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Baltic Online

Lesson 1: Lithuanian

Virginija Vasiliauskiene and Jonathan Slocum

One of the most distinguished Lithuanian poets and playwrights of the second half of the 20th century, Justėnas Marcinkevicius has chosen as the basis of many of his works the most prominent cultural phenomena of the Lithuanian nation and, the most significant events of its history. The heroes of his dramas and poems are the first king of Lithuania, King Mindaugas, the author of the first Lithuanian book, Martýnas Mãzvydas, the most famous writer, Kristijõnas Doneláitis, and the author of the first history of Lithuania, Sėmonas Daukantas.

In his works, Justėnas Marcinkevicius gives meaning to the national culture (the birth of the state, writing, art and science) as a condition for the survival of the nation. Lithuanians do not have a heroic epic as do many other European nations. Thus the poems and plays of this writer have become a special national epic about the fundamental elements out of which Lithuania developed and from which Lithuania began.

Marcinkevicius is considered one of the most vivid stimulators of national consciousness and a supporter of passive resistance during the years of Soviet occupation. In his words, by using language, especially written, a nation enhances its existence and its self-consciousness.

Reading and Textual Analysis

In the selection given from Justínas Marcinkevicius' book of essays, "The unity of the flowing river" (1994), there is a discussion of the first Lithuanian book, Martýnas Mãzvydas' catechism. This selection reflects the difficulty of the establishment of the Lithuanian language in its own country. In it the meaning of the book for all mankind is stressed. Marcinkevicius also points out some of the important characteristics of the preface of the first Lithuanian book -- its rhymed form and the use of personification. In his preface the readers are addressed with these words: "Brothers and sisters, take me and read (me) ..." In this statement it is possible to find several orthographic and phonetic features characteristic of the Old Lithuanian language, the lack of the marking of the long vowel y in the word seseris, the use of the Indo-European long a in place of the long o of the contemporary Lithuanian language (cf. brálei and bróliai), etc.

The language of the Old Lithuanian writings will be discussed at greater length in lessons 5-7.

"Brálei, seseris imkiet māni ir skaitíkiet..."

  • brálei -- noun, masculine; vocative plural of <brólis> brother -- brothers
  • seseris -- noun, feminine; vocative plural of <sesuõ> sister -- sisters
  • imkiet -- verb; 2nd person plural imperative of <imti, ėma, eme> begin, start -- take
  • māni -- pronoun; accusative singular of <ās> I -- me
  • ir -- conjunction; <ir> and -- and
  • skaitíkiet -- verb; 2nd person plural imperative of <skaitýti, skaito, skaite> read -- read (me)

Ės dideles méiles, vilties ir tikejimo kyla tokie zõdziai, retas Lietuvojč ju nezėno, neskaite ar negirdejo.

  • ės -- preposition; <ės> from -- from
  • dideles -- adjective; genitive singular feminine of <dėdelis, dėdele> great, large -- great
  • méiles -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <méile> love -- love
  • vilties -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <viltės> hope -- hope
  • ir -- conjunction; <ir> and -- and
  • tikejimo -- noun, masculine; genitive singular of <tikejimas> faith -- faith
  • kyla -- verb; 3rd person present of <kėlti, kyla, kėlo> arise -- arise
  • tokie -- pronoun; nominative plural masculine of <tóks, tokiā> such -- such
  • zõdziai -- noun, masculine; nominative plural of <zõdis> word -- words
  • retas -- adjective; nominative singular masculine, of <retas, retā> rare -- rare (man)
  • Lietuvojč -- proper noun, feminine; locative singular of <Lietuvā> Lithuania -- in Lithuania
  • ju -- pronoun; genitive plural masculine of <jės, jė> he, she, it -- them
  • nezėno -- negative particle; <ne> not + verb; 3rd person present of <zinóti, zėno, zinójo> know -- does not know
  • neskaite -- negative particle; <ne> not + verb; 3rd person preterit of <skaitýti, skaito, skaite> read -- has not read
  • ar -- conjunction; <ar> if, or -- or
  • negirdejo -- negative particle; <ne> not + verb; 3rd person preterit of <girdeti, girdi, girdejo> hear -- has not heard

Ės tolimõs praeities ataidi jie lėgi siu dienu.

  • ės -- preposition; <ės> from -- from
  • tolimõs -- adjective; genitive singular feminine of <tólimas, tolimā> distant -- distant
  • praeities -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <praeitės> past -- the past
  • ataidi -- verb; 3rd person present of <ataideti, ataidi, ataidejo> echo -- echo
  • jie -- pronoun; nominative plural masculine of <jės, jė> he, she, it -- they
  • lėgi -- preposition; <lėgi> until -- until
  • siu -- pronoun; genitive plural feminine of <sės, sė> this -- these
  • dienu -- noun, feminine; genitive plural of <dienā> day -- days

Uzsiziebe istōrijos tamsojč, jie nųsviete erskeciúota lietųvisko zõdzio kelia ir lýg pėrmas naujãgimio klyksmas prānese pasáuliui, kād gėme rãstas, gėme pirmóji lietųviska knygā.

  • uzsiziebe -- verb; nominative plural masculine of preterit participle active reflexive of <uzsiziebti, uzsiziebia, uzsėziebe> flash -- have flashed
  • istōrijos -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <istōrija> history -- of history
  • tamsojč -- noun, feminine; locative singular of <tamsā> darkness -- in the darkness
  • jie -- pronoun; nominative plural masculine of <jės, jė> he, she, it -- they
  • nųsviete -- verb; 3rd person preterit of <nusviesti, nusviecia, nųsviete> light -- have lighted
  • erskeciúota -- adjective; accusative singular masculine of <erskeciúotas, erskeciúota> thorny -- thorny
  • lietųvisko -- adjective; genitive singular masculine of <lietųviskas, lietųviska> Lithuanian -- of Lithuanian
  • zõdzio -- noun, masculine; genitive singular of <zõdis> word -- the word
  • kelia -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <kelias> path -- the path
  • ir -- conjunction; <ir> and -- and
  • lýg -- conjunction; <lýg> as, like -- like
  • pėrmas -- number; nominative singular masculine of <pėrmas, pirmā> first -- the first
  • naujãgimio -- noun, masculine; genitive singular of <naujãgimis> new-born -- of the new-born
  • klyksmas -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <klyksmas> cry, scream -- cry
  • prānese -- verb; 3rd person preterit of <prančsti, prānesa, prānese> announce, inform -- have announced
  • pasáuliui -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <pasáulis> world -- to the world
  • kād -- conjunction; <kād> that -- that
  • gėme -- verb; 3rd person preterit of <gėmti, gėmsta, gėme> be born -- has been born
  • rãstas -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <rãstas> writing -- writing
  • gėme -- verb; 3rd person preterit of <gėmti, gėmsta, gėme> be born -- has been born
  • pirmóji -- definite number; nominative singular feminine of <pėrmas, pirmā> first -- the first
  • lietųviska -- adjective; nominative singular feminine of <lietųviskas, lietųviska> Lithuanian -- Lithuanian
  • knygā -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <knygā> book -- book

Tai ivyko, kaip atspáusta titulėniame jõs pųslapyje, tukstantis penkė simtai keturiasdesimt septintu metu sausio astunta diena.

  • tai -- pronoun; neuter of <tās, tā> this, that -- that
  • ivyko -- verb; 3rd person preterit of <ivykti, ivyksta, ivyko> happen -- happened
  • kaip -- conjunction; <kaip> as, like -- as
  • atspáusta -- verb; neuter of preterit participle passive of <atspáusti, atspáudzia, atspáude> print -- printed
  • titulėniame -- adjective; locative singular masculine of <titulėnis, titulėne> title -- title
  • jõs -- pronoun; pronoun; genitive singular feminine of <jės, jė> he, she, it -- its
  • pųslapyje -- noun, masculine; locative singular of <pųslapis> page -- on the page
  • tukstantis -- number; nominative singular of <tukstantis> thousand -- one thousand
  • penkė -- number; nominative masculine of <penkė, penkios> five -- five
  • simtai -- number; nominative plural of <simtas> hundred -- hundred
  • keturiasdesimt -- number; <keturiasdesimt> forty -- forty
  • septintu -- number; genitive plural masculine of <septintas, septintā> seventh -- seven
  • metu -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <metai> year -- in the year
  • sausio -- noun, masculine; genitive singular of <sausis> January -- of January
  • astunta -- number; accusative singular feminine of <astuntas, astuntā> eighth -- on the eighth
  • diena -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <dienā> day -- ...

Knygos atejėma pās zmónes galetumem prilýginti Prometejo zygdarbiui - dieviskosios ugnies pagrobėmui, jõs isdalėjimui zmonems.

  • knygos -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <knygā> book -- of a book
  • atejėma -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <atejėmas> arrival, coming -- the arrival
  • pās -- preposition; <pās> at, to -- among
  • zmónes -- noun, masculine; accusative plural of <zmónes> people -- men
  • galetumem -- verb; 1st person plural subjunctive of <galeti, gãli, galejo> can -- we could
  • prilýginti -- verb; infinitive of <prilýginti, prilýgina, prilýgino> compare -- compare with
  • Prometejo -- proper noun, masculine; genitive singular of <Prometejas> Prometheus -- of Prometheus
  • zygdarbiui -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <zygdarbis> deed, feat -- the deed
  • dieviskosios -- definite adjective; genitive singular feminine of <dieviskas, dieviska> divine -- divine
  • ugnies -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <ugnės> fire -- of the fire
  • pagrobėmui -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <pagrobėmas> steal -- the stealing
  • jõs -- pronoun; genitive singular feminine of <jės, jė> he, she, it -- (and) its
  • isdalėjimui -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <isdalėjimas> distribution -- distribution
  • zmonems -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <zmónes> people -- to men

Sų knygā põ zeme eme sklėsti sviesā ir silumā, jė nč syki gýne zmõgu nuõ tamsõs ir melo zveriu, sėlde sugrųbusia jõ síela, zãdino minti, skãtino veiklai ir kurýbai.

  • -- preposition; <> with -- with
  • knygā -- noun, feminine; instrumental singular of <knygā> book -- a book
  • -- preposition; <> after, over, on -- over
  • zeme -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <zeme> earth -- the earth
  • eme -- verb; 3rd person preterit of <imti, ėma, eme> begin, start -- began
  • sklėsti -- verb; infinitive of <sklėsti, sklinda, sklėdo> spread -- to spread
  • sviesā -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <sviesā> light -- light
  • ir -- conjunction; <ir> and -- and
  • silumā -- noun, feminine; nominative singular; of <silumā> warmth -- warmth
  • -- pronoun; nominative singular feminine of <jės, jė> he, she, it -- it
  • -- particle; <> no, not -- not
  • syki -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <sykis> once -- once
  • gýne -- verb; 3rd person preterit of <gėnti, gėna, gýne> defend -- defended
  • zmõgu -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <zmogųs> human being, person -- man
  • nuõ -- preposition; <nuõ> from -- from
  • tamsõs -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <tamsā> darkness -- of darkness
  • ir -- conjunction; <ir> and -- and
  • melo -- noun, masculine; genitive singular of <melas> falsehood -- of falsehood
  • zveriu -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <zverės> beast -- the beasts
  • sėlde -- verb; 3rd person preterit of <sėldyti, sėldo, sėlde> warm -- it warmed
  • sugrųbusia -- verb; accusative singular feminine of preterit participle active of <sugrųbti, sugrumba, sugrųbo> numb -- benumbed
  • -- pronoun; genitive singular masculine of <jės, jė> he, she, it -- his
  • síela -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <síela> soul -- soul
  • zãdino -- verb; 3rd person preterit of <zãdinti, zãdina, zãdino> awake -- awakened
  • minti -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <mintės> thought -- thought
  • skãtino -- verb; 3rd person preterit of <skãtinti, skãtina, skãtino> encourage, induce -- encouraged
  • veiklai -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <veiklā> activity -- activity
  • ir -- conjunction; <ir> and -- and
  • kurýbai -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <kurýba> creativity -- creativity

Taigi knygā prabyla lietųviskai, ir nč bčt kaip, õ eiliúotai.

  • taigi -- conjunction; <taigi> thus -- thus
  • knygā -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <knygā> book -- the book
  • prabyla -- verb; 3rd person present of <prabėlti, prabyla, prabėlo> speak -- speaks
  • lietųviskai -- adverb <lietųviskai> Lithuanian -- (in) Lithuanian
  • ir -- conjunction; <ir> and -- and
  • -- particle; <> no, not -- not
  • bčt kaip -- adverb; <bčt kaip> anyhow -- any kind
  • õ -- conjunction; <õ> and, but -- but
  • eiliúotai -- adverb; <eiliúotai> rhyme -- rhymed

Jõs áutorius, suprāsdamas momento iskilmingųma, paciõs knygos vardų itaigiai kreipiasi i skaitýtojus, prančsdamas jíems, jóg tai, kõ tevai ir próteviai neregejo,- dabar stai ateina.

  • jõs -- pronoun; genitive singular feminine of <jės, jė> he, she, it -- its
  • áutorius -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <áutorius> author -- author
  • suprāsdamas -- verb; singular masculine of half participle of <suprāsti, supranta, suprãto> understand -- understanding
  • momento -- noun, masculine; genitive singular of <momentas> moment -- of the moment
  • iskilmingųma -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <iskilmingųmas> solemnity -- the solemnity
  • paciõs -- pronoun; genitive singular feminine of <pāts, patė> itself -- itself
  • knygos -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <knygā> book -- of the book
  • vardų -- noun, masculine; instrumental singular of <vardas> name -- in the name
  • itaigiai -- adverb; <itaigiai> suggestively -- suggestively
  • kreipiasi -- verb; 3rd person present reflexive of <kreiptis, kreipiasi, kreipesi> address -- addresses himself
  • i -- preposition; <i> at, for, in, to -- to
  • skaitýtojus -- noun, masculine; accusative plural of <skaitýtojas> reader -- the readers
  • prančsdamas -- verb; singular masculine of half participle of <prančsti, prānesa, prānese> announce, inform -- announcing
  • jíems -- pronoun; dative plural masculine of <jės, jė> he, she, it -- to them
  • jóg -- conjunction; <jóg> that -- that
  • tai -- pronoun; neuter of <tās, tā> this, that -- all that
  • -- pronoun; genitive of <kās> which, what -- which
  • tevai -- noun, masculine; nominative plural of <tevai> parent -- their fathers
  • ir -- conjunction; <ir> and -- and
  • próteviai -- noun, masculine; nominative plural of <prótevis> ancestor -- forefathers
  • neregejo -- negative particle; <ne> not + verb; 3rd person preterit of <regeti, regi, regejo> see -- had never seen
  • dabar -- adverb; <dabar> now -- now
  • stai -- particle; <stai> here -- here
  • ateina -- verb; 3rd person present of <ateiti, ateina, atejo> come -- is at hand

Lesson Text

"Brálei, seseris imkiet māni ir skaitíkiet..." Ės dideles méiles, vilties ir tikejimo kyla tokie zõdziai, retas Lietuvojč ju nezėno, neskaite ar negirdejo. Ės tolimõs praeities ataidi jie lėgi siu dienu. Uzsiziebe istōrijos tamsojč, jie nųsviete erskeciúota lietųvisko zõdzio kelia ir lýg pėrmas naujãgimio klyksmas prānese pasáuliui, kād gėme rãstas, gėme pirmóji lietųviska knygā. Tai ivyko, kaip atspáusta titulėniame jõs pųslapyje, tukstantis penkė simtai keturiasdesimt septintu metu sausio astunta diena.

Knygos atejėma pās zmónes galetumem prilýginti Prometejo zygdarbiui - dieviskosios ugnies pagrobėmui, jõs isdalėjimui zmonems. Sų knygā põ zeme eme sklėsti sviesā ir silumā, jė nč syki gýne zmõgu nuõ tamsõs ir melo zveriu, sėlde sugrųbusia jõ síela, zãdino minti, skãtino veiklai ir kurýbai.

Taigi knygā prabyla lietųviskai, ir nč bčt kaip, õ eiliúotai. Jõs áutorius, suprāsdamas momento iskilmingųma, paciõs knygos vardų itaigiai kreipiasi i skaitýtojus, prančsdamas jíems, jóg tai, kõ tevai ir próteviai neregejo,- dabar stai ateina.

Translation

"Brothers and sisters, take me and read (me) ..." Such words arise from great love, hope and faith and (it is) a rare Lithuanian (who) does not know, has not read or has not heard them. They echo from the distant past until today. Having flashed bright in the darkness of history, they have lighted the thorny path of Lithuanian literature (the word) and like the first cry of the new-born have announced to the world that writing has been born that the first Lithuanian book has been born. That happened, as printed on the title page on the eighth of January in the year one thousand five hundred and forty-seven.
We could compare the arrival of a book among men with the heroic deed of Prometheus, the stealing of the divine fire and its distribution to men. With a book light and warmth began to spread over the earth, not once (but many times) it defended man from the beasts of darkness and falsehood, it warmed his benumbed soul, awakened thought, encouraged activity and creativity.
Thus the book speaks Lithuanian, and not any kind, but rhymed. Its author, understanding the solemnity of the moment, in the name of the book itself, addresses himself suggestively to the readers announcing to them that all that which their fathers and forefathers had never seen, is now at hand.

Grammar

1. The Alphabet

The present-day Lithuanian alphabet took shape in the early 20th century. It developed from the Latin alphabet under the influence of the writing systems of such languages as Polish, German and Czech. The first Lithuanian alphabet was presented in the first printed Lithuanian book, the catechism by Martýnas Mãzvydas.

Today the Lithuanian alphabet consists of 32 letters: 20 consonants and 12 vowels --

    a   a   b   c   c   d   e   e   e   f   g   h   i   i   y   j
    k   l   m   n   o   p   r   s   s   t   u   u   u   v   z   z

Among the differences between the Lithuanian and English alphabets are 4 additional letters:

  • s = sh (as in 'push');
  • z = zh (as in 'pleasure');
  • c = ch (as in 'check');
  • e = eh (as in German 'Ehre').

Also, "nasal" letters a, e, i, u are used. In the 16th and 17th centuries they represented long nasalized vowels. Now the diacritic below a letter denotes a long oral vowel, e.g., skusti 'to complain about', and may differentiate one grammatical form from another, e.g., accusative singular zõdi 'a word' vs. locative singular zõdy 'in the word'.

1.1. Vowels

The Lithuanian vowels are pronounced as they are in Latin. The letters i and y always denote a long vowel as in English 'be' and u and u as in English 'moon'. The letter a denotes a short vowel when stressed with the grave accent, or unstressed (as in English 'box'), but it is always long when under the circumflex accent, e.g., nãmas. It is similar to the English long vowel in 'calm'. a always denotes a long vowel: acc.sg. diena 'day'. e denotes a long vowel when under the circumflex accent, e.g., senas 'old' (as in English 'man'). It can also denote a short vowel (mostly in stressed final and unstressed syllable): loc.sg. kiemč 'in the yard', nom. sg. vedejas 'manager', nčsti 'to carry'. It is similar to the English short vowel in 'let'. In borrowings e is shorter and narrower, e.g., čtika 'ethics'. e always denotes a long vowel: acc.sg. zeme 'earth'. e always denotes a long vowel (close to English 'yeah'), e.g., gele 'flower'. i and u denote short vowels (as in English 'sit' and 'book'): mėskas 'forest', bųtas 'apartment'. o denotes a long vowel (as in English 'bought'): nósis 'nose'. In some borrowings, however, it denotes a short vowel, e.g., tōnas 'tone' (as in English 'brawny').

1.2. Consonants

The letter j corresponds to the English 'y' (as in 'yet'). The articulation of Lithuanian consonants differs from that of English consonants. Lithuanian consonants are pronounced with the speech organs relatively relaxed. No Lithuanian consonant is aspirated like English 'p', 't', 'k'. The Lithuanian r is rolled as in Spanish.

Consonants have two variants, one hard or unpalatalized and the other soft or palatalized, the only exception being j. Consonants are always soft before front vowels: retas 'rare'. This feature is not marked in writing in any other way. Consonants that occur before back vowels may be hard or soft, e.g., rãtas 'wheel', siulas 'thread'. The front vowel letter i before back vowels denotes palatalization; the letter does not stand for a separate sound, but marks palatalized consonants only, e.g., gen.pl. zveriu 'wild animals', zãlias 'green'. Palatalized t and d become c and dz when they occur before back vowels, cf. nom.pl. kãtes 'cats' and gen.pl. kaciu 'of cats', nom.sg. medis 'tree' and gen.sg. medzio 'of tree'.

Although the feature of palatalization occurs simultaneously with the pronunciation of the consonant, to the American ear the effect is that of a 'y' sound following the consonant. In the beginning of native Lithuanian words and in international words j is commonly pronounced, but not written, e.g., ieskóti 'to search', variántas 'variant' The letters f, ch, h occur only in recent loanwords.

1.3. Other Notes

Some sounds are represented by digraphs: ch (as in the Scottish pronunciation of 'loch'), dz (as in 'adz'), dz ('g' as in 'age').

In scholarly and teaching texts, diacritics indicate word stress and syllable intonation. There are three stress marks: the grave, as in ā; the acute, as in é; and the circumflex, as in i. The stress is not fixed in Lithuanian, and may fall on any syllable of the word. The stressed syllable can be short (with a short vowel) or long (with a long vowel or a diphthong).

The manner of pronouncing a long stressed syllable is called intonation. Two types of intonation can be distinguished: falling (acute) or rising (circumflex). Falling intonation is usually marked by the acute on a long vowel or by the grave on the first element of the diphthongs ųi, ėl, ėm, ėn, ėr, ųl, ųm, ųn, ųr, e.g., brólis 'brother', méile 'love', výras 'man', pėrmas 'the first', kųmstis 'fist'.

Rising intonation is marked by the circumflex on a long vowel or on the second element of a diphthong, e.g., zõdis 'word', vynas 'wine', vardas 'a name', simtas 'hundred', sausas 'dry'.

Short stressed syllables are always marked by the grave on the vowel, e.g., dėdelis 'big', pųse 'half'. Intonation helps to distinguish words otherwise having the same sound structure, e.g., imper. sáuk, 'fire, shoot' and sauk 'cry, shout', áusta 'it cools' and austa 'dawn is breaking'.

2. The Sound System

Sounds in Lithuanian may be divided into vowels and consonants. The sounds may be arranged in tables according to their articulation. Vowels can be classified as follows:

    Short Front   Short Back   Long Front   Long Back
High   i   u   i   u
Middle   (e)   (o)   e   o
Low   e   a   e   a

Vowels make up about one-third of all the sounds used in speech. Under similar circumstances, the long vowels are twice as long as the short ones and in stressed position they are articulated more clearly.

o and u are rounded vowels. In their production, the lips are spread somewhat sideways but not protruded, e.g., ųpe 'river', ozys 'goat'. Short mid vowels o, e occur in words of foreign origin: počtas'poet', ōpera, 'opera'. In the diagram above they are given in parentheses because they are not equivalent to the corresponding long vowels o, e. They are considered peripheral members of the Lithuanian vowel system.

The table below lists consonant sounds:

    Voiceless   Voiced
Plosives   p   b
    t   d
    k   g
Sibilants   s   z
    s   z
    ch   h
    f    
Sonorants       v
        j
        m
        n
        l
        r

All the consonants except palatal j can be contrasted as being either palatalized or unpalatalized. As was already mentioned above, palatalization before back vowels is indicated by the letter i. If a consonant of a cluster is palatalized, the immediatelly preceding consonant will also be palatalized, e.g. ramstis 'prop', penkė 'five'.

The affricates c (t + s), dz (d + z), c (t + s), dz (d + z) are composite sounds. They may also be either hard or soft: gincas 'argument', ciųpti 'to snatch'.

Voiced consonants occurring in final position are devoiced, e.g., kād 'that', daug 'much, many'. English voiced consonants are not devoiced in word-final position. Lithuanian consonants may be subject to assimilation. The main rules of assimilation are:

  • a voiced consonant followed by a voiceless one becomes voiceless, e.g., darbstųs 'industrious', zingsnis 'step' (in these examples the b is pronounced like p, and the g like k),
  • a voiceless consonant followed by a voiced one becomes voiced, e.g., kasdien 'every day', isbegti 'to run out' (in these examples the s is pronounced like z, and the s like z).

Assimilation of consonants in Lithuanian differs from that in English. In Lithuanian geminate consonants are simplified to a single consonant, e.g., pųssesere '(she) cousin', issókti 'jump out'.

3. Noun Inflection

Nouns in Lithuanian are inflected to show their relations with other words and their function in the sentence. Endings play a very important role. They mark number, case and (usually) the gender of the noun.

For the most part a noun is masculine or feminine. For nouns denoting living beings natural gender is common, i. e., the gender of the noun is determined by the sex of the living being referred to: arklys 'horse' is masculine and kárve 'cow' is feminine. The gender of nouns denoting inanimate things is usually indicated by case endings: masc. stógas 'roof', fem. ziemā 'winter'.

Contemporary Lithuanian has two numbers, singular and plural, which are indicated by endings. Some nouns in Lithuanian cannot change their number but are either singular (singularia tantum), e.g., medųs 'honey' or plural (pluralia tantum), e.g., vestųves 'wedding'. In dialects and older writings the dual may appear (see Lesson 7).

There are seven cases in Lithuanian: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental, locative, vocative. The vocative is used to address a person or thing, e.g., voc.sg. bróli 'brother'. The locative singular and plural, the instrumental singular and plural, and the dative plural are frequently shortened. In addition, there are four other cases with a locative meaning encountered in dialects and old writings: inessive, illative, adessive, allative. These will be discussed later.

There are five declensions in Lithuanian. The nominative and genitive singular provide information on the declension to which a noun belongs:

Declension   Nominative   Genitive   Gender   Stem
1st   -(i)as   -(i)o   masc.   (i)a
    -is   -io   masc.   ia
    -ys   -io   masc.   ia
2nd   -(i)a   -(i)os   fem. (masc. possible)   (i)o
    -e   -es   fem. (masc. possible)   e
    -i   -ios   fem.   io
3rd   -is   -ies   fem. (masc. possible)   i
4th   -(i)us   -(i)aus   masc.   (i)u
5th   -uo   -ens   masc.   n
    -uo   -ers   fem.   r
    -e   -ers   fem.   r
3.1. The 1st Declension

The first declension is the most common declension of masculine nouns. This declension is further classified according to whether the final stem consonant is hard (unpalatalized) or soft (palatalized). Soft variants of the first declension have the nominative singular -ias, -is, -ys. The paradigms below are for the first declension nouns výras 'man' kelias 'road', brólis 'brother' and ozys 'goat'.

    Hard   Soft   Soft   Soft
Nom sg   výras 'man'   kelias 'road'   brólis 'brother'   ozys 'goat'
Gen sg   výro   kelio   brólio   ózio
Dat sg   výrui   keliui   bróliui   óziui
Acc sg   výra   kelia   bróli   ózi
Inst sg   výru   keliú   bróliu   óziu
Loc sg   výre   kelyjč   brólyje   ozyjč
        kely   bróly   ozy
Voc sg   výre   kely   bróli   ozy
                 
Nom pl   výrai   keliai   bróliai   oziai
Gen pl   výru   keliu   bróliu   oziu
Dat pl   výrams   keliáms   bróliams   oziáms
    výram   keliám   bróliam   oziám
Acc pl   výrus   keliųs   brólius   ózius
Inst pl   výrais   keliais   bróliais   oziais
Loc pl   výruose   keliuosč   bróliuose   oziuosč
    výruos   keliuõs   bróliuos   oziuõs
Voc pl   výrai   keliai   bróliai   oziai
3.2. The 2nd Declension

The great majority of feminine nouns belong to the second declension. A few nouns refer to male persons, e.g., dede 'uncle', Smetonā (surname). Only two nouns have the nom.sg. ending -i: martė 'daughter-in-law' and pati 'wife'. The following are paradigms for the second declension nouns síela 'soul', ziniā 'news', bėte 'bee' and martė 'daughter-in-law'.

    Hard   Soft   Soft   Soft
Nom sg   síela 'soul'   ziniā 'news'   bėte 'bee'   martė 'daughter-in-law'
Gen sg   síelos   ziniõs   bėtes   marciõs
Dat sg   síelai   zėniai   bėtei   marciai
Acc sg   síela   zėnia   bėte   marcia
Inst sg   síela   ziniā   bitč   marciā
Loc sg   síeloje   ziniojč   bėteje   marciojč
    siéloj   ziniõj   bėtej   marciõj
Voc sg   síela   zėnia   bėte   martė
                 
Nom pl   síelos   zėnios   bėtes   marcios
Gen pl   síelu   ziniu   bėciu   marciu
Dat pl   síeloms   zinióms   bėtems   marcióms
    síelom   zinióm   bėtem   marcióm
Acc pl   síelas   ziniās   bitčs   marciās
Inst pl   síelomis   ziniomės   bėtemis   marciomės
    síelom   ziniõm   bėtem   marciõm
Loc pl   síelose   ziniosč   bėtese   marciosč
Voc pl   síelos   zėnios   bėtes   marcios
4. Verb Inflection

Verbs are inflected for person, number, tense, and mood. The first and second person endings show not only person, but also number, e.g., the 1st singular present klausau 'I listen'. The 3rd person singular and the 3rd person plural are the same in all tenses in Lithuanian.

Lithuanian has four simple (non-compound) verb tenses: present, simple past (preterit), frequentative past (frequentative preterit), and future. The frequentative past is rather recent; some Lithuanian dialects lack this tense. The Lithuanian tense system is rather simple compared with that of other Indo-European languages.

The aspect system, word formation, and compound tenses all compensate for this rather spare tense system. Compound tenses are formed with participles. In addition to the singular and plural, the dual number was still alive and used until the middle of the 20th century.

Lithuanian has four moods: indicative, subjunctive, imperative, and optative (permissive). Traditionally, the imperative mood includes the forms of the optative. Some grammars also give an indirect mood which is formed with participles of various tenses.

The infinitive, the 3rd person present, and the 3rd person preterit forms are the principal parts of the verb. They are listed in Lithuanian dictionaries. From their stems are derived all other verb forms. The infinitive ending is -ti; the shortened form -t is also common.

Lithuanian verbs are divided into 3 conjugations. The conjugation is determined by the endings of the third person, present tense: the 1st -(i)a (sóka 'dances'), the 2nd -i, (ziuri 'looks'), the 3rd -o (sãko 'says').

4.1. The Present Tense

The present tense is formed from the present tense stem by adding the appropriate personal endings. There are no progressive forms in Lithuanian. The Lithuanian present tense can correspond to all the other English present tense forms: the simple present, the present continuous, the present perfect, and the present perfect continuous. The present tense forms are used independently of whether the action is regular, continuous, and whether it is taking place at the moment of speech, earlier, or later.

A good number of Lithuanian verbs have irregular conjugation. This is particularly characteristic of non-derived (two syllable) verbs of the first conjugation (-(i)a stem). They can have infixes, e.g., -n-, -v-, -st- or a lengthened root vowel, cf. gáuti 'to get', gauna 'gets', puti 'to rot', puva 'rots', pykti 'to be angry', pyksta '(he) is angry', sėlti 'to get warm', syla 'gets warm'. In 3rd conjugation verbs (o stem) the suffixes -y- or -o- might be deleted: rasýti 'to write', rãso 'writes', bijóti 'to fear', bėjo 'fears'; in 2nd conjugation (i stem) the suffix -e-: sedeti 'to sit', sedi 'sits', etc. For this reason, it is always good to check the principal parts of the verb in the dictionary.

Plural forms can easily be formed by adding -me or -te respectively to the 3rd person form. The 1st and 2nd plural forms are trisyllabic and frequently shortened. Below those parts of the endings that may be dropped are given in parentheses.

    'grow'   'wait'   'have'   'read'
1st sg   áugu   láukiu   turių   skaitau
2nd sg   áugi   láuki   turė   skaitai
3rd sg   áuga   láukia   tųri   skaito
                 
1st pl   áugam(e)   láukiam(e)   tųrim(e)   skaitom(e)
2nd pl   áugat(e)   láukiat(e)   tųrit(e)   skaitot(e)
3rd pl   áuga   láukia   tųri   skaito
4.2. The Past Tense

The simple preterit expresses an event which took place in the past. The event may be still in progress or completed. The past tense chiefly refers only to one occasion. The past event may or may not be connected with present moment of speaking.

The 3rd person ending of the simple preterit has either the ending -o or - e, by which two conjugations are distinguished:

  • -au, -ai, -ome, -ote.
  • -iau, -ei, -e, -eme, -ete.

The relationship of the preterit tense stems with the present and the infinitive stems is rather complicated. Many verbs have an irregular preterit. The past tense stem is formed by dropping the infinitive ending -ti; if a -y- precedes the -t- then -yti is dropped, e.g., verkti 'to cry', verke 'cried', rasýti 'to write', rãse 'wrote'. First conjugation verbs with an infinitive stem in -uo- or -au- replace final -uo- or -au- with -av-, e.g., dainúoti 'to sing', dainãvo 'sang', keliauti 'to travel', keliãvo 'traveled'. Second and third conjugation verbs with infinitive stems in -e- or -o- drop the -ti and insert -j- between the stem and the ending, e.g., myleti 'to love' mylejo 'loved', zinóti 'to know', zinójo 'knew'. One cannot always predict from the infinitive or present tense what the past tense conjugation will be.

    'grew'   'waited'   'had'   'read'
1st sg   áugau   láukiau   turejau   skaiciau
2nd sg   áugai   láukei   turejai   skaitei
3rd sg   áugo   láuke   turejo   skaite
                 
1st pl   áugom(e)   láukem(e)   turejom(e)   skaitem(e)
2nd pl   áugot(e)   láuket(e)   turejot(e)   skaitet(e)
3rd pl   áugo   láuke   turejo   skaite
5. Word Order

Word order in Lithuanian is not rigidly determined. It may vary depending on the communicative value (Functional Sentence Perspective) of the constituents. In an unemphatic declarative sentence, constituents conveying communicatively unimportant information (theme) generally precede those conveying communicatively important information (rheme). Grammatical relations between the constituents are indicated morphologically. All of the following word orders are possible:

  • Dumai gráuze akės 'Smoke was making the eyes smart';
  • Gráuze dumai akės;
  • Akės dumai gráuze, etc.

In emphatic sentences the order is reversed, e.g., Ės dideles méiles kyla tokie zõdziai 'Such words arise from great love'. Word order in interrogative sentences is usually the same as in declarative sentences: Ar dumai gráuze akės? 'Was smoke making the eyes smart?'

There are no articles in Lithuanian. Definiteness and indefiniteness may be expressed by word order and various pronouns and quantifiers. Nouns occurring in the initial position are usually considered to be definite, and nouns occurring in final position, indefinite: Brólis perka masėna 'The brother is buying a car'; Masėna perka brólis 'The car is being bought by a brother'.

In unemphatic speech, attributes precede their headnouns, e.g., dėdele méile 'great love', Prometejo zygdarbis 'deed of Prometheus' (lit. Prometheus' deed).

Lithuanian word order has become much more strict in the course of the last century. This can be connected with the process of the formation of the standard language at the end of the 19th century and the influence of other Indo-European languages. This rigidity of word order is particularly evident in attributive phrases. In the written language of the 16-19th centuries, the position of the defining genitive was not fixed and it was possible to say either Dievo tarnai or tarnai Dievo 'God's servants'.