As a linguist, Noam Chomsky aims not only at making a technical contribution with his generative theory of language but also at integrating his linguistic theory into a wider view of the relationship between language and the human mind. The crux of this view is his hypothesis that human beings are born with an innate knowledge of universal principles underlying the structure of human language.
Chomsky's ideas have exerted a powerful influence on other disciplines by restoring language to a central position in cognitive psychology and in the philosophy of mind. The wider impact of his redefinition of the subject gives him a permanent place in the intellectual history of the twentieth century.
Central to Chomsky's analysis is the distinction he draws between linguistic competence (knowledge of the system of rules that govern language) and an individual's actual performance as a user of language.