Moscow Linguistic School

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Moscow Linguistic School


one of the main prerevolutionary Russian schools of linguistics; formed in the 1880’s and 1890’s by F. F. Fortunatov.

The Moscow linguistic school represented a new stage in the development of grammar theory and comparative-historical Indo-European linguistics, that is, the formal approach to the study of language structure. Linguists of the school made a distinction between real meanings, which refer to the thing designated, and formal meanings, which refer to language itself. They introduced a new concept that stated that the form of a word is divisible into a basic property and formal properties. The Moscow linguistic school developed a strict formal method of comparative-historical analysis, made a number of important discoveries in the comparative morphology of Indo-European languages, and developed a comparative semantics.

Fortunatov formulated the idea of the internal and external development of language, asserting that the development of language reflects the development of society. In his view, this idea determines the tasks and methodology of linguistics, since the comparative-historical method is based on the objective facts obtained from the study of a given language at different stages in its development. The Moscow linguistic school includes G. K. Ul’ianov, M. M. Pokrovskii, V. K. Porzhezinskii, A. I. Tomson, Ia. M. Endzelin, and D. N. Ushakov.


Chemodanov, N. S. Sravnitel’noe iazykoznanie v Rossii. Moscow, 1956.


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