The Languages of Lithuania
Lithuanian is the language of the Baltic language group of Indo-European families. It is one of the two surviving (with Latvian) living Baltic languages. Since 2004, Lithuanian is one of the official languages of the European Union. It is the state language of the Republic of Lithuania with 2.67 million native speakers in Lithuania alone; besides Lithuanians, the language is spoken by about 350,000 people of other nationalities in the country and about 0.6 million abroad, which makes a total of 3,6 million speakers.
The Lithuanian language is still used by Lithuanian national minorities in the south-eastern part of Latvia (mainly Latgale), in the north-eastern part of Poland (Punsk, Sejny and other districts), and in the north-western part of Belarus (Opsa, Gervėčiai, Pelesa, Rodūnia and other districts). The Lithuanian language is also spoken by expat communities in Ireland, Australia, Brazil, Estonia, Spain, the United States, Canada, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine, and elsewhere.
There are two largest Lithuanian dialects with the most differences: Aukštaitian and Samogitian. Larger dialects are further divided into dialects, subdialects and even smaller varieties.
Features of Lithuanian:
- Among the Indo-European living languages, Lithuanian has best maintained the synthetic sentence structure. Syntactic connections in it are mainly expressed in interrelated forms of words.
- The current Lithuanian alphabet has 32 letters: 12 vowels, 20 consonants and 3 letter combinations.
- In Lithuanian, lexis is the most variable level of language. Some words disappear and new ones are coined. In the current Lithuanian language, there are especially many terms in various fields. The lexis encompases old words, words inherited from the Proto-Indo-European language, word coinages based on inherited words and borrowings.
- At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, the world-famous specialists in Indo-European linguistics, mainly linguists from Germany, Poland, Russia and other countries, became interested in the Lithuanian language due to its archaic structure and vocabulary. Lithuanian language has been taught at universities in Berlin, Jena, Leipzig, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Paris, Prague, Vienna, etc..
- At the beginning of the 21st century, there are more than 30 institutions for the Lithuanian language studies (sometimes Baltic studies) in various countries (mostly in Europe), where one or several linguists study and/or teach the Lithuanian language (and culture).