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Lithuanian - interesting facts

 

The Lithuanian language, the mother tongue of approximately 3.5 million people, represents only around 0.05% of the world's population. This places it beyond the first hundred most commonly spoken languages worldwide regarding native speakers.

Lithuanian, or 'lietuvių kalba' as it's known in its native tongue, is the official language of Lithuania. Additionally, it is recognized as a minority language in Poland, particularly in the region of Suwalki, inhabited by Lithuanian-speaking people.

As part of the East Baltic group of languages, the origins of Lithuanian can be traced back to the 6th-7th centuries AD. At this time, Lithuanian emerged as a distinct language from East Baltic dialects. By the 9th century, noticeable differences between Lithuanian and Latvian began to appear (currently, the two languages are not mutually intelligible). The earliest Lithuanian literary artefact – a manuscript prayer in the book 'Tractatus Sacerdotalis' – dates back to the early 16th century. Remarkably, the Lithuanian language resisted the influence of Slavic languages and remains well-preserved to this day. Now, the State Commission of the Lithuanian Language safeguards the native language from borrowings, primarily from English, suggesting native neologisms instead.

Regarded alongside Latvian as one of the most archaic and therefore conservative living Indo-European languages in terms of morphology and phonetics, Lithuanian has preserved many characteristics of the Proto-Indo-European language. Present-day Lithuanian shows significant dialectal variation, with regional variants assigned to one of the two large dialectal groups: High Lithuanian and Low Lithuanian, also known as Aukštaitian and Samogitian dialects.

Lithuanian is a highly inflected language. Similar to Polish, it has seven cases, two numbers, and two genders (there is no neuter gender). Verbs are diverse in form and construction, expressing various tense, mood, and aspect categories. For instance, simple tenses include present, past, habitual past, future, and two conditional moods (I and II), plus compound tenses with participles (the language has as many as 13 participles).

An interesting feature of Lithuanian vocabulary is the presence of numerous diminutive suffixes. Lithuanian forms can feature single or multiple suffixes, e.g., 'brol-el-is', 'brol-iuk-as', 'brol-ut-is', 'brol-yt-is', 'brol-už-is', and combinations like 'brol-ėl-iuk-as', 'brol-už-ėl-is', 'brol-už-yt-is'.

Culturally, female surnames are still used, revealing a woman's marital status (this rule does not apply to male surnames). Unmarried women's surnames end in '-aitė', '-ytė', '-iūtė', and '-utė'. Married women's surnames reserve the '-ienė' morpheme. Unofficially, there's a feminist movement in Lithuania advocating the use of masculine-form surnames exclusively.

Lithuanian is one of the official languages of the European Union.

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Antiquity of Lithuanian

Lithuanian is one of the oldest Indo-European languages that has survived. Its roots go back at least 4,000 years. Thanks to this, learning Lithuanian can be a fascinating journey in time, allowing you to explore Lithuania's rich history and culture and learn about the ancient roots of Indo-European languages.

Complicated grammar

The Lithuanian language has complex grammar with a rich inflexion system that includes numerous cases and variations. There are as many as 12 cases in Lithuanian, which is unique among Indo-European languages. For comparison, the Polish language has 7 cases. For this reason, learning Lithuanian can be a unique challenge for Poles.

Accentuation of words

In Lithuanian, as in Polish, it is important to emphasize words properly. Otherwise, there may be misunderstandings. However, Lithuanian has a more complex accent system than Polish, including tonic accent, vowel length and number of times. Mastering these rules may be the key to fluent use of the Lithuanian language.

Lithuanian Alphabet

Lithuanians use the Latin alphabet, just like Polish, but with some differences. The Lithuanian alphabet contains 32 letters, including 9 special diacritics. Learning these signs and their pronunciation is worth learning to read and write in Lithuanian correctly.

The richness of dialects

Lithuanian has a rich variety of dialects, which can be divided into two main groups: aukštaitiskai (Upper-Lithuanian) and žemaitiskai (Lower-Lithuanian). Each dialect has its own unique phonetic, grammatical and lexical characteristics, making it difficult even for native Lithuanians to understand certain dialects. For Lithuanian learners, this diversity can be a fascinating aspect of Lithuanian culture, allowing you to discover regional specificities.

Lithuanian and Latvian

Lithuanian and Latvian are the only two living Baltic languages, and although related, they differ in grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. Therefore, for Poles learning Lithuanian, it may be interesting to compare these two languages and understand how they have evolved over the centuries.

Proverbs and Sayings

Each language has its own proverbs and sayings that reflect the community's values, beliefs and culture. Lithuanian language is no exception. 

  1. "Kiekvienas kaltas savo nelaimę." - Translated to English, this proverb means "Everyone is responsible for their own misfortune." It's a reminder of personal responsibility and accountability, suggesting that our choices and actions largely determine the outcomes in our lives.

  2. "Artojantis laivui, vėjas palankus." - This translates to "The wind is favorable to a ship that’s arriving." It implies that the final stretch of a task or journey often seems easier because the end is in sight, providing motivation and drive to complete the task at hand.

  3. "Gerai mokantis, lengva dirbantis." - The English equivalent is "He who learns well, works easily." It suggests that a good education and knowledge make tasks easier to perform. This proverb highlights the importance of lifelong learning.

  4. "Laimė mėgsta tvarką." - This proverb translates to "Luck likes order." It implies that luck or success often favors those who are organized and have their affairs in order, stressing the importance of discipline and orderliness.

  5. "Pats turi žinoti, kada tau gerai." - "You have to know yourself when it’s good for you." This proverb is a reminder of the importance of self-awareness and the ability to assess and understand your own needs and well-being.

  6. "Kas daug žada, tas mažai duoda." - This translates to "Who promises a lot, gives a little." It serves as a warning against those who make grand promises but seldom follow through. This proverb teaches skepticism and cautions against false promises.

  7. "Ne viskas, kas auksu blizga, yra auksas." - The English equivalent is "Not all that glitters is gold." It cautions against judging things solely based on their outward appearance, as appearances can be deceptive.

  8. "Geriau vėliau, nei niekada." - This translates to "Better late than never." This proverb encourages one to take action even if delayed, as it’s better to do something late than not do it at all.

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Your Essential Lithuanian

 

English

Lithuanian

yes taip    
no ne    
please prašau/prašom    
thank you ačiū    
I'm sorry atsiprašau
good morning labas rytas/laba diena
good evening labas vakaras
goodbye labanakt    
good night iki pasimatymo/viso gero
hi labas/sveiki
how are you?  Kaip laikaisi?/Kaip sekasi?    
well gerai    
My name is... Aš vardu .../Mano vardas yra...    
I don't understand Nesuprantu    

 

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