The Languages of Lithuania
Lithuanian is the state language of the Republic of Lithuania with 2.67 million native speakers in Lithuania alone; inside the country, the language is also spoken by about 350,000 people of other nationalities. About 0.6 million speakers live abroad, making it a total of 3,6 million speakers. Since 2004, Lithuanian has been one of the official languages of the European Union.
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.
The two largest and most distinct Lithuanian dialects are: Aukštaitian and Samogitian.
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.
- There were 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).