definition of Wikipedia
|Native speakers||3.2 million (2010)|
|Writing system||Latin (Lithuanian alphabet)|
|Official language in|| Lithuania
|Recognised minority language in||Poland|
|Regulated by||Commission of the Lithuanian Language|
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 2.9 million native Lithuanian speakers in Lithuania and about 300,000 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 believed to be the most conservative living Indo-European language, retaining many features of Proto-Indo-European now lost in other Indo-European languages.
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Anyone wishing to hear how Indo-Europeans spoke should come and listen to a Lithuanian peasant.
Lithuanian still retains many of the original features of the nominal morphology found in some ancient Indo-European languages like Sanskrit and Latin, and has therefore been the focus of much study in the area of Indo-European linguistics. Studies in the field of comparative linguistics have shown it to be the most conservative living Indo-European language.
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.
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 Soudinoi (Γαλίνδαι, Σουδινοί) in the 2nd Century A.D. 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 occupation (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.
Lithuanian is one of two living Baltic languages, along with Latvian. An earlier Baltic language, Old Prussian, was extinct by the 19th century; the other Western Baltic languages, Curonian and Sudovian, went extinct earlier. Some theories, such as 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; Schleicher, Meillet and others on the other hand, 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, which exist in both Baltic and Slavic and nowhere else in the Indo-European family (languages such as Albanian and the Scandinavian languages developed definite adjectives only in more recent times), that are not reconstructible for Proto-Balto-Slavic, meaning they are most likely to have 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. Ivanov-Toporov theory is gaining more and more weight in the community of scholars of comparative-historic grammar of Indo-European languages, 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 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.
2,955,200 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), 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 3 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 vowel, except in some borrowed words (e.g., the first consonant in lūpa, "lip", is slightly different from the palatalized first consonant in liūtas, "lion", but both consonants are then followed by the same vowel, the long [uː], there is no [ɪ] in liūtas).
A macron (on u), an ogonek (on a, e, i, and u), and y (in place of i) can all be used to mark 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 12 letters representing vowels. To indicate long vowels, the nosinė diacritic ("little-nose diacritic"; caudata, "tailed", in Latin) is added under the letters ą [aː], 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 diphthongs with a [n]-component (now occurring only in South Aukštaitijan dialects).[clarification needed] In other instances, the long vowel [iː] is represented by y, and the long vowel [uː] is represented by ū.
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 20 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.
Each consonant listed above except /j/ has two allophones: 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 allophones are only found in international loanwords. Consonants preceding the vowels /i/, /iː/, /ɛ/, /æ/ and /eː/ 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).
Lithuanian has six long vowels and five short ones. Length has traditionally been considered the distinctive feature, though short vowels are also more centralized and long vowels more peripheral:
Lithuanian is traditionally described as having eight diphthongs, ai au ei eu oi ui ie 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.
When not stressed, as in ai /ai/, it is the second element of the sequence which is longer, [æ̠iˑ]. This is also the case with the stress written with a tilde, aĩ /aˈi/. However, with the "acute" stress, it is the first element which is longer, in addition to the falling pitch: ái /ˈai/, [ɐ̂ˑi]. The full set is as follows:
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:
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. drĩmba "it falls"; káltas "chisel" vs. kãltas "guilty", týrė "(he/she) explored" vs. tỹrė "mush".
kóšė is perceived as having a falling pitch (/kôːʃæ/ or /kóòʃæ/), and indeed acoustic measurement strongly supports this. However, while kõšė is perceived as having a rising pitch ([kǒːʃæ] or [kòóʃæ]), 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/ = [ˈkôːʃæ] "porridge" vs. kõšė /koˈoʃe/ = [koˈoˑʃæ] "it soured".
Lithuanian accentual system inherited another very important aspect from Proto-Balto-Slavic period, and that is the accentual mobility. Accents can alternate throughout the inflection of 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:
|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 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.
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.
Variation in sounds takes place in word formation. Some examples:
|a noun of
|other noun||related short
|meaning (for an infinitive)|
I am finding;
|busti||bundu||budau||budimas||budrus vigilant||to wake|
|pulti||puolu||puoliau||puolimas||pulkas 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)|
||keliu||kėliau||kėlimas||to raise, lift (something)|
|sverti||sveriu||svėriau||svėrimas||svoris a weight||to weigh|
|gerti||geriu||gėriau||gėrimas||gėrimas a 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.
There are two grammatical genders in Lithuanian – feminine and masculine. There is no neuter gender per se, but there are some forms which are derived from the historical neuter gender, notably attributive adjectives. There are five noun and three adjective declensions.
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.
There are three verbal conjugations. All verbs have present, past, past iterative and future tenses of the indicative mood, subjunctive (or conditional) and imperative moods (both without distinction of tenses) and infinitive. These forms, except the infinitive, are conjugative, having two singular, two plural persons and the third person form common both for plural and singular. Lithuanian has the richest participle system of all Indo-European languages, having participles derived from all tenses with distinct active and passive forms, and several gerund forms.
In practical terms, the rich overall inflectional system renders word order less important than in more isolating languages such as English. A Lithuanian speaker may word the English phrase "a car is coming" as either "atvažiuoja automobilis" or "automobilis atvažiuoja".
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.
Lithuanian is considered one of the most conservative modern Indo-European languages. This conservativism becomes especially apparent when Lithuanian is compared to a Germanic or a Romance language, as languages of these groups have greatly simplified their inflectional systems or levelled out declension altogether. Slavic languages are, on the other hand, more similar to Lithuanian.
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 numerous lexical and grammatical similarities between Baltic and Slavic languages suggest an affinity between these two language groups. On the other, 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 loan words, of which about 130 were of uncertain origin. The majority of the loan words 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. Loan words comprised about 20% of the vocabulary used in the first book printed in the Lithuanian language in 1547, Martynas Mažvydas's Catechism. The majority of loan words 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 loan words. However, despite the government's best efforts to avoid the use of loan words 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:
It is estimated that the number of foreign words, particularly of a technical nature, that have been adapted to the Lithuanian language might reach 70% or more.
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.
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 has become the modern locative case, while the other three have disappeared.
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.:
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:
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.
|Lithuanian language edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia|
|Lithuanian language test of Wikinews at Wikimedia Incubator|
|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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