From the time of founding the Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi University (1918) the main goal of the Georgian linguistics along researching the Kartvelian languages was to study their kindred mountanian Caucasian languages.
In 1924 in the preface of the “Annual of the Georgian linguistic society” Arnold Chikobava paid attention to tasks and methods of studying the mountanian Caucasian languages.
In 1933 by founding the chair of the Caucasian languages at the Tbilisi State University and in 1936 the department of the mountanian Caucasian languages at the N.Marr Institute of Language, History and Material Culture the studying of these languages had systematic and planned character. In 1941 Institute of Linguistics was founded on the linguistic basis of the mentioned institute and the department of the mountanian Caucasian languages was named the Department of the mountanian Ibero-Caucasian languages.
Since founding the department, all groups of the mountanian Ibero-Caucasian languages were the subjects of research: the Abkhaz-Circassian languages were studied by S.Janashia, K.Lomtatidze, G.Rogava, the Nakh languages – A.Abashidze, T.Goniashvili, S.Chkhenkeli, the Daghestanian languages – Arn.Chikobava, V.Topuria, V.Panchvidze, later on – D.Imnaishvili (Ingush), M.Gaprindashvili (Dargwa), E.Lomtadze (Kapuch), I.Tsertsvadze (Avar), E.Jeiranashvili (Udi), K.Mikeladze (Kabardian). After finishing the second world war the following researchers took part in research work: O.Kakhadze (Archib, the Lezgian languages), T.Gudava (Avar, the Andi languages), A.Mahometov (the Dargwa, Tabasarian, Agul languages), Z.Mahomedbekova (the Avar, Akhvakh, Karata languages). At different time the following researchers worked at the department: R.Gagua, G.Topuria, Z.Japaridze, G.Burchuladze, R.Janashia, N.Sturua, I.Jolbord, L.Gvinjilia, M.Chukhua, T.Sharmanashvili, E.Kadagidze, V.Kikilashvili, T.Sikharulidze.
By 2007, the 1st January ten collaborators work at the department: five are doctors of sciences (N.Ardoteli, T.Gvantseladze, N.Machavariani, R.Pareulidze, V.Shengelia), four are candidates of sciences (L.Azmaiparashvili, K.Mitagvaria, L.Sanikidze, B.Shavkhelishvili), one has no scientific degree (R.Lolua).
In different years the department was headed by:
1941-1985 – Acad. Arnold Chikobava.
1985-1987 – Acad. Ketevan Lomtatidze.
1987-2006 – Corr. Memb. of the Acad. – Guram Topuria.
Since 2006 – Doctor of Phil. Sci. Vazha Shengelia.
The department researched and researches the problems of system and history of the mountanian Ibero-Caucasian languages, viz. phonetic system, grammatical structure, vocabulary and phrazeology of the Abkhaz-Circassian, Nakh and Dagestanian languages are the subjects of analysis; the problems of relation of these languages with the Kartvelian languages on all language levels are also researched. The results of researches are published in the form of monographs, collections, articles, also they are reflected in the papers read at local or international scientific sessions, conferences and symposiums.
Many linguists (Georgians and foreign specialists, as well) have defended their doctor and candidate degrees at the meeting of the institute dissertation board. It must be underlined that the first candidate dissertation (“Towards the formation of main tences in Abkhaz”) was defended by K.Lomtatidze. thesis for Ph. D. in 1945 (“The Tapand dialect of Abkhaz”) was also the first.
From scientific-organizational measures realized by the department three ones must be noted:
1. Since 1965 the regional scientific sessions dedicated to the system and history of the Ibero-Caucasian languages were held in Georgia and in different towns of the Northern Caucasus at first under Acad. Arn.Chikobava and then Acad. K.Lomtatidze’s leadership and in which the collaborators of the department took part (13 sessions were held: twice in Mahachkala, Grozny, Nalchik and Maikop, once in Tbilisi, Sokhumi, Cherkesk, Karachaevsk and Orjonikidze).
2. Since 1974 an international organ of the Georgian Academy of Sciences “Annual of the Ibero-Caucasian linguistics” founded on Arn.Chikobava’s initiative has being published in Tbilisi (in 1974-2003 22 volumes were published) in an editorial staff of which together with Georgian researchers the specialists from the Northern Caucasus entered. Preparation of this organ is realized on the department base.
3. Since 1987 a memorial scientific session “Arnold Chikobava’s colloquiums” has being held by the Institute of Linguistics under the leadership and participation of the department (20 scientific sessions were also held).
In 2009 Doctor of Philological Sciences, Prof. Vaja Shengelia was voted to head the department.
In 2009, October, the following scientific workers filled the scientific posts:
A chief scientific worker:
Senior scientific workers: