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History of Russian Linguistics


Admission requirements

Students are expected to read Russian and to possess a basic knowledge of general linguistics and Russian history.


Linguistics is often said to deal with language as a universal human faculty. Nonetheless, scholarly reflection on language and linguistic inquiry strongly interact with society: on the one hand, societal developments determine the linguistic agenda to a greater extent than linguists are prepared to admit; on the other hand, linguistic reflection sometimes sets the agenda for changes in a society, especially through educational systems.
This is particularly true in the Eurasian area, where the Russian national language has been constructed out of a diglossia situation as a top-down process in a partly multi-lingual environment. Over the last few centuries, the development of society and its political upshots have produced agendas for linguistic inquiry and discourse on language, some of which have had an impact on the development of Russian and contingent languages and their social functions, as well as on the development of linguistics as a global discipline. Six such agendas can be pinpointed: (1) the Orthodox emancipation agenda (1600-1700), (2) the Russian nation building agenda (1700-present), (3) the scientific agenda (1860-present), (4) the Marxist agenda (1917-1989), (5) the Eurasian agenda (1920-1935), (6) the cybernetic agenda (1953-1975).
While it is impossible to deal with all these agendas in depth within this course, the implications of some of them for the development of language and linguistic inquiry will be discussed, wherever possible by examining original sources. Some of the linguistic problems encountered will be studied in detail, enabling comparison of the various approaches that have been suggested throughout the period under review.

Course objectives

After completing the course, the student should have acquired: an overall understanding of the development of reflection on language in Russia and possibly other East European countries between 1700 and 2000; an overall insight into the chronology of modern linguistic ideas; awareness of prevailing attitudes toward language and linguistic diversity in the Eurasian area; a detailed insight into the origins and development of a few classic topics of Russian, Slavic and general linguistics.



Mode of instruction

The course includes formal lectures and tutorial components, the specific mix depending on the number of students taking the course. Students are expected to prepare for each session by reading articles and book excerpts and to form an opinion on them, usually on the basis of set questions. They are also expected to give some oral presentations and to produce a term paper (about 10 pages) on a subject that is related to any of the topics discussed.

Course load

Total 280 hrs (10EC)
Class 26 hrs
Literature research 100 hrs
Assignments 30 hrs.
Research paper 124 hrs.

Assessment method

Participation in class, assignments and at least one presentation should be satisfactory. The final mark is determined by the term paper but may be marginally raised or lowered in view of the student’s performance in class.
The term paper can be retaken.


Not applicable

Reading list

Articles provided


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


For questions about the content of the course, you can contact the teacher:
Dr. W.A. van Helden

Coordinator of Studies: mw. drs. T. Bouma

Administrations Office: van Wijkplaats


Not applicable