Senior Researcher, Section of Comparative Linguistics
Alexander Barulin was born on the 17th of November 1944 in Nizhny Novgorod to a family of a navy. He went to primary school № 36 in Nizhny Novgorod. In 1956, he entered Nakhimov Navy School in Saint-Petersburg that he finished in 1963. Later, he studied at F. E. Dzerzhinsky Higher Naval Engineering School of Lenin Order for less than a year.
In 1965, Barulin entered the Division of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics at the Faculty of Philology of Moscow State University. During his university years he was already involved in fieldwork led by Alexander Kibrik and aimed at studying USSR languages with no writing systems (1967 – Lak, 1969 – Shughni (Debasta Village in Kuhistani Badakhshan Autonomous Region, near the town of Khorugh in Tajikistan), 1970-1971 – khinalug (Khinaug Village in north-eastern Caucasus, Azerbaijan)). In 1971, Barulin presented his diploma thesis "Semantika mestoimenij i pokazatelej orientacii dviženija v xinalugskom jazyke" [Semantics of Pronouns and Direction Markers in the Khinalug Language]. The material he gathered while working on it was the basis for corresponding sections in A. Kibrik's book "Polevaja lingvistika" [Field Linguistics], as well as A. Kibrik and Sandro Kondzasov's book "Fragmenty grammatiki xinalugskogo jazyka" [Fragments of Khinalug Grammar]. A specialist in Caucasian languages Georgy Klimov, PhD, Dr.habil., who was the official opponent during Barulin's thesis defence, evaluated the work very highly. After that Barulin continued working in the Division of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics at the Faculty of Philology of Moscow State University. During his senior year he published his first work – highlights from two student conference reports on the Khinalug expeditions. Among Barulin's fellows at the faculty were Pavel Lungin, Olga Kazakevich, Valery Demyankov, Elena Razlogova, Natalia Bokadorova (Kazarnovskaya), Irina Muravyeva, Tatiana Kobzareva, Tatiana Kryuchkova and other important cultural and scientific figures to be.
After finishing university Barulin participated in more expeditions to Alyutors (1971, 1972, 1978 – the village of Vyvenka in northern Kamchatka), Aguls and Lezgins (1974) in Caucasus Mountains. During the first field trip he meets Igor Melchuk and starts his research into Melchuk's and Alexander Zholkovsky's theory "Meaning <==> Text" that deals with interpreting information in such morphologically complex languages as Alyutor, Khinalug and German. Afterwards, Barulin devises a model of synthesis of Alyutor heteroclitic pronominal nouns (1978, supervised by Igor Melchuk) and commences a more in-depth study of theoretical morphological problems within the framework of the "Meaning <==> Text" theory.
In January of 1973, Alexander Barulin was enrolled on postgraduate studies at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the USSR Academy of Sciences and graduated in December of 1975. During his postgraduate studies he was learning Turkish. He wrote three consecutive PhD theses: “Problemy semantiki mestoimenij v jazykax raznyx sistem” [Problems of Pronoun Semantics in Languages of Different Systems] (1975), “Teoretičeskie problemy lingvistiki” [Theoretical Problems in Linguistics] (1980) and “Teoretičeskie problemy opisanija tureckoj imennoj slovoformy” [Theoretical Problems of Describing the Turkish Nominal Wordform] (1984). The first one was not accepted for the defence because of Barulin's references to his teacher Igor Melchuk, who at the time was a Senior Researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the USSR Academy of Sciences, the most important linguistic theorist in the country, a specialist in machine translation. However, Melchuk was a persona non-grata in the USSR because of his letters to the New York Times in defence of Andrei Sakharov. The second thesis was accepted by the orientalist department of Nauka Publishing to be issued as a book, but was recalled post-editing for the abovementioned reasons. Barulin got to present his third thesis in January of 1985.
After his postgraduate studies he had worked at the Institute of Oriental Studies for 12 years. He moved from his initial research topic "semantics of Khinalug pronouns" onto typological problems in pronominal meanings (Barulin, 1980a, b, c), then onto intensional semantics of interrogative and indefinite pronouns (Barulin, 1973, 1977, 1980a). He concluded that there was a need for further research referential semantics (Barulin, 1978) and for a deeper understanding of the idea of the structure of linguistic signs (Barulin, 1994). This problem was adjacent to that of part-of-speech typology. As a result of his research, Barulin devised a formal apparatus to reflect intensional and referential components of language signs based on Gottlob Frege's works on semantics (Barulin, 1990, 1996), as well as developed the semiotic theory of language signs in general. From typological studies of pronoun semantics Barulin moved on to study the theoretical basis of Turkish morphology within the "Meaning <==> Text" framework (Barulin, 1977, 1979, 1980d, e, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987 with Andrei Kononov, 1988a). The Turkish language forces him to retract from Melchuk and Zholkovsky's classical theoretical postulates, and he devises his own conception of an integral language model. His own conception includes word-formation and proposes the idea of a morphemic apparatus for describing the inner syntax of a wordform in addition to lexical syntax. (Barulin, 1980d, e, 1983, 1988 with Alexandra Aykhenvald).
In 1975, Barulin, backed up by Igor Melchuk, organised a weekly inter-institute seminar on theoretical linguistics, similar to the Moscow linguistic club of the 1920s. Igor Melchuk was the first one to present during this seminar. Later on it united older and younger linguists: Elena Paducheva, Sergei Starostin, Isaak Kozinsky, Evgeny Helimski, Grigory Kreydlin, Natalia Sokolovskaya, Anna Polivanova, Nikolay Pertsov, Natalia Pertsova, Elena Savvina, Elena Ionesyan, Elena Uryson, Olga Boguslavskaia, Igor Boguslavsky, Irina Muravyeva, Elena Ustinova, Aleksei Golovastikov, Sergei Krylov, Ilya Shatunovksy, Nadezhda Brakker, Mikhail Homyakov, Valery Borschev, Lidia Knorrina, Alexandra Aykhenvald, Maria Polinskaia, Maria Kopchevskaia etc. The seminar's activity was going on until 1980, after that it was moved to the apartment of Isaak Kozinsky, a prominent typologist, and later on – to Sergei Krylov's, where it continued to exist for six more years.
In 1978, Barulin, supported by the full member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the director of the Institute of Oriental Studies Evgeny Primakov, organised a field trip to search for Ayin native speakers on the Island of Sakhalin. After a long and unsuccessful search the participants, Vladimir Alpatov, Alexander Barulin, Ilya Peiros and Sergei Starostin, concentrated their efforts on composing a one-hundred-word Swadesh list for the Shmidt dialect of Nivkh, as well as making a one-hundred-word comparative list of Korean dialects on Sakhalin. The work remained a manuscript, for the Institute's koreanists led by Leonid Nikolsky deemed it irrelevant.
Barulin's interest for describing the semantics and typology of numeral expressions is a result of his Sakhalin field trip, increased by Igor Melchuk's works on describing the syntax of numeral expressions. Barulin devises a universal semantic metalanguage to transition from a unary numeral system (descriptions of numeral expressions after Giuseppe Peano) to numeral systems specific to each language (Barulin, 1983, 1996). He uses the instruments for describing recursive function to achieve that.
In the late 1970s, Barulin meets a prominent paremiologist Grigory Permyakov and participates in solving paremiological problems, such as describing the semantics of proverbs (Barulin, 1984, 1994).
In 1984, he participates in gathering information on the Bru language in Vietnam.
In 1985, he first collaborated with Alexandra Aykhenvald to create a model for the synthesis of nominal wordforms in Hebrew. They finish working on it in 1986, when Vyacheslav Ivanov invites all famous Hebrew specialists headed by Andrei Zaliznyak, a full member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Unfortunately, Alexandra Aykhenvald departs to Brasil and later on to Australia for permanent residence. The results of their work are reflected only in a brief article published in the Florianopolis, a Brazilian linguistics journal (Aykhenvald, Barulin, 1989).
In the 1980s, Barulin prepares his concept of typological descriptions. It is rooted in the systemic principle of typological data mapping and the causal relationship between the pieces of data. In his opinion, every typological description has to be rooted in a syntactical (constructive) morpheme classification. The grammar of any given language initially depends on what kinds of morphemes exist in the language: stems only; stems and clitics; or stems, clitics and affixes. These are the principles that the novel description of Turkish morphology in Barulin's thesis is based on. It mostly consists of a formal classification of Turkish morphemes. It also features the rules of building morphs of grammatical and phonetic words and grammatical units, relevant for Turkish morphology and new to Turkish language descriptions – stem-clitic grammatical words. Introducing these units helped to solve all known difficulties of grammatical interpretation of Turkish facts. Particularly, it became possible to refute the claim that Turkish conjugation paradigms have more than a million wordforms. The so-called "undefined" (without particular grammatical markers) words also get a completely new interpretation in the thesis. Barulin also gradually introduces the idea of morphological and syntactic description of a wordform's structure. Using this unique language as a base, it became possible to suggest ways of resolving the difficulties of defining the notion of a grammatical category, first introduced by Franz Boas, Roman Jakobson, Igor Melchuk and Andrei Zaliznyak.
In May of 1988, Alexander Barulin left the Academy to work as the head of the Department of Russian at the Moscow State Institute for History and Archives, which was transformed into Russian State University for the Humanities in 1991. The main reason for his change was the creation of a new platform for students of linguistics that would follow the tradition of the Division of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, closed at the time, apparently, forever. Alexander Barulin never lost touch with it, so he consulted its founding fathers Vladimir Zvegintsev, Vladimir Uspensky, Vyacheslav Ivanov, Yuri Apresyan. After he took the position, the Department immediately changed its name into the Department of the Russian Language and Applied Linguistics.
That same year Barulin initiated the revival of traditional Olympiads for school students in mathematics and linguistics, which initially appeared in 1965 in the Division of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics at Moscow State University and then stopped in 1982 when the Division was merged with the Department of General and Comparative Linguistics. Alfred Zhurinsky, one of the authors of the initial idea of such Olympiads, his wife Elena Muravenko and the authors of most tasks Yakov Testelets, Vladimir Alpatov and Vladimir Plungian helped Barulin at organising the revived event. Since then and to this day, the Olympiad has been held in collaboration with the Division.
That same year Alexander Barulin organised a linguistic club for the school students that participated in the Olympiad. Among the club members were then university students to be, now prominent scholars Olga Lyachevskaia, Tatiana Zhdanova, Valentin Gusev, Ilya Itkin, Ilya Yakubovich, Mikhail Daniel, Georgy Starostin, Elena Kalinina etc. Barulin was not the only one to hold lectures there. He was accompanied by prominent specialists in their fields: Grigory Tkachenko, sinologist; Alexander Mescheryakov, japanologist; Mikhail Seleznyov, biblical scholar; Andrej A. Kibrik, Vladimir Plungian, specialising in African studies; Sergei Kullanda, specialised in Indian and Indonesian languages and history etc.
In the spring of 1990, Barulin was recommended by Igor Melchuk to give several lectures as a guest at the University of Stockholm and the University of Uppsala on the topic of describing word stems in languages of different systems.
In June of 1990, he organised a research field trip supported by Prof. Yuri Afanasiev, rector at the Moscow State Institute for History and Archives, and dedicated to studying the Korval dialect of the Veps language.
In 1991, at Russian State University for the Humanities, which was newly created at the time, he (together with Viktor Finn and Delir Lakhuti) initiated the creation of the Faculty of Informatics. That same year the Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics was organised there as per his project. He was appointed Head of the Department.
In 1992, he initiated the organisation of a Faculty of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics and was appointed dean and Head of the Department. The backbone of the faculty consisted of several former members of his chamber comparative studies seminar: Aron Dolgopolsky, Vladimir Dybo, Grigory Kreydlin, Sergei Starostin, Irina Muravyeva, Elena Ustinova, Nikolai Pertsov, Elena Savvina, Anna Polivanova, Evgeny Helimski etc.
In 1993, Barulin was appointed Professor an the Russian branch of the International Academy of Sciences San Marino. It was motivated by his article in the "Sovietisch Heymland" journal, written in collaboration with Alexandra Aykhenvald. The article talks about linguistic experiments that peaked in 1889, when Ben-Yehuda published his article on the movement for the restoration of Hebrew as a spoken language, the year when Frege presented his artificial language of pure thought, and when several literary languages were created.
In July-August 1994, Barulin organised and took charge of a field trip to the Verkhneimbatski Village in Krasnoyarski Krai to study the Ket language.
In 1995, he was invited to give lectures on literary semiotics ("Slovo o polku Igoreve" [The Tale of Igor's Campaign], Zhukovski, Pushkin, Griboedov) and on field linguistics at the Universities of Bologna and Salerno, Italy.
In 1996, he organised a field trip to study the Crimean Tatar language in Taman. That same year he was invited as an expert to the State Duma, and at the same time to the XIII Directorate of the European Council. He was also elected chairman of the Educational and Methodological Association of the specialisation No 021800 “Theoretical and Applied Linguistics”, and the faculty headed by Barulin became the main one where this specialisation was taught. In addition, in the same year, together with the rector of Moscow State Linguistic University, Prof. Khaleeva, he managed to convince the leadership of the Ministry of Education of the need to separate the specialisation "Linguistics" into two: "Foreign Languages and Intercultural Communication" and "Theoretical and Applied Linguistics". This process took three years.
In 1996 and 1997, Barulin was invited to Germany, Greece, and then to Italy to examine EU programs in applied linguistics. In 1997, under his leadership and with his participation, the first standard of the specialisation No 021800 “Theoretical and Applied Linguistics” was created in co-authorship with Irina Muravyeva and Eleva Savvina.
At the same time, Barulin begins to cooperate with the Institute of Forensic Expertise. He writes several expert reports, including one on the claim of Anatoly Chubais to the TV commentator Sergei Dorenko. Later on he is invited for a forensic examination of the case in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
From 1997 to 2000 Barulin was a member of a group of experts at the Open Society Institute (Open Society Foundations).
In Russian State University for the Humanities Barulin teaches several courses: "Introduction to Linguistics and Semiotics", "Morphology" and "Semiotics". Not only does he do it at his own Faculty of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, he teaches semiotics at all faculties, each of which has its own curriculum. Developing semiotics curricula pushes him to becoming interested in its fundamental theoretical problems: sign theory, communicative act theory, model theory. While devising an e-course on semiotics in 1997, he starts dealing with the origin of language as well.
In the spring of 1999 the Academic Council at RSUH unanimously re-elects Barulin as the Faculty's dean and head of the Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics for another five years. In September he is appointed head of the commission that develops a new State Standard for the specialisation 0211800 "Theoretical and Applied Linguistics".
In November of the same year, being falsely accused (proven in court) by the rector Prof. Yuri Afanasiev and the provost Prof. Natalia Basovskaya of degrading methodical processes at the Faculty, the Academic Council of the University almost unanimously removed Barulin from the post during a session that looked similar to the Soviet Great Purge of 1937.
In 2000, he left RSUH and was invited by Sergei Kuznetsov, Head of the Department of General and Comparative Linguistics, to join the Faculty of Philology of Moscow State University, where he worked as an associate professor for five years. In 2002, on the recommendation of the full member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Yury Stepanov, Unilever, a large transnational company, signed a contract with Barulin to write a small monograph on the use of semiotics in advertising. The monograph was marked for official use and is kept in the company's library. In the same year Barulin published the first two volumes of the planned six volumes of the monograph "Osnovanija semiotiki" [Foundations of Semiotics] with a grant from the Russian Foundation for Basic Research. The afterword to the book was written by Yury Stepanov. In 2003, on the recommendation of Yury Stepanov, Barulin took part in the project of Prof. Igor Chubais aimed to create a comprehensive course for higher education institutions "Russian Studies" and a new course for secondary school "Fatherland Studies". In 2004, an experimental textbook for schools was published, in which Barulin wrote the section "Russian Language".
In 2004, Barulin leaves MSU for ABBYY on his own will because the Head of the Department is changed. At the same time he keeps doing scientific work and concentrates on three main research topics: the theoretical basis of semiotics, the origins of language and text analysis ("Slovo o polku Igoreve" [The Tale of Igor's Campaign], "Gorje ot uma" [Woe from Wit] by Alexander Griboyedov, Pushkin's theatre plays). In 2005 he publishes his research into The Tale of Igor's Campaign, in 2004-2008 he publishes three articles on glottogenesis.
From February of 2012 he has been working ex officio at the Institute of Linguistics at the Russian Academy of Sciences as a Senior Researcher. He has been heading the group "Glottogenesis Semiotics" and has been the leader and organiser of an interdisciplinary seminar on the origins of language.
Alexander Barulin wrote more than a hundred scientific papers, he was the academic supervisor of three PhD theses. He obtained three grants from the Open Society Institute (the Soros Grant) and one grant from the Russian Foundation for Basic Research.
Alexander Barulin died on July 24, 2021.