Carol Chomsky (July 1, 1930 – December 19, 2008) was an American linguist and education specialist who studied language acquisition in children.
Chomsky was born in Philadelphia as Carol Doris Schatz on July 1, 1930. She married Noam Chomsky in 1949, the two having known each other since she was five years old. Her mother had been a teacher at a Hebrew school where his father was the principal. She was awarded a bachelor's degree in French from the University of Pennsylvania in 1951.
The couple spent some time living in HaZore'a, a kibbutz in Israel. Despite her interest in becoming a mechanic or driving a tractor, at the time of the Chomskys' stay in 1953 "the kibbutz wasn't quite ready for that. It was way before there were even words about women's rights" according to Judith Chomsky, wife of Noam Chomsky's younger brother.
She earned a doctoral degree in linguistics from Harvard University in 1968, having attended the school in order to ensure that she would be able to make a living in the event that her husband would be sent to jail for his active opposition to the Vietnam War.
Chomsky's best-known work is her book The Acquisition of Syntax in Children From 5 to 10 (1969) which investigated how children develop an understanding of the underlying grammatical structure of their native language and how they use this skill to interpret sentences of increasing complexity as they get older. Despite earlier scientific beliefs that children complete their acquisition of syntax by the age of five, Chomsky's research showed that children continue to develop the skills needed to understand complex constructions beyond that age.
As part of her research to understand how children develop the ability to read, she developed a method in the late 1970s called repeated reading, in which children would read a text silently while a recording of the text was played. The child would repeat the process until the text could be read fluently without the tape. Research showed that four readings accompanied by a recording could be enough to provide added reading fluency for most children. More than 100 studies have been performed on the technique, with most finding statistically significant improvements in reading speed and word recognition.
She served on the faculty of the Harvard Graduate School of Education from 1972 until 1997.
Chomsky died at age 78 on December 19, 2008 of cancer, in her home, in Lexington, Massachusetts.