Carol Doris Schatz was born in Philadelphia on July 1, 1930. She married Noam Chomsky, whom she had known since childhood, in 1949. In 1951, she earned a bachelor’s degree in French from the University of Pennsylvania.
In the 1960s, faced with the possibility that her husband would be jailed for his activities in opposition to the Vietnam War, Carol Chomsky resumed her education: a doctorate would be useful should she need to become the sole family breadwinner. Though that prospect did not materialize, she earned a Ph.D. in linguistics from Harvard in 1968.
Besides her husband, the Institute Professor and emeritus professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Professor Chomsky is survived by their three children, Aviva Chomsky, a professor of Latin American history at Salem State College in Salem, Mass.; Diane Chomsky of Mexico City; and Harry Chomsky, of Albany, Calif.; a brother, J. Leonard Schatz of Burlington, Mass.; and five grandchildren.
In a 2001 interview with The Pennsylvania Gazette, the alumni magazine of the University of Pennsylvania, Carol Chomsky contrasted her brand of linguistics — practical, experimental, hands-on — with her husband’s abstract, quasi-mathematical approach:
“It’s a very different sort of ‘linguistics’ from Noam’s pursuits,” she said. “I always have to laugh when people talk about how interesting our dinner-table conversation must be since we’re in the same field.”