ILIT's origins go back to 1990, when Professor Anthony Aristar, then at the University of Western Australia in Perth, created a modest e-mail list of 60 subscribers for linguists called The LINGUIST List. Professor Helen Aristar-Dry joined him as moderator very shortly thereafter, and both worked on this project from that time on. Aristar soon moved to Texas A&M University, which distributed The LINGUIST List for some years, while Aristar-Dry moved to Eastern Michigan University, where an editing site for LINGUIST was set up. Aristar subsequently moved to Wayne State University, at which a second editing site existed until 2006. In 2006, he moved to Eastern Michigan University.
Over the years, LINGUIST grew from a small mailing list to a major Internet network and website of 25,000 subscribers from 140 countries, and has become one of the major research organizations for linguistic infrastructure on the web. It now hosts 140 linguistics lists and a directory of 14,600 linguists. It posts daily notices announcing new books, journal tables of contents, book reviews, and jobs worldwide. In addition, it offers extensive web-based services on language and linguistics. It is essentially the information center of the discipline of linguistics, and even hosts the website of the Linguistic Society of America, whose software it wrote and developed.
ILIT developed from the need to provide better infrastructure and stability for the expanding activities of LINGUIST, and especially for the management of the growing number of National Science Foundation research grants it was being awarded. The move of Aristar to EMU in 2006 consolidated LINGUIST's research strengths and activities into one institution and led to the establishment of ILIT in July 2006.
As an autonomous research center at EMU, ILIT is dedicated to maintaining and enhancing the infrastructure of LINGUIST, and to developing state-of-the-art digital tools and standards that support documentary linguistics and the electronic archiving of language data, with special regard to endangered languages.