Make your own free website on Tripod.com
The Historical Grammar of Lithuanian language.
Sound samples are available in the Phonetics section.
 
1. The History of Lithuanian language, its place in the Indo-European family.
 
2. The historical and modern phonetics.
 
3. The Lithuanian noun.
 
4. The Lithuanian adjective.
 
5. The Lithuanian pronoun.
 
6. The Lithuanian adverb.
 
7. The Lithuanian numeral.
 
8. The Lithuanian verb.
 
9. The Lithuanian verbal substantives.
 
10. The Lithuanian preposition.
 
 11. The Lithuanian conjunction, particle and interjection.
 
12. The Lithuanian syntax.
 
         § 1. The History of Lithuanian Language, Its Place in the Indo-European Family.

The Lithuanian language is included in the Baltic group of Indo-European languages and represents (together with existing Latvian, extinct Latgalian and Semigalian languages) the West Baltic subgroup.

Most of scientists agree that Baltic languages were a part of Balto-Slavic language community in the 2nd millennium B.C. Balto-Slavic together with German is believed to drift apart from East Indo-European in the beginning of the 2nd millennium B.C., soon Balto-Slavic tribes settled in plains and forests of Eastern Europe, where now Belorussia, the Ukraine, Lithuania and western regions of Russia are situated. Germanic tribes parted from that community and went farther to Europe. That is the most common theory, but still some arguments are going on.

Nevertheless, it is doubtless, that during the second and the first half of the first millennium B.C. Baltic and Slavic tribes could understand each other quite well. They inhabited lands along the upper Dnepr, the lower Dvina (Daugava), the Bug and the Neman (Nemunas) rivers. As they were spreading the language, naturally, acquired its varieties, then dialects, and near the 8th or the 7th century B.C. it appeared possible to speak about two different groups of language - Common Baltic and Common Slavic. Of them, the Baltic tribes inhabited vast regions in modern Belorussia, Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania. According to Herodot, Hesiod and other Greek geographers, in 6th and 5th languages B.C. north from Baltic tribes lands were inhabited by Finnish peoples, east, west and south - by Slavs. During the next couple of centuries the Baltic region acquired its more or less stable borderlines, after slow migration to the North and assimilation of Baltic tribes by Slavs in the South.

Common Baltic divided into two subgroups - eastern and western - and then into single languages, but they did not differ a lot (comparing with Celtic or Anatolian, for example). But still we cannot call a language "Lithuanian" until various tribes were consolidated into one community by prince Mindaugas in 13th century A.D.

The connections of Slavic and Baltic languages are still making them the closest groups in Indo-European community. According to research, in modern Russian the words of Indo-European (i.e. cognates can be found in more than one other group) stem make about 7.5%, and the words with cognate stems in Baltic and Slavic make over 19%. Phonetic systems of Slavic and Lithuanian are quite similar, and in Belorussia and northern Russia there are dialects that have completely Lithuanian phonetics. Morphology is not so close but still shows evident relativeness: the system of cases and numbers, the verb system, the syntax are much alike. If you know Russian, you will be quite surprised while reading the grammar material given below.

Many words and even speech samples are not common, but were borrowed into Lithuanian from Russian, Polish and Belorussian. That can be explained not only by historical unity of Lithuanian and Poland first, then Lithuania and Russia, but also by similarity of languages.

There is one more very important feature of Lithuanian which is impossible to omit. The language is believed to be one of the most conservative in the whole Indo-European family and so one of the closest to the Common Indo-European stage of language. That is why when analyzing Proto-Indo-European, we consider Lithuanian examples together with those from Latin, Greek and Hittite.

 
     § 2. The Historical and Modern Phonetics.

Lithuanian phonetics went rather far from Indo-European. Together with Slavic languages Baltic phonetics did not preserve aspirated and labiovelar consonants, syllabic sounds and some vowels including schwa. But one of the distinguishing features of Baltic phonetics is the fact that it was not influenced by any other non-Indo-European sound system, so practically no new phonemes appeared in Lithuanian. It is important if we mention that no other group of Indo-European languages preserve such a pure phonological structure - Indic languages have been influenced greatly by Dravidian, Anatolian - by Semitic and many others, Celtic - by aboriginal substratum (which even caused many of scientists think Celtic phonetics is not Indo-European at all), Slavic phonetics - especially in South Slavic regions - has a lot of sounds of Iranian origin.

Baltic system developed in isolation. Below you can see a small table characterizing changes from Common Indo-European to Baltic phonetics. Sound samples are available for each phoneme:
 

IE
Baltic
Examples
Vowels
a (short) a bhardha' (a beard) - barzda (a beard)
o a nokw-t- (night) - naktis (night)
e ě mens (month, moon) - me.nuo, me.nesio (month)
i i nizdo- (a nest) - lizdas (a nest)
u u yug- (yoke) - jungas (yoke)
[] schwa a  
a' (long) o' ma'te'r (mother) - motina (mother)
e' e' se'no- (old) - senas (old)
i' i' wi'ro- (man) - vyras (man)
o' uo ebo'l- (apple) - obuolys (apple)
u' u' pu'- (to blow) - pu'sti (to blow)
Difthongs
ai, ei, oi ie oino- (one) - vienas (one)
au au sauso- (dry) - sausas (dry)
Syllable and Semi-vowels
no (short) in, un mnoti- (a mind) - minti (to remember)
mo im, um  
ro ir mroto- (a dead) - mirti (to die)
lo il wlokwo- (wolf) - vilkas (wolf)
n'o (long) in  
m'o im  
r'o ir  wr'omi- (a worm) - kirminas (a worm)
l'o il  dl'o-g- (long) - ilgas (long in time)
w u, v, disappeared dhwer- (door) - durys (door) 

newo- (new) - naujas (new) 

wed- (wet) - vanduo (water)

y j, disappeared yuk- (yoke) - jungas (yoke)
Consonants
p p pu'- (to blow) - pu'sti (to blow)
t t ma'te'r (mother) - motina (mother)
k š kerd- (heart) - širdis (heart)
b b belo- (bright, white) - baltas (white)
d d deiwo- (god) - dievas (god)
g ž gno'-, gna'- (know) - žinoti (to know) 
bh b bhardha' (a beard) - barzda (a beard)
dh d dhe'- (to put) - de.ti (to put)
gh ž gheim- (winter) - žiema (winter)
th t stha'- (to stand) - sustoti (to stand)
k' š ak'- (sharp) - aštrus (sharp)
g' ž  
g'h ž bherg'h- (birch) - beržas (birch)
kw k, š kwon- (hound) - šuo, šuns (dog) 
kwis (what, who) - kas (what, who)
gw g gwei- (to live) - gyvas (alive)
gwh g, ž gwher- (hot) - že.re.ti (to burn)
s s, š sauso- (dry) - sausas (dry)
 
As we can see, long and short division of vowels was preserved, as well as some diphthongs (even one more diphthong appeared from Indo-European long o). But consonants survived a greater change: aspirated ones disappeared, velar and palatal ones transformed into hushing sounds, labiovelar consonants became velar stops. The complete assimilation of syllable vowels and Indo-European schwa made Lithuanian phonetics raher simple. Below you see the tables of modern Lithuanian sounds.

Vowels are still divided into long (6):

    [i']                 [u']

       [e']           [o']*

        [ae']

              [a']
 

and short (4):

    [i]                 [u]

        []
            [a]

* The [o] sound can be only long; short [o] sounds only in foreign words.

Historically there were some other vowels in Lithuanian. The most significant of them are nasal [a], [i], [e], [u] vowels. They were met, for example, in accusative singular of nouns where they came from the vowel + n combination. Sometimes such vowels are situated in the stem (spręsti - to decide, kąsnis - a piece) but nowadays they are different from single vowels only in orphography, but not in pronounciation, they are pronounced like usual vowels (in some dialects nasals are sometimes still heard, the most survivable is a nasal [u]).

Besides from single vowels described above, in Lithuanian there are two complex vowels: [ie] (e.g. diena - a day, žiema - winter) and [uo] (e.g. duona - bread, uostas - a port). They descended, as we mentioned above, from Indo-European diphthongs and long [o] respectively, and now cannot be called difthongs nor single vowels.

As for diphthongs themselves, there are four of them:
[ai] (vaikas - a child)
[au] (laukti - to wait)
[ei] (peilis - a knife)
[ui] (zuikis - a hare)

Some Lithuanian authors complete these vowel diphthongs by two-sound combinations which are pronounced together and are stressed together too:
al, am, an, ar, el, em, en, er, il, im, in, ir, ul, um, un, ur
Examples: kalnas - a mountain, kampas - an angle, antras - the second, darbas - a job, elgtis - to behave, tempti - to pull, tiltas - a bridge, ginti - to defend, jungti - to unite, kurti - to create

According to statistics, of all Lithuanian vowels simple ones make about 86% in modern language, diphthongs come to 8%, complex vowels make up 6%.


Consonants:
 
  labial dental palatal velar
firm p, b, f, v, m t, d, s, z, š, ž, l, r, n   k, g, [g], [ng] 
soft p', b', f', v', m' t', d', s', z', č, [dž], l', r', n' k', g', [g'], j, [ng']  
 
All consonant sounds are short, even in foreign words such as komunismas or metalas. Also there is a sound [g] with its soft equivalent which are used in foreign words for the letter h (himnas, herbas).

Consonants are much less alike Indo-European than vowels in Lithuanian. Aspirated and labiovelar sounds disappeared, practically all consonants were divided into soft and firm; new sibilants appeared. All three these changes are believed to occur already in Balto-Slavic period, as Common Slavic language had a very similar phonological system.

Among a lot of problems that are discussed in almost all works devoted to Baltic phonetics there is a problem of  "d - n shift" in Balto-Slavic languages. It occurs only in initial position of words and means that Common Indo-European [n] sometimes - and actually randomly - turns into [d]. It is seen in Slavic *děvet and Lithuanian devyni - Indo-European *newno (nine); then in Lithuanian debesis - Indo-European *nebhos (the sky). Some time later we should go deeper in this problem in our Linguistic Research , and now we can only deliver our own version: the initial position of this sound and the unregularity of this shift leads us to the similar phenomenon in Celtic which is called "eclipsis" - the initial nasalisation of a sound due to a preceding word ending in -n. But this can be argued about, certainly.

Lithuanian Modern phonetics is similar to East Slavic (Belorussian and Russian) and much less - to all other Indo-European groups. See the last paragraph of this article for Comparative Lithuanian research.

Lithuanian, as Old English or Modern Russian, has a lot of vowel and consonant interchanges (Ablauts). Sometimes they are situated in the stem of the word and are already morphological; but mostly they appeared due to phonetic processes, such as stress, neighbour phonemes and their place in the word. Let us see some of those interchanges:

e - [ae] (interchange in unstressed - stressed syllables)

e - i (an Ablaut in stems)

ą, ę - ant, u (this can be met mostly in participles with or without case endings; the former nasal vowels end the word, or they transform before an ending)

t, d - s, z (when a consonant doubles: tt, dt > st; td, dd > zd)

t, d - č, dž (this change is very frequent in the language and is met before a back vowel) (dviratis - dviračio, medis - medžio)

p, t, š - [b], [d], [ž] (interchange before a voiceless consonant - before a voiced consonant; the processes are called deafening and voicening)

n - [ng] - [m] (interchange before dentals - before velars - before labials)

n disappears before fricatives and resonants, the prior vowel becomes nasal.

 

And one more thing to complete this brief survey of phonetics. The stress in Lithuanian still surprises and remains amazing for linguists all over the world. Different from English, German or Russian, Lithuanian has three kinds of stress, which were noticed by scientists already in the XIX century. Lithuanian stress has generally two varieties: lowering and rising tones.

When the tone is lowering, the stress goes up > down, and in grammatical references such a stress is marked with an acute (' ). The rising tone is marked by circumflex (~), and the stress goes vice versa here, the syllable sound is pronounced in low tone, the non-syllable is rising.
 

     § 3. The Lithuanian Noun.
 
The noun in Lithuanian represents common trends of Proto-Indo-European noun in declension, classes and syntax. In Lithuanian we can easily distinguish the most common stems of Indo-European substantives; most of endings - and the Lithuanian noun is highly inflected - can be traced from Indo-European forms, as well as from Common Balto-Slavic ones.

The Lithuanian noun shows mainly the declension both for nouns and adjectives; some innovations and borrowings from pronomenal declension are of a small number.

Nouns have no article.

The noun has 7 cases, 3 numbers (in classical Lithuanian, while in modern colloquial language the dual number is seldom used) and 2 genders, as neuter disappeared earlier in Baltic languages and was preserved just in some adjective forms. But it existed in Balto-Slavic community and even in Old Prussian so this can be called a West Baltic change. The ablative case of nouns also disappeared, but already in Balto-Slavic epoch, associated with genitive. But still the case system remains very complicated (especially for English-speakers) as cases sometimes have several meanings. Here is the table:


Nominative - answers the question kas? (who?, what?)
    Used in its direct function

Genitive - answers the question ko? (of whom? of what?)
    a) possessive genitive: brolio kambarys (brother's room; the genitive goes first before the subject)
    b) with a negative verb: aš nerašau laiško (I am not writing a letter)
    c) genitive of part or uncountable amount: šitoje parduotuve.je yra pieno (There is milk in this shop; used with uncountable nouns as bread, koffee, snow etc.)
    d) of quantity: Prašom duoti nedaug vandens (Please, give a cup of water; again with uncountables, after the words like a lot of, much, many, a little, kilo, meter etc.)
    e) of purpose: Jis iše.jo vandens (He has gone for water)

Dative - answers the question kam? (to whom? to what?)
    a) dative of direction: duoti draugui duonos (to give some bread to a friend)
    b) of time: išvažiavo menesiui (to leave for a month), bilieta sekmadieniui (a ticket for Sunday)
    c) of purpose: produktai vakarienei (food for supper)
    d) possesive dative: Man gripas (I've got an influenza; used only in sentences like this)

Accusative - answers the question ką? (whom? what?)
    a) accusative of time: vasarą (in summer), šią savaitę (this week) - used also with days of the week, and seasons
    b) direct object: Aš mačiau Juozapą (I saw Joseph)

Instrumental - answers the question kuo? (by what? how?)
    a) direct instrumental: važiuoti autobusu (to go by bus)
    b) of way: eiti gatve (to go along the street; used with verbs of movement)
    c) of time: dienos metu (in day time; used with indicators of time)
    d) of cause: sirgti gripu (to have an influenza; used in expressions like to die from, to complain about, to be ill with)

Locative - answers the question kur? (where?)
    Used without prepositions: gyventi bute (to live in a flat)

Vocative - used while addressing a person, with animated nouns: Rimai! Ateik čia! (Rimas! Come here!)


The noun declension divides all substantives into five classes (or five declensions), each of them representing this or that stem of Indo-European nouns.

 1 class (from IE o- and jo-stems masculine and neuter) - masculine ending in unstressed  -as, -is, -ys (studentas, kelias, brolis, kambarys)
 2 class (from IE a'- and ja'-stems feminine) - feminine ending in -a, -e. (mama, sale.)
 3 class (from IE i-stems feminine and masculine) - feminine and masculine ending in stressed -is (akis, dantis)
 4 class (from IE u-stems masculine) - masculine ending in -us / -ius (sunus, koridorius)
 5 class (from IE consonant stems masculine and feminine) - masculine ending in -uo  (vanduo)
 

 
1 class
2 class
3 class
4 class
5 class
Singular
Nom. -as, -is, -ys  
< -os, -jos
-a, -e. < -a, -é -is < -is -us, -ius -uo
Gen. -o, -io -os, -e.s -ies -aus, -iaus < -ús < -ous -en-s
Dat. -ui, -iui < -oi -ai, -ei < -ái -iai (masc. -iui) -ui, -iui -en-iui
Acc. -ą  -i, < -an < -am -ą, -ę < -am -i, -u, -iu, -en-i,
Instr. -u, -iu -a, -e  -imi -umi, -iumi -en-iu
Loc. -e, -yje -oje, e.je < -ai -yje -uje, -iuje -en-yje
Voc. -e (animated nouns have -ai), -i, -y  -a, -e  -ie -au, -iau (not used)
Dual
Nom.., Acc., Voc. -u -i -i -u -en-iu, -en-i
Dat. -am < -omo -om, -e.m -im -um -en-im
Instr. -am < -omo -om, -e.m -ím -úm -en-ím
Plural
Nom., Voc. -ai, -iai < -oi -os, -e.s < -ás -ys -űs, -iai -en-ys
Gen. -u, -iu, < -on < -om -u, -iu,  -iu, -u, -iu, -en-iu,
Dat. -ams < -omos -oms, -e.ms -ims -ums, -iams -en-ims
Acc. -us, -ius < -uos < -ons -as, -es -is -us, -ius -en-is
Instr. -ais, -iais < -ais -omis, -e.mis -imis -umis, -iais -en-imis
Loc. -uose, -iuose  < -osu -ose, -e.se -yse -uose, -iuose -en-yse
 
Some exceptions:
  sesuo (sister), sesers, seseriai, seseri, , seseria, seseryje;  seserys, seseru, , seserims, seseris, seserimis, seseryse
  dukte. (daughter), dukters, dukteriai, dukteri, etc. (like sesuo)
  me.nuo (a month), me.nesio, me.nesiui, me.nesi, etc. (like 1 class)
  šuo (a dog), šuns, šuniui, šuni, , šuniu, šunyje; šunys, šunu, , šunims, šunis, šunimis, šunyse
  žmogus (a man; 4 class) - žmone.s (men; 2 class)

Productive suffixes are common in colloquial language nouns; they are in fact quite numerous, but we will give a few which are most widespread in the language:
 a) originated from verbs
  -tojas / -toja - a profession (mokyti - mokytojas, mokytoja; to teach - a teacher)
  -kla / -ykla - an office (mokyti - mokykla; to teach - a school)

 b) originated from nouns
  -ninkas / -ninka - a profession (darba - darbininkas; work - a worker)

Some of suffixes are of Balto-Slavic origin, some are purely Baltic and can be traced also in Old Prussian, Latvian and Sudovian.

The most difficult thing to learn in Lithuanian nouns (to my mind) is their stress rules - as everywhere in Baltic and Slavic languages. The stress should be only learned by heart, because although there are several paradigms you can hardly define which word uses which paradigm.

As a whole, the Lithuanian noun is a good example of comparative studies of Indo-European languages. And since quite a lot of nouns here have common Indo-European stems are obviously of very ancient origin, we can believe that Lithuanians speak a language which hasn't come far from Proto-Indo-European.
 
 
     § 4. The Lithuanian Adjective.
 
Adjectives in Lithuanian behave much like nouns, their declension is practically the same. All Indo-European languages have a common system of declension for nouns, adjectives and most of pronouns - Lithuanian is not an exception. And still, adjectives have only two classes of declension and some differences in flexions also exist.

Adjectives usually precede nouns, in some emphatic cases the inversion can be used. They can be masculine, feminine and neuter, and this is the only place where neuter case acts in Lithuanian. Also all adjectives are divided into three categories: qualitative, pronominal and relative. Qualitative are the most widely used in the language and describe all qualities of simple nouns (for example, "red", "big", "silent"). They are not produced from any other parts of speech and are of independent origin, having their own stems. Qualitative adjectives have two kinds of declension: the 1st declension in masculine has the flexions of the same class of nouns, in feminine it has 2 noun class flexions. The 2 nd declension in masculine has mostly flexions of 4 noun class, in feminine the endings are originally from Indo-European jâ-stems. There are some differences, so it all looks like this:
 

 
Singular
1st declension 2nd declension
Masc. Fem. Masc. Fem.
Nom. -as -a -us -i
Gen. -o -os -aus -ios
Dat. -am -ai -iam -iai
Acc. -a, -a, -u, -ia,
Instr. -u -a -iu -ia
Loc. -ame -oje -iame -ioje
Dual
Nom., Acc. -u -u -iu -iu
Dat., Instr. -iem -iem -iem -iem
Plural
Nom. -i -os -ús -ios
Gen. -u, -u, -iu, -iu,
Dat. -iems -oms -iems -ioms
Acc. -us -as -ius -ias
Instr. -ais -omis -iais -iomis
Loc. -uose -ose -iuose -iose
 
Neuter adjectives do not decline and express the state in an impersonal sentence; they have an -a ending in the 1st declension and an -u in the 2nd declension.
Examples:     geras oras - fine weather (masc.)
                    Aš turiu idomia, knyga, - I've got an interesting book (fem.)
                    Vilniuje gera gyventi - It's good to live in Vilnius (neut.)
 

Pronominal adjectives are very interesting as they are unknown to English, German or French language. Pronominal adjectives are now used only in Slavic and Baltic languages. They are composed of simple qualitative adjectives plus the so-called anaphoric pronoun, which serves to emphasize the adjective among other ones. Pronominal adjectives are very hard to understand and their usage is difficult: mainly when a noun needs to be separated or emphasized among others. See the table (the adjectives are geras - "good" and gražus - "beautiful") followed by some examples:
 
Singular
1st declension masc. 2st declension masc. 1st declension fem. 2nd declension fem.
Nom. geras-is gražus-is gero-ji gražio-ji
Gen. gero-jo gražio-jo geros-ios gražios-ios
Dat. gera-jam gražia-jam gera-jai gražia-jai
Acc. gera,-ji, gražiu,-ji, gera,-ja, gražia,-ja,
Instr. geru-oju gražiu-oju gera,-ja gražia,-ja
Loc. gera-jame gražia-jame gerojo-je gražiojo-je
Plural
Nom. gerie-ji gražie-ji geros-ios gražios-ios
Gen. geru,-ju, gražiu,-ju, geru,-ju, gražiu,-ju,
Dat. gereis-iems gražieis-iems geros-ioms gražios-ioms
Acc. geruos-ius gražiuos-ius gera,s-ias gražia,s-ias
Instr. gerais-iais gražiais-iais geros-iomis gražios-iomis
Loc. geruos-iuose gražiuos-iuose geros-iose gražios-iose
 
Slavic languages, mainly from the East Slavic subgroup, also have pronominal adjectives. In Russian they are used very widely instead of simple adjectives, while the simple ones are a kind of archaic forms. It is vice versa in Lithuanian, as we can see.

Examples:     gražioji ge.le. - the beautiful flower (which is extraordinary with its beauty)
                    aukštoji mokykla - the High School (while aukšta mokykla - a high school-building)


The third category of adjectives consists of relative ones. They are derivatives from nouns or adverbs and are declined in masculine like 1st class nouns with -is ending, and in feminine like 2nd class nouns with -e. ending. Some examples of relative adjectives:
        rytine. naujiena - morning news
        žieminis paltas - a winter coat
        dideliai medžiai - big trees


Now about the last thing for adjectives in Lithuanian. The degrees of comparison can be made only from qualitative adjectives, pronominal and relative ones cannot have such. The comparative and the superlative forms also can be declined in all the cases and numbers of simple adjectives. Here we will show some examples of nominative singular:

    geras           
    geresnis (masc.), geresne. (fem.), geriau (neut.)
    geriausias (masc.), geriausia (fem.), geriausia (neut.)

    gražus                                  
    gražesnis, gražesne., gražiau                                            
    gražiausias, gražiausia

    didis
    didesnis, didesne., didžiau
    didžiausias, didžiausia

The usage of comparison forms is similar to that in English and in any other Indo-European language:
        Brolis yra vyresnis už mane - The brother is older than me (or - )
        Brolis jaunesnis negu aš - The brother is younger than me
 
That must be all for adjectives. Tired?
 

 
1. The History of Lithuanian language, its place in the Indo-European family.
 
2. The historical and modern phonetics.
 
3. The Lithuanian noun.
 
4. The Lithuanian adjective.
 
5. The Lithuanian pronoun.
 
6. The Lithuanian adverb.
 
7. The Lithuanian numeral.
 
 8. The Lithuanian verb.
 
9. The Lithuanian verbal substantives.
 
10. The Lithuanian preposition.
 
11. The Lithuanian conjunction, particle and interjection.
 
 12. The Lithuanian syntax.