In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Jan Baudouin de Courtenay

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Bibliographies
  • Conferences
  • Collections
  • Letters
  • General Linguistics
  • Phonetics and Phonology
  • Written Language
  • Child Language
  • Language Change
  • Slavic Languages
  • Applied Linguistics
  • Language and World View
  • “Nationality” Questions
  • The “Kazan’ School”

Linguistics Jan Baudouin de Courtenay
Joachim Mugdan
  • LAST REVIEWED: 13 September 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 May 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0276


Jan Baudouin de Courtenay, also known in Russian as Иван Александрович Бодуэн-де-Куртенэ (Ivan Aleksandrovič Boduėn-de-Kurtenė), was a Polish linguist. His family name is Baudouin de Courtenay, which can be shortened to Baudouin but is often erroneously indexed under C. Baudouin was a remarkably versatile scholar who taught general, historical-comparative, and Slavic linguistics and contributed to many subfields of the language sciences. Over the course of sixty years, he published a number of monographs and several hundred articles, mostly in Polish and Russian but also in German, French, Czech, and other languages. During his lifetime, he was highly respected internationally; after his death, he fell out of favor in Communist countries for ideological reasons, while he remained largely unknown in the West because of the language barrier and because many of his publications were difficult to find. Since the 1960s, interest in his work has gradually increased, and many of his writings have been republished, translated, and/or made available on the Internet. The literature about him has been growing too. Frequently, Baudouin is described as one of the founding fathers of structuralism or as a forerunner of certain modern theories. He was, however, an independent thinker who does not fit into any mold. This is also true of his political ideas, which he voiced in numerous pamphlets and articles. In particular, he defended the rights of all linguistic groups wherever he lived. Jan Baudouin de Courtenay was born in Radzymin near Warsaw on 13 March (1 March in the Julian calendar) 1845. He studied at the universities of Warsaw, Prague, Jena and Berlin and then obtained his doctorate in Leipzig. Since the Russian authorities did not allow him to teach in Warsaw, he went to Petersburg. In 1875, he defended his Russian doctoral dissertation (comparable to the German Habilitation) and became professor at the University of Kazan’. There, he cooperated closely with a number of colleagues and students, notably Mikołaj Kruszewski (b. 1851–d. 1887). From 1883 to 1893, he taught in Dorpat (Tartu) and subsequently in Krakow, which then had the only Polish-language university. For political reasons, his contract was not renewed, and he had to return to Russia. He was professor at the University of Petersburg from 1900 to 1914, when he was imprisoned and dismissed because he advocated minority rights, and from 1917 until July 1918, when he fled to Warsaw. He continued to work there until his death on 3 November 1929.

General Overviews

Decades after their publication, the monographs, Di Salvo 1975 (in Italian), Šaradzenidze 1980 (in Russian), and Mugdan 1984 (in German), still remain the major surveys of Baudouin’s work. Stankiewicz 1976 is an overview in English that is focused on portraying Baudouin as one of the founders of structuralism. All the publications cited in this section also contain biographical information, the most detailed biography being the one in Mugdan 1984 (pp. 9–45).

  • Di Salvo, Maria. 1975. Il pensiero linguistico di Jan Baudouin de Courtenay: Lingua nazionale e individuale, con un’ antologia di testi e und saggio inedito. Venezia, Italy: Marsilio.

    This book consists of three parts: (1) an introduction, which describes Baudouin’s work in linguistics in five chronological sections, (2) Italian translations of some of his texts, and (3) a bibliography.

  • Mugdan, Joachim. 1984. Jan Baudouin de Courtenay (1845–1929): Leben und Werk. München: Fink.

    A comprehensive study that describes Baudouin’s life and his work in various subfields of linguistics and addresses the major discussions concerning his place in the history of linguistics. In order to let Baudouin “speak for himself” (p. 2), it quotes extensively from a large number of his publications.

  • Šaradzenidze, Tinatin S. 1980. Lingvističeskaja teorija I. A. Boduėna de Kurtenė i ee mesto v jazykoznanii XIX–XX vekov. Moskva: Nauka.

    Shorter Russian version of a monograph in Georgian, I. A. Boduen de Kurtenes lingvisturi t’eoria da misi adgili XIX–XX sauk. enat’mec’nierebaši (T’bilisi, Georgia: Mec’niereba 1978); the five chapters deal with basic general principles, the essence of language, problems of descriptive linguistics (in particular, linguistic units), problems of historical linguistics, and the classification of languages.

  • Stankiewicz, Edward. 1976. Baudouin de Courtenay and the foundations of structural linguistics. Lisse, The Netherlands: Peter de Ridder.

    DOI: 10.1515/9783112420546

    Revised version of the introduction to Baudouin de Courtenay 1972 (cited under Collections).

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