Evgenii Dmitrievich Polivanov

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Polivanov, Evgenii Dmitrievich


Born Feb. 28 (Mar. 12), 1891, in Smolensk; died Jan. 25, 1938. Soviet Orientalist, linguist, and specialist in literature. Member of the CPSU from 1919.

In 1912, Polivanov graduated from both the University of St. Petersburg, where he studied under I. A. Baudouin de Cour-tenay and L. V. Shcherba, and the Oriental Practical Academy, where he studied in the Japanese division. He became head of the department of Oriental countries in the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs in 1917 and a professor at the University of Petrograd in 1919. In 1921 he worked in the Comintern. Until 1926 he was a professor at the Middle Asian University in Tashkent. From 1926 to 1929 he worked in Moscow at the Russian Association of Social Science Research Institutes, the Institute of Language and Thought, and various linguistic institutions. He became a professor at the Uzbek State Scientific Research Institute in Samarkand in 1929 and in Tashkent in 1930. In 1934 he became a professor at the Kirghiz Institute of Cultural Construction in Frunze.

Polivanov’s major works are on the Japanese, Chinese, Uzbek, and Dungan languages and on general linguistics. His works include Introduction to Linguistics for Higher Educational Institutions in Oriental Studies (1928), A Grammar of Modern Chinese (1930, with A. I. Ivanov), A Grammar of Spoken Japanese (1930, with O. V. Pletner), and For Marxist Linguistics (1931). In 1928 and 1929 he came out against N. Ia. Marr’s “new studies of language.” Polivanov was one of the founders of historical phonology and the creator of an original theory of language evolution. His system for transliterating Japanese into Russian is the system now in general use. Polivanov was the first to develop a linguistic framework and methodological guidelines for teaching Russian to non-Russians; his works in this area include Russian Grammar in Comparison With the Uzbek Language (1933) and An Attempt at Methods of Teaching Russian (1935; 3rd ed., 1968). He significantly aided in the creation of writing systems, textbooks, and educational aids for new written languages.

Together with L. P. Iakubinskii, Polivanov was one of the founders and members of the Society for the Study of Poetic Language. He wrote a number of works on general questions of linguistic poetics and the poetics of Turkic, Chinese, and Japanese literatures. He studied folklore, including the Kirghiz epic Manas, and investigated the theory of the migration of plots.


Stat’i po obshchemu iazykoznaniiu. Moscow, 1968.
“Foneticheskie konvergentsii.” Voprosy iazykoznaniia, 1957, no. 3.
“Obshchii foneticheskii printsip vsiakoi poeticheskoi tekhniki.” Voprosy iazykoznaniia, 1963, no. 1.


Ivanov, Viach. V. “Lingvisticheskie vzgliady E. D. Polivanova.” Voprosy iazykoznaniia, 1957, no. 3.
Leont’ev, A. A. “I. A. Boduen de Kurtene i peterburgskaia shkola russkoi lingvistiki.” Voprosy iazykoznaniia, 1961, no. 4.
Leont’ev, A. A. “E. D. Polivanov i obuchenie russkomu iazyku v natsional’noi shkole.” Russkii iazyk v natsional’noi shkole, 1966, no. 2.
“Materialy konferentsii.” In the collection Aktual’nye voprosy sovremen-nogo iazykoznaniia i lingvisticheskoe nasledie E. D. Polivanova, vol. 1. Samarkand, 1964.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.