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Exercise Your Linguistic Creativity With This App Inspired by Chomsky


"Sleep Furiously" allows you to play with words to create perfect and absurd sentences.

“Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.” This beautiful sentence was created in 1957 by Noam Chomsky as an example of a grammatically correct construction, with a logical form but semantically nonsensical (or at least without an obvious meaning). With that he exemplified the difference between syntax and semantics. Now we can play with this joyful “linguistic possibility” with a new app for phones, appropriately called Sleep Furiously.

Chomsky has always been a firm defender of the neuralgic importance of the creativity of the speaking individual, the role of the imagination in creating sentences from the infinite combinations of grammatical elements. The app, created by brothers Justin and Jen Helms of Playmation Studios, explores the possibility that a sentence can be simultaneously grammatically correct and nonsensical. Or, as Lewis Carroll said, “nonsense makes sense.”

Perhaps something like the poetry of refrigerator magnets, Sleep Furiously is also an intuitive and above all creative way of showing off our handling of language. There are three ways of playing: one that is timed to test your ability to construct nonsense phrases under pressure; another in which it gives you a certain number of movements to form a sentence, and an “infinity mode” with which you can create grammatically correct sentences until you’ve had enough. In short, it’s a fascinating game for developing structured creativity.

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