About the Institute

The ILS RAS, a leading linguistic research institution in Russia, is a subdivision of the History and Philology Department of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The Institute pursues fundamental, field and applied studies in:

  • Russian lexicology and lexicography; development, construction and publication of academic dictionaries including various types of modern standard Russian, historical and dialect Russian dictionaries.
  • Fundamental theory of linguistics; comparative, historical, areal, linguistic-geography and sociolinguistic studies in both Russian and other Indo-European, Altai, Paleo-Siberian and Samoyed languages; collection, publication and analysis of material on non-literate languages of the Far North, Siberia and the Far East regions of Russia or languages with only recently developed writing systems.
  • Theoretical grammar and linguistic typology issues (cross-linguistic).

Founded in September 1921 as The Institute for Japhetic Research (Japhetidology Institute), ILS RAS has seen a series of renaming, respectively, into: The Institute for Language and Thought (1931), The N. Ja. Marr Institute for Language and Thought (1934), The Leningrad Division of the Institute of Linguistics of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1955 – 1991), and, lastly, The Institute for Linguistic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (ILS RAS) since 1991. 

The ILS RAS is one of Russia’s leading think tanks in theoretical linguistics with a track record of over a century of fundamental research in: description of the languages of Russia’s numerous ethnic populations; grammar theory; linguistic typology; Indo-European comparative-historical studies; and development of fundamental multi-volume Russian dictionaries.

While in the mainstream of the international linguistic science, the Institute takes special care to continue the best Russian (and St. Petersburg) academic linguistic traditions. It facilitates essential lines of linguistic research in the country, participates in a range of international, federal and regional research programs/projects and provides free linguistic expertise and awareness services.

The ILS RAS is home for five major linguistic schools, each with decades-long tradition: The St. Petersburg School of Typology, The St. Petersburg School of Functional Grammar, The St. Petersburg School of Indo-European Comparative Studies, The St. Petersburg School of Northern (Arctic Social??) Studies, and The St. Petersburg School of Fundamental Academic Lexicography.

The Institute’s annual ‘production output’ is in the order of a dozen major academic publications such as fresh dictionary volumes, monographs and collected papers. The ILS RAS runs three linguistic journals listed with the RF Higher Attestation Commission: Acta Linguistica Petropolitana, Indo-European Linguistics and Classical Philology Yearbook, and Northern Russian Dialects, with the first two included in the Russian Science Citation Index and indexed by the SCOPUS bibliometric database.

The ILS RAS annually hosts up to ten international conferences. The annual international Indo-European Linguistics and Classical Philology Conference, held regularly for over a quarter of a century, is now one of the world’s most influential venues for classical linguists and experts in ancient Indo-European idioms. Another essential forum is The Conference on Typology and Grammar for Young Scholars called annually as of 2003 and well-known for its prominent role in training prospective Russian experts in language theory, linguistic typology and field language research.

The Institute’s most important publications since the 1920s include academic grammars of Chukchi, Koryak, Kerek, Itelmen and Eskimo. Other key publications include grammar and lexicology research in Tungus-Manchu, Aleut, Tuvin, Nenets, Khanty, Evenki and other languages. The ILS RAS is a repository of and processing center for century-old card-files and audio archives on these languages.

The Indo-European studies conducted by the Institute since the 1950s have spawned fundamental, now classical works on Germanic, Romanic and Indo-Iranian languages. Balkan studies stand out as a special strand of research with the ongoing publication of a multivolume Lexical Atlas of Balkan Languages.

The St. Petersburg School of Linguistic Typology, founded in 1961 by Prof. A. A. Kholodovich, has become Russia’s only linguistic typology school with world-wide recognition.

The Institute continues the XVIII-XIX century traditions of Russian academic lexicography. Its experts have published “Словарь современного русского литературного языка” (The Modern Standard Russian Dictionary) in 17 volumes and “Словарь русского языка” (The Russian Dictionary) in four volumes. Other ongoing publication projects include those of “Большой академический словарь русского языка” (The Large Academic Russian Dictionary) in 27 volumes; “Словарь русских народных говоров” (The Dictionary of Russian Sub-Dialects) with 52 volumes published to date; “Словарь русского языка XVIII века” (The Dictionary of the XVIII Century Russian) with 22 issues published; and a series of Russian neologism dictionaries, including the recent “Словарь русского языка коронавирусной эпохи” (A Russian Dictionary of the Coronavirus Era). The Institute also continues publication of another fundamental work, “Лексический атлас русских народных говоров” (A Lexical Atlas of Russian Subdialects).

For almost 20 years, the Institute has been providing free by-phone “Russian Language Services” in St. Petersburg. Its experts give lectures at St. Petersburg higher schools and libraries and provide expertise for the Russian speech standards, the Russian language history and the language policies of the Russian Federation.

For over a century, the Institute has been a mainstay in the implementation of state language policies and in the development of interethnic relations/inter-language communication.