Oct. 17, 2007
Jeffrey Herlihy and Noam Chomsky
Jeffrey Herlihy, assistant professor of modern languages at Morningside College, was granted a one-on-one interview with internationally renowned scholar Dr. Noam Chomsky on Sept. 28 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.
Chomsky is an institute professor/professor emeritus of linguistics at MIT. He revolutionized modern linguistics, according to Encarta online, when he founded transformational-generative grammar, a system which looks not only at how people use languages but also their innate ability to learn them.
“A private interview session with Noam Chomsky would be a dream come true for many an academic and social activist,” said Dr. Gail Ament, professor and chair of modern languages at Morningside. “Chomsky is a giant in the field of linguistics.”
Chomsky met one-on-one with Herlihy to discuss Herlihy’s doctoral thesis. Herlihy has been studying how the main character in each of Ernest Hemingway’s novels is an expatriate engaging in foreign behavior, which, among other things, includes speaking a second language. Herlihy discussed with Chomsky the pros and cons of using a second language to become part of a new culture.
From his perspective as a teacher of Spanish, Herlihy also asked Chomsky about the role cultural study plays in second-language acquisition. Chomsky told him it is vital.
“Doing that analysis of how foreign languages work, how they affect the psychology of a person, and how they affect the sense of self is integral to what I do in the classroom every day,” Herlihy said. “Hopefully I’ll be able to share what I learned from speaking with Chomsky in my classes.”
In addition to Chomsky’s work as a linguist, he is also a political activist.
“Chomsky hasn't won a Nobel Prize yet, but he has won just about every other major award the world community extends to intellectuals and activists,” Ament said. “Morningside College can be proud that our new colleague, Jeffrey Herlihy, was warmly received by a person of such global stature.”
Herlihy accepted a full-time position at Morningside this fall, returning after he served as a visiting instructor at the college in the fall of 2006. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Boston College and a master’s degree from La Universidad Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain. He has completed the coursework for a doctorate from La Universidad Pompeu Fabra, and he is now working on his dissertation. Herlihy has spent a total of six years in Spanish-speaking countries since 1999.