Fortunatov, Filipp Fedorovich

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Fortunatov, Filipp Fedorovich


Born Jan. 2 (14), 1848, in Vologda; died Sept. 20 (Oct. 3), 1914, in Kosalma, in what is now Prionezhskii Raion, Karelian ASSR. Russian linguist, Indo-Europeanist, and Slavicist. Academician of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences (1898). Graduated from Moscow University (1868); professor there from 1884 to 1902.

Fortunatov was the founder of the Moscow linguistic school. Much of his work deals with the phonetics of the Indo-European languages. He emphasized the need for a strict historical approach in the study of phonetic changes. He also studied Sanskrit (Indo-European Liquid Consonants in Old Indie, 1896). In his master’s dissertation, The Samaveda Aranyaka-Samhita (1875), he studied a previously unknown Vedic text and examined the idea of the relationship of language to thought and society. In his series of lectures A Short Sketch of the Comparative Phonetics of the Indo-European Languages (published 1922), Lectures on Old Church Slavonic Phonetics (published 1919), and others devoted to Greek, Armenian, Gothic, and Lithuanian, he presented his view of language as a system.

Strictly differentiating synchrony and diachrony, Fortunatov at the same time as F. de Saussure substantiated the “formalization” of linguistic research and established a law of intonation-dependent stress shift in the Baltic and Slavic languages; this law, called the Fortunatov-Saussure law, was stated in On Stress and Length in the Baltic Languages (1895). Fortunatov discovered the existence of three nasal vowels in the Indo-European parent language and the nasal ȩ in Old Church Slavonic and Old Russian. Proceeding from a theory that regarded word forms as significant for linguistic inquiry, he constructed a special morphological classification of languages.

Fortunatov’s works on the Russian language had a great influence on subsequent research in that field. Fortunatov studied Slavic literary texts and Slavic alphabets (The Composition of the Ostromir Gospel, 1908; On the Origin of the Glagolitic Alphabet, 1913) and edited a series of Old Church Slavonic literary works. His students included A. A. Shakhmatov, D. N. Ushakov, V. K. Porzhezinskii, N. N. Durnovo, A. M. Peshkovskii, M. M. Po-krovskii, O. Brok, A. Belich, and N. van Wijk.


Izbr. trudy, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1956–57.


Shakhmatov, A. A. “F. F. Fortunatov” (obituary). Izv. imperatorskoi Akad. nauk, 1914, series 6, vol. 8, no. 14.
Porzhezinskii, V. K. “F. F. Fortunatov” (obituary). Zhurnal Ministerstva narodnogoprosveshcheniia, 1914, part 54, December.
Peterson, M. N. “Akademik F. F. Fortunatov.” Russkii iazyk v shkole, 1939, no. 3.
Peterson, M. N. “Fortunatov i Moskovskaia lingvisticheskaia shkola.” Uch. zap. MGU, 1946, issue 107.
Amirova, T. A., B. A. Ol’khovikov, and Iu. V. Rozhdestvenskii. Ocherkipo istorii lingvistiki. Moscow, 1975. Chapter 6.


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