Today 20 September 2019, Friday - Last updated at 19 September 2019
Abonamente

News 8 August 2019, at 20:54

7 facts about the Lithuanian language

Marime Font

 The Lithuanian language is one of the oldest languages in the world.

 “Anyone wishing to hear how Indo-Europeans spoke should come and listen to a Lithuanian peasant,” stated Antoine Meillet, one of the most influential French linguists a century ago. Here are some basic facts that will help to better know the Lithuanian language.

The archaic structure of the Lithuanian language

The ancient Balts were settled and they were not inclined to mix with other tribes, so their languages maintained their ancient form. There are about 7,000 languages still spoken in the world. They can be grouped into language families according to their similarity and kinship (common origin): Indo-European, Sino-Tibetan, Niger-Congo, Afro-Asiatic, Austronesian and others. The Lithuanian as a Baltic language belongs to the Indo-European, one of the most widely-spoken language families in the world. The ancestors of today’s speakers of Indo-European languages spoke a single language, which linguists call Proto-Indo-European (PIE). The scholarly consensus is that Lithuanian is the language that has retained most of the features of the Protolanguage, i.e. it is characterised by a very ancient linguistic structure: declensions (of nouns, adjectives and pronouns), short and long vowels, diphthongs, etc.


The diacritic letters appeared somewhat later, when the vowel plus nasal consonant combinations an, en, un, in became long vowels ą, ę, ų, į (e.g. žansis > žąsis). So, in fact, the diacritical marks are not a feature of antiquity. The Lithuanian language has many similarities with Sanskrit – the classical language of ancient India, e.g. Sanskrit ákṣi – Lithuanian akis (‘eye’), Sanskrit ávi – Lithuanian avis (‘sheep’), Sanskrit dánta – Lithuanian dantis (‘tooth’), Sanskrit devá – Lithuanian dievas (‘god’), Sanskrit dína – Lithuanian diena (‘day’), Sanskrit sūnu – Lithuanian sūnus (‘son’). Sanskrit is still used as a scholarly and liturgical language in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

Probably no one would be able to unequivocally assert which is the very oldest language in the world; but it’s a fact that the Lithuanian language is one of the oldest and most archaic living languages in the world, and it has preserved more features of PIE than any other Indo-European language.

Ancient spoken language, modern written language

It is not clear when the Lithuanian first began to be written. The official written languages of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were Latin, Chancery Slavonic and Polish. In the long run, as the use of Polish increased due to the gradual Polonisation of the gentry during the 18th century, the Polish language encroached in all fields, even becoming a threat to the role of spoken Lithuanian; but fortunately, the common people kept on speaking Lithuanian.

The de facto beginning of the contemporary Lithuanian written language is related to the appearance of the first known Lithuanian printed book in 1547 – the Catechism by Martynas Mažvydas, a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. The first known printed version of the Lithuanian alphabet is included in the book too. It is true to say that isolated texts written in Lithuanian before this date are known to exist.

Not every Lithuanian of today would be able to read the first Lithuanian book

In the Catechism of Mažvydas you will not find the currently-used Lithuanian diacritic letters ą, č, ę, ė, į, š, ų, ū, ž. The Catechism of Mažvydas is written in Gothic script, a specialised type of Latin script, which is characterised by ornately scrolled letters. Here is a page from the Catechism of Mažvydas:

If we rewrite this in normal Latin letters we get:

Bralei seseris imkiet mani ir skaitikiet
Ir tatai skaitidami permanikiet.
Maksla schito tewai iusu trakszdawa tureti,
Ale to negaleia ne wenu budu gauti.

In modern Lithuanian it would appear thus:

Broliai, seserys, imkit mane ir skaitykit
Ir tatai skaitydami permanykit.
Mokslo šito tėvai jūsų trokšdavo turėti,
Ale to negalėjo nė vienu būdu gauti.

Today’s Lithuanian alphabet is a supplemented Latin alphabet

The contemporary Lithuanian alphabet (abėcėlė) consist of 32 letters. Diacritical marks – ą, č, ę, ė, į, š, ų, ū, ž – appeared in Lithuanian relatively recently, only a few centuries ago. The alphabet published in the Mažvydas Catechism contained no diacritic letters. We see 23 capital letters in Latin script and 25 lower case letters in Gothic script. For example, Mažvydas used the German letter combination sch to represent the today’s Lithuanian š (in English it is sh). Although the letter w is used in the Catechism, Mažvydas did not include it in the alphabetic table.


Lithuanian language alphabet in the Catechism of Martynas Mažvydas

Some diacritical marks were borrowed from Czechs and Poles a few centuries ago

Since the Latin alphabet lacked enough letters to represent all the sounds of the Lithuanian language, solutions were sought by looking at the languages of their neighbours. In the 19th century Lithuanians borrowed letters with the caron č, š and ž from Czech. The Czechs had started using them in their language in the 15th century. They were introduced by Jan Hus, an activist of the Czech national movement, as he worked on creating a national system of writing for the Czech language.

The letters with the diacritic hook (ogonek) ą and ę were borrowed from Polish, and on their example the letters į and ų were created. However, the pronunciation of ą and ę in Lithuanian and in Polish is different: The diacritic hook in Lithuanian means a long vowel but in Polish it is pronounced as a nasal sound. The letter with the overdot ė was first used in the 17th century by one of the pioneers of Lithuanian writing, the Evangelical Lutheran pastor Daniel Klein in his book, the first Grammar of the Lithuanian language. The letter ū was invented over a century ago by the Lithuanian linguist Jonas Jablonskis, known as “the father of the Lithuanian language”. In 1901 he published Lietuviškos kalbos gramatika (“A Grammar of the Lithuanian language”), which included the alphabet as Lithuanians still use it today.

Unsuccessful attempt to force the Russian alphabet on Lithuanians

The Lithuanian language suffered a severe period of hardship from the end of the 18th century until the early 20th century, when it was subjugated by the Russian Empire, with the Tsars implementing an assimilationist policy. The Tsar’s régime banned the publication of books in Lithuanian using the Latin alphabet. They could only be published if they were printed in “graždanka” (Civil Script) – a modified version of Cyrillic. Some books and calendars were published using this Russian-based alphabet; however, the Lithuanian national movement was strengthening at the time and these publications were not popular, they were boycotted.


First Lithuanian book published using Russian letters

Kauniškiai dialect is the basis of Standard Lithuanian

Standard Lithuanian is based on the dialect called Kauniškiai. Just to be clear, this dialect is not the one spoken in Kaunas, Lithuania’s second largest city. We are talking about the dialect to the southwest of Kaunas (Marijampolė, Prienai, Kalvarija, etc.), also known as the Suvalkiečių dialect. There are two basic dialects in Lithuania: The High Lithuanian dialect (aukštaičių tarmė) and the Low Lithuanian (Samogitian) dialect (žemaičių tarmė). Each of them is divided into various subdialects. In the 19th century, the people of the Suvalkija region played a major role in the formation of Standard Lithuanian, as that is where the leaders of the national renaissance movement such as Jonas Basanavičius and Vincas Kudirka, among others, were active. They organised the printing of Lithuanian books and periodicals, which required standardisation of the language so that everyone could read it. The major contributor to the standardisation of the Lithuanian language was the linguist Jonas Jablonskis, also a native of Suvalkija. The newly-emerging Standard Lithuanian was used for publication of Lithuanian books and periodicals, e.g. the newspapers Aušra (‘Dawn’) and Varpas (‘Bell’). Because of the Russian Tsar’s ban on the use of the Lithuanian alphabet in publishing, the material was printed in so called Lithuania Minor, which belonged to Prussia (German Empire), and it was distributed in Lithuania and abroad.

Although the written Lithuanian language is relatively ‘young’ (barely a century has gone by since the final standardisation of the alphabet and writing system), the spoken Lithuanian language is old and archaic, having been able to survive for thousands of years and to get through various attempts at robbing Lithuanian speakers of their identity. Unlike in the ancient days, modern Lithuanians are no longer stay-at-homes; in fact, they are inclined to migrate. About a million residents have left Lithuania since independence was restored in 1990. Some are returning, and others may return, but the majority will stay abroad, and Lithuanian will not be the native language of their children or grandchildren. Today, the same as several hundred, one hundred or fifty years ago, for Lithuanians it is important to maintain the oldest Indo-European language, whether they live in Lithuania or abroad.

Dainius Sabaliauskas
President of the Association of Lithuanian Translation Companies
CEO of Eurotradus translation company

Sources: Universal Lithuanian Encyclopaedia, Dictionary of the Lithuanian Language, Digital Collections of the Vilnius University Library, Publications of the State Commission of the Lithuanian Language

https://welovelithuania.com

 Urmărește știrile Timpul.md pe Telegram
loading...
Loading...
blog comments powered by Disqus

Din aceeaşi secţiune

Cele mai noi ştiri de azi

News 19 September 2019, at: 23:05

 You’ve probably already heard the Romanian language from friends, relatives or strangers in the community. Maybe you have even made an attempt to learn basic phrases of Romanian for an upcoming trip. But have you ever wondered how the language was formed? We found ourselves wondering...

( ) Read all

News 18 September 2019, ora: 10:50

COMMENT: Moldovan president’s determination to stop an airport deal appears increasingly misleading

COMMENT: Moldovan president’s determination to stop an airport deal appears increasingly misleading

Regime change in Moldova has been met with cautious optimism by Brussels, as President Igor Dodon pledged to dismantle the businesses that have long dominated political life. But mere months after a contentious coalition was brokered between Dodon and Maia Sandu, both international observers and...

( ) Read all

News 17 September 2019, ora: 13:51

The national interest: Russia Is Rapidly Procuring More Fifth-Generation Su-57s

The national interest: Russia Is Rapidly Procuring More Fifth-Generation Su-57s

 In July 2019, Russia announced a major purchase of its fifth-generation stealth air superiority fighter, the Su-57.

( ) Read all

News 9 September 2019, ora: 12:07

Moldova not recognizing so-called elections in Crimea and Sevastopol

Moldova not recognizing so-called elections in Crimea and Sevastopol

Moldova does not recognize the so-called elections that were held in Russia-annexed Crimea and Sevastopol on September 8, the press service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of Moldova has reported.

( ) Read all

News 8 September 2019, at: 19:29

The Washington Post: Trump tries to force Ukraine to meddle in the 2020 election

The Washington Post: Trump tries to force Ukraine to meddle in the 2020 election

 UKRAINE’S NEOPHYTE president, Volodymyr Zelensky, took a big step this week toward proving that he will be, as he promised, the most pro-reform president in Ukraine’s history. On Monday, he laid out a breathtakingly ambitious five-year plan including virtually every measure the...

( ) Read all

News 7 September 2019, ora: 19:23

Film director Oleg Sentsov among 70 released in Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap / VIDEO

Film director Oleg Sentsov among 70 released in Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap / VIDEO

 Russia and Ukraine carried out a long-awaited swap of 70 prisoners on Saturday, in a deal hailed by President Volodymyr Zelensky as a “first step” towards ending their conflict.

( ) Read all

News 1 September 2019, ora: 08:51

ECHR to consider Ukraine's ‘Crimean’ lawsuit against Russia in September

ECHR to consider Ukraine's ‘Crimean’ lawsuit against Russia in September

 In September, the European Court of Human Rights will consider an interstate case on a lawsuit filed by Ukraine against Russia on March 13, 2014, regarding the violation of human rights in the territory of the annexed Crimea.

( ) Read all

News 31 August 2019, ora: 10:20

Vladimir Putin and his minions continue to whitewash the Stalinist past (washingtonpost.com)

Vladimir Putin and his minions continue to whitewash the Stalinist past (washingtonpost.com)

This past week, the Russian Military Historical Society — a government-affiliated body headed by Vladimir Putin’s culture minister, Vladimir Medinsky — concluded its second research expedition to the Sandarmokh forest in the northwestern region of Karelia. Its purported aim was...

( ) Read all

News 29 August 2019, ora: 07:14

Soviet Symbols Aren't 'Funny,' Lithuania Tells Amazon

Soviet Symbols Aren't 'Funny,' Lithuania Tells Amazon

 Lithuania has urged American online retailer Amazon to stop selling clothing featuring the hammer and sickle and other Soviet symbols, which it says are offensive to victims of Soviet-era persecution.

( ) Read all

News 16 August 2019, ora: 08:55

PM’s Plan to Commemorate Victims of Totalitarianism Divides Moldova

PM’s Plan to Commemorate Victims of Totalitarianism Divides Moldova

 Move by pro-EU Prime Minister to turn August 23 into a day of remembrance for victims of totalitarianism may trigger an ideological fight with her pro-Russian coalition partners – who celebrate the victory in 1944 of the Soviet Red Army on that day.

( ) Read all

News 15 August 2019, at: 18:43

The Washington Times Kremlin rewriting World War II history

Kremlin rewriting World War II history

 Sept. 1 marks the 80th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland — an event that heralded the beginning of World War II. Two years later, the United States entered the war as an ally of both Great Britain and the Soviet Union. By that time, France and numerous other...

( ) Read all

News 9 August 2019, ora: 18:38

What are Moscow’s protesters supposed to be guilty of?

What are Moscow’s protesters supposed to be guilty of?

 Protesters in Moscow have been charged with violating three articles of Russia’s criminal code. Stanislav Andreychuk and Denis Shadrin, experts from Golos, consider the most outrageous examples.

( ) Read all

News 6 August 2019, ora: 07:01

Bloomberg World's Richest Lose $117 Billion in One-Day Market Meltdown

World's Richest Lose $117 Billion in One-Day Market Meltdown

The wealthiest 500 people on Earth lost 2.1% of their collective net worth on Monday as U.S. stocks plunged in their biggest drop this year. 

( ) Read all

News 4 August 2019, ora: 17:54

Foreign Policy The Longest Wars

The Longest Wars

 One of the most celebrated diplomats of his generation, Richard Holbrooke helped normalize U.S. relations with China; served as U.S. ambassador to a newly reunified Germany and then to the United Nations; and, most famously, negotiated the 1995 Dayton peace agreement that ended the war in...

( ) Read all

News 3 August 2019, ora: 08:02

Disinformation and European erosion in Romania

Disinformation and European erosion in Romania

Romania has a reputation as one of the most pro-EU and pro-US countries in Europe.

( ) Read all

News 3 August 2019, ora: 08:01

Turkey Jails Another Professor Deported from Moldova

Turkey Jails Another Professor Deported from Moldova

Turkey has jailed another of the seven teachers controversially deported from Moldova last year – handing down a stiff prison sentence of 12 years.

( ) Read all

News 30 July 2019, ora: 09:15

Dodon Ally Becomes Moldova’s New Anti-Graft Chief

Dodon Ally Becomes Moldova’s New Anti-Graft Chief

The appointment of Ruslan Flocea as new head of the National Anti-corruption Centre, CNA, sees another former adviser to the Pro-Russian President taking a top job in the Moldovan state.

( ) Read all

News 29 July 2019, ora: 08:24

Exclusive: Russia wants short-term gas deal with Ukraine before bypass routes complete (reuters)

Exclusive: Russia wants short-term gas deal with Ukraine before bypass routes complete (reuters)

Russia wants to strike a short-term deal with Kiev on gas transit to Europe when the current 10-year agreement expires in order to buy time to complete pipelines that will bypass Ukraine, four sources familiar with Russian thinking said.

( ) Read all

News 27 July 2019, ora: 09:30

Naftogaz CEO hopes to strike deal with Moldova on use of Ukrainian GTS, USFs

Naftogaz CEO hopes to strike deal with Moldova on use of Ukrainian GTS, USFs

Kobolyev noted that cooperation with Moldova will ensure an additional load on Ukrainian storage facilities and gas transmission systems.

( ) Read all

News 26 July 2019, ora: 10:25

Russia says it will ban think tank formerly run by U.S. ambassador

Russia says it will ban think tank formerly run by U.S. ambassador

Russia said on Thursday it was preparing to ban the Atlantic Council, a think tank formerly run by the U.S. ambassador to Moscow, which Russia's prosecutor general described as a security threat.

( ) Read all

News 26 July 2019, at: 09:33

Moldova, A Wine Experience Out Of The Ordinary

Moldova, A Wine Experience Out Of The Ordinary

Looking for a combined wine and gastronomy vacation? Looking for something adventurous and a bit off the beaten track? Try Moldova. This is probably not the first country that pops up in your mind. Some people may not even know it as a wine country. But it definitely is one. And an old one at that.

( ) Read all

News 25 July 2019, ora: 10:32

Moscow’s Man Eyes Second Term as Moldova’s President

Moscow’s Man Eyes Second Term as Moldova’s President

As he seeks re-election in 2020, Igor Dodon has made no secret of his close ties to the Kremlin – but critics cay his assiduous courtship of Russia has not brought Moldova any obvious benefits.

( ) Read all
Current tier / breakpoint: xs sm md lg xl (= visible only on this breakpoint)

.hidden-xs-down .hidden-sm-down .hidden-md-down .hidden-lg-down

.hidden-xs-up .hidden-sm-up .hidden-md-up .hidden-lg-up .hidden-xl

.hidden-xs (only) .hidden-sm (only) .hidden-md (only) .hidden-lg (only) .hidden-xl (only)