Desnitskaya Agniya Vassilievna

    фото А. В. Десницкой
    23.08.1912 – 18.04.1992
    Dr. of Linguistics
    Director, ILS RAS

    A Soviet philologist, organizer of linguistic research, educator, D. was an expert in: General Linguistic, Comparative-Historical and Germanic Studies; history of linguistic research; Albanic Studies; problems of the Balkan Sprachbund; history and theory of individual groups of Indo-European languages; and in Albanian literature and folklore. She was the founder of the Soviet School of Albanic Studies, Dr. of Linguistics (1946), professor, Director of the Leningrad Department of the USSR AS Institute of Linguistics (1963-1976), a Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Sciences for the Department of Language and Literature (1964).

    On entering the Leningrad Herzen State Pedagogical Institute (1928), D. studied German Philology under Prof. V. Zhirmunsky and later continued as a postgraduate student at the Institute of Speech Culture (later renamed into the Leningrad Institute of Linguistic Research). Since then her activities were closely connected with the Institute of Linguistic Research where she first defended her Cand. of Sc. (Ph.D.) thesis Cheredovaniye glasnykh v germanskikh yazykakh (ablaut) [Vowel alternation in Germanic languages (ablaut)] (1935) and then obtained her Dr. of Linguistics degree for the dissertation entitled Razvitiye kategorii pryamogo dopolneniya v indoyevropeyskikh yazykakh [Evolvement of the direct-object category in Indo-European languages] (1946). In 1963 – 1976, D. worked as Director of the Leningrad Department of the USSR AS Institute of Linguistics, and since 1976 headed its Sector for Comparative and Historical Indo-European Studies and Areal Research. Simultaneously, D. devoted a lot of time and effort to teaching at higher education institutions in Leningrad – the Herzen State Pedagogical Institute, the Pedagogical Institute of Foreign Languages, and the State University. It was on her initiative that the University opened the Albanian Language and Literature Department (1957) where she read the key theoretical courses and gave practical lessons of Albanian.

    D. studied classical (Ancient Greek and Latin) languages, as well as Sanskrit, Slavic, Iranian, Celtic and Hittite languages under L. Shcherba, A. Barannikov, L. Yakubinsky and others; later she learnt Albanian all on her own. Her scientific interests were mostly focused on problems emerging at the intersection of disciplines such as language vs. ethnography, language vs. folklore, or language vs. literature. In linguistics per se, she mostly gravitated towards those national language dimensions that are specifically influenced by past social and historic development. Starting her scientific career as a Germanist, D. authored quite a few publications on Indo-European research, on the history of linguistics, on general linguistic issues, linguistic research methodologies and social linguistics. D. put forward an original theory of supradialectal speech form evolvement in clan/tribal societies. Building on Albanian evidence, she developed a model of written (literary) language evolvement from regional colloquial and poetic koine. Albanian and Balkan studies were specifically prominent in the range of her scientific interests, with the Albanian line increasingly growing to a separate lane of research. She focused on the Albanian’s pre-historic links, on its history and modernity. Her treatise Albanskiy yazyk i yego dialekty  [Albanian and its Dialects” (1968) was translated into Albanian and published in Yugoslavia in 1972. D.’s later works were specifically devoted to Balkan studies’ problems and to Albanian-Slavic and Albanian-Balkan-Roman ties. She developed a concept of Albanian Studies as an integrated philological discipline also covering Albanian folklore and fiction and authored Russia’s first sketch of the pre-XX century history of Albanian Literature (1987).

    Major writings
    • Albanskaya literatura i albanskiy yazyk [Albanian Literature and Language]. L., 1987, 293 p.
    • Albanskiy yazyk i yego dialekty  [Albanian and its Dialects]. L., 1968, 377 p.
    • Voprosy izucheniya rodstva indoyevropeyskikh yazykov [Studies into the Affinity of Indo-European Languages]. M.-L., 1955, 332 p.
    • Naddialektnyye formy ustnoy rechi i ikh rol v istorii yazyka [Supradialectal forms of oral speech and their role in language history]. L., 1970, 98 p.
    • Sravnitelnoye yazykoznaniye i istoriya yazykov [Comparative Linguistics and the History of Languages]. L., 1984, 350 p.
    • Cheredovaniye glasnykh v germanskikh yazykakh (ablaut)  [Vowel alternation in Germanic languages (ablaut)]. M.-L., 1937, 148 p.
    Publications on the biography and writings
    • Domashnev A. I. Agniya Vasilyevna Desnitskaya: (K 70-letiyu so dnya rozhdeniya) [Domashnev A. I. Agniya Vassilyevna Desnitskaya (To the 70th Birthday)] // Izvestiya AN SSSR, seriya lit-ry i yazyka, tom LX, 1982, p. 561-562.
    • Stepanov G. V. Rets. na knigu "Albanskiy yazyk i yego dialekty” [Stepanov G. V.  A review of the book “The Albanian Language and Dialects”] // Izvestiya AN SSSR, seriya lit-ry i yazyka, tom XXVIII, vyp. 4, 1969, p. 369-370.
    • Buchholz O. In memoriam Agnija V. Desnickaja // Zeitschrift für Balkanologie, Bd.29/2, c.118-121