Lithuanian is in the list of the top ten oldest languages spoken on earth. Have you ever found yourself wondering about the Lithuanian writing system and its history? Well, you’re in luck as this post is a match made in heaven just for you! Learn more about the Lithuanian writing and alphabet in this post today!
Most European languages are members of the Indo-European languages family, but they began to diverge approximately 3500 BCE. They moved into a slew of other languages. Some of these modern Indo-European languages include German, Italian, and English, progressively losing the characteristics that they have in common. However, one specific language from the Indo-European family’s Baltic branch, modern Lithuanian, retained more of the feature of what linguists call Proto-Indo-European, which they believe was spoken circa 3500 BCE.
For some reason, Out of the other Baltic languages, the Lithuanian language has retained more Proto-Indo-European sounds and grammar rules than any of its counterparts and hence can be considered one of the world’s oldest languages.
Lithuanian As An Official Language
Not a surprise, the Lithuanian language is the official language of Lithuania. Some of the other languages spoken in Lithuania are Russian, Polish, and English. You can read more about languages spoken in Lithuania here.
A little bit about Lithuanian as a language:
- Modern Lithuanian language has two main dialects, determined by geography: Highland Lithuanian and Lowland Lithuanian
- It is the only official language of Lithuania
- The Lithuanians retain a way to recognize if a person is one of their own- if one can speak Lithuanian.
- Since it still retains its Proto-Indo-European feature, there are many Sanskrit traces in the standard Lithuanian used now.
- The first Lithuanian dictionary was printed in the 17th century.
- The first Lithuanian printed book was The Catechism.
- There are about 2.9 million Lithuanian speakers, mainly in Lithuanian and Poland.
Lithuanian Writing System
The writing system used in the Lithuanian language is the Latin Alphabet. The Lithuanian alphabet is called abėcėlė.
Since it is based on Latin and written from left to right in the Latin script, just like English which makes it easier to learn, except there are a few alphabets omitted and some letters have strange marks (diacritics) attached to them. Also, the pronunciation is very much different compared to English.
There are 32 letters in the abėcėlė. including 12 vowels and 20 consonants. Some of the Latin letters omitted are Q, W, and X in the Lithuanian alphabet or the abėcėlė. In addition, these letters have a little tail called caudate – Ą, Ę, Į, and Ų. This little mark indicates long vowels like how we pronounce these words in English: eel, far, food, or bare.
|Abėcėlė||Pronunciation||Example in Lithuanian||Translation|
|A a||a in car||antis||duck|
|Ą ą||a in father (long vowel)||ąsotis||jug|
|B b||b in boy||banginis||whale|
|C c||ts in tsunami||citrina||lemon|
|Č č||ch in chimney||česnako||garlic|
|D d||d in dog||duona||bread|
|E e||e in bed||eglė||spruce|
|Ę ę||a in man (long vowel)||dabartinę||current|
|Ė ė||ai in chair||ėriena||lamb|
|F f||f in fun||fotelis||armchair|
|G g||g in game||grybas||mushroom|
|H h||h in hope||herbas||coat of arms|
|I i||i in sit,||inkilą||birdhouse/nest|
|Į į||ee in eel (long vowel)||įrankiai||tools|
|Y y||also long like ee in deed||yla||graver|
|J j||y in yarn||jautis||bull|
|K k||k in kite||kėdė||chair|
|L l||l in look||ledai||ice cream|
|M m||m in moth||mėnulis||moon|
|N n||n in nice||namas||house|
|O o||o in more||obuolys||apple|
|P p||p in pain||pelėda||owl|
|R r||r is rain||Raktas||key|
|S s||s in sing||sraigė||snail|
|Š š||sh in shine||šuo||dog|
|T t||t in tent||tortas||cake|
|U u||u in put||ugnis||fire|
|Ų ų||oo in moon (long vowel)||daug ų||many ‘ų’|
|Ū ū||also long, like oo in school||ūsai||mustache|
|V v||v in vet||varpas||bell|
|Z z||z in zoo||zebras||zebra|
|Ž ž||s in pleasure||žvaigždė||star|
Some very important notes about the Lithuanian alphabet:
- The letter J will never be pronounced as it is in ‘jam’. For example, Jonah is pronounced as “Yonah”.
- The letter ‘C’ will never be pronounced as it is in ‘cake’. It is pronounced as ‘ts’.
- Sometimes two consonants make one sound:
- Ch, ch – ch in German acht, something that sounds like you need to get rid of phlegm at the back of your throat
- Dz, dz – ds in mends, can also be used at the start of a word
- Dž, dž – j in jam
Dark History Of Lithuanian Writing
The Lithuanian people are very proud of their language. They are even more intense about it giving the dark history the Lithuanian language went through. Before Lithuania achieved independence, there was a period from 1863 to 1904, where the Russian Empire banned any use of the language in education and publishing; the use of the Latin alphabet was also banned completely. Hence, the level of literacy among the Lithuanians was very low at the time. Classical Lithuanian literature was also at risk.
However, the printing of Lithuanian books was continued in East Prussia and the United States. Book smugglers would smuggle Lithuanian books into the country, risking getting caught and prison time. These book smugglers continued until the ban was lifted in 1904 and they were considered heroes by most Lithuanian people.
The world has become more accessible to everyone since we have many works in translations, however, so many things can be lost in translation. For example, puns, jokes, cultural references, and many more are always lost in translation since it is almost impossible to translate those.
Now if you are tired of getting “lost”, you can simply download Ling App and start your journey as soon as you want to, at your own pace. Ling App can help you by offering recordings of spoken Lithuanian (and over 60+ foreign languages), grammar lessons, pronunciation, common phrases, and many more. Start now!