Volume 27, No.4 - Winter 1981
Editor of this issue: Antanas Klimas
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 1981 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.


The University of Rochester

The greatest achievement of Lithuanian linguistics in this century is the publicaton of the multi-volume Lietuvių kalbos žodynas, known as the Academic Dictionary of Lithuanian. So far, eleven large volumes have been published, and several more are being prepared. All told, it may reach eighteen or twenty volumes, amounting about to the size of the Oxford English Dictionary.

This dictionary was conceived and begun by the distinguished Lithuanian linguist, Professor Kazimieras Būga (1879-1924). In this issue of Lituanus we publish Būga's own autobiographical sketch in which he outlines the way that lead him to devote his main efforts to publish this Lithuanian dictionary. The fact of the matter is that Būga's dictionary and the Academic Dictionary have exactly the very same beginning, or origin.

However, before we discuss Būga's dictionary, let us glance briefly at the development of the most important Lithuanian dictionaries, some of which were published before Būga's time, and some after his untimely death in 1924. The compilation of dictionaries of Lithuanian began in the first half of the 17th century. It was a matter of practical necessity; in Lithuania Minor (East Prussia) dictionaries were required by the German Protestant pastors who were working among the Lithuanian population, and in Lithuania itself they were needed for Jesuit schools and for those priests who did not know Lithuanian. Thus in 1629 the first trilingual dictionary (Polish — Latin — Lithuanian) was printed with the title Dictionarium trium linguarum. It was published in Vilnius. Its author was the Jesuit priest Konstantintas Širvydas. He used several dictionaries of Polish, Latin and Greek in preparing his Dictionarium. Širvydas also had to coin many neologisms for Lithuanian. Some of them have remained in use until present time, e.g. kiekybė quantity; kokybė quality; pratarmė foreword; taisyklė rule; virtuvė kitchen; and many others. Five editions of this dictionary were published between 1629 and 1713. Many lexicographers of the 18th and 19th centuries copied and used Širvydas' dictionary.

The first dictionary intended for Lithuania Minor was published in 1730: Friedrich W. Haack, Vocabularium Lithvanico-Germanicum et Germanico-Lithvanicum. This dictionary was specially written for those students who were studying Lithuanian at the Lithuanian Seminar (Institute), which was established at the University of Halle in 1723. Haack's dictionary claimed to contain all the words found in the Bible, but otherwise it was of poor quality.

In 1747, Philip Ruhig (Ruigys) published another Lithuanian dictionary for Lithuania Minor: Deutsch-Littauisches Lexicon. It also contained a grammar of Lithuanian and some remarks on the historical development of the Lithuanian language. In addition to the dictionaries of Širvydas and Haack, Ruigys used several unpublished dictionaries and collected many words from the contemporary spoken language of the Lithuanian people. Ruigys was the first to use a systematic orthography: he distinguished clearly between the vowels ė and ie, o and uo (he wrote u). In his dictionary Ruigys also indicated the place of the accent and the main grammatical forms. This dictionary thus was much better than those previously published. It had 616 pages, namely 192 for the Lithuanian-German part and 424 pages for the German-Lithuanian part. In 1800 Christian Gottlieb Mielcke (Milkus) expanded Ruigys' dictionary and published it as Littauisch-deutsches und Deutsch-littauisches Wörter-Buch.

At the beginning of the 19th century Lithuanian because of its archaic character became a subject of investigation in comparative Indo-European linguistics, and scholars working in this area needed a better, fuller dictionary of the language. To meet that need George H. F. Nesselmann in 1851 published a new and expanded dictionary: Wörterbuch der Littauischen Sprache (Lithuanian-German). He used all the dictionaries available to him, also several dictionaries in manuscript which could be found in the archives of the University of Königsberg. Especially useful was a large dictionary compiled by Jacob Brodowski. Nesselmann made use of many folksongs and folk-tales. He aslo organizaed a network of helpers, who supplied him with words and phrases from contemporary life. Nesselmann's dictionary is about three times larger than that of Mielcke. Unfortunately Nesselmann did not indicate the type of intonation (pitch), and even in marking the place of the (main) stress he made many mistakes. His orthography is faulty, and the whole dictionary is "alphabetized" following a very complicated "Sanskrit system".

The best and most important dictionary in Lithuania Minor was compiled by the greatest linguist of his age Fridrichas Kuršaitis (Friedrich Kurschat). The first volume of his Wörterbuch der litauischen Sprache (German-Lithuanian) came out in two parts: A-K, 724 pages, in 1870; L-Z, 393 pages, in 1874. In 1883 Kuršaitis finally published the second volume of his dictionary (Littauisch-deutsches Wörterbuch), 530 pages. This dictionary was well constructed, according to the lexicographic standards of the time. Its Lithuanian part is provided with accent marks which also indicate the type of intonation of the stressed syllable. Its great shortcoming is the fact that Kuršaitis basically used only the Lithuanian language (and literature) of Lithuania Minor. However, linguists continued to rely on this dictionary until recently. Kuršaitis' nephew, Aleksandras Kuršaitis (Alexander Kurschat) prepared a new and greatly expanded edition of the Lithuanian-German part. This dictionary is published in four large volumes, as: Litauisch-deutsches Wörterbuch: Thesaurus Linguae Lituanicae. (Vandenoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen).

In the second half of the 19th century Russian linguists also became interested in having a complete Lithuanian-Russian dictionary. In 1882 the Russian Academy of Sciences started publishing a large dictionary compiled by Antanas Juškevičius (Juška). But this was a very slow process; between 1882 and 1922 only one volume and part of a second were published covering A-Ku, 997 pages in all, about 30,000 words. This dictionary is very valuable because almost all of the basic Lithuanian entries were collected from the spoken idiom. However, not all of them are completely reliable and it would be almost impossible to check them now. Mykolas Miežinis (1826-1888) about 1868 compiled a dictionary of four languages, Lithuanian, Latvian, Polish and Russian. After many difficulties this appeared in 1894 as Lietuviszkai-latviszkai-lenkiszkai-rusiszkas žodynas.

Among Lithuanians in the United States a need was long felt for a Lithuanian-English, English-Lithuanian dictionary. Several small dictionaries did indeed appear before 1900. In 1903, however, the publisher A. Olšauskas brought out a Lithuanian-English dictionary compiled by A. Lalis. Its English-Lithuanian part appeared in 1905. The first part was expanded and reissued in 1905. Both parts, usually bound together, were later reprinted several times. Lalis used several dictionaries, but he also took in the neologisms used by various Lithuanian writers. Although by now rather obsolete, Lalis' dictionary is especially useful for the study of the formation and usage of the neologisms in Standard Literary Lithuanian.

When Lithuania regained its independence in 1918, there were no easily available and usable Lithuanian dictionaries, bilingual or monolingual. In 1920, after Kazimieras Būga returned to Lithuania, the government entrusted him with the preparation of a large dictionary of Lithuanian. This dictionary was supposed to contain not only all the available words of Lithuanian, but also give their histories, etymologies and dialect forms. In addition to that, it would have given all the names of rivers, other bodies of water, family names, local names, etc. Before his untimely death in 1924 Būga published only two fascicules, containing a very long and important introduction and 82 pages of the dictionary text itself (till anga).

In 1930 Juozas Balčikonis was appointed editor-in-chief of this dictionary. He and his co-workers soon realized that they needed more material for the project; the material collected by Būga, although extensive, was not enough. With the help of many enthusiasts in the whole country, Balčikonis developed a campaign to collect additional material for a major dictionary. Under Balčikonis' leadership it was decided to publish a full dictionary of contemporary spoken and literary Lithuanian, including also old writings and the works of well established writers. Very little was taken from the most recent literature, and the contemporary periodical press was not considered at all. The first volume of this dictionary was published before the occupation of Lithuania by the Soviet Union (June 15,1940). The volume was ready for distribution in May, 1941. However, the Communist Party Central Committee forbade its distribution. The objection was that this dictionary was not edited according to the Marxian ideology. When the Germans occupied Lithuania in June, 1941, they permitted the distribution of this first volume. It contained the words beginning with A and B; it had 34 and 1008 pages. The second volume was prepared during the German occupation (1941-1944) by the staff of the Institute of Lithuanian Language and Literature of the Lithuanian Academy of Arts and Sciences. Arter Lithuania was again occupied by the Soviet Union in the summer of 1944, it took three years to bring out the second volume; it appeared in 1947 (C-F). Some changes were made in the text. Balčikonis is listed again as the editor-in-chief. Actually there are two versions of this volume, both published, however, in 1947. In the second version all the references to the Lithuanian writers, scientists and other men of letters who had fled to the West from the Russians were omitted.

In 1949, the Institute of Lithuanian Language and Literature was accused by the Communist Party of having perpetrated the unforgivable sin: according to the party, the second volume was full of "reactionary clerical phraseology." Orders were issued to change the guide-lines for the dictionary completely: the dictionary should reflect the language of the "Lithuanian revolutionary press and of the present Soviet Socialist reality." It took the editorial staff nine years to satisfy these requirements; the 3rd volume of the dictionary appeared only in 1956 (G-H, 820 p.). K. Ulvydas appears now as the editor-in-chief, the other editors are listed as follows: J. Kruopas, J. Kabelka, B. Vosylytė. Starting with this volume, a propagandistic tendency shows itself very clearly. The volume, for example, is full of quotations from the Lithuanian translations of the works of Lenin, Marx, Engels, Stalin (without any indication of his name), and from the Lithuanian communist press. In this connection it is interesting to compare the Russian dictionaries published about the same time; the latter use practically no quotations from the translations into Russian of the writings of Marx and Engels. The further volumes of the dictionary followed, in the main, the rules laid down by the instructions issued earlier. They appeared as follows: vol. IV (I-J), 448 pages, 1957; vol. V (K-klausinys, 1008 pages) 1959; vol. VI (klausyti — kvunkinti, 1106 pages), 1962) vol. VII (L — mėlti, 1040 pages), 1966) vol. VIII, (melūda — ožvilnis, 1037 pages), 1970; vol. IX (P — pirktuvės, 1107 pages), 1973; vol. X (pirm — pūžuoti, 1152 pages), 1976; vol. XI (R, 1041 pages), 1978.

Since, as we have mentioned above, the first two volumes of this dictionary were not acceptable to the Communist Party, new editions of these two volumes were brought out, re-done according to the new instructions: vol. I (A-B, 1230 pages), 1968; vol. II (C-F, 1182 pages), 1969.

In spite of the interference by the Party, this huge dictionary is very valuable not only for Lithuanian and Baltic linguistics, but also for Indo-European linguistics as well. And it all began with those 600,000 vocabulary slips collected with the most devoted diligence by Professor Kazimieras Būga.