Matasović was born and raised in Zagreb where he attended primary and secondary school. At the Faculty of philosophy at the University of Zagreb he graduated linguistics and philosophy, receiving M.A. in linguistics in 1992 and Ph.D. in 1995 under the supervision of Radoslav Katičić with the thesis A Theory of Textual Reconstruction in Indo-European Linguistics. He received research fellowships at the University of Vienna (1993) and University of Oxford (1995), a post-doctoral Fulbright Fellowship at the University of Wisconsin during 1997/1998 (with Andrew Sihler as an advisor), and also an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation fellowship at the University of Bonn in 2002/2003.
He currently holds a chair at the Department of Linguistics at the Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb, where he teaches courses on comparative Indo-European grammar, Celtic studies and language typology. His research interest include comparative Indo-European grammar (especially of Celtic and Balto-Slavic languages), language typology and syntax, and Latin, Celtic and Hittite philology. He has contributed to the Indo-European Etymological Dictionary project organized by Leiden University with his Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic.
In 2002 he received an award of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts for a lasting contribution to philology. In 2006 he became an associate member of the same institution, and was promoted into a full member in 2012.
- Harfa sa sjevera. Iz irske književnosti (Antibarbarus, Zagreb 1995) ISBN 953-6160-25-0
- A Theory of Textual Reconstruction in Indo-European Linguistics (Frankfurt a/M & New York 1996) ISBN 3-631-49751-2
- Kratka poredbenopovijesna gramatika latinskoga jezika (Matica hrvatska, Zagreb 1997) ISBN 953-150-105-X
- Kultura i književnost Hetita (Matica hrvatska, Zagreb 2000) ISBN 953-15-0548-9
- Uvod u poredbenu lingvistiku (Matica hrvatska, Zagreb 2001) ISBN 953-150-612-4
- Kamen kraljeva. Srednjovjekovne irske sage (Ex Libris, Zagreb 2004) ISBN 953-6310-35-X
- Gender in Indo-European (Universitätsverlag Winter, Heidelberg 2004) ISBN 3-8253-1666-1
- Jezična raznolikost svijeta (Algoritam, Zagreb 2005) ISBN 953-220-355-9
- Poredbenopovijesna gramatika hrvatskoga jezika, (Matica hrvatska, Zagreb, 2008.) ISBN 978-953-150-840-7
- Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic, (Brill, Leiden & Boston, 2009) ISBN 978-90-04-17336-1
- Slavic Nominal Word-Formation. Proto-Indo-European Origins and Historical Development, (Universitätsverlag Winter, Heidelberg 2014) ISBN 978-3-8253-6335-2
He published more than 100 papers in Croatian and foreign-language journals, and translated various works from Latin, Ancient Greek, Lithuanian, Hittite, Old and modern Irish, Welsh and English.
- "Akademik Ranko Matasović". Info.hazu.hr. Retrieved 2014-12-23.
- Personal web page of Ranko Matasović
- (Croatian) A Conversation with R. Matasović, Vijenac, November 6, 2008