KAZIMIERAS BŪGA Z.Zinkevičius
Kazimieras BŪGA (1879-1924), distinguished Lithuanian linguist, born at Paziege, near Dusetos, on Nov. 6, 1879. In 1905 he began studying in the faculty of history and philology in the University of St. Petersburg his professors included such famous scholars as J. Baudouin de Courtenay, F. F. Fortunatov, A. A, Shakhmatov and A. J. Sobolevsky. After graduating, he was allowed in 1912 to continue work in comparative Indo-European linguistics under the direction of J. Baudouin de Courtenay and to prepare himself for a professorial career. In 1914 he received a fellowship and was sent abroad, in the first instance to A. Bezzenberger in Konigsberg, to continue his studies, but he had to return to St. Petersburg a few months later on the outbreak of World War I. In 1916 he gained his master's degree and was given the rank of instructor. When part of the University of St. Petersburg moved to Perm', he was appointed assistant professor there From July 1,1916, and in 1918 he was promoted to associate professor. When the revolution began, he moved to Tomsk, and from there he returned to Lithuania at the end of August, 1920.
On settling in Lithuania, he began at once preparing an extensive Lithuanian dictionary for publication, but from Feb. 16, 1922, he had almost sole responsibility for the basic courses in Baltic linguistics and comparative Indo-European linguistics at the newly founded University of Kaunas. In addition he wrote a great many articles and reviews on linguistic subjects. Intensive work and difficult living conditions impaired his health. He was taken to Konigsberg for treatment and died there on Dec. 1, 1924. He was buried in Kaunas.
Although his life was short, Būga performed major services primarily in the study of Lithuanian and the other Baltic languages; his scholarly works are also important for comparative Indo-European linguistics. Appointed secretary to Kazimieras Jaunius in 1903, he prepared a thorough statement of Jaunius' linguistic doctrine in four volumes, but only one of these was published in 1908 with the title Aistiški studijai (Baltic Studies); the remainder was not published, because after a time Buga became convinced that Jaunius' doctrine was erroneous. He also prepared for the press Jaunius' Lietuviu kalbos gramatika(Grammar of the Lithuanian Language), published in 1908-1911; a Russian translation of this grammar was made by Būga and its publication was completed in 1916.
Būga's largest and most important work was his Lietuvių kalbos Žodynas (Dictionary of the Lithuanian Language). He began collecting lexicographical material in 1902 and paid more attention to the task from 1909. In 1912 the Russian Academy of Sciences commissioned him to edit and publish the second volume (letters K- L) of Antanas Juska's Dictionary; only part of this, as far as the word kretalas,was published in 1922. Buga devoted himself wholly to lexicographical work in 1920, when the Lithuanian Ministry of Education entrusted him with organizing the publication of a Lithuanian dictionary. His intention was to prepare a full-scale thesaurus of the Lithuanian language, giving the origin of many words, their history, geographical distribution, meaning, and other information. At the time of his death in 1924 he had published only one fascicule (64 pages of introduction and 80 pages of text, as far as the word ančtraukas); a second and incomplete fascicule (84 pages of introduction and 2 pages of text, as far as the word anga) appeared posthumously in 1925. However, the enormous task which Buga had begun did not come to a standstill; although the form was considerably changed and the Dictionary was enlarged, publication was resumed after a time and is still in progress. So far 7 large volumes have appeared and it is expected that there will be 16 in all.
Another subject which deeply interested Buga was proper names. In his article Apie lietuvių asmens vardus (Concerning Lithuanian Personal Names; Lietuvių Tauta, II, 1911), he drew on historical sources and examples from the present-day language to give the first correct account of the antiquity of Lithuanian compound names, and he discovered the correct forms of the names of the Lithuanian princes (for example, Jogaila, Mindaugas, Svitrigaila, Vaisvilkas, Vytautas). This laid the foundation for research into Lithuanian compound names. By using toponyms and hydronyms he tried to discover the original home of the Lithuanians and other Baltic peoples and to trace subsequent changes. In his article, Kann man Keltenspuren auf baltischem Gebiet nachweisen? (.Rocznik slawistyczny, VI, 1913), he argued convincingly that in antiquity Celts did not live in the territory of Lithuania or Belorussia, as A. Shakhmatov had supposed. Further, relying on toponyms, he reached the conclusion that Lithuanians, Latvians and other speakers of East Baltic dialects once lived much further to the east, north of the Pripet River, which divided them from the Slavs. He held that the Lithuanians and the Latvians settled in their present territories in the 6th-8th centuries A. D expounded these views in his articles Upių vardų studijos aisčių bei slavėnų senovė (Studies of River Names and Baltic and Slavic Antiquity; Tauta ir Žodis, I, 1923), Lietuvių, įsikūrimas šių dienų Lietuvoje (Lithuanian Settlement in Present-Day Lithuania;Tauta ir Zodis, II, 1924), and in the monograph Aisčių praeitis vietų vardų Šviesoje (The Past of the Baltic Peoples in the Light of Toponyms; Kaunas, 1924). A German translation of the latter work appeared as Die Vorgeschichte der aistischen (baltischen) Stamme im Lichte der Ortsnamenforschung,Leipzig, 1924. He wrote further about the Baltic nations, their languages and former homes in the introduction to his Dictionary.
Apart from proper names Buga at an early stage set about studying linguistic borrowings in Lithuanian. In his article Lztuanica Uzvestiia Otdeleiia russkago iazyka i slovesnosti Imperatorskoi Akademii Nauk,XVII:1, 1912) he made the first attempt to determine the chronology of Lithuanian borrowings from Slavic. Later he studied this problem more extensively in his article Litauisch-weissrussische Bezwhungen und ihr Alter (Zeitschrift fur slavische Philologie, I, 1925). Here he discovered, for example, that such words as lenkas =-•- "Pole," unguras =="Hungarian," or pipiras "pepper," šilkas="silk,"kurtas- "greyhound," turgus "market" and others were adopted by Lithuanian approximately between the second half of the 9th century and the beginning of the 12th century. In his article Visi senieji lietuvių santykiai su germanais (The Oldest Lithuanian Contacts with the Germanic Peoples; Kalba it Senovė,1922 =– Rinktiniai raštai, II, 1959) he showed that the Lithuanians originally had no direct contacts with the Germanic tribes, and so the language has very few early borrowings from Germanic (for example, alus=:;"ale, beer," gudas="Belorussian." pekus"=cattle " šarvas=harness, armor," and others);
An appreciable place in Buga's work was occupied by etymology, a subject that interested him as early as 1903. He planned to write an etymological dictionary of Lithuanian and he collected a great deal of material for it. Some of his suggested etymologies were published in the articles Slaviano-baltiiskie etimologii (Russkii filologicheskii vestnik, LXX, 1913; LXXI, 1914; LXXV, 1916) and Priedėlis etmologijos Žodynui (Supplement to an Etymological Dictionary), printed in the collection Kalba ir senovė (Language and Antiquity, 1922). Most of his etymologies are on the whole acceptable.
The results of his lengthy research into accentuation were developed in the article Kirčio ir priegaidės mokslas (The Doctrine of Accent and Intonation), which was included in the introduction to the Dictionary. There he describes the present and former occurrence in Lithuanian of the accents and intonations, their changes and other features. In his article Die Metatonie im Litauischen und Lettischen (Zeitschrift fur vergleichende Sprachforschung, LI-LII, 1923-1924) he gave a comparative account of metatony or change of intonation in Lithuanian and Latvian. These publications were an important contribution to explaining Lithuanian accentuation.
Apart from the works mentioned above, Buga wrote a number of articles and reviews for various publications. All his more important scholarly writings on linguistic questions, both those in print and those left in manuscript, have been collected and published in Lithuania in three large volumes: K. Buga,Rinktiniai raštai (Collected Works), Vilnius, 1958-61; for clarity a detailed index has been published as a separate volume. The first volume contains an extensive and up-date biography of Būga, and an exhaustive bibliography of his publications is to be found in the third. The collection was made by Z. Zinkevičius and edited by V. Mažiulis.
Text from the ENCYCLOPEDIA LITUANICA I-VI. Boston, 1970-1978
Kazimieras Būga (Lithuanian pronunciation: [kɐˈzʲɪˈmʲiərɐs buːˈɡɐ]; November 6, 1879 – December 2, 1924) was a Lithuanian linguist and philologist. He was a professor of linguistics, who mainly worked on the Lithuanian language.
He was born at Pažiegė, near Dusetos, then part of the Russian Empire. Appointed as personal secretary to Lithuanian linguist Kazimieras Jaunius he showed great interest in the subject, and during the period 1905-12 studied at Saint Petersburg State University. After that, he continued his work on Indo-European language under the supervision of Jan Niecisław Baudouin de Courtenay. He later moved to Köningsberg to continue his studies under the direction of Adalbert Bezzenberger. In 1914 he received a master's degree in linguistics.
His research of Lithuanian personal names led him into the study of place-names. From these he was able to determine that the homeland of the Lithuanians and other Baltic peoples up to the 6th to 9th centuries CE had been just north of Ukraine in the area around the Pripyat River. In addition, he studied the chronological sequence of Slavic loanwords in the Baltic languages.
He also carried out a linguistic reconstruction of the names of the early princes of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and refuted the theories of their Slavic origin. This became the main thrust for the concept of the Academic Dictionary of Lithuanian (Didysis Lietuvių Kalbos Žodynas) in Lithuanian. He died in Königsberg, and was buried inKaunas, Lithuania
Academic Dictionary of Lithuanian, initiated by Būga
KAZIMIERAS BŪGA AND THE ACADEMIC DICTIONARY OF LITHUANIAN
The University of Rochester
The greatest achievement of Lithuanian linguistics in this century is the publicaton of the multi-volume Lietuvių kalbos žodynas, known as the Academic Dictionary of Lithuanian. So far, eleven large volumes have been published, and several more are being prepared. All told, it may reach eighteen or twenty volumes, amounting about to the size of the Oxford English Dictionary.
This dictionary was conceived and begun by the distinguished Lithuanian linguist, Professor Kazimieras Būga (1879-1924). In this issue of Lituanus we publish Būga's own autobiographical sketch in which he outlines the way that lead him to devote his main efforts to publish this Lithuanian dictionary. The fact of the matter is that Būga's dictionary and the Academic Dictionary have exactly the very same beginning, or origin.
However, before we discuss Būga's dictionary, let us glance briefly at the development of the most important Lithuanian dictionaries, some of which were published before Būga's time, and some after his untimely death in 1924. The compilation of dictionaries of Lithuanian began in the first half of the 17th century. It was a matter of practical necessity; in Lithuania Minor (East Prussia) dictionaries were required by the German Protestant pastors who were working among the Lithuanian population, and in Lithuania itself they were needed for Jesuit schools and for those priests who did not know Lithuanian. Thus in 1629 the first trilingual dictionary (Polish — Latin — Lithuanian) was printed with the title Dictionarium trium linguarum. It was published in Vilnius. Its author was the Jesuit priest Konstantintas Širvydas. He used several dictionaries of Polish, Latin and Greek in preparing his Dictionarium. Širvydas also had to coin many neologisms for Lithuanian. Some of them have remained in use until present time, e.g. kiekybė quantity; kokybė quality; pratarmė foreword; taisyklė rule; virtuvė kitchen; and many others. Five editions of this dictionary were published between 1629 and 1713. Many lexicographers of the 18th and 19th centuries copied and used Širvydas' dictionary.
The first dictionary intended for Lithuania Minor was published in 1730: Friedrich W. Haack, Vocabularium Lithvanico-Germanicum et Germanico-Lithvanicum. This dictionary was specially written for those students who were studying Lithuanian at the Lithuanian Seminar (Institute), which was established at the University of Halle in 1723. Haack's dictionary claimed to contain all the words found in the Bible, but otherwise it was of poor quality.
In 1747, Philip Ruhig (Ruigys) published another Lithuanian dictionary for Lithuania Minor: Deutsch-Littauisches Lexicon. It also contained a grammar of Lithuanian and some remarks on the historical development of the Lithuanian language. In addition to the dictionaries of Širvydas and Haack, Ruigys used several unpublished dictionaries and collected many words from the contemporary spoken language of the Lithuanian people. Ruigys was the first to use a systematic orthography: he distinguished clearly between the vowels ė and ie, o and uo (he wrote u). In his dictionary Ruigys also indicated the place of the accent and the main grammatical forms. This dictionary thus was much better than those previously published. It had 616 pages, namely 192 for the Lithuanian-German part and 424 pages for the German-Lithuanian part. In 1800 Christian Gottlieb Mielcke (Milkus) expanded Ruigys' dictionary and published it as Littauisch-deutsches und Deutsch-littauisches Wörter-Buch.
At the beginning of the 19th century Lithuanian because of its archaic character became a subject of investigation in comparative Indo-European linguistics, and scholars working in this area needed a better, fuller dictionary of the language. To meet that need George H. F. Nesselmann in 1851 published a new and expanded dictionary:Wörterbuch der Littauischen Sprache (Lithuanian-German). He used all the dictionaries available to him, also several dictionaries in manuscript which could be found in the archives of the University of Königsberg. Especially useful was a large dictionary compiled by Jacob Brodowski. Nesselmann made use of many folksongs and folk-tales. He aslo organizaed a network of helpers, who supplied him with words and phrases from contemporary life. Nesselmann's dictionary is about three times larger than that of Mielcke. Unfortunately Nesselmann did not indicate the type of intonation (pitch), and even in marking the place of the (main) stress he made many mistakes. His orthography is faulty, and the whole dictionary is "alphabetized" following a very complicated "Sanskrit system".
The best and most important dictionary in Lithuania Minor was compiled by the greatest linguist of his age Fridrichas Kuršaitis (Friedrich Kurschat). The first volume of hisWörterbuch der litauischen Sprache (German-Lithuanian) came out in two parts: A-K, 724 pages, in 1870; L-Z, 393 pages, in 1874. In 1883 Kuršaitis finally published the second volume of his dictionary (Littauisch-deutsches Wörterbuch), 530 pages. This dictionary was well constructed, according to the lexicographic standards of the time. Its Lithuanian part is provided with accent marks which also indicate the type of intonation of the stressed syllable. Its great shortcoming is the fact that Kuršaitis basically used only the Lithuanian language (and literature) of Lithuania Minor. However, linguists continued to rely on this dictionary until recently. Kuršaitis' nephew, Aleksandras Kuršaitis (Alexander Kurschat) prepared a new and greatly expanded edition of the Lithuanian-German part. This dictionary is published in four large volumes, as: Litauisch-deutsches Wörterbuch: Thesaurus Linguae Lituanicae. (Vandenoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen).
In the second half of the 19th century Russian linguists also became interested in having a complete Lithuanian-Russian dictionary. In 1882 the Russian Academy of Sciences started publishing a large dictionary compiled by Antanas Juškevičius (Juška). But this was a very slow process; between 1882 and 1922 only one volume and part of a second were published covering A-Ku, 997 pages in all, about 30,000 words. This dictionary is very valuable because almost all of the basic Lithuanian entries were collected from the spoken idiom. However, not all of them are completely reliable and it would be almost impossible to check them now. Mykolas Miežinis (1826-1888) about 1868 compiled a dictionary of four languages, Lithuanian, Latvian, Polish and Russian. After many difficulties this appeared in 1894 as Lietuviszkai-latviszkai-lenkiszkai-rusiszkas žodynas.
Among Lithuanians in the United States a need was long felt for a Lithuanian-English, English-Lithuanian dictionary. Several small dictionaries did indeed appear before 1900. In 1903, however, the publisher A. Olšauskas brought out a Lithuanian-English dictionary compiled by A. Lalis. Its English-Lithuanian part appeared in 1905. The first part was expanded and reissued in 1905. Both parts, usually bound together, were later reprinted several times. Lalis used several dictionaries, but he also took in the neologisms used by various Lithuanian writers. Although by now rather obsolete, Lalis' dictionary is especially useful for the study of the formation and usage of the neologisms in Standard Literary Lithuanian.
When Lithuania regained its independence in 1918, there were no easily available and usable Lithuanian dictionaries, bilingual or monolingual. In 1920, after Kazimieras Būga returned to Lithuania, the government entrusted him with the preparation of a large dictionary of Lithuanian. This dictionary was supposed to contain not only all the available words of Lithuanian, but also give their histories, etymologies and dialect forms. In addition to that, it would have given all the names of rivers, other bodies of water, family names, local names, etc. Before his untimely death in 1924 Būga published only two fascicules, containing a very long and important introduction and 82 pages of the dictionary text itself (till anga).
In 1930 Juozas Balčikonis was appointed editor-in-chief of this dictionary. He and his co-workers soon realized that they needed more material for the project; the material collected by Būga, although extensive, was not enough. With the help of many enthusiasts in the whole country, Balčikonis developed a campaign to collect additional material for a major dictionary. Under Balčikonis' leadership it was decided to publish a full dictionary of contemporary spoken and literary Lithuanian, including also old writings and the works of well established writers. Very little was taken from the most recent literature, and the contemporary periodical press was not considered at all. The first volume of this dictionary was published before the occupation of Lithuania by the Soviet Union (June 15,1940). The volume was ready for distribution in May, 1941. However, the Communist Party Central Committee forbade its distribution. The objection was that this dictionary was not edited according to the Marxian ideology. When the Germans occupied Lithuania in June, 1941, they permitted the distribution of this first volume. It contained the words beginning with A and B; it had 34 and 1008 pages. The second volume was prepared during the German occupation (1941-1944) by the staff of the Institute of Lithuanian Language and Literature of the Lithuanian Academy of Arts and Sciences. Arter Lithuania was again occupied by the Soviet Union in the summer of 1944, it took three years to bring out the second volume; it appeared in 1947 (C-F). Some changes were made in the text. Balčikonis is listed again as the editor-in-chief. Actually there are two versions of this volume, both published, however, in 1947. In the second version all the references to the Lithuanian writers, scientists and other men of letters who had fled to the West from the Russians were omitted.
In 1949, the Institute of Lithuanian Language and Literature was accused by the Communist Party of having perpetrated the unforgivable sin: according to the party, the second volume was full of "reactionary clerical phraseology." Orders were issued to change the guide-lines for the dictionary completely: the dictionary should reflect the language of the "Lithuanian revolutionary press and of the present Soviet Socialist reality." It took the editorial staff nine years to satisfy these requirements; the 3rd volume of the dictionary appeared only in 1956 (G-H, 820 p.). K. Ulvydas appears now as the editor-in-chief, the other editors are listed as follows: J. Kruopas, J. Kabelka, B. Vosylytė. Starting with this volume, a propagandistic tendency shows itself very clearly. The volume, for example, is full of quotations from the Lithuanian translations of the works of Lenin, Marx, Engels, Stalin (without any indication of his name), and from the Lithuanian communist press. In this connection it is interesting to compare the Russian dictionaries published about the same time; the latter use practically no quotations from the translations into Russian of the writings of Marx and Engels. The further volumes of the dictionary followed, in the main, the rules laid down by the instructions issued earlier. They appeared as follows: vol. IV (I-J), 448 pages, 1957; vol. V (K-klausinys, 1008 pages) 1959; vol. VI (klausyti — kvunkinti, 1106 pages), 1962) vol. VII (L — mėlti, 1040 pages), 1966) vol. VIII, (melūda — ožvilnis, 1037 pages), 1970; vol. IX (P — pirktuvės, 1107 pages), 1973; vol. X (pirm — pūžuoti, 1152 pages), 1976; vol. XI (R, 1041 pages), 1978.
Since, as we have mentioned above, the first two volumes of this dictionary were not acceptable to the Communist Party, new editions of these two volumes were brought out, re-done according to the new instructions: vol. I (A-B, 1230 pages), 1968; vol. II (C-F, 1182 pages), 1969.
In spite of the interference by the Party, this huge dictionary is very valuable not only for Lithuanian and Baltic linguistics, but also for Indo-European linguistics as well. And it all began with those 600,000 vocabulary slips collected with the most devoted diligence by Professor Kazimieras Būga.
LIETUVIU KALBOS ŽODYNAS [Dictionary of the Lithuanian Language] is the largest work of twentieth-century Lithuanian linguistics. The idea of the Dictionary was conceived (and its compilation begun) by the eminent Lithuanian philologist Kazimieras Buga at the turn of the twentieth century. Since then several generations of lexicographers of the Institute of the Lithuanian Language have been engaged in the preparation of its twenty volumes for six decades (published between 1941 and 2002).
The Dictionary aims to give the words and illustrate their usage by quotations culled from all kinds of writings and dialect records from the period between the year 1547, i.e. the publication of the first Lithuanian book, and 2001.
The twenty volumes of the Dictionary make up about 22,000 pages, comprising half a million headwords and over 11,000,000 words of text. This academic edition of the Dictionary of the Lithuanian Language is significant not only as a major landmark of Lithuanian philology, it is also an authoritative source for comparative Indo-European studies. It presents the origin, history and spread of a word, its grammatical and accentual forms and categories, and its peculiarities with respect to word-formation, semantic structure, stylistic usage, etc. The Dictionary abounds in extra-linguistic information: the illustrative material carries much background information about the everyday life of the speakers of the language, their social relations, ethical values, ethnographical details, etc.
The Dictionary of the Lithuanian Language will be accessible online at www.lkz.lt. This Dictionary will also be issued on CD-Rom.
For further information:
Institute of the Lithuanian Language,
P. Vileišio 5, LT-10308 Vilnius, Lithuania
Tel. +370 5 234 6472
Fax +370 5 234 7200
Written by: The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica
Kazimieras BūgaLithuanian linguist
November 6, 1879
January 1, 1924
Kazimieras Būga, (born Nov. 6 [Oct. 25, Old Style], 1879, Pažiege, Lithuania, Russian Empire—died Jan. 1, 1924, Kaunas, Lithuania), linguist who began the most thorough dictionary of the Lithuanian language and whose extensive linguistic interests had an abiding influence on later generations of Baltic and Slavic linguists.
His etymological research, which occupied a considerable part of his professional interest, began around 1902 and was the subject of valuable articles over a period of two decades. His research of Lithuanian personal names (c.1910) led him into the study of place-names. From them he was able to determine that the homeland of the Lithuanians and other Baltic peoples up to the 6th to 9th century AD had been just north of Ukraine around the Pripet River. In addition, he studied the chronological sequence of Slavic loanwords in the Baltic languages.
Būga began teaching in Russia in 1916, but after his return to Lithuania in 1920 he immediately began to prepare his ambitious Lietuvių kalbos žodynas (“Dictionary of the Lithuanian Language”), which was to be a comprehensive thesaurus that would include definitions, etymologies, histories of words, and notes on their geographic distribution. From 1922, however, he was burdened with teaching responsibilities at the newly founded University of Kaunas. By the time of his death, he had completed relatively little of his enormous lexicographic undertaking. Work has continued, however, and the dictionary will comprise 17 volumes.
Competition for a Lithuanian State Kazimieras Buga Scholarship
Created: 2015.04.21 / Updated: 2015.04.21 12:49
The Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Lithuania announces a competition to receive a Lithuanian state Kazimieras Buga’s scholarship designed for foreigners studying the Lithuanian language at higher education institutions abroad.
We invite Lithuanian (Baltic) centres, departments/chairs and other structural units of foreign higher education institutions to select and nominate one candidate for the said scholarship to the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Lithuania by 28 August 2015.
The Kazimieras Buga’s scholarship has been designed to stimulate foreign students’ interest in the Lithuanian language and literature and support their advancement and proficiency in the field. The scholarship is awarded for one academic year (10 months) for studies of the Lithuanian language and literature at a foreign higher education institution.
Detail information concerning terms and conditions of the competition (eligibility and selection criteria, necessary documents and deadlines for application) is available on the web-site: www.smm.lt/naujienos/konkursai/kiti konkursai
Kazimieras Būga Museum
Opening hours: visitors are accepted only by prior appointment by telephone.
Addmission – free of charge.
The museum opened in 1965 in the birthplace of Prof. Kazimieras Būga (1879-1924), the famous linguist and founder of Lithuanian and Baltic Studies in Lithuania.
The exhibition tells the story of Kazimieras Būga’s life, linguistic research and public activities. Books published by Kazimieras Būga, manuscripts of the Dictionary of the Lithuanian Language, and personal belongings of the Buga family are on display.
The Lithuanian Language
Due to their similar political situations 20th historical development in the 20th century, the three Baltic States – Estonia, Latvia and. Lithuania – are often treated as sisters, and referred to as Baltic countries. This name is even applied to the entire region. But professional linguists have always pointed out that this is not an appropriate designation. The term Balt was coined in the 19th century by the German linguist Ferdinand Nesselman to name one of the branches of the Indo-European languages spoken on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea. Linguists had already known Indo-European groups such as Germanic, Romance and Slavic; now they discovered another group of Indo-European languages, the Baltic languages. Since then, in linguistics, the term has been applied only in reference to the true Baltic languages: the living Lithuanian and Latvian languages, and dead languages such as Curonian, Semigallian, Selonian, Yotvingian and Galindan. For the Balts, the early 13th century was when they emerged from oblivion to enter European history and become permanent participants in it. This was the time when the two German orders, the Teutonic and the Livonian Order, first appeared on the territories inhabited by the Balts and slowly settled in the areas of the old Prussian and Latvian tribes. It was the time when the pre-Christian Lithuanian state emerged, capable of defending itself against the militant neighbouring orders. The present-day Lithuanian nation was formed mainly from the Lithuanian and Samogitian tribes, but included Semigallians, Curonians, Sudovians and Yotvingians. The Lithuanian state, which emerged in the middle of the 13th century, has retained to this day these lands as the core of its territory, although the history of Lithuanian statehood has been very volatile. In the 13th to the 16th centuries it stretched over large areas inhabited not only by Balts but also by Slavs. From the mid-16th century to the end of the 18th century it was in a union with Poland. From the end of the 18th century to the early 20th century the Russian Empire occupied it. From 1944 to 1990 it was occupied by the Soviet Union. Since 1990, Lithuania has again been a democratic independent republic, like Latvia and Estonia.
Lithuanians make up about 80 per cent of the population of Lithuania. This means that more than three million people (perhaps three and a half million) consider Lithuanian to be their mother tongue. It is spoken by the autochthon Lithuanian populations in some border areas of Poland and Belarus, and by numerous Lithuanian émigrés in other countries. The largest émigré groups are to be found in the United States.
People have long been curious to know what makes languages similar, and why people speak different languages in different countries. Linguistic similarity could be evidence of a tribal or national affinity, or even prove the place closest to God. For instance, during the Renaissance one similarity theory held that Lithuanian was simply a debased Latin, and we know that Latin was the most sacred language in the Catholic world. Genealogical studies of languages took on a scientific approach only in the 19th century. Traditionally, it was based on the history of sounds: that is, it was a history of the spoken language, which people learn in some mysterious way in early childhood without any apparent effort, as if the sounds of the language overwhelmed them like a swollen river.
Latvian is the only living language with sounds and endings similar to those of Lithuanian, but a Latvian and a Lithuanian who do not speak each other's tongue cannot communicate, unlike a Dane who can communicate with a Norwegian, an Italian who can communicate with a Spaniard, or a Ukrainian who can communicate with a Russian. A Lithuanian and a Latvian can only recognise a few words in each other's speech, and this is not enough to hold a conversation. Therefore, we can say that Lithuanian is a language that cannot be understood by a speaker of any other language who has not learnt it. More than that, even users of different Lithuanian dialects (such as Samogitians and Aukštaitians) cannot understand each other unless they communicate in standard Lithuanian, which they, have to learn.
Since the 19th century, when the similarity between Lithuanian and Sanskrit was discovered, Lithuanians have taken a particular pride in their mother tongue as the oldest living Indo-European language. To this day, to some Lithuanians their understanding of their nationality is based on their linguistic identity. It is no surprise then that they proudly quote the French linguist Antoine Meillet, who said, that anyone who wanted to hear old Indo-European should go and listen to a Lithuanian farmer. The 19th century maxim – the older the language the better – is still alive in Lithuania.
The history of sounds explains how the Lithuanian word sūnus and the German Sohn, English son, and Polish syn are not loanwords from one language to another, but have the same origin. The same is true of the Lithuanian duktė, German Tochter, English daughter, and Polish corka.
This genealogical history of sounds is like a biological science: tracing DNA sequences is like tracing and reconstructing sound sequences. Thus, we can say that throughout the centuries, the changes in Lithuanian "DNA sequences" have been less numerous than in other languages, and that is the reason why it is considered to be a very old language.
The social history of the Lithuanian language can be considered in the context of its relations and contacts with other languages. For a number of centuries, contacts were especially close with two living languages, German and Polish (in addition to Latin and the East Slavic written languages).
Lithuanian has come into contact also with Yiddish, Russian and other languages, but these contacts have left fewer traces.
Lithuanian culture in East Prussia was strongly influenced by German culture. From the 16th century until the middle of the 20th century, East Prussia produced a large number of Lithuanian books: translations of the Bible, psalm books, grammars, dictionaries and primers, including the first Lithuanian translation of the Bible (by Jonas Bretkūnas [Bretke] in around 1590-1602) and the first Lithuanian grammar (by Danielius Kleinas in 1653). In all of these activities, Lithuanian was in close contact with German. The first Lithuanian manuscript of the Bible was mostly a translation of Luther's translation; the second Lithuanian grammar was written and published in German (in 1654); a large number of psalms in the 16th century were translated from the German; and all or almost all of the bilingual dictionaries (there were no monolingual Lithuanian dictionaries) known since the 17th century were either German-Lithuanian or Lithuanian-German.
At the time that Lithuania formed a commonwealth (federation) with Poland (1569 to 1795) and when it was occupied by the Russian Empire (1795 to 1914), the Lithuanian language in Lithuania proper was under the influence of the Polish language. In the middle Ages, Lithuanian dukes and gentry spoke Lithuanian; but during the Renaissance they switched to Polish. Gradually, Polish became the language of culture. It is for this reason that nowadays Lithuanians sometimes take more pride in their, older dukes, who spoke Lithuanian, and cannot fully accept the later ones who could not. The dominance of the Polish language meant the introduction and use of Polish letters: the digraphs sz and cz for š is and č respectively in modern Lithuanian, and the letters 1, z, i and s.
At the end of the 19th century, however, neither of the two written traditions (Prussian or Polish) would form the foundations of modern standard Lithuanian. The national movement wanted to standardize the language in such a way that it would be different from other languages in the area. The Lithuanians rejected the Polish letter 1, refused, to accept the German and Polish w, and replaced cz and sz with the Czech č and š. In the end, standard Lithuanian became established in Lithuania; while in East Prussia the language has disappeared, together with German, to give way to Russian in the newly emerged Kaliningrad Region. Still, some elements of the writing from East Prussia were transferred into standard Lithuanian, such as the letter ė, the use of the letters i and y, and the majority of the case endings.
It is interesting that these letters became an, integral part of the spelling at the same time as the, Lithuanian (or Latin) letters were prohibited by the Russian authorities. The late development of standard Lithuanian has been responsible for some of its modern features. For instance, ą, ę, į, ų, ė, č, š, ž, ū are relatively new additions to the Latin alphabet.
Modern though they are, all these additions to the Latin alphabet are a nuisance to foreigners. These diacritical marks, or accents, to them are like background noise in a recording of music, or a spot of fat on a clean tablecloth: an unavoidable nuisance, to be ignored in order to avoid irritation. Foreigners have to study long and hard to understand why in Lithuanian dictionaries the word cinikas (a cynic) comes before čekistas (a Chekist).
Another problem is that with the advent of the Internet the old Latin alphabet, which has been preserved and used in almost its original form by the English language, is seen as the most modem alphabet.
It is true that, in the last few years, the developers of universal fonts, Internet browsers and e-mail programs have made great efforts to show more respect to these letters, to make them convenient to use and safe against discrimination in any way.
Lithuanians are always pleasantly surprised and glad to meet a foreigner who has learnt some of their language and is familiar with their special letters. It is gratifying to hear a foreigner speaking Lithuanian, because that is not a skill commonly found beyond the country's borders, and Lithuanian has never been widely taught as a foreign language.
To a person who is familiar with old Indo-European languages such as Latin or Ancient Greek, Lithuanian grammar will come more easily than to a person who can speak modem "English, Spanish, Italian, French or German. Due to the old features of Lithuanian grammar, most foreign students find it a very difficult language to learn. It is frustrating to have to learn five declensions, each with seven cases, both in the singular and the plural. The very concept of an ending is difficult to grasp if a person speaks only English. Some learners are frustrated by the mobile stress in different forms of the same word, which sometimes outwits even the native speakers.
On the other hand, the late development of standard Lithuanian offers certain advantages to learners of it. Even native speakers believe that the pronunciation is almost entirely consistent with the spelling: that is, that the words are pronounced exactly as they are spelt. One letter usually corresponds to one sound. In this respect, Lithuanian is more modern than French or English, where the same letters do not always represent the same sound.
Due to the structural peculiarities of their language, Lithuanians themselves experience various difficulties in learning other ones. For example, they find it difficult to master the use of articles in English, German, Italian, and French, because in Lithuanian there are none. The concept is rendered by other means, such as definite or indefinite adjectives: The White House is Baltieji Rūmai: The word order in a Lithuanian sentence is quite free, and is a convenient means to express a variety of nuances. Therefore, when learning English or German, Lithuanians are inclined to 'improve' the syntactic constructions of these languages by 'liberating' the word order.
Everybody knows that Lithuanian has a variety of colourful swearwords: for example, rupūžė! (toad), rupūs miltai! (coarse flour), kad tave sutrauktų) (I wish you were contracted). But when a Lithuanian is truly angry, a foreigner may be surprised to hear Russian or English swearwords escaping his lips. In the speech of town dwellers, probably the most popular Lithuanian swearword is velnias! (Devil), but in a Catholic country the reasons for its being a swearword should be evident.
In contrast to Soviet times, the Lithuanian Constitution stipulates that "the Lithuanian language is the official language of the Republic of Lithuania.” This means that it must be used in all areas of public life. The country has a National Commission for the Lithuanian Language, responsible for monitoring and correcting the use of it. It even has the right to impose fines for certain mistakes in public advertisements. On the other hand, efforts are still being made to preserve the languages of minorities, Russian, Polish, Belarusian, etc.
What do Lithuanians think is the future of their language? Some believe that with the disappearance of Soviet unifying policies, the area of use of the language has expanded and they are happy about this. They are also aware of the dangers posed to the survival of the language by the country's integration into Europe. On the other hand, the number of Lithuanians learning foreign languages is constantly increasing, because everybody understands that Lithuanian alone is not sufficient for effective communication in the world.