Lithuanian language

Lithuanian is the oldest and least altered Indo-European language – a real treasure for its speakers and researchers. It belongs to the Baltic language family, in which it is one of the two extant languages, the other one being Latvian. Other languages in this group, Prussian, Sudovian, Curonian, Semigallian and Selonian, are no longer in existence. Among these, Prussian is the best-known. It ceased to be spoken at the beginning of the 18th century due to crusaders’ persecutions which lasted for four centuries. A Prussian dictionary with German equivalents compiled in about 1400 AD is considered to be the oldest written source of the Baltic languages. Several place names of alleged Sudovian origin (Jieznas, Bilsas) along with some Polish dialects are the only remaining traces of Sudovian. Speakers of Curonian, Semigallian and Selonian left no written sources of their languages. Traces of Selonian can still be heard in a few names of lakes – Zirnajai, Zalvas and in the town name Zarasai; the latter originates from the word azaras, meaning ‘lake’.

The Lithuanian language is very concrete. Many foreign languages commonly spoken nowadays, including English, in this respect differ from Lithuanian – for example, the English word ‘place’ usually conveys the abstract meaning of a place, house, work, yard, square, street, alley and many other things. In addition, Lithuanian language is highly inflectional, whereas English has a rather limited amount of prefixes and endings – instead, it uses a lot of auxiliaries, pronouns in particular.

The origin of the name Lithuania has not yet been established. It was mentioned for the first time in 1009 in the Quedlinburg Chronicles which were written in Latin. As time passed by, the Lithuanian language endured a great number of challenges: continuous wars, oppression, Polonization, prohibition of the language, and finally Russification left many scars, but did not destroy the language. The oldest record of Lithuanian dates back to the 16th century (a prayer by an anonymous author). Some linguists controversially propose that the Balts and Slavs once formed a single language group, which later divided into two. Indeed, several hundred words are common to both Baltic and Slavic languages (eg ranka – ruka, galva – golova, ragas – rog), but the Slavic origins of these words have been disputed.
Some hold an opinion that Lithuanian may have preserved words from the pre-Indo-European period dating as far back as the last Ice Age about 11 000 years ago. The names of lakes and rivers, which have existed for millennia, might evidence this assumption. Below you will find several examples of archaic hydronyms, the origin of which has not yet been established. These beautiful words bear a mysterious echo of time immemorial, gradually intermingling into familiar assonances…

Lithuanian rivers and lakes

Alšia
Altis
Anga
Anykščiai
Ankaris
Apsta
Apšriuotis
Artava
Arvystas
Audenis
Baka
Bižas
Cedvė
Ciras
Dalidas
Dausinas
Detela
Galba
Galgaitis
Glasmynas
Jagomantas
Josvainis
Jusinė
Kaivadys
Kavalys
Keizaras
Kiše
Korubis
Kušupis
Lamėstas
Liūdė
Lūja
Maučiodis
Melmentas
Midega
Minsnoras
Nečeskas
Nerema
Paštys
Piešys
Praviena
Rešketa
Roduntas
Skinija
Snietela
Stidilis
Suvingis
Ubesiukas
Urmis
Vastapa
Vėzgė
Viekšnia
Vievis
Vypla
Volaujė
Zapsė
Žaisa
Žvarkulis

 

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