Founded in Nanjing in 1927, Academia Sinica successively established ten research institutes in Beijing and Shanghai before the anti-Japanese war. Institute of History and Philology (IHP) was one of these earliest research institutes and its 2nd division, known the predecessor of ILAS, was established by the eminent Chinese linguist Yuen-Ren Chao. At the time, ILAS’ name was the “Linguistic Division, Institute of History and Philology” with two primary research directions, including literature textural research and dialect surveys.
From 1927 to 1994, linguistics had undergone significant changes and development during these 67 years. Western linguistics had, from philosophical discourse and historical linguistic comparison, developed an anthropological style of field research to study human languages without words. Apart from studying the evolution of languages, the new approach was interdisciplinarily combined with psychology to study language behaviors; cognitive science to study the physiological mechanism and foundation of languages; and information science to promote the development of speech technology. Since then, linguistics has moved from humanities studies to a new and wide aspect combined with social science, behavioral science, cognitive science and information science. During this period, Chinese linguistics also evolved from emphasizing on historical literature textural research and dialect (field) surveys to combining with the research methods of western linguistics and connecting to theoretical research. The 2nd division of IHP therefore proposed the plan of establishing Institute of Linguistics. After three years of effort, its proposal of establishing “Preparatory Office of Institute of Linguistics, Academia Sinica (ILAS)” was approved by Presidential Office on August 13, 1997; and ILAS was officially launched in 2004.