George Starostin

External Professor

George Starostin is currently Chief Research Fellow at the Center for Comparative and Phylogenetic Studies of the Institute for Oriental and Classical Studies of the Higher School of Economics (Moscow). Much of his prior professional life, however, has been associated with the Russian State University for the Humanities (also in Moscow), where he received his Specialist degree in theoretical and applied linguistics (1997), defended his Candidate thesis in comparative Dravidian linguistics (2000), and has, up until 2018, worked in two different functions — as a professor of and researcher in Classical Chinese language and philology, and as a member of the Moscow School of Comparative-Historical Linguistics, which, for him, was as much a thrilling scientific challenge as a family tradition (George’s father, Sergei Starostin, from whom he inherited a passion for languages and linguistics, was one of the most prominent Russian historical linguists in his generation).

Since 2001, George has been an active participant (and later, one of the co-directors) of the Evolution of Human Languages project at the Santa Fe Institute, a global program whose ultimate goal is the construction of a general phylogeny for the world’s languages through both traditional and modern methods. Within that project, George’s chief area of responsibility is the linguistic situation on the African continent, whose fifteen hundred languages form a dazzlingly complex network, relations within which are still far from being well understood, especially on deep time levels. However, he has also published on Dravidian, Yeniseian, Sinitic, and even Elamite languages, as well as on general theoretical and methodological issues of modern comparative-historical linguistics. He is also the founder, chief contributor and editor of the Global Lexicostatistical Database (, a large repository of comparative data on the basic lexicon of the world’s languages that — hopefully! — might in time provide the main basis for that perfect linguistic phylogeny that consitutes the ultimate dream of the EHL team. Additionally, he also serves as managing editor for the Journal of Language Relationship (, a Moscow-based periodical on various issues of historical linguistics.

In his spare time, George prefers reading biographies and history books, playing obsolete adventure video games, watching old black-and-white movies and slowly writing up a general subjective history of the last 100 years of popular music at his Only Solitaire blog (