Vladislav Illich-Svitych

Vladislav Illich-Svitych
Владислав Иллич-Свитыч
Vladislav Markovich Illich-Svitych

September 12, 1934
Kyiv, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union (now Ukraine)
DiedAugust 22, 1966(1966-08-22) (aged 31)
Shchyolkovo, Moscow Oblast, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union

Vladislav Markovich Illich-Svitych (Russian: Владисла́в Ма́ркович И́ллич-Сви́тыч, also transliterated as Illič-Svityč; September 12, 1934 – August 22, 1966) was a Soviet linguist and accentologist. He was a founding father of comparative Nostratic linguistics and the Moscow School of Comparative Linguistics.


Of Polish Jewish descent, Illich-Svitych was born in Kyiv. In 1941, he and his parents moved to Chkalov and later to Moscow. His father, Mark Vladislavovich Illich-Svitych (1886–1963), worked as a bookkeeper. His mother, Klara Moiseevna Desner (1901–1955), was chief director of puppet theater in Orenburg.

He resuscitated the long-forgotten Nostratic hypothesis, originally proposed by Holger Pedersen in 1903. While embarking on a field trip to collect data on the Hungarian dialects of the Carpathians, he died in an automobile accident on August 22, 1966, near Moscow.

His death prevented him from completing the Comparative Dictionary of Nostratic Languages, but the ambitious work was continued by his colleagues, including Sergei Starostin and Vladimir Dybo.

Illich-Svitych was buried at the Obraztsovskoye Cemetery in the Shchyolkovsky District of the Moscow Region. A phrase in the Nostratic language is engraved on his tombstone.

Selected publications

  • Nominal Accentuation in Baltic and Slavic, translated by R. L. Leed and R. F. Feldstein, Cambridge, London 1979: the MIT Press. (originally edited in Russian in 1963)

See also

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