Lithuanian language, unfortunately, is little known around the world. When speaking about Lithuania many people wonder what language people of this country speak. Many assume that it is Russian or a similar language, because of the country’s history. However, no matter how strange it can seem for some people, Lithuanians speak Lithuanian. And actually, it is very interesting language with an impressive history.
Lithuanian language is considered to be the most conservative Indo-European language, meaning that it has almost not changed in five thousand years and has preserved many characteristics of ancient languages. Lithuanians are very proud to quote the French linguist Antonie Meillet who said that anyone wishing to hear how Indo-Europeans spoke should come and listen to a Lithuanian peasant.
Many linguists believe that Lithuanian is one of the oldest languages in the world due to its phonetical and morphological similarities to the Proto-Indo-European language, the ancestor of existing European languages. Although the language appears in written records relatively recently, only in the beginning of the 16th century, it contains a number of archaic structures. We can observe the following coincidences between Lithuanian and Sanskrit:
- SON: sunus sūnus
- SHEEP: avis avis
- SOLE: padas padas
- MAN: viras vyras
- SMOKE: dhumas dumas
Another unique characteristic of this language that it is one of two surviving members of the Baltic branch of Indo-European languages (another one is Latvian). What is more, despite the fact that these two languages belong to the same group and have a lot of similarities, Lithuanian and Latvian people would not be able to understand each other. These languages are not mutually intelligible at all.
In addition, Lithuanian language can boast its old vocabulary due to the specially created state commission for the regulating the amount of foreign words used in this language. However, despite all efforts, the influence of other languages, especially English, is becoming more tangible.
Many interesting characteristics of the language include the peculiar accentuation and an abundance of diminutive suffixes. For example, in Lithuanian there are 3 kinds of stresses which are acute, falling and continued. They have different length, tone and pitch. And sometimes they can fall on consonants as well, like on l, m, n or r. And the quantity of diminutive suffixes allows translating the phrase “little child” as vaikelis, vaikiukas, vaikeliukas, vaikelėlis, vaikužėlis, vaikučiukas.
What is more, in Lithuanian language you will be able to tell if a woman is married only by her surname. If she is, the surname will always end with –ienė, -aitė, -iūtė or –ytė. However, in recent years a new ending -ė is becoming more popular. It can be used by both, married and unmarried women. This choice for a new surname is usually made by popular and socially famous women.