Lithuanian alphabet

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Lithuanian employs a Latin alphabet. It is composed of 32 letters. The collation order presents one surprise: "Y" is moved to occur between I nosinė (Į) and J.

A Ą B C Č D E Ę Ė F G H I Į Y J K L M N O P R S Š T U Ų Ū V Z Ž
a ą b c č d e ę ė f g h i į y j k l m n o p r s š t u ų ū v z ž

Acute, grave, and macron/tilde accents can be used to mark stress and vowel length. However, these are generally not written, except in dictionaries and where needed for clarity. In addition, the following digraphs are used, but are treated as sequences of two letters for collation purposes. The "Ch" digraph represents a voiceless velar fricative, while the others are straightforward compositions of their component letters.

Ch Dz Ie Uo
ch dz ie uo

Similar sounds

  • Č — same sound as ch, as in chat
  • Š — same sound as sh, as in shoot
  • Ę — same sound as a, as in cat
  • Y/Į — same sound as ee, as in tree
  • Ū/Ų — same sound as oo, as in boo
  • J — same sound as y, as in yet
  • Ž — same sound as s, as in pleasure

Sounds[edit]

Vowels[edit]

Lithuanian has 12 written vowels. In addition to the standard Latin letters, the nosinė ('handkerchief') accent (conventionally known as the caudata or cedilla) is used to indicate long vowels, and is a historical relic of a time when these vowels were nasalized (as ogonek vowels are in modern Polish), and at an even earlier time had made diphthongs with an 'n' sound.

capital A Ą E Ę Ė I Į Y O U Ų Ū
lowercase a ą e ę ė i į y o u ų ū
IPA ɐ
ɐː
ɐː æ
æː
æː i
o
u

Consonants[edit]

Lithuanian uses 20 consonant letters, drawn from the Latin script. In addition, the digraph "Ch" represents a voiceless velar fricative (IPA [x]); the pronunciation of other digraphs can be deduced from their component elements.

capital B C Č D F G H J K L M N P R S Š T V Z Ž
lowercase b c č d f g h j k l m n p r s š t v z ž
IPA b ts d f ɡ ɣ j k l m n p r s ʃ t ʋ z ʒ

Phonology[edit]

Consonants[edit]

  labial dental alveo-
dental
alveolar alveo-
palatal
velar
plosives voiceless p t       k
voiced b d       ɡ
fricatives voiceless f   s   ʃ x
voiced     z   ʒ ɣ
affricates voiceless     ts    
voiced     dz    
nasal m     n    
liquid lateral       l    
glide ʋ         j
rhotic trill       r    

Each consonant (except [j]) has two forms: palatalized and non-palatalized ([bʲ][b], [dʲ][d], [ɡʲ][ɡ] and so on). The consonants [f x ɣ] and their palatalized versions are only found in loanwords. The consonants preceding vowels [i] and [e] are always moderately palatalized, a feature common to e.g. Russian language and not present in the Latvian language.

Plosives without audible release are common in the Lithuanian.

(Adapted from http://www.lituanus.org/1982_1/82_1_02.htm with necessary changes according to Lithuanian Language Encyclopedia[1])

Vowels[edit]

There are two possible ways to organize the Lithuanian vowel system. The traditional pattern has six long vowels and five short ones, with length as its distinctive feature:

  Front Central Back
Long Short Long Short
High i   u
Mid     o
Mid-low ɛː ɛ      
Low     ɐː   ɑ

(Adapted from http://www.lituanus.org/1982_1/82_1_02.htm and http://www.lituanus.org/1972/72_1_05.htm .)

However, at least one researcher suggests that a tense vs. lax distinction may be the actual distinguishing feature, or may be at least equally important as vowel length.[2] Such a hypothesis yields the chart below, where 'long' and 'short' have been preserved to parallel the terminology used above.

  Front Back
Long Short Long Short
High ɪ ʊ
Mid ɛ ɔ
Low æː a ʌː ɑ

Unicode[edit]

The majority of the Lithuanian alphabet is in the Unicode block C0 controls and basic Latin (non-accented symbols), and the rest of the Lithuanian alphabet (ąĄčČęĘėĖįĮšŠųŲūŪžŽ) is in the Latin Extended-A.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lithuanian Language Encyclopedia (in Lithuanian), Vilnius: Mokslo ir enciklopedijų leidybos inst., 1999. pp. 497–498. ISBN 5-420-01433-5
  2. ^ Girdenis, Aleksas.Teoriniai lietuvių fonologijos pagrindai (The theoretical basics of the phonology of Lithuanian, in Lithuanian), 2nd Edition, Vilnius: Mokslo ir enciklopedijų leidybos inst., 2003. pp. 222–232. ISBN 5-420-01501-3