|3.1 million (1998)|
|Latin (Lithuanian alphabet)
Official language in
Recognised minority language in
|Regulated by||Commission of the Lithuanian Language|
lit – Modern Lithuanian
olt – Old Lithuanian
Lithuanian (lietuvių kalba) is the official state language of Lithuania and is recognized as one of the official languages of the European Union. There are about 3.2 million native Lithuanian speakers in Lithuania and about 200,000 abroad. Lithuanian is a Baltic language, closely related to Latvian, although they are not mutually intelligible. It is written in a Latin alphabet. The Lithuanian language is often said to be the most conservative living Indo-European language, retaining many features of Proto-Indo-European now lost in other Indo-European languages.
- 1 History
- 2 Classification
- 3 Geographic distribution
- 4 Orthography
- 5 Phonology
- 6 Grammar
- 7 Vocabulary
- 8 Examples
- 9 Old Lithuanian
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (August 2010)|
Anyone wishing to hear how Indo-Europeans spoke should come and listen to a Lithuanian peasant.
Among Indo-European languages, Lithuanian is extraordinarily conservative, retaining many archaic features otherwise found only in ancient languages such as Sanskrit or Ancient Greek. For this reason, it is one of the most important sources in the reconstruction of the Proto-Indo-European language despite its late attestation (with the earliest texts dating only to c. 1500 AD). The phonology and especially the nominal morphology of Lithuanian is almost certainly the most conservative of any living Indo-European language, although its verbal morphology is less conservative and may be exceeded by the conservatism of Modern Greek verbs, which maintain a number of archaic features lacking in Lithuanian, such as the synthetic aorist and mediopassive forms.
Lithuanian and other Baltic languages passed through a Proto-Balto-Slavic stage, from which Baltic languages retain numerous exclusive and non-exclusive lexical, morphological, phonological and accentual isoglosses in common with the Slavic languages, which represent their closest living Indo-European relatives. Moreover, with Lithuanian being so archaic in phonology, Slavic words can often be deduced from Lithuanian by regular sound laws; for example, Lith. vilkas and Russian волк ← PBSl. *wilkas (cf. PSl. *vьlkъ) ← PIE *wĺ̥kʷos, all meaning "wolf".
According to some glottochronological speculations, the Eastern Baltic languages split from the Western Baltic ones between AD 400 and AD 600. The Greek geographer Ptolemy had already written of two Baltic tribe/nations by name, the Galindai and Sudinoi (Γαλίνδαι, Σουδινοί) in the 2nd century AD. The differentiation between Lithuanian and Latvian started after AD 800; for a long period, they could be considered dialects of a single language. At a minimum, transitional dialects existed until the 14th or 15th century and perhaps as late as the 17th century. Also, the 13th- and 14th-century occupation of the western part of the Daugava basin (closely coinciding with the territory of modern Latvia) by the German Sword Brethren had a significant influence on the languages' independent development.
The earliest surviving written Lithuanian text is a translation dating from about 1503–1525 of the Lord's Prayer, the Hail Mary, and the Nicene Creed written in the Southern Aukštaitijan dialect. Printed books existed after 1547, but the level of literacy among Lithuanians was low through the 18th century, and books were not commonly available. In 1864, following the January Uprising, Mikhail Muravyov, the Russian Governor General of Lithuania, banned the language in education and publishing and barred use of the Latin alphabet altogether, although books printed in Lithuanian continued to be printed across the border in East Prussia and in the United States. Brought into the country by book smugglers despite the threat of stiff prison sentences, they helped fuel a growing nationalist sentiment that finally led to the lifting of the ban in 1904.
Jonas Jablonskis (1860–1930) made significant contributions to the formation of the standard Lithuanian language. The conventions of written Lithuanian had been evolving during the 19th century, but Jablonskis, in the introduction to his Lietuviškos kalbos gramatika, was the first to formulate and expound the essential principles that were so indispensable to its later development. His proposal for Standard Lithuanian was based on his native Western Aukštaitijan dialect with some features of the eastern Prussian Lithuanians' dialect spoken in Lithuania Minor. These dialects had preserved archaic phonetics mostly intact due to the influence of the neighbouring Old Prussian language, while the other dialects had experienced different phonetic shifts. However, the most archaic features are found in the South Aukštaitija dialect, such as: -tau, -tai usage instead of -čiau, -tum; in instead of į; and the endings -on, -un instead of -ą, -ų. Lithuanian has been the official language of Lithuania since 1918. During the Soviet era (see History of Lithuania), it was used in official discourse along with Russian which, as the official language of the USSR, took precedence over Lithuanian.
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (February 2014)|
Lithuanian is one of two living Baltic languages, along with Latvian. An earlier Baltic language, Old Prussian, was extinct by the 18th century; the other Western Baltic languages, Curonian and Sudovian, went extinct earlier. Some theories, such as that of Jānis Endzelīns, considered that the Baltic languages form their own distinct branch of the family of Indo-European languages, but the most widely accepted opinion is the one that suggests the union of Baltic and Slavic languages into a distinct sub-family of Balto-Slavic languages amongst the Indo-European family of languages. Such opinion was first represented by the likes of August Schleicher, and to a certain extent, Antoine Meillet. Endzelīns thought that the similarity between Baltic and Slavic was explainable through language contact; on the other hand, Schleicher, Meillet and others gave arguments for a genetic kinship of the two families.
An attempt to reconcile the opposed stances was made by Jan Michał Rozwadowski. He proposed that the two language groups were indeed a unity after the division of Indo-European, but also suggested that after the two had divided into separate entities (Baltic and Slavic), they had posterior contact. The genetic kinship view is augmented with the fact that Proto-Balto-Slavic is easily reconstructible with important proofs in historic prosody. The alleged (or certain, as certain as historic linguistics can be) contact similarities are seen in such phenomena as the existence of definite adjectives formed by the addition of an inflected pronoun (descended from the same Proto-Indo-European pronoun), which exist in both Baltic and Slavic, yet nowhere else in the Indo-European family, (languages such as Albanian and the Germanic languages developed definite adjectives independently) and that are not reconstructible for Proto-Balto-Slavic, meaning they most likely had to have developed through language contact.
Vyacheslav Vsevolodovich Ivanov and Vladimir Toporov believed in the unity of Balto-Slavic, but not in the unity of Baltic. In the 1960s, they proposed a new division, that into East-Baltic (Lithuanian and Latvian), West-Baltic (Old Prussian) and Slavic. The Ivanov-Toporov theory is gaining ground among students of comparative-historic grammar of Indo-European language, and seems to be replacing the previous two stances in most P-I-E textbooks.
Lithuanian is spoken mainly in Lithuania. It is also spoken by ethnic Lithuanians living in today's Belarus, Latvia, Poland, and the Kaliningrad Oblast of Russia, as well as by sizable emigrant communities in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, Uruguay, and Spain.
Two million, nine hundred fifty-five thousand, and two hundred people in Lithuania (including 3,460 Tatars), or about 80% of the 1998 population, are native Lithuanian speakers; most Lithuanian inhabitants of other nationalities also speak Lithuanian to some extent. The total worldwide Lithuanian-speaking population is about 3,200,000.
The Lithuanian language has two dialects (tarmės): Aukštaičių (Aukštaitian, Highland Lithuanian) and Žemaičių/Žemaitiu (Samogitian, Lowland Lithuanian). There are significant differences between standard Lithuanian and Samogitian. The modern Samogitian dialect formed in the 13th–16th centuries under the influence of the Curonian language. Lithuanian dialects are closely connected with ethnographical regions of Lithuania.
Dialects are divided into subdialects (patarmės). Both dialects have three subdialects. Samogitian is divided into West, North and South; Aukštaitian into West (Soduviečiai), Dainavian and East (the South and East dialects are also known as Dzūkian dialects due to their frequent use of dz for standard dž). Each subdialect is divided into smaller units – speeches (šnektos).
Standard Lithuanian is derived mostly from Western Aukštaitian dialects, including the Eastern dialect of Lithuania Minor. Influence of other dialects is more significant in the vocabulary of standard Lithuanian.
Lithuanian uses the Latin script supplemented with diacritics. It has 32 letters. In the collation order, y follows immediately after į (called i nosinė), because both y and į represent the same long vowel [iː]:
In addition, the following digraphs are used, but are treated as sequences of two letters for collation purposes. The digraph ch represents a single sound, the velar fricative [x], while dz and dž are pronounced like straightforward combinations of their component letters (sounds):
The Lithuanian writing system is largely phonemic, i.e., one letter usually corresponds to a single phoneme (sound). There are a few exceptions: for example, the letter i represents either the vowel [ɪ], as in the English sit, or is silent and merely indicates that the preceding consonant is palatalized. The latter is largely the case when i occurs after a consonant and is followed by a back or a central vowel, except in some borrowed words (e.g., the first consonant in lūpa [ˈɫûːpɐ], "lip", is a velarized dental lateral approximant; on the other hand, the first consonant in liūtas [ˈlʲuːt̪ɐs̪], "lion", is a palatalized alveolar lateral approximant; both consonants are followed by the same vowel, the long [uː], and no [ɪ] can be pronounced in liūtas).
A macron (on u), an ogonek (on a, e, i, and u), and y (in place of i) are used for grammatical and historical reasons and always denote vowel length in Modern Standard Lithuanian. Acute, grave, and tilde diacritics are used to indicate pitch accents. However, these pitch accents are generally not written, except in dictionaries, grammars, and where needed for clarity, such as to differentiate homonyms and dialectal use.
Lithuanian has twelve letters representing vowels. To indicate long vowels, the nosinė diacritic ("little-nose diacritic"; caudata, "tailed", in Latin) is added under the letters ą [aː], ę [æː], į [iː], and ų [uː] in many instances, which is a historical relic of a time when these vowels were nasalized, and, at an even earlier time, constituted so-called "mixed diphthongs" with a [n]-component (now occurring only in South Aukštaitijan dialects). In other instances, the long vowel [iː] is represented by y, and the long vowel [uː] is represented by ū. Vowels a and e can be long only when stressed and only when marked with a tilde or an acute accent. The length of o depends on the origin of the word: the short form is only pronounced in loanwords from Western or ancient languages (English, Latin, Greek, French, German, etc.).
Because the letter y [iː] represents the same sound as the letter į [iː], which is a long version of the short sound represented by i [ɪ], the letter y is placed immediately after į in the Lithuanian alphabet.
Lithuanian has twenty letters representing consonants. In addition, the digraph ch represents the voiceless velar fricative [x]; the pronunciation of the other two digraphs, dz and dž, can be deduced from their components.
|Nasal||m mʲ||n̪ nʲ||ŋ ŋʲ|
|Stop||p pʲ||b bʲ||t̪ tʲ||d̪ dʲ||kʲ||ɡʲ||k||ɡ|
|Affricate||t̪͡s̪ t͡sʲ||d̪͡z̪ d͡zʲ||t͡ʃ t͡ʃʲ||d͡ʒ d͡ʒʲ|
|Fricative||(f fʲ)||s̪ sʲ||z̪ zʲ||ʃ ʃʲ||ʒ ʒʲ||(xʲ)||(ɣʲ)||(x)||(ɣ)|
|Liquid||v vʲ||ɫ||r rʲ lʲ||j|
All Lithuanian consonants except /j/ have two variants: the non-palatalized one represented by the IPA symbols in the chart, and the palatalized one (i.e., /b/ – /bʲ/, /d/ – /dʲ/, /ɡ/ – /ɡʲ/, and so on). The consonants /f/, /x/, /ɣ/ and their palatalized variants are only found in loanwords. Consonants preceding the front vowels /ɪ/, /iː/, /ɛ/, /æː/ and /eː/, as well as any palatalized consonant or /j/ are always moderately palatalized (a feature Lithuanian has in common with the Polish, Belarusian and Russian languages but which is not present in the more closely related Latvian). Followed by back vowels /äː/, /ɐ/, /oː/, /ɔ/, /uː/, and /ʊ/, consonants can also be palatalized (causing some vowels to shift; see the "Vowels" section); in such cases, the standard orthography inserts the letter i between the vowel and the preceding consonant (which is not pronounced separately), e.g. noriu [ˈnôːrʲʊ]. Most of the non-palatalized and palatalized consonants form minimal pairs (like šuo [ʃuə], "dog – šiuo [ʃʲuə], "with this one"), so they are independent phonemes, rather than allophones.
[ŋ] only occurs before [k] and [ɡ] while only [n̪] occurs elsewhere, thus making them analyzable as allophones in complementary distribution. The same can be said about the palatalized counterparts of these consonants, [ŋʲ] (before [kʲ] and [ɡʲ]) and [nʲ] (elsewhere).
Lithuanian has six long vowels and five short ones (not including a disputed phoneme marked in brackets). Length has traditionally been considered the distinctive feature, though short vowels are also more centralized and long vowels more peripheral:
The presence of a short mid front unrounded vowel [e̞] is disputed and this sound is not pronounced by many, if not most, speakers in favour of [ɛ].
In standard Lithuanian vowels [äː] and [ɐ] generally cannot be pronounced after any palatalized consonant (including [j]). In this position they systematically shift to [æː] and [ɛ] respectively: galia "power" = gale "in the end" [ɡɐˈlʲɛ], gilią "profound" (singular accusaitve) = gilę "acorn" (singular accusative) [ˈɡʲɪlʲæː].
On the other hand, in everyday language [æː] might shift to [ɛː] (or simetimes even [äː]) if the vowel is preceded by a non-palatalized consonant: jachtą, "yacht" (singular accusative), or retas, "rare", are often pronounced as [ˈjɛːxt̪äː] and [ˈrʲɛːt̪ɐs̪] (or sometimes even [ˈjäːxt̪äː] and [ˈrʲäːt̪ɐs̪]) instead of [ˈjæːxt̪äː] and [ˈrʲæːt̪ɐs̪] as the following consonants [x] and [t̪] are not palatalized. This phenomenon does not affect short vowels.
Lithuanian is traditionally described as having nine diphthongs, ai, au, ei, eu, oi, ou, ui, ie, and uo. However, some approaches (i.e., Schmalstieg 1982) treat them as vowel sequences rather than diphthongs; indeed, the longer component depends on the type of stress, whereas in diphthongs, the longer segment is fixed.
Lithuanian long stressed syllables can have either a rising or a falling tone. In specialized literature, they are marked with a tilde [ ̃] or an acute accent [ ́] respectively. The tone is especially clearly audible in diphthongs, since in the case of the rising tone, it makes the second element longer (e.g., aĩ is pronounced [ɐɪ̯ˑ]), while the falling tone prolongs the first element (e.g., ái is pronounced [ä̂ˑɪ̯]) (for more detailed information, see Lithuanian accentuation). The full set is as follows:
The Lithuanian prosodic system is characterized by free accent and distinctive quantity. Its accentuation is sometimes described as a simple tone system, often called pitch accent. In lexical words, one syllable will be tonically prominent. A heavy syllable—that is, a syllable containing a long vowel, diphthong, or a sonorant coda—may have one of two tones, falling tone (or acute tone) or rising tone (or circumflex tone). Light syllables (syllables with short vowels and optionally also obstruent codas) do not have the two-way contrast of heavy syllables.
Common Lithuanian lexicographical practice uses three diacritic marks to indicate word accent, i.e., the tone and quantity of the accented syllable. They are used in the following way:
- The first (or the only) segment of a heavy syllable with a falling tone is indicated with an acute accent mark (e.g., á, ár), unless the first element is i or u followed by a tautosyllabic resonant, in which case it is marked with a grave accent mark (e.g., ìr, ùr).
- The second (or the only) segment of a heavy syllable with a rising tone is indicated with a circumflex accent (e.g., ã, ar̃)
- Short accented syllables are indicated with a grave accent mark (e.g., ì, ù).
As said, Lithuanian has a free accent, which means that its position and type is not phonologically predictable and has to be learned by heart. This is the state of affairs inherited from Proto-Balto-Slavic and, to a lesser extent, from Proto-Indo-European; Lithuanian circumflex and acute syllables directly reflect Proto-Balto-Slavic acute and circumflex tone opposition.
In a word-final position, the tonal distinction in heavy syllables is almost neutralized, with a few minimal pairs remaining such as šáuk, "shoot!", vs. šaũk, "shout!". In other syllables, the two-way contrast can be illustrated with pairs such as: kóšė "porridge" vs. kõšė "it soured"; áušti "to cool" vs. aũšti "to dawn"; drímba "lout" vs. drim̃ba "it falls"; káltas "chisel" vs. kal̃tas "guilty", týrė "(he/she) explored" vs. tỹrė "mush".
Kóšė is perceived as having a falling pitch (/ˈkôːʃeː/ or /ˈkóòʃeː/), and indeed acoustic measurement strongly supports this. However, while kõšė is perceived as having a rising pitch ([ˈkǒːʃeː] or [ˈkòóʃeː]), this is not supported acoustically; measurements do not find a consistent tone associated with such syllables that distinguish them from unaccented heavy syllables. The distinguishing feature appears to be a negative one, that they do not have a falling tone.
If diphthongs (and truly long vowels) are treated as sequences of vowels, then a single stress mark is sufficient for transcription: áušta /ˈauʃta/ = [ˈâˑʊʃtɐ] "it cools" vs. aũšta /aˈuʃta/ = [ɐˈuˑʃtɐ] "it dawns"; kóšė /ˈkooʃe/ = [ˈkôːʃeː] "porridge" vs. kõšė /koˈoʃe/ = [koˈoˑʃeː] "it soured".
The Lithuanian accentual system inherited another very important aspect from the Proto-Balto-Slavic period, and that is the accentual mobility. Accents can alternate throughout the inflection of a word by both the syllable position and type. Parallels can be drawn with some modern Slavic languages, namely Russian, Serbo-Croatian and Slovene. Accentual mobility is prominent in nominal stems, while verbal stems mostly demonstrate phonologically predictable patterns.
Lithuanian nominal stems are commonly divided into four accentual classes, usually referred to by their numbers:
- Accent paradigm 1: Fixed (columnar) accent on a non-desinential syllable. If the accent is on a pre-desinential syllable, it carries the acute tone.
- Accent paradigm 2: Alternation of accent on a short or circumflex pre-desinential syllable with desinential accentuation.
- Accent paradigm 3: Alternation of accent on a non-desinential syllable with desinential accentuation. If the accent is on a pre-desinential syllable, it caries the acute tone.
- Accent paradigm 4: Alternation of accent on short or circumflex pre-desinential syllable with desinential accentuation.
|number||case||Accent paradigm 1||Accent paradigm 2||Accent paradigm 3||Accent paradigm 4|
The previously described accentual system primarily applies to the Western Aukštaitian dialect on which the standard Lithuanian literary language is based. The speakers of the other group of Lithuanian dialects – Žemaitian – have a very different accentual system, and they do not adopt standard accentuation when speaking the standard idiom. Speakers of the major cities, such as Vilnius, Kaunas and Klaipėda, with mixed populations generally do not have intonational oppositions in spoken language, even when they speak the standard idiom.
Change and variation
The changes and variation in Lithuanian phonetics include diachronic changes of a quality of a phoneme, alternations, dialectal variation, variation between corresponding sounds of individual inflectional morphemes of the same grammatical category, which is at the same time qualitative and quantitative, diachronic and synchronic.
- The diachronic qualitative phonemic changes include o /oː/ ← ā (a narrowing of a more open vowel), uo ← ō turnings.
- Among examples of the variation between sounds of different inflectional morphemes of a certain grammatical category there is historical shortening of a declensional ending a in some positions: motina (nom. sg.-instr. sg.) 'mother' ← *mātina ← *mātinā, *mātinās → motinos (gen. sg.). Synchronous variation between shorter (more recent) and longer (more archaic) personal endings in verbs, depending on final position: keliu 'I am lifting; I lift (something)' – keliuosi 'I get up; I am getting up' (reflexive); keli 'you are lifting' – keli.e.si 'you get up'; keliame 'we are lifting' – keliamės 'we get up'.
- Examples of alternation include variation between d, t and palatalized dž, č respectively: nom. sg. pat-s 'myself; himself; itself' (masculine gender), gen. sg. pat-ies, dat. sg. pač-iam; jaučiu 'I feel', jauti 'you feel'; girdžiu 'I hear', girdi 'you hear'. Variation between a lengthened, uttered in a falling, lengthened tone and a short a and e alike (only if these sounds end a syllable), variation between a long, uttered in a falling, lengthened tone and a short i at an ending of a word, depending on accentual position: vãkaras [ˈʋaːkɐrɐs] nominative 'an evening', vakarè [ʋɐkɐˈrɛ] locative 'in the evening'; radinỹs [rɐdɪˈniːs] nom. 'a finding, a find', rãdinio [ˈraːdɪnʲoː] genitive (from ràsti [ˈrɐstɪ] 'to find'); pãtiekalas 'a dish, course', patiekalaĩ nom. plural. (from patiẽkti 'to serve (a dish)'); vèsti 'to lead; to marry' vedìmas (a noun for an action) vẽdamas (participle) 'who is being led; married'; baltinỹs 'cloth which is being whitened', baltìnis 'white; (dial.) white of the egg' (derivatives from baltas 'white').
Variation in sounds takes place in word formation. Some examples:
infinitive present tense,
a noun of
other noun related short
meaning (for an infinitive) rasti randu
I am finding;
to find busti bundu budau budimas budrus vigilant to wake pulti puolu puoliau puolimas pulkas[dubious ] a regiment to begin (on); to attack pilti pilu pyliau pylimas pylimas a mound,
pilis a castle
pilvas a belly
pilnas full to pour (any non solid material) kilti kylu kilau kilimas kelias a road
kelis a knee
kalva a hill
kalnas a mountain
kilnus noble to arise, lift (for oneself) kelti
keliu kėliau kėlimas to raise, lift (something) svirti svyru svirau svirimas to slope sverti sveriu svėriau svėrimas svoris a weight to weigh gerti geriu gėriau gėrimas gėrimas a drink,
to drink durti duriu dūriau dūrimas to prickle, job vyti veju vijau vijimas vytis a chaser
pavojus a danger, alert
to chase; to strand, wind visti vysta (III p.) viso (III p.) visimas visas all, entire to breed (for oneself) veisti veisiu veisiau veisimas vaisius a fruit
vaistas a drug
to rear, to breed (something) vysti vysta (III p.) vyto (III p.) vytimas to fade, wither, languish
The examples in the table are given as an overview, the word formation comprises many words not given here, for example, any verb can have an adjective made by the same pattern: sverti – svarus 'valid; ponderous'; svirti – svarùs 'slopable'; vyti – vajùs 'for whom it is characteristic to chase or to be chased'; pilti – pilùs 'poury'; but for example visti – vislùs 'prolific' (not visus, which could conflict with an adjective of a similar form visas 'all, entire'). Many verbs, besides a noun derivative with the ending -ìmas, can have different derivatives of the same meaning: pilti – pylìmas, pylà, pỹlis (they mean the act of the verb: a pouring (of any non solid material)); the first two have meanings that look almost identical but are drawn apart from a direct link with the verb: pylimas 'a bank, an embankment', pylà 'pelting; spanking, whipping'; the word svõris 'a weight', for example, does not have the meaning of an act of weighing. There are also many other derivatives and patterns of derivation.
The Lithuanian language is a highly inflected language in which the relationships between parts of speech and their roles in a sentence are expressed by numerous inflections.
In Lithuanian, there are two grammatical genders for nouns – feminine and masculine, and there are three genders for adjectives, pronouns, numerals and participles: feminine, masculine and neuter. Every attribute has to follow the gender and the number of the noun. The neuter forms of other parts of speech are used with a subject of an undefined gender (a pronoun, an infinitive etc.).
Nouns and other parts of nominal morphology are declined in seven cases: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental, locative, and vocative. In older Lithuanian texts three additional varieties of the locative case are found: illative, adessive and allative. The most common are the illative, which still is used, mostly in spoken language, and the allative, which survives in the standard language in some idiomatic usages. The adessive is nearly extinct. These additional cases are probably due to the influence of Uralic languages with which Baltic languages have had a long-standing contact (Uralic languages have a great variety of noun cases, a number of which are specialised locative cases).
The Lithuanian verbal morphology shows a number of innovations. Namely, the loss of synthetic passive (which is hypothesized based on the more archaic though long-extinct Indo-European languages), synthetic perfect (formed via the means of reduplication) and aorist; forming subjunctive and imperative with the use of suffixes plus flexions as opposed to solely flections in, e. g., Ancient Greek; loss of the optative mood; merging and disappearing of the -t- and -nt- markers for third person singular and plural, respectively (this, however, occurs in Latvian and Old Prussian as well and may indicate a collective feature of all Baltic languages).
On the other hand, the Lithuanian verbal morphology retains a number of archaic features absent from most modern Indo-European languages (but shared with Latvian). This includes the synthetic formation of the future tense with the help of the -s- suffix; three principal verbal forms with the present tense stem employing the -n- and -st- infixes.
In the active voice, each verb can be inflected for any of the following moods:
- Conditional / subjunctive
- present perfect (esu nešęs), past perfect (buvau nešęs), past iterative perfect (būdavau nešęs), future perfect (būsiu nešęs)
- present inchoative (esu benešąs), past inchoative (buvau benešąs), past iterative inchoative (būdavau benešąs), future inchoative (būsiu benešąs)
The indirect mood, used only in written narrative speech, has the same tenses corresponding to the appropriate active participle in nominative case, e. g. past of the indirect mood would be nešęs, past iterative inchoative of the indirect mood would be būdavęs benešąs. Since it is a nominal form, this mood cannot be conjugated, but must match the subject’s number and gender.
The subjunctive (or conditional) and the imperative moods has three tenses. Subjunctive: present (neščiau), past (būčiau nešęs), inchoative (būčiau benešąs); imperative: present (nešk), perfect (būk nešęs) and inchoative (būk benešąs).
The infinitive has only one form (nešti). These forms, except the infinitive and indirect mood, are conjugative, having two singular, two plural persons and the third person form common both for plural and singular.
In the passive voice, the form number is not as rich as in the active voice. The are two types of passive voice in Lithuanian: present participle (type I) ant past participle (type II) (in the examples below types I and II are separated with a slash). They both have the same moods and tenses:
- Indicative mood: present (esu nešamas/neštas), past (buvau nešamas/neštas), past iterative (būdavau nešamas/neštas) and future (būsiu nešamas/neštas)
- Indirect mood: present (esąs nešamas/neštas), past (buvęs nešamas/neštas), past iterative (būdavęs nešamas/neštas) and future (būsiąs nešamas/neštas).
- Imperative mood: present (type I only: būk nešamas), past (type II only: būk neštas).
- Subjunctive / conditional mood: present (type I only: būčiau nešamas), past (type II only: būčiau neštas).
Lithuanian has the richest participle system of all Indo-European languages, having participles derived from all simple tenses with distinct active and passive forms, and two gerund forms.
In practical terms, the rich overall inflectional system makes the word order have a different meaning than in more analytic languages such as English. The English phrase "a car is coming" translates as "atvažiuoja automobilis", while "the car is coming" – "automobilis atvažiuoja" (word order inversion).
Lithuanian also has a very rich word derivation system and an array of diminutive suffixes.
The first prescriptive grammar book of Lithuanian was commissioned by the Duke of Prussia, Frederick William, for use in the Lithuanian-speaking parishes of East-Prussia. It was written in Latin and German by Daniel Klein and published in Königsberg in 1653/1654. The first scientific Compendium of Lithuanian language was published in German in 1856/57 by August Schleicher, a professor at Prague University. In it he describes Prussian-Lithuanian which later is to become the "skeleton" (Buga) of modern Lithuanian.
Today there are two definitive books on Lithuanian grammar: one in English, the "Introduction to Modern Lithuanian" (called "Beginner's Lithuanian" in its newer editions) by Leonardas Dambriūnas, Antanas Klimas and William R. Schmalstieg, and another in Russian, Vytautas Ambrazas' "Грамматика литовского языка" ("The Grammar of the Lithuanian Language"). Another recent book on Lithuanian grammar is the second edition of "Review of Modern Lithuanian Grammar" by Edmund Remys, published by Lithuanian Research and Studies Center, Chicago, 2003.
- Lith. and Skt. sūnus (son)
- Lith. and Skt. avis and Lat. ovis (sheep)
- Lith. dūmas and Skt. dhūmas and Lat. fumus (fumes, smoke)
- Lith. antras and Skt. antaras (second, the other)
- Lith. vilkas and Skt. vṛkas (wolf)
- Lith. ratas and Lat. rota (wheel) and Skt. rathas (carriage).
- Lith. senis and Lat. senex (an old man) and Skt. sanas (old).
- Lith. vyras and Lat. vir (a man) and Skt. vīras (man).
- Lith. angis and Lat. anguis (a snake in Latin, a species of snakes in Lithuanian)
- Lith. linas and Lat. linum (flax, compare with English 'linen')
- Lith. ariu and Lat. aro (I plow)
- Lith. jungiu and Lat. iungo (I join)
- Lith. gentys and Lat. gentes (tribes) and Skt. jánas[clarification needed] (genus, race).
- Lith. mėnesis and Lat. mensis and Skt masa (month)
- Lith. dantis and Lat. dentes and Skt dantas (teeth)
- Lith. naktis and Lat. noctes and Skt. naktis (night)
- Lith. sėdime and Lat. sedemus (we sit) and Skt. siedati (sits).
This even extends to grammar, where for example Latin noun declensions ending in -um often correspond to Lithuanian -ų. Many of the words from this list share similarities with other Indo-European languages, including English.
On the one hand, the lexical and grammatical similarities between Baltic and Slavic languages suggest an affinity between these two language groups. On the other hand, there exist a number of Baltic (particularly Lithuanian) words without counterparts in Slavic languages, notably those that are similar to Sanskrit or Latin. This fact puzzled many linguists prior to the middle of the 19th century, but was later influential in the re-creation of the Proto Indo-European language. The history of the relationship between Baltic and Slavic languages, and our understanding of the affinity between the two groups, remain in dispute.
In a 1934 book entitled Die Germanismen des Litauischen. Teil I: Die deutschen Lehnwörter im Litauischen, K. Alminauskis found 2,770 loanwords, of which about 130 were of uncertain origin. The majority of the loanwords were found to have been derived from the Polish, Belarussian, and German languages, with some evidence that these languages all acquired the words from contacts and trade with Prussia during the era of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Loanwords comprised about 20% of the vocabulary used in the first book printed in the Lithuanian language in 1547, Martynas Mažvydas's Catechism. But as a result of language preservation and purging policies, Slavic loanwords currently constitute only 1.5% of Standard Lithuanian lexicon, while German loanwords constitute only 0.5% of it. The majority of loanwords in the 20th century arrived from the Russian language. Towards the end of the 20th century a number of English language words and expressions entered the spoken vernacular of city dwellers, especially the younger ones.
The Lithuanian government has an established language policy which encourages the development of equivalent vocabulary to replace loanwords. However, despite the government's best efforts to avoid the use of loanwords in the Lithuanian language, many English words have become accepted and are now included in Lithuanian language dictionaries. In particular, words having to do with new technologies have permeated the Lithuanian vernacular, including such words as:
- Monitorius (vaizduoklis) (computer monitor)
- Faksas (fax)
- Kompiuteris (computer)
- Failas (byla, rinkmena) (electronic file)
It is estimated that the number of foreign words that have been adapted to the Lithuanian language might reach 70% or more in technical lexicon.
Other common foreign words have also been adopted by the Lithuanian language. Some of these include:
These words have been modified to suit the grammatical and phonetic requirements of the Lithuanian language, but their foreign roots are obvious.
- [In] Lithuanian: (adverb) lietuviškai
- (language) lietuvių
- (nationality) lietuvis (masculine), lietuvė (feminine)
- Hello (informally): labas, (formally): laba diena (daytime), labas rytas (morning), labas vakaras (evening), sveiki
- Goodbye (informally): iki, ate (formally): viso gero
- Please: prašau
- Thank you: ačiū, dėkui
- That [one]: tas (masculine), ta (feminine), tai (neuter/general: it)
- How much (does it cost)?: kiek (kainuoja)?
- Yes: taip
- No: ne
- Sorry: atsiprašau
- I don't understand: nesuprantu
- Do you speak English?: Ar kalbate angliškai?
- What's your name? (informally): Koks tavo/jūsų (more polite, venerating) vardas?
- Where is ...?: Kur yra ...?
- Shop: parduotuvė
- Tea: arbata
- Coffee: kava
- Milk: pienas
- Example: pavyzdys
- Examples: pavyzdžiai
- Photo: nuotrauka
The language of the earliest Lithuanian writings, in the 16th and 17th centuries, is known as Old Lithuanian and differs in some significant respects from the Lithuanian of today.
Besides the specific differences given below, it should be noted that nouns, verbs and adjectives still had separate endings for the dual number. The dual persists today in some dialects. Example:
|Case||"two good friends"|
|Nom-Acc||dù gerù draugù|
|Dat||dvíem geríem draugám|
|Inst||dviem̃ geriem̃ draugam̃|
The "nasal" vowels ą, ę, į, ų were still pronounced as actual nasal vowels.
The original Baltic long ā was still retained as such, e.g. bralis "brother" (modern brólis).
Compared to the modern language, there were three additional cases, formed under the influence of the Finnic languages. The original locative case had been replaced by four so-called postpositive cases, the inessive case, illative case, adessive case and allative case, which correspond to the prepositions "in", "into", "at" and "towards", respectively. They were formed by affixing a postposition to one of the previous cases:
- The inessive added -en to the original locative.
- The illative added -n(a) to the accusative.
- The adessive added -pie to the original locative.
- The allative added -pie to the genitive.
The inessive has become the modern locative case, while the other three have disappeared. Note, however, that the illative case is still used occasionally in the colloquial language (mostly in the singular): Lietuvon "to Lithuania", miestan "to the city". The interesting thing about this form is its relative productivity. For instance, it is not uncommon to hear "skrendame Niujorkan (we are flying to New York)".
The uncontracted dative plural -mus was still common.
Adjectives could belong to all four accent classes in Old Lithuanian (now they can only belong to classes 3 and 4).
Additional remnants of i-stem adjectives still existed, e.g.:
- loc. sg. didimè pulkè "in the big crowd" (now didžiame)
- loc. sg. gerèsnime "better" (now geresniamè)
- loc. sg. mažiáusime "smallest" (now mažiáusiame)
Additional remnants of u-stem adjectives still existed, e.g. rūgštùs "sour":
No u-stem remnants existed in the dative singular and locative plural.
Definite adjectives, originally involving a pronoun suffixed to an adjective, had not merged into a single word in Old Lithuanian. Examples:
- pa-jo-prasto "ordinary" (now pàprastojo)
- nu-jie-vargę "tired" (now nuvar̃gusieji)
The optative mood (i.e. the third-person imperative) still had its own endings, -ai for third-conjugation verbs and -ie for other verbs, instead of using regular third-person present endings.
Word order was freer in Old Lithuanian. For example, a noun in the genitive case could either precede or follow the noun it modifies.
- Modern Lithuanian reference at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
Old Lithuanian reference at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
- Zinkevičius, Z. (1993). Rytų Lietuva praeityje ir dabar. Vilnius: Mokslo ir enciklopedijų leidykla. p. 9. ISBN 5-420-01085-2. "...linguist generally accepted that Lithuanian language is the most archaic among live Indo-European languages..."
- Lithuanian Language. Encyclopædia Britannica.
- Zinkevičius, Zigmas; Alexas Stanislovas Girdenis (1966). "Dėl lietuvių kalbos tarmių klasifikacijos". Kalbotyra (Slavistica Vilnensis) 14. ISSN 1392-1517.
- A mixed diphthong is a characteristic of Baltic languages closely related to the pitch accent system. It is a combination of a short vowel and an approximant consonant (e.g. al, er, im, un). In Lithuanian and Latvian phonology, such combinations cannot be dissociated and are equated to regular diphthongs (au, ei etc.)
- Adapted from Lituanus Lituanus.org
- Ambrazas, Vytautas; Alexas Girdenis, Kazys Morkūnas, et al (1999). Lietuvių kalbos enciklopedija. Vilnius: Mokslo ir enciklopedijų leidybos inst. pp. 497–498. ISBN 5-420-01433-5.
- 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. 68–72. ISBN 5-420-01501-3
- A. Pakerys. "Bendrinės lietuvių kalbos fonetika" Vilnius, 1995
- Vadinamųjų sutaptinių dvibalsių [ie uo] garsinė ir fonologinė sudėtis | Girdenis | Baltistica
- Phonetic invariance and phonological stability: Lithuanian pitch accents Grzegorz Dogil & Gregor Möhler, 1998 [dead link]
- Dabartinės lietuvių kalbos gramatika. Vilnius, 1997
- Ways of Germanisms into Lithuanian[dead link]. N. Cepiene, Acta Baltico-Slavica, 2006
- Martynas Mažvydas' Language. Zigmas Zinkevičius, 1996. Accessed October 26, 2007.
- Loanwords (in Lithuanian)
- Slavic loanwords in the northern sub-dialect of the southern part of west high Lithuanian[dead link]. V. Sakalauskiene, Acta Baltico-Slavica 2006. Accessed October 26, 2007.
- The Anglicization of Lithuanian. Antanas Kilmas, Lituanus, Summer 1994. Accessed October 26, 2007.
- State Language Policy Guidelines 2003–2008. Seimas of Lithuania, 2003. Accessed October 26, 2007.
- Dicts.com English to Lithuanian online dictionary[dead link]
- Lingvozone.com, Linvozone English to Lithuanian online dictionary.
- Leonardas Dambriūnas, Antanas Klimas, William R. Schmalstieg, Beginner's Lithuanian, Hippocrene Books, 1999, ISBN 0-7818-0678-X. Older editions (copyright 1966) called "Introduction to modern Lithuanian".
- Remys, Edmund, Review of Modern Lithuanian Grammar, Lithuanian Research and Studies Center, Chicago, 2nd revised edition, 2003.
- Klimas, Antanas. "Baltic and Slavic revisited". Lituanus vol. 19, no. 1, Spring 1973 . Retrieved October 23, 2007.
- Zigmas Zinkevičius, "Lietuvių kalbos istorija" ("History of Lithuanian Language") Vol.1, Vilnius: Mokslas, 1984, ISBN 5-420-00102-0.
- Remys, Edmund, General distinguishing features of various Indo-European languages and their relationship to Lithuanian, Indogermanische Forschungen, Berlin, New York, 2007.
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|For a list of words relating to Lithuanian language, see the Lithuanian language category of words in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
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