The Sector of Comparative Linguistics

The Sector of Comparative Linguistics

The Sector of Comparative Linguistics of the IOCS is a research and teaching division whose faculty members are engaged in research on historical linguistics. The faculty of the Sector of Comparative Linguistics of the IOCS belong to the so-called Moscow School of Comparative Linguistics. This trend combines the traditional methods with research of both near and distant language relationship. It is aimed at the reconstruction of maximally ancient language stages.

The Sector was founded in 1999 by Dr. Sergei A. Starostin, a Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the leading specialist in diachronic linguistics, the author of a number of etymological dictionaries and one of the main ideologists of the Moscow School.

The research activities of the Sector include compiling computer data bases, dictionaries of various language phyla and etymological search engines. The field of study includes the Indo-European (Dr. V. Dybo, Dr. A. Dybo, Dr. Kassian, Dr. Armand), Altaic (Dr. A. Dybo, Dr. Mudrak), Dravidian (Dr. Starostin), Paleo-Asian (Dr. Mudrak), Sino-Tibetan (Dr. Starostin, Dr. Shapiro), various African (Dr. Starostin) and other language phyla, as well as the ancient genetic relationships between these phyla.

Thanks to the efforts of the Sector’s staff members the internet site “The Tower of Babel” ( has been created, which hosts continuously updated databases on the etymology of Altaic, Caucasian, Sino-Tibetan, Austro-Asiatic, Dravidian, Chukotko-Kamchatkan, Yeniseian, Khoisan and other languages, as well as publications of the staff members of the Sector and of their colleagues. The site enjoys popularity among the historical linguists as a useful reference and information system on the diachronic linguistics.

Since 2009 the Sector, jointly with the Institute of Linguistics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, publishes an international scientific periodical, the Journal of Language Relationship (Vestnik RGGU, the series “Philological Sciences”). The editorial board of the periodical includes the leading specialists in the comparative linguistics of many research institutions in Europe and the USA. Besides, the publications of the Sector regularly appear as a subseries of the IOCS’s monographs Orientalia et Classica, under the title Aspects of Comparative Linguistics.

The Sector’s faculty members occupy the key positions in the Russian-American project “Evolution of Human Languages,” hosted by The Santa Fe Institute (New Mexico, USA). The global aim of the project is the creation of a comprehensive genealogical classification of the languages of the world both on the recent and deep — and even super-deep — chronological levels, as well as the development of linguistic methodology which would enable a reliable reconstruction of the ancient language stages.

The Sector hosts the annual conference “The Problems of the Research on the Distant Language Relationships in memoriam S.A. Starostin (Starostin’s Readings).” The Sector regularly hosts the meetings of the Nostratic seminar in memoriam V.M. Illich-Svitych, the participants of which are faculty members and graduate students of the IOCS as well as representatives of research institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences, faculty of the Lomonosov Moscow State University and other universities.

Among the Sector’s activities is teaching and supervision of undergraduate and graduate students. The faculty of the Sector supervise the graduate students of the IOCS and of the Institute of Linguistics of RSUH majoring in the subjects 10.02.20 (“Comparative Historical Linguistics and Typological linguistics”) and 10.02.22 (“Languages of Asia, Africa and Latin America”). They also read special courses for graduate students. Since 2006, the Sector has opened the major “Turkic Philology” with the faculty members teaching a considerable part of the disciplines of the major. Besides, the faculty members teach such courses as “Linguistic Traditions of the Central Asia and Volga Region,” “Linguistic Traditions of Korea,” “Linguistic Geography” to the students of Oriental studies; they also teach courses in comparative historical linguistics at the School of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics of RSUH.



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