Sergei Starostin

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Sergei Anatolyevich Starostin
Сергей Анатольевич Старостин.jpg
Starostin at the conference in memory of V. M. Illich-Svitych on October 21–23, 2004.
Born(1953-03-24)March 24, 1953
DiedSeptember 30, 2005(2005-09-30) (aged 52)
Moscow, Russia
Academic background
InfluencesAharon Dolgopolsky, Vladislav Illich-Svitych, Andrey Zaliznyak, Vladimir Dybo, Sergei Yakhontov
Academic work
School or traditionMoscow school, historical linguistics
Main interestslong-range language reconstruction (especially Nostratic and Dené–Caucasian), glottochronology, accentology (especially Indo-European)
Notable ideasDené–Caucasian hypothesis, reconstruction of Proto-Altaic, Proto-North-Caucasian, Proto-Yeniseian, Proto-Tibeto-Burman, Proto-Kiranti, reconstruction of Old Chinese and Proto-Japanese, advancement of "recalibrated glottochronology"
InfluencedMerritt Ruhlen, John Bengtson

Sergei Anatolyevich Starostin (Russian: Серге́й Анато́льевич Ста́ростин; March 24, 1953 – September 30, 2005)[1] was a Russian historical linguist and philologist, perhaps best known for his reconstructions of hypothetical proto-languages, including his work on the controversial Altaic theory, the formulation of the Dené–Caucasian hypothesis, and the proposal of a Borean language of still earlier date. He was also the author of a widely respected reconstruction of Old Chinese.


In 1986, Starostin and Igor M. Diakonoff suggested that the Hurro-Urartian languages belong to the Northeast Caucasian language family. Starostin was also instrumental in the reconstruction of Proto-Kiranti, Proto-Tibeto-Burman, Proto-Yeniseian, Proto-North-Caucasian, and Proto-Altaic. He developed the theory, originated by Abu al-Ghazi Bahadur Khan in the 17th century, but really revived by Gustaf John Ramstedt in the early 20th century, that Japanese is an Altaic language.[citation needed]

The Dené–Caucasian hypothesis proposes that Northwest Caucasian, Northeast Caucasian, Yeniseian, Sino-Tibetan, and Na-Dené form a single, higher-order language family. According to Starostin, the Dené–Caucasian and Austric macrofamilies, together with the Nostratic macrofamily (as envisaged by Vladislav Illich-Svitych, with some modifications), can further be linked at an earlier stage, which Starostin called the Borean (i.e. 'Northern') languages.

Evolution of Human Languages project[edit]

Since 1985, Starostin had been developing STARLING[2] a linguist's workplace software. He was assisted in his work[3] by Murray Gell-Mann, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist.[4] At the time of his death, he was a professor at the Russian State University for the Humanities, a visiting professor at the Santa Fe Institute, and a frequent guest lecturer at Leiden University in the Netherlands, where he was awarded the degree of Doctor honoris causa in June 2005.

Starostin died of a heart attack on September 30, 2005 in Moscow after a lecture at the Russian State University for the Humanities. His son, Georgiy Starostin, is also a linguist.

Selected works[edit]

  • 1986. Co-authored with Igor M. Diakonoff. Hurro-Urartian as an Eastern Caucasian Language. Munich: R. Kitzinger.
  • 1991. Altajskaja problema i proisxoždenie japonskogo jazyka, 'The Altaic Problem and the Origin of the Japanese Language'. Moscow: Nauka.
  • 1995. "The historical position of Bai".[5] Moskovskij Lingvisticheskij Zhurnal 1, 174-190. Moscow.
  • 2003. Co-authored with Anna V. Dybo and Oleg A. Mudrak. An Etymological Dictionary of the Altaic Languages, 3 volumes. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 9004131531.
  • 2005. Co-authored with Svetlana Burlak "Comparative linguistics". ISBN 5-7695-1445-0.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Tower of Babel". 2005-09-30. Retrieved 2012-08-07.
  2. ^ "The Tower of Babel". Retrieved 2012-08-07.
  3. ^ ""Sergei Starostin and I established the Evolution of Human Languages project" - Поиск в Google". Retrieved 2012-08-07.
  4. ^ "Evolution of Human Languages". Retrieved 2012-11-27.
  5. ^ "The Historical Position of Bai" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-10-12. Retrieved 2012-11-27.


External links[edit]

  • The Tower of Babel, a large linguistics database built largely by Sergei and George Starostin