History of Lithuanian Language

Lithuanian language has similarities to Sanskrit, Greek and Latin.


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Lithuanian language has been one of the Indo-European languages to exhibit the least amount of change from its original form.

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Lithuanian is recognized as

an ancient language that has similarities with its proto-language, Indo-European (or Proto-Indo-European). Scholars have concluded that Lithuanian language also bears some resemblances to Sanskrit, which seems difficult to fathom considering how drastically separated the two languages are, geographically and otherwise. It is possible to compare the two languages in such a way that even those who have not studied linguistics may observe the

similarities. In this way, Lithuanian has been somewhat useful in aiding the reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European.
Because of the conservative nature of Lithuanian language, and its slow rate of change over the centuries, it’s also possible detect similarities with Latin and Greek.

Lithuanian Becomes a Distinct Language

After Proto-Indo-European split into Proto-Italic, Proto-Indo-Iranian, and Proto-Baltic, the Proto-Baltic language then split into Proto-East and Proto-West Baltic between the 5th and 7th centuries AD. Latvian and Lithuanian began to diverge about 400 years later, but two other languages – Selonian and Semigallian – emerged and have since become extinct.

Modern Lithuanian

Lithuanian language was recorded in writing, as is in evidence by surviving documents, at least as early as the 16th century. However, When Lithuania became a part of the Russian Empire in 1863, the publication of Lithuanian books was banned, as well as the use of the Latin alphabet (Cyrillic replaced the Latin letters). After illegal Lithuanian-language book smuggling and a nationalist surge, the ban on Lithuanian publications was lifted. When Lithuania was absorbed into the USSR, Russian was used primarily, but Lithuanian was still spoken as a secondary language. Today, Lithuanian language is proudly spoken by Lithuanian nationals living in Lithuania and abroad.

Language and Culture

Like Latvian and Old Prussian, the Lithuanian language belongs to the Baltic branch of the Indo-European language family. The size of the territory in which Lithuanian was spoken shrank considerably through the ages. Today it is roughly coterminous with the boundaries of Lithuania except for some areas of Lithuanian speakers in Poland and Belarus, and except for the diaspora living in the United States, Canada, Western Europe, Latin America, Australia, and even Siberia.
The medieval Lithuanian rulers did not develop a written form of the Lithuanian language. The literary Lithuanian language, based on a southwestern Lithuanian dialect, came into use during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, replacing the use of the Samogitian, or western Lithuanian, dialect. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the use of Lithuanian was confined mainly to the peasantry, but the language was revived subsequently. In 1988 it was declared the official language of Lithuania, as it had been during 1918-40 and the early years of Soviet rule.
Unlike Estonia and Latvia, Lithuania's cultural development was affected by Poland rather than Germany. The imperial Russian regime had an enormous impact on Lithuania from 1795 to 1915, and the Soviet Union had similar influence from 1940 to 1991. Direct contacts with western Europe also made significant contributions beginning in the sixteenth century. Lithuanian nobility in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries and Lithuanian intellectuals since the turn of the twentieth century brought back ideas and experiences from Italy, Germany, and France. Also, between the two world wars independent Lithuania's direct communication with western Europe affected the development of educational and religious institutions, the arts and literature, architecture, and social thought. Lithuania's historical heritage and the imprint of the Western outlook acquired in the twentieth century were strong enough to make Soviet citizens feel that by going to Lithuania they were going abroad, to the West.
Lithuanian folk art, especially woodcarving and weaving, contributed to the growth of Lithuanian artistic development. Traditionally, Lithuanian folk artists carved mostly crosses, wayside chapels, and figures of a sorrowful Christ--very symbolic and characteristic of Lithuanian crossroads. Under Soviet rule, which outlawed religious subjects, woodcarvings became sec-ular. Today, Lithuania's roads and gardens are dotted with wooden crosses, poles, and other carvings.
Among Lithuanian artists, probably the best known is Mikalojus Ciurlionis (1875-1911), an originator of abstract painting and a composer whose music became the main subject of study by Professor Vytautas Landsbergis, Lithuania's de facto president 1990-92 and a leader of the independence movement. During the Soviet period, Lithuanian art was best known for graphic arts and for stained glass windows, but the most prominent art forms included abstract painting, sculpture, commercial art, and amber jewelry.
Lithuanian music is as ancient as its art. Folk music has had great influence on its development, and choral singing--periodically demonstrated in huge singing festivals--remains extremely popular. Lithuanian composers write not only choral but also symphonic, ballet, chamber, and opera music. A conservatory, established in 1933, has contributed much to the development of musical culture. In addition to the conservatory, Lithuania supports four higher music schools, three art schools, two pedagogical music schools, eighty music schools for children, five symphony orchestras, ensembles for medieval and contemporary music, and an internationally known string quartet. Many instrumentalists and soloists are winners of international prizes. Folk music ensembles also abound.
Opera and ballet are important elements of Lithuania's national culture. Dancers are trained at the Vilnius School of Choreography and the Kaunas School of Music, as well as in Russia.
All of these activities were state supported under the Soviet system. Membership in artistic associations usually assured work in the profession. All of this now has to be reorganized on a private basis, and both the state and the artists are struggling to find satisfactory working arrangements. Many supporters of the arts believe that art should be state-supported but not state controlled.
The movie industry was established in the late 1940s. Lithuanian filmmakers released four full-length films in 1989 and five in 1990; they also released twenty-eight short films, twenty-four newsreels, and four documentaries. Artistic photography has roots that are older than the Soviet regime in Lithuania.
Sports are also a prevalent national pastime. Lithuania's most popular game is basketball, and a few Lithuanians play professionally in the United States and in European countries. Lithuania's individual athletes have won Olympic medals and routinely compete in European events.