Baudouin de Courtenay, Ivan Aleksandrovich

Baudouin de Courtenay, Ivan Aleksandrovich


Born Mar. 1 (13), 1845, in Radzymin; died Nov. 3, 1929, in Warsaw. Russo-Polish linguist. Corresponding member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences (1897).

Baudouin de Courtenay was one of the most prominent representatives of general and Slavic historical and comparative linguistics. He was the founder of the so-called Kazan, later the St. Petersburg, linguistic school. He was a professor at the universities of Kazan (1875–83), Iur’ev (today Tartu; 1883–93), Kraków (1893–99), and St. Petersburg (1900–18). He lived in Warsaw during the last years of his life. Baudouin de Courtenay’s main contribution was the theory of phonemes and phonetic alternations. He found that “the physical nature of sounds does not coincide with their meaning in the mechanism of language as far as the people’s feeling is concerned.” This has led to a differentiation of the physical element of language, “speech sounds,” from the main linguistic unit, the phoneme. In the 20th century Baudouin de Courtenay’s fundamental theoretical concepts had a decisive influence on the development of phonetics and through it on general linguistics. This influence was first manifested in the works of L. V. Shcherba (from 1909) and, much later (from 1929), in Western scholarship in the works of the Prague school (N. S. Trubetskoi and R. O. Jakobson) partly as a result of the agreement of the views of Baudouin de Courtenay with those of F. de Saussure (Course of General Linguistics, 1916). Baudouin de Courtenay recommended that wide use be made of comparisons of genetically unrelated languages on the grounds that it would help to uncover the regularities of their development that they most share. Sharply differentiating but not separating the evolutive and static study of languages, Baudouin de Courtenay regarded individual languages as historically changing systems. He analyzed the concept of the “kinship of languages” and produced a survey of the Slavic languages that is still of scholarly value. He has to his credit valuable studies on the Russian and Polish languages. He edited and supplemented the Explanatory Dictionary of the Living Great Russian Language of V. I. Dal’ (3rd ed., 1903–09; 4th ed., 1912–14).


Izbrannye trudy po obshchemu iazykoznaniiu, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1963.


I. A. Boduen de Kurtene, 1845–1929 (On the 30th anniversary of his death). Moscow, 1960. (Contains a complete bibliography.)
Shcherba, L. V. “I. A. Boduen de Kurtene” [obituary]. Izv. po russkomu iazyku i slovesnosti AN SSSR, 1930, vol. 3, book 1.
Bogoroditskii, V. A. “Kazanskaia lingvisticheskaia shkola.” Tr. Moskovskogo in-ta filosofii, literatury i istorii, 1939, vol. 5.
Shtiber, Z. “Teoriia fonem I. A. Boduena de Kurtene v sovremennom iazykoznanii.” Voprosy iazykoznaniia, 1955, no. 4.
Leont’ev, A. A. “Obshchelingvisticheskie vzgliady I. A. Boduena de Kurtene.” Ibid., 1959, no. 6.
Jakobson, R. “Kazańska szkoła polskiej lingwistyki i jej meijsce w światowym rozwoju fonologii.” Biuletyn polskiego towarzystwa jezykoznawczego, 1960, issue 19.
Ułaszyn, H. J. Baudouin de Courtenay: Charakterystyka ogólna uczonego i cztowieka (1845–1929). Poznań, 1934.