much can make you unwell. It is like that adage “too much of a good thing.”

35. “Everybody’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s a really easy way: stop participating in it.” – Noam Chomsky

36. “Discovery is the ability to be puzzled by simple things.” – Noam Chomsky

37. “It’s dangerous when people are willing to give up their privacy.” – Noam Chomsky

38. “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.” – Noam Chomsky

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39. “The worst drug of all by far is tobacco; the death toll from tobacco is just overwhelming.” – Noam Chomsky

40. “We’re human beings; we’re not robots. And face-to-face contact is something totally different than typing a text message and then forgetting about it.” – Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky quotes to enlighten you

41. “The general population doesn’t know what’s happening, and it doesn’t even know that it doesn’t know.” – Noam Chomsky

42. “It is reported that about 30% of the world’s population is unemployed. That’s worse than the Great Depression, but it’s now an international phenomenon.” – Noam Chomsky

43. “The more privilege you have, the more opportunity you have. The more opportunity you have, the more responsibility you have.” – Noam Chomsky

44. “The reason academic disputes are so vicious is that so little is at stake.” – Noam Chomsky

45. “You keep plugging away–that’s the way social change takes place. That’s the way every social change in history has taken place: by a lot of people, who nobody ever heard of, doing work.” – Noam Chomsky

46. “There’s plenty to criticize about the mass media, but they are the source of regular information about a wide range of topics. You can’t duplicate that on blogs.” – Noam Chomsky

47. “The 1950s and 1960s had been a period of enormous growth, the highest in American history, maybe in economic history.” – Noam Chomsky

48. “Sea level rise and destruction of water resources as glaciers melt alone may have horrendous human consequences.” – Noam Chomsky

49. “Governments are supposed to lie to their citizens.” – Noam Chomsky

50. “How people themselves perceive what they are doing is not a question that interests me.” – Noam Chomsky

More Noam Chomsky quotes and sayings

51. “Nobody is going to pour truth into your brain. It’s something you have to find out for yourself.” – Noam Chomsky

52. “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.” – Noam Chomsky

53. “In this possibly terminal phase of human existence, democracy and freedom are more than just ideals to be valued – they may be essential to survival.” – Noam Chomsky

54. “If you are not offending people who ought to be offended, you’re doing something wrong.” – Noam Chomsky

55. “Education is a system of imposed ignorance.” – Noam Chomsky

56. “If something is repeated over and over as obvious, the chances are that it is obviously false.” – Noam Chomsky

57. “You are responsible for the predictable consequences of your actions.” – Noam Chomsky

58. “To live a life of honesty and integrity is a responsibility of every decent person.” – Noam Chomsky

59. “If we choose, we can live in a world of comforting illusion.” – Noam Chomsky

60. “If you care about other people, you might try to organize to undermine power and authority. That’s not going to happen if you care only about yourself.” – Noam Chomsky

What did you learn from these Noam Chomsky quotes?

Whether you agree or disagree with some of Noam Chomsky’s ideas and beliefs, there is something to be learned from him.

Because he wasn’t willing to just accept things for how they already were, Chomsky was able to look at many areas with a new perspective, putting his own touch on them.

Use his work and example as inspiration to see what areas in your own life you could look at from a new perspective.

You can learn from examples and works of the past and see how you can apply them to yourself.

The main example that Noam Chomsky shows is to not be afraid to think for yourself.

What’s your biggest takeaway from these Noam Chomsky quotes and sayings?

Let us know in the comment section below.

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