LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 28, No.1 - Spring 1982
Editor of this issue: Antanas Klimas
Copyright © 1982 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
Special issue: The Lithuanian Language — Past and Present
I - The Origin of the Lithuanian Language
WILLIAM R. SCHMALSTIEG
The Pennsylvania State University
"Lithuanian is a very old language." This is a bit of mythology which is constantly repeated whenever the subject of the Lithuanian language arises. It seems, however, that very few people ever take the time to ask exactly what this means. Every language has a history extending back to the date of its earliest historical records and one assumes that there existed speakers of this language even before the historical records. There is no human population anywhere in the world that does not have some language and it seems likely that the ability to speak a language is a fundamental property of all mankind. Certainly Lithuanian is a very old language, but so is every language spoken today. The origin of language in general is shrouded in mystery, but all nations have a language.
Let us try here, however, to understand a little bit about what we humans do know about language development, although it behooves us to be quite modest about achievements in this regard. Every advance in science tells us that we know less than we thought we did.
By the words historical linguistics we mean the science which concerns itself with the ways languages change, how the sounds and forms of one stage of a language became different at a later stage of the same language, how the meanings of words change during the course of time. The earliest recorded history in the form of monuments in the ancient Sumerian and Egyptian languages goes back only around 5,000 years. When we talk of historical records we always have some form of written language in mind. The recorded evidence of some language families is better than that for others. One of the language families with the most complete historical records is the Romance language family, and I will use this family for my illustration.
The Romance languages are, of course, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Moldavian, Catalan, Provencal, Sardinian, Rheto-Romance (Romansh, Engadinish, Ladin, Friulan). (See Elcock, 1975, 15). These languages all had their origin in Latin and this Latin gradually changed or evolved into the contemporary Romance languages. Thus to say that French or Spanish or whatever are 'old languages' would be meaningless. They are contemporary representatives of Latin which only exists today as a separate language as a result of the efforts of scholars. Thus French faire 'to do, to make' or Spanish hacer are just the modern forms of Latin facere.
It is no longer possible for the uneducated Frenchman or Spaniard to understand Latin, just as it is no longer possible for the average American to understand Chaucer. The reason for this is that the languages have changed in the course of time.
A common, but somewhat simplified way of looking at this is the family tree scheme, e.g.:
The relationship of Latin to the Romance languages is parallel to the relationship of the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European language (frequently known also as just Indo-European) to the various daughter languages. For example, Italic is a daughter language with respect to Indo-European, but is the source for Latin which in turn is the source for French, Spanish, Italian, etc. One can compare this to the generations of a family, although in this case the analogy isn't quite exact since there is only one parent. Perhaps it can be compared to a biological chart where we see the evolution of various types of animal or plant families.
Thus Proto-Indo-European is the source for a Proto-Baltic which in turn is divided into Proto-East Baltic and Proto-West Baltic. West Baltic is represented by the extinct Old Prussian (divided into eleven tribes). East Baltic is divided up into four groups: Lithuanian, Latvian and the now extinct languages of Semigallian and Selonian. One other extinct Baltic language, Curonian, stands somewhere between East and West Baltic. Or perhaps it was an East Baltic language greatly influenced by West Baltic. The relationships can be visualized like this, perhaps:
The above schematization shows only several of the branches of the Indo-European language family and likewise it is vastly oversimplified. It should serve, however, to give a general notion of what is meant by the family tree of Indo-European languages. Thus, the notion of age with regard to a language is hard to understand. What one can say is that the Baltic languages seem to have undergone fewer changes than their sister Indo-European languages. The problem here is, of course, that there are no speakers of the Proto-Indo-European language left, so we cannot be absolutely certain as to how it was pronounced nor can we be absolutely certain of its grammatical structure. The reconstruction of the Proto-Indo-European language is a fascinating game, a game on which I have spent most of my adult life. Still it befits the specialists in the field to be very modest about the achievements of Indo-European linguistics. Although the Indo-Europeanists can make informed guesses based on inductive reasoning, they can never really know in any absolute way the nature of the Indo-European sound or grammatical system.
So how do Indo-Europeanists try to reconstruct the Proto-Indo-European language? They take the oldest attested form of all the various Indo-European languages and try to imagine how an ancestor to all of these attested languages would appear.
One of the oldest attested forms of the Italic language branch is Latin, the oldest attested form of Greek is Mycenean Creek, the oldest attested form of Indo-lranian is Vedic Sanskrit, the oldest attested form of Slavic is Old Church Slavic.
Old Church Slavic, also known as Old Bulgarian, is an extinct South Slavic language which was used by the Slavic missionaries Cyril and Methodius to propagate the Christian faith. Later forms of this language called simply Church Slavic were and are used in the Orthodox church for religious purposes.
The oldest attested form of Baltic is Old Prussian, but there are so many problems with the interpretation of Old Prussian texts that most comparativists use Lithuanian for the Baltic branch. (The language is sometimes called merely Prussian = Lithuanian prûsas, but I prefer the term Old Prussian to avoid confusion with German dialects of the area which are usually called Prussian dialects.)
The oldest attested form of the Germanic language is Gothic, known to us chiefly through the Bible translation made by the West Gothic (Visigothic) bishop Wulfila (311-382 or 3). The remaining leaves of this translation (187 out of an original 336) are now in the library of the University of Uppsala, Sweden. It is unlikely that any contemporary speaker of English could understand an ancient Goth, but a few words show the common changes which English and Gothic have undergone as opposed to their Lithuanian counterparts: Gothic fimf, English five have an initial f- as opposed to Lithuanian penki which has an initial p-; Gothic twai, English two have an initial t- as opposed to Lithuanian du or dvi with an initial d-.
Other ancient Indo-European languages such as Hittite, Old Irish, etc. are also used, but usually to a somewhat lesser degree for various reasons.
Now every language has a system of sounds which linguists usually call phonemes. In our western European languages these phonemes are represented by letters of the Latin alphabet. For the most part the phonemic system of Lithuanian is well represented by the Latin alphabet in that in general there is one sound for each letter. English does a much worse job than Lithuanian, and probably of all the contemporary languages of Europe, English has the worst record of equation of letter for sound. When we write a Lithuanian word we can be fairly certain as to how it is pronounced, but when we write an English word it is frequently difficult to know how this word is pronounced. The point is that every language has a system of sounds. In the following I will transliterate the letters of the Greek alphabet and the syllables of the Sanskrit language (as evidenced by the syllabary of Sanskrit, called the devanagari) into Latin letters. It is on the basis of correspondences of sounds in apparently related words that the system of Proto-Indo-European sounds is reconstructed.
I shall give a few examples here. The Proto-Indo-European sound *m can be reconstructed on the basis of the following words in various Indo-European languages: Greek mçtçr 'mother,' Latin mâter, Sanskrit mâtâ, Old Irish mâthir, Old Church Slavic mati, Old High German muoter, Lithuanian motë, (pronounced móh-tay), Latvian mâte, Old Prussian mûti. (See Janis Endzelins, 1971, paragraph 37.)
(In historical linguistics the asterisk * is used to denote a sound or a form that doesn't actually exist, but that linguists think existed on the basis of comparative linguistic evidence. Thus for the word 'mother' the reconstructed form of the nominative singular case might be *mâtçr.)
The Proto-Indo-European sound *s can be reconstructed on the basis of the following words: Latin sedçre, 'to sit,' Old Church Slavic sĕdĕti, Sanskrit sadah 'seat,' Gothic sitan, Lithuanian sëdëti, (pronounced say-day-tea), Latvian sçdçt 'to sit,' etc. (See Jânis Endzelins, 1971, paragraph 41.) Our English word sit is, of course, related, but notice that we have a final -t where we might expect a -d on the basis of the other Indo-European languages. Compare the example of du and dvi vs. English two where we see the same phenomenon. Our English word sedentary which is also eventually related is borrowed from Latin and doesn't count as a native Germanic word.
(The hyphen before a letter shows that the letter occurs in word final position, the hyphen following a letter shows the letter occurs in word initial position and the hyphen before and after shows that the letter occurs in word-medial position. E.g., the -i of dvi, the d- of dvi or the -v- of dvi.)
The Proto-Indo-European sound *d can be reconstructed on the basis of Latin dîvus 'divine,' Sanskrit dçvá'-h 'god,' Old Prussian deiw(a)s, Lithuanian Diẽvas and Latvian Dìevs. There is a cognate in Germanic, but it is Old Norse tîvăr 'gods.' Notice again that where we have d elsewhere we have t in the cognate Germanic word.
Now here I have given just a few examples, but when we consider the entire system of all the various Indo-European languages we find an extremely complex problem. Nevertheless it can be demonstrated in detail that in many ways, in comparison with other Indo-European languages, the sound system of Lithuanian has not changed very much from that of the Proto-Indo-European language. Thus we can say that Lithuanian is an 'old' language in the sense that it has preserved features which have been lost in most other contemporary Indo-European languages. In the examples which I have given above I have compared the sounds of contemporary Lithuanian and Latvian with the sounds of ancient Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, etc. Now the contemporary versions of all of these languages, such as modern Greek, the modern Romance languages, the modern languages of India, etc. are vastly different from their predecessors as a result of a number of changes in their sound systems.
Still the frequently repeated story about the professor of Sanskrit traveling in Lithuania who was able to converse with a peasant is surely false. On the other hand occasionally one does find some remarkable coincidences. Note for example that in ancient Sanskrit the word for 'when' is kadâ and the word for then is tadâ. In Lithuanian also 'when' is kadà and 'then' is tadà. The only change exhibited by Lithuanian is the shortening of the final *-â. But remember that we are comparing this modern Lithuanian word with an ancient Sanskrit word. Paul Thieme, 1958, 74, has compared the Lithuanian proverb: Dievas davë dantis; Dievas duos ir duonos and its Latin translation Deus dedit dentes; Deus dabit et panem 'God gave teeth, God will also give bread' with what he (Thieme) calls an old form of Sanskrit: Devas adadât datas; Devas dât (or dadât) api dhânâs. (Actually according to the rules of Old Indic phonetics, several of the words occur in a slightly different form in a connected text in Sanskrit.) Although there could be some dispute about this Thieme suggests that in the original Indo-European language this might have been: *Deivos ededôt dntns; Deivos dedôt (or dôt) dhônâs 'God gave teeth; God will give bread.' (Although Thieme writes the word for 'teeth' as dntns it may have been pronounced something like the English word done followed immediately by tons, i.e., something like done-tons or duhn-tuhns.) Sabaliauskas, 1979, 9, notes that the 18th century Lithuanian pastor Pilypas Ruigys thought that Greek was the ancestor of Lithuanian and to show this he gave a Greek translation of the same proverb: Theôs dédoke ódontas, Theòs dôsei kaì artón.
The morphological structure of the noun, which has many case endings, is quite complex in Lithuanian, similar to that of Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit rather than to English and French. In order to show how little the Lithuanian structure has changed I shall give some parallels between the noun endings of Lithuanian and several other ancient Indo-European languages. The endings of the nouns denote the function of the noun in the sentence.
Nominative Ending (Subject Word)
Note the following phrase: the wolf stands
Lithuanian vilk-as stóvi
Latin lup-us stat
Thus the nominative case ending -as in Lithuanian and Sanskrit, -us in Latin shows that the noun functions as the subject of the sentence. (The circle under the -r- in the Sanskrit means that the -r- is pronounced somewhat like the -ir- in the English word bird. The sound occurs in other English words, such as heard, curd, word, etc. In English there is no uniform way of writing this single sound. It is really an r pronounced like a vowel rather than a consonant.)
Genitive Ending ('OF' Word)
Note now the following phrase: the wolf's mother
Lithuanian vilk-o mótina
Latin lup-i mâter
Greek lúk-ou mçtçr
In the examples given above the possessive notion is expressed by the genitive case, which consists of a sound, or a sequence of sounds added to the stem of the word, -asya in Sanskrit, -o in Lithuanian, -i in Latin and -ou in Greek.
Dative Ending (Indirect Object)
Similarly the dative case functions as a kind of indirect object, particularly with the verb 'to give.' Thus: (he) gives to the wolf.
Lithuanian dúoda vilk-ui
Latin dat lup-ô
Greek dí-dôsi lúk-ô
Again one notices that the notion of indirect object is expressed by the addition of a sound or a sequence of sounds to the stem. The ending is Sanskrit -âya, Lithuanian -ui, Latin -o, Greek -ô.
Accusative Ending (Direct Object)
Next let us take an example of an accusative singular case: (he) sees the wolf
Lithuanian mãto vilk-à
Latin videt lup-um
Greek horà lúk-on
Vocative Case ('Calling' Case)
We can also reconstruct a vocative case, i.e., the case which is used when you call some person or animal, thus to call a wolf one would say in Lithuanian vilke, Sanskrit vŕka, Greek lúke, Latin lupe. This might be reconstructed in Proto-Indo-European as *vÁkwe.
Thus when specialists in Indo-European linguistics try to reconstruct the Proto-Indo-European language they find that contemporary Lithuanian is as important as the ancient tongues such as Latin, Greek and Sanskrit. Lithuanian has changed less than the modern representatives of the languages mentioned above. If one takes French as a modern representative of Latin one finds the following phrases corresponding to the phrases given above: Le loup se tient debout 'the wolf stands'; la mère du loup 'the mother of the wolf; il donne au loup 'he gives to the wolf; il voit le loup 'he sees the wolf; o loup 'oh wolf.' Thus the structure of the Lithuanian and Latin phrases is more alike than the structure of the Latin and the French phrases even though French is a direct descendent of Latin.
Now specialists in Indo-European linguistics usually take the evidence of all of the Indo-European languages in reconstructing the Proto-Indo-European language. Therefore for the nominative singular of the noun wolf a word * vÁk w-os is the usual reconstruction. On the basis of Lithuanian and Sanskrit we reconstruct the initial *v-. On the basis of Lithuanian and the other Indo-European languages a medial *-I- is reconstructed. (The *-l- with the circle under it denotes what we call a vocalic *-l-, that is, an -l- pronounced like the -I- in English bottled, throttled, etc. It is really -l- pronounced like a vowel rather than a consonant.)
Even though Sanskrit has vocalic -º- here we still reconstruct a medial -l- because for the most part we find that in other Sanskrit words an Indo-European *l is represented by a Sanskrit r. Compare, e.g., Sanskrit arghá 'value' with Lithuanian algà 'salary.' (Note that modern Lithuanian has retained the -/-, whereas Sanskrit has changed the -/- to -r-. In other words here contemporary Lithuanian is more conservative than ancient Sanskrit.)
The -k- part of the *-kw- sound is easy to see on the basis of Lithuanian and Sanskrit, but Indo-Europeanists usually put in a little -w- also, because we find an f in the Gothic cognate wulf-s and English wolf. There are other reasons, also, but we will skip them here. Probably one would ask why the next sound is represented by -o- rather than -a- as we have both in Sanskrit and Lithuanian. Well, here Greek comes to the rescue with an -o-. (Cf. Greek nom. singular lúk-os.) It is commonly accepted that both Proto-Indo-European short *o and short *a merged as a in both Sanskrit and Lithuanian.
Additional evidence for the reconstruction of an *o is furnished by Latin in which a final *-os passed to -us. (Cf. Latin lup-us.) Therefore for certain classes of nouns we can reconstruct a nominative singular ending *-os.
Although the Greek genitive singular ending -ou and the Sanskrit -asya may derive from an original *-os(y)o, the Lithuanian ending -o and the Latin ending -î are phonetically too different to allow us to assume a common source. A reconstruction of the dative singular ending might be attempted, but it would be too complicated for easy formulation.
For the accusative singular ending however we can reconstruct an ending *om or *-on. Remember that we said that a Proto-Indo-European short *o remained as such in Greek, but passed to a in both Lithuanian and Sanskrit. Whether the final consonant was *-m or *-n is not certain at all. Latin and Sanskrit go together suggesting that the final consonant was *-m. Greek suggests that the final consonant was *-n. The Lithuanian vowel -à derives from *-an, so Lithuanian would tend to go along with Greek here.
It is a truism, of course, that the facts never force an interpretation and that the most obvious interpretation may be an incorrect interpretation. Still most Indo-Europeanists believe that the Proto-Indo-European language had a complicated noun inflection and that this inflection is, at least to a certain degree, alive and well in Lithuanian.
Next I will compare some verb conjugations in Sanskrit, Lithuanian, Greek and Latin. One of the most striking examples is the present tense conjugation of the verb 'to bei or 'is, are.' I must point out first that apparently Proto-Indo-European had a category denoting two items, in addition to a category denoting singular and plural such as we have in English. This is called the dual. It may be hard to understand why this was necessary, since in English we get along quite well with only the singular and the plural. On the other hand, speakers of certain oriental languages wonder why it is necessary to distinguish all the time between singular and plural. A real need to distinguish singular and plural arises very occasionally. Be that as it may, Sanskrit, Lithuanian and ancient Greek have this extra, and from our point of view, superfluous category. Compare then, the following conjugations:
1st as-mi 'I am'
1st es-ù (older es-mi)
s-vah 'we two are'
ẽs-ava (older es-va)
s-mah 'we are' (more than two)
ẽs-ame (older es-me)
(yra 'is, are' may be an innovation or may be an ancient inheritance) (Contemporary Lithuanian does not distinguish any number in the third person verbal forms.)
1st sum (<*es-mi?)
When we compare the contemporary French paradigm which we have chosen as the modern version of Latin we find that the French verb does a little better than the noun.
Still it seems that the Lithuanian verb is out ahead of the French verb.
Having briefly discussed the relationships of Lithuanian to the other Indo-European languages, I should like to turn to the relationships of the Baltic languages among themselves. As I have mentioned above, Proto-Baltic split into Proto-West Baltic and Proto-East Baltic.
I am particularly interested in Proto-West Baltic, the forerunner of the language known as Old Prussian, or sometimes just Prussian. I think it is worthwhile to quote here what Maþiulis, 1966, 11, says about Old Prussian (or Prussian as he labels this language).
"1. The Prussian language is the closest relative to Lithuanian and Latvian;
2. The Prussians have fewer linguistic features in common with Lithuanians and Latvians than the latter do with each other;
3. The Prussian language has retained more archaisms than Lithuanian and the latter has retained more than Latvian;
4. The Prussian language, at least as far as its lexical stock is concerned is closer to Lithuanian than to Latvian."
Let us look at a map for a moment and see where the Old Prussians were located. Omitting details we find them on the southern shore of the Baltic Sea, from the river Vistula in the southwest to the river Nemunas in the northeast. There is a very useful map in Gimbutas, 1963, 23. One should compare also the map in Maþiulis, 1966, 10.
In earlier times the speakers of Baltic languages were referred to as Aistians, although it is not known whether this term denoted all the Baits or just the Old Prussians.
The Aistian peoples (Aestiorum gentes) first appear on the historical scene in chapter XLV of Cornelius Tacitus' Germania. Tacitus wrote, "Passing then to the east along the shore of the Suebic (Baltic — WRS) sea, we find the tribes of the Aestii, who have the same observances and general appearance as the Suebi, while their language is more like the British tongue. They worship the Mother of the Gods. As the symbol of their religion they carry figures of boars. They believe that, without weapons or protection of any other kind, this charm preserves a devotee of the goddess from harm even among his enemies. They rarely use iron weapons, far more frequently clubs. They labour at the cultivation of crops and fruit trees with a perseverance which is in contrast with the usual indolence of the Germans. They also scour the sea, and are the only people who gather amber. They themselves call it glesum and they find it in the shallow water or actually on the shore. Like barbarians they have never discovered or inquired by what natural process it is produced." (Translation from Fyfe, 1908, 117.)
If these Aistians are Baits or even Old Prussians, then, of course, the comparison with the British language (a Celtic tongue) is not correct except inasmuch as both Celtic and Baltic are Indo-European languages.
After Tacitus, the 2nd century A.D. Alexandrian Greek scholar, Claudius Ptolomaeus, in his Geographia (book III, chapter V) mentions the Galíndai and the Soudinoí who are assumed to be the Old Prussian tribes known respectively as the Galindians and Sudovians. Some time between 523 and 526 A.D. Cassiodorus, secretary to the Ostrogothic Emperor Theodoric (who held Rome ca. 493-526 A.D.) wrote a letter of thanks for some amber to some people called the Hestis (dat. pi.) and it is thought that this name might refer to the Aistians. Other historical mention of the Old Prussians is also to be found. (See Schmalstieg, 1974, 2-3.)
There were probably only a few speakers by the year 1700. On the title page of the llnd Old Prussian Catechism which had been in the St. Petersburg public library there is a statement to the effect that Old Prussian has completely disappeared but that in 1677 there lived a single old man in the Curonian Neringa who spoke Old Prussian. Formerly it was thought that there were only five documents in Old Prussian. These were as follows:
1. The Elbing Vocabulary. This is a German — Old Prussian vocabulary of 802 words in the Codex Neumannianus (ca. 1400) in the Pomesanian Old Prussian dialect (Trautmann, 1910, XXI). This is now apparently lost according to Maþiulis, 1966, 27.
2. Simon Grunau's vocabulary, of which there are five versions, (Old Prussian — German, German — Old Prussian, Latin — Old Prussian) consists of about 100 words in the Prussian chronicle which Grunau wrote between 1517 and 1526.
3. The three Old Prussian catechisms in the Sambian dialect. The first two are shorter versions and were published in 1545 and the third, which is also called the Enchiridion, was published in 1561.
One of the most exciting things of the last decade was the discovery of the Basel epigram by Stephen C. McCluskey, a student of the philosophy of science at the University of Wisconsin. While preparing a dissertation on the philosophy of science McCluskey was reading a Latin text entitled Questiones Super Quattuor Libris Methororum by Nicola Oresme and suddenly ran across some phrases in a language which he could not understand. He took these sentences to Professor Valdis Zeps, a Latvian who teaches in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Wisconsin. Zeps was apparently astounded and without comment sent a transcription of the phrases to me. As did Zeps, I immediately recognized them as being in a Baltic language, inquired about their origin and sent copies to my colleagues Professor Vytautas Maþiulis of the University of Vilnius and Professor Christian Stang (now deceased) of the University of Oslo. Both of the latter replied to me with very similar translations and also inquired as to the origin. The sentences are apparently in Old Prussian. Since the text by Oresme is dated 1369, these phrases constitute the oldest text in Old Prussian and indeed in any Baltic language. Facsimile copies appear in the frontispiece of the book, An Old Prussian Grammar (1974), McCluskey's 1975 article in General Linguistics (15.159-165) and Maþiulis' article in Baltistica in 1975 (11.125-131). The text reads:
Kayle rekyse thoneaw labonache thewelyse
Eg koyte poyte nykoyte
Roughly: 'Hail sir, aren't you the good fellow if you want to drink and don't want to spend money.'
There are questions about the translation, but the fundamental content seems clear. The sentences apparently in Old Prussian are accompanied by a drawing of a gentleman who is saying in German 'Jesus ich leid,' i.e., 'Jesus, I am suffering.' At first I interpreted this to mean that the gentleman has a hangover, that he is suffering from having drunk too much. My colleague and friend, Professor Oswald Szemerényi of the University of Freiburg (Germany) suggests that on the contrary, the gentleman is suffering because he needs a drink so badly. I don't know any way of resolving this important question and it would probably be necessary to call on a medieval historian to give us a clear answer. (My colleague, Professor A. Klimas of the University of Rochester points out to me that the German expression Jesus ich leid could possible be translated as 'Jesus I adore,' i.e., 'I adore Jesus' since at that time the verb leiden could mean 'to approve, to be fond of.')
I saw the original manuscript once in Basel, Switzerland, and in fact I spent several hours looking at it and there is really nothing essential that isn't revealed by the photographic copies. There is a little illumination, and there is a watermark which doesn't appear in the photograph. Presumably from the watermark one would be able to determine the origin of the paper at least.
Since the Old Prussian texts are limited and the transmission is faulty, linguists tend to rely more on the evidence of Lithuanian than Old Prussian. Nevertheless there are a few features of Old Prussian which make it seem more conservative than Lithuanian. The Proto-Indo-European diphthong *ei is retained as ei in Old Prussian whereas in Lithuanian and Latvian it has passed to ie. Compare Old Prussian deiw(a)s 'God' beside Lithuanian Diẽvas, Latvian Dìevs. We assume that the older form has the diphthong *ei because in Sanskrit the Proto-Indo-European diphthong *ei is represented by -e- and the Sanskrit word for 'God' is devás (also written as deváh because in Sanskrit an -s becomes -h in word-final position). Likewise Latin Deus is derived originally from *deivos. Sequences of d or t plus a following j (pronounced like a y in English) before older â or û remained as such in Old Prussian, but passed to dþ and è respectively in standard Lithuanian. (Dþ is pronounced like the j in English jam; è is pronounced like the ch in English child.) Cf., e.g., Old Prussian median 'forest' which seems to have the same origin as the Lithuanian medþias (dialect word for forest). In Old Prussian it appears that the final -n has been retained whereas in Lithuanian the -n has been lost and the preceding vowel was lengthened. One can compare the Old Prussian accusative singular deiwan 'God' with the Lithuanian accusative singular Dievà. The hook under the -à means that the vowel is long, but it originally denoted that the vowel was nasal. In Old Prussian the final -n is written, but we must remember that no living person has ever heard a native Old Prussian, so we don't know whether the final -n meant that the consonant was pronounced like -n or perhaps that the preceding vowel was nasal.
We have said enough about Old Prussian to give an idea of the problems connected with using it as evidence for the reconstruction of the Proto-Indo-European language. Next one must ask why Latvian isn't used as much for Indo-European linguistics. Well, of the two living Baltic languages Latvian is less conservative than Lithuanian. And I think that even the greatest Baltic linguist of all times, the now deceased Professor Jânis Endzelîns, a Latvian himself, would have admitted to this. For example, Lithuanian has retained an etymological k and g in all positions whereas in Latvian before the vowels i, î, e, ç, æ, æ the original k and g have become c (pronounced ts) and dz respectively. For example, the nominative plural of the word for 'eyes' is ãkys (/âkîs/) in Lithuanian, ackis (/akis/) in Old Prussian, but in Latvian we find acis (/atsis/). Or the Lithuanian word for 'crane' is gérvë, Old Prussian is gerwe, but in Latvian we find dzerve. A very important word is the word for 'amber', Lithuanian giñtaras, but in Latvian dzĩtars. Note also that Latvian is less conservative in that the earlier ending represented by standard Lithuanian -as has passed to a simple final -s in Latvian. There are many other examples of innovation in the Latvian noun declension compared to the retention of the older form in the Lithuanian noun declension. Thus Lithuanian retains the old dative singular ending in vilk-ui, whereas Latvian has innovated by borrowing a pronoun or adjectival ending in vilk-am '(to the) wolf.' Note the Lithuanian dative singular masculine demonstrative pronoun tam(ui) '(to) that' from the Latvian counterpart of which, tarn, the noun ending of Latvian vilk-am is derived. Another example is the third person present tense of the verb. Where in Lithuanian the ending -a is retained, in Latvian it is lost, cf. Lithuanian velk-a 'drags' vs. Latvian vælk which has the same meaning. Another feature which distinguishes Latvian from the more conservative Lithuanian is that under ordinary circumstances the sequence of vowel plus n in preconsonantal position has been replaced by a simple vowel. The formulae are as follows:
1. Lithuanian -an- = Latvian -uo- (written -o- in modern orthography), e.g. Lithuanian
ranka = Latvian ruoka 'hand, arm.'
2. Lithuanian -en- = Latvian -ie-, e.g., Lithuanian penki = Latvian pieci 'five.' (Cf. also Greek pénte, Sanskrit pánca, pronounced punch ya, where we also see retention of the -n-).
3. Lithuanian -in- = Latvian -î-, e.g., Lithuanian krintu = Latvian krìtu 'I fall.'
4. Lithuanian -un- = Latvian -û-, e.g., Lithuanian juntu = Latvian jûtu 'I feel.'
Another reason for using Lithuanian rather than Latvian in our reconstruction is that Lithuanian has kept s and ð (and the voiced counterparts z and þ) apart, whereas Latvian has merged them as s (and z) respectively. For example, Latvian has the s in sçdçt 'to sit' just like Lithuanian sëdëti, but where Lithuanian has ð- as in ðuo 'dog,' genitive singular ðuns, Latvian has s-. Thus the Latvian word for dog is suns. It is probably for this reason that Latvian cannot use the inherited Baltic word for 'son' but has dçls instead of a word like Lithuanian sûnus, which in Latvian might turn out to be something like the word for 'dog.' Note also Latvian zinât 'to know' beside Lithuanian þinoti 'id.'
I don't plan to go into this matter in detail, because it is very complex, but it should be mentioned that in Latvian the initial syllable is stressed, whereas in principle, with a few limitations the stress can fall on any predetermined syllable in a Lithuanian word.
I should now like to say a few words about the history of Latvian, the closest living relative of Lithuanian. My chief source for this is the recent excellent book by Professor Velta Rûke-Dravina. Her book, The Standardization Process in Latvian, was published by Almqvist and Wiksell International in Stockholm in 1977. According to Rûke-Dravina, as far as we know, the earliest records of anything written in Latvian date from the 13th century. The first book written in Latvia (but in the Latin language) by Henry of Livonia about 1220 was Origines Livoniae. This book contains some Latvian place names, some personal names and one appellative, viz. draugs use in the Latin sentence draugum suum, id est consocium. I am sure that all Lithuanians will immediately recognize the word as cognate with Lithuanian draugas 'friend, comrade.' Other personal names were found in official documents of Riga in the 14th and 15th centuries. The oldest surviving printed text in Latvian is Johann Hasentöter's script of the Lord's Prayer, printed in 1550 in a Latin edition of Sebastian Münster's Cosmography, whereas the oldest surviving printed book is a Catholic Catechism translated by E. Tolgsdorf in 1585. (See Rûke-Dravina, 1977, 28-29.) Most of the early Latviàn literature consists of books of a religious nature and were translations from German, Latin and Polish. According to Rûke-Dravina, 1977, 30:
,,Central to the development of the written language in the 18th and early 19th centuries was the publication of the Bible (Latvian translation of the New Testament in 1685, of the Old Testament in 1689, of the Apocrypha in 1694). Since the literature printed in Latvian was very scanty and since the German ministers felt that the spiritual life of the Latvians required it to be based on the Bible, this edition became the main reading material for many generations. The language of the Bible was the basis and model used by all authors in the 17th and 18th centuries; it influenced the choice of lexical items and syntactic constructions, and the use of Biblical idiomatic utterances; this translation also served to stabilize the" orthography.
An important stage in the further development of the Latvian Standard language is linked with the "National Awakening" movement in the middle of the 19th century, when most outstanding poets of the period attempted to purify, enrich and develop Latvian into a fine vehicle for both poetry and science. The poetry book Dziesminas ('Little Songs') by Juris Alunâns (1832-1864) can be named as a symbolic beginning of this period of "Young Latvians." This, book was published in 1856 and contains translations of a considerable number of poems belonging to world literature. The linguistic article "a few words about the Latvian language," an addition to J. Alunâns' Dziesminas, positively influenced the written language. Dziesminas was printed in Gothic type and in the usual orthography of that day, which had been retained with almost no changes from the time of G. Mancelius and the Bible. At the end of the book, however, a small sample text in Roman type and in a new orthography was added."
The view that Latvian and Lithuanian separated in the 7th century A.D. is defended by V. Urbutis, 1962. And the Latvian nation itself was derived rather from the consolidation of a group of East Baltic tribes, the Curonians, Semigallians, Selonians and Latgalians. (See Rudzîte, 1964, 22 and Gimbutas, 1963, 23.) One feature of Curonian which is found in some words in contemporary Latvian is the retention of the vowel plus -n before consonant, differently from the standard Latvian treatment mentioned above. Thus in addition to standard Latvian dzîtars for 'amber' we also encounter dziñtars which is like Lithuanian in that it retains the -n- before the consonant -t (giñtaras), but like Latvian in that the initial g- has passed to dz-. According to Rudzîte, 1964, 26, the Curonian language was still separate from Latvian in the 16th century. In general today we speak of three major Latvian dialects:
1. The central or Vidzeme dialect, the basis of the standard language along with
2. The Tamian and Livonian dialects.
3. The High Latvian dialect, consisting of the Selonian and Latgalian dialects.
There are a number of different features which distinguish these dialects, but just to name one or two, one can say that the Livonian dialects are characterized by the replacement of the feminine gender by the masculine, e.g. zem ir slapð 'the ground is wet,' up ir dzilð 'the river is deep,' cf. Lith. þemë yra ðlapia and upë yra gili (Endzelîns, 1951, 462). The central or Vidzeme dialect has, in general, retained the original phonetic structure better, but the morphology is sometimes less conservative than that of the other dialects. Thus in the Vidzeme dialect we find the standard Latvian 3rd person past tense veda 'led' as opposed to the High Latvian dialect form vede which is more conservative since it reminds us of Lithuanian vedë. (Endzelîns, 1951, 864.) Another phonological characteristic of High Latvian as opposed to standard Latvian is the replacement of open ç by â, cf., e.g., bârzs for bçrzs 'birch' beside Lithuanian berþas. (Endzelîns, 1951, 108.)
To summarize then: The Baltic languages, belonging to the Indo-European language family, seem to have changed more slowly than other Indo-European languages, so the contemporary languages have features similar to those of such ancient languages as Sanskrit, Greek and Latin. Although Old Prussian (a West Baltic language) is probably even more conservative than Lithuanian (an East Baltic language), the evidence of Old Prussian is scant and difficult to interpret. Latvian, also an East Baltic language, is less conservative than Lithuanian.