The Lithuanian language belongs to the Baltic group of Indo-European languages. The other language in this group is Latvian, so if you know Latvian you may find it easy to learn Lithuanian. The languages are more different from each other than, for example, different Romance or Germanic languages. The Baltic and Slavic language branches are often grouped together into the so-called Balto-Slavic branch because both the Baltic and the Slavic languages are believed to have descended from the same ancestor language, Proto-Balto-Slavic. As such, they share numerous similarities in grammar and vocabulary.
About Lithuanian language itself
The phonology of the Lithuanian language shares some similarities with the Eastern Slavic languages, like Russian, Belorussian and Ukrainian, though there are also notable differences. The vocabulary of the Lithuanian language shares similarities with Polish, a West Slavic language, as a result of strong cultural and political ties in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth period.
Like in most of the Slavic languages, Lithuanian morphology is more complex than in Germanic or Romance languages and is usually more similar to the classical languages of Europe, such as Latin and Ancient Greek. There are grammatically-marked genders, noun cases, tenses, plurals, and so on. There are no articles. Prepositions are avoided in favor of case endings. E.g. "namas" means "house", while "name" means "in a/the house"). Therefore the Lithuanian language might seem hard at first to learn for people who are used to languages with a different structure.
About usage of Lithuanian language
Lithuanian is the official language of the Republic of Lithuania, which has about 3.5 million people, of which 83% are ethnic Lithuanians. There are Lithuanian communities in the neighboring countries of Poland and Latvia, where some villages have Lithuanian majorities. Larger communities of Lithuanians existed in Belarus and what is now Kaliningrad Oblast' of Russia. There also exist traditional emigrant communities, mostly in America and Australia, of people who are descendents of interwar emigrants. There are also new emigrant communities, made up of people emigrating now, largely in Spain, the UK and Ireland. Some of the old emigration trends, e.g. USA, remained too, while others disappeared (e.g. South America).
Lithuanian writing and pronouncing
The Lithuanian alphabet
Lithuanian alphabet is a modified Latin alphabet. Consists of the following 32 letters (in order):
- A – the long or the short A (see the pronouncing rules above), [a / ā].
- Ą (A nosinė) – long A, [ā].
- B – like B in bag, [b / b'].
- C – like English Ts (e.g. in Tsar), [ts / t's'].
- Č – like English Tsh (T and then sh), [tʃ / tʃ' / t'ʃ'].
- D – like D in dog, [d / d'].
- E – long or short E, (see the pronouncing rules below), [e / æ].
- Ę (E nosinė) – long E, [æ].
- Ė – is like German e and long (see the pronouncing rules below), [ē].
- F – like English F or PH (e.g. in fog), [f / f'].
- G – like G in golf, [g / g'].
- H – like H in Hungary, [h / h']
- I – short i, like i in English big; i in a diphthong, like y in say, the palatalization mark [i / ǐ / i].
- Į (I nosinė) – long i (see the pronouncing rules below), [ī].
- Y (I ilgoji) – second long i (see the pronouncing rules below), [ī].
- J – like Y in the English word young [j].
- K – like K in Kilometer, [k / k'].
- L – like L in long, [l / l'].
- M – like M in Mike, [m / m'].
- N – like N in november or N in link [n / n' / ɳ /ɳ'].
- O – long or (rare) short O, [ō / o].
- P – like P in Pong, [p / p'].
- R – like Spanish R, [r / r'].
- S – like S in song, [s / s'].
- Š – slightly less tight than English Sh (e.g. in Shell) [ʃ / ʃ'].
- T – like T in Tango, [t / t'].
- U – short u, like oo in English food, u in a diphthong, like w in cow [u / ǔ]
- Ų (U nosinė) – long U, [ū].
- Ū (U ilgoji) – long U, [ū].
- V – medial sound between English [v] and [w]; [v / v']].
- Z – like Z in Zone, [z /z'].
- Ž – voiced variant of Š, [ʒ / ʒ'], the sound in the middle of English "Treasure".
- Ch – these letters together are pronounced as an unvoiced variant of Lithuanian h, like ch in scottish loch, [χ / χ' ].
The letters W, X and Q are not used in Lithuanian except in proper names (e. g. Washington'o miestas). The letters F, H and the digraph Ch are only used in loaned words, known in many European languages (e. g. Chemija)
The pronouncing of consonants
- Any Lithuanian consonant may be palatalized. Palatalized consonants are pronounced softly, as before [i], but not palatalized are pronounced hardly, stiffly.
- Consonants are palatalized when they go directly before e (ę or ė) or i (į or y). Consonants, that go directly before other vowel letters should be pronounced not palatalized.
- The letter i in digraphs ia (ią), io, iu (ių, iū) plays a role of the palatalization mark (see The pronouncing of vowels).
- Consonants, that go directly before any palatalized consonant are palatalized too. It mean, that palatalization takes effect in a group of consonants, when the last consonant of the group is directly before e (ę or ė) or i (į or y).
- Consonants, that go directly before any not palatalized consonant are not palatalized, except the consonant [l] in few cases.
- Consonant [j] doesn't have a not palatalized pronouncing.
- Voiced consonants directly before unvoiced ones become similar to unvoiced. And, in the same way, unvoiced consonants directly before voiced ones assimilate to voiced ones.
- Unvoiced – voiced consonant pairs are: [b] – [p], [d] – [t], [g] – [k], [h] – [χ], [z] – [s] and [ʒ] - [ʃ]
- Voiced consonants [l], [m], [n], [r], [v] don't have a pair unvoiced sounds, they pronounced less voiced than in general, and unvoiced consonants don't became voiced before them.
- Unvoiced consonant [j] doesn't have a pair voiced sound, and assimilation of the prior sound is almost insensible before [j].
- Consonants [b] – [p], [d] – [t], [g] – [k], [h] – [χ] are pronounced much less aspired than their English counterparts.
- The consonant letter n is pronounced [ɳ] before k or g and [n] in other cases.
The list of consonants
|[b]||b||like English [b]|
|[d]||d||like English [d]|
|[dʒ']||dž (before ia, io, etc)||it's a variant of [dʒ] with a more stressed t than ʒ (palatalized only!)|
|[f]||f||like English [f]|
|[g]||g||like English [g]|
|[h]||h||between English [h] and [g] (it's voiced!)|
|[j]||j||like English [j]|
|[k]||k||like English [k]|
|[l]||l||like English [l]|
|[l']||l||like Italian l (it's palatalized!)|
|[m]||m||like English [m]|
|[n]||n||like English [n]|
|[ɳ]||n (before k or g)||like English [ɳ]|
|[p]||p||like English [p]|
|[r]||r||like South European or Russian r|
|[s]||s||like English [s]|
|[ʃ]||š||less tight than English [ʃ]|
|[t]||t||like English [t]|
|[tʃ']||č (before ia, io, etc)||it's a variant of [tʃ] with a more stressed t than ʃ (palatalized only!)|
|[v]||v||between English [w] and [v]|
|[z]||z||like English [z]|
|[ʒ]||ž||less tight than English [ʒ]|
|[χ]||ch||like Lithuanian [h], but unvoiced|
Explanations of other transcription marks are in the table below:
|[ ' ]||(after a consonant) marks a palatalized consonant||[k'], [g'], [s'm'] ([sm'] does not exist, see rule 1)|
|[ i ]||(after a consonant) marks a palatalized consonant group||[ki](=[k']), [gi], [smi] (=[s'm'])|
|[ kg ]||(before a voiced consonant) could mark an assimilated consonant.||[szd], [ pbd]|
|[ gk ]||(before an unvoiced consonant) could mark an assimilated consonant.||[zst], [bpk]|
Note: This simplified transcription is only used in wikipedia. In many study sources of the Lithuanian language no transcription is used or the more sophisticated, scientific transcription is used.
The pronunciation of vowels
- Any vowel sound has two variants, the long and the short in Lithuanian language.
- Letters a, e can be read long ([ā] , [æ]) or short ([a], [e]), depending on the word and its form (case, tense, etc.). The long a or e of this kind may appear once in a word.
- Letters ą, ę, ė, į, y, ų, ū are always pronounced long ([ā], [æ], [ē], [ī], [ū]).
- Letters u, i are always pronounced short ([u], [i]) (except cases, when they are a part of diphthongs).
- Letter o is pronounced long ([ō]) at most, but in the case of many loaned words it's pronounced short [o] in word root.
- Possible short variant of [ē] and more often short variant of [æ] are marked with the same [e] here. They aren't distinguished in spelling too.
- There are few cases, when a vowel letter is pronounced not like a vowel sound:
- The letter i directly before a (ą), o, u (ų, ū) (but not e!) (in ia, ią, io, iu, ių, iū and not ie) isn't pronounced and marks the palatalization (see above). This usual rule has few exceptions in stems of some loaned words, most of them are known in many other European languages (e. g. pianinas [pijaninas] 'a piano', pionierius [pijonierius] 'a pioneer').
- The letters i and u in ai, ei, ie, ui, uo are parts of respective diphthongs. This rule has few formal exceptions of the same kind as the previous, but in fluent Lithuanian these exceptions usually aren't seen.
The list of vowels
|[a]||a||similar to English u [ʌ] (also in open syllables!)|
|[ā]||a, ą||long, double a|
|[e]||e||half-way between English [ə] and [ɛ]|
|[æ]||e, ę||long, double e, similar to English a [æ] (a consonant before Lithuanian [æ] is palatalized)|
|[ē]||ė||long, double e, similar to e in many languages (e. g. to French é)|
|[i]||i||like English i [i] (also in open syllables!)|
|[ī]||y, į||long, double i|
|[ō]||o||half-way between English [ɔ] and [u:], it's long, double|
|[o]||o||similar to English [ɔ]|
|[u]||u||similar to English oo [u]|
|[ū]||ū, ų||long, double u|
- The accent in Lithuanian is free (not connected with any particular syllable or sound). Accents of the different forms of the same word also may differ.
- The accent in Lithuanian has three forms, all of which have different pronunciation in different cases. These three forms are: the initial long syllable accent, the final long syllable accent and the short syllable accent. When we have a single vowel (not a diphthong) in an accented syllable, the form of stress also indicates, if the vowel is long or short.
In this wikibook the Lithuanian accent is marked by printing the respective vowel bold. This allows the initial and the final accents in syllables containing a diphthong to be distinguished, as far as is sufficient for intermediate knowledge of Lithuanian.
Note: In the vocabularies the three forms of accent are often marked with three marks - the final long syllable accent with a circumflex mark (^), the initial long syllable accent with an acute mark (´) and the short syllable stress with the grave mark (`), but the meaning of these marks differs from their usage in most other European languages (e. g. in the Greek language).
The main things on verbs
- Verbs have three different main tenses, that allows us to express an action in the past, in the present and in the future. The fourth tense is used to express a repeated action in the past (it's called the past iterative tense).
- Verbs of different tenses have different endings. The stems of a verb them often are different (although not much) in different tenses.
|the past tense||the present tense||the future tense||the past iterative tense|
|ėjau||einu||eisiu||eidavau||'to go' (I went – I go / I'm going – I'll go – I used to go)|
|buvau||esu||būsiu||būdavau||'to be' (I was – I am / I'm present – I'll be – I used to be)|
|sakiau||sakau||sakysiu||sakydavau||'to say' (I said – I say / I'm saying – I'll say – I used to say)|
|galėjau||galiu||galėsiu||galėdavau||'to be able' (I could – I can – I'll be able – I could / I had many possibilities)|
|gerdavau||'to drink' (I drank – I drink / I'm drinking – I'll drink – I used to drink)|
|bėgau||bėgu||bėgsiu||bėgdavau||'to run' (I ran – I run / I'm running – I'll run – I used to run)|
|'to carry', 'to bear' (I carried – I carry/ I'm carrying |
– I'll carry– I used to carry)
- One may notice, that stems of the past iterative tenses don't differ from respective stems of the future tense, except the last consonant. This refers to an actual rule in Lithuanian.
- Lithuanian verbs may have more forms, that are like tenses, but we'll leave them for the further.
- Verbs have five persons in every tense. Every person has it's own endings, and this system is almost regular.
- The first singular person always ends with u, but actual its ending may be longer.
- renku 'I gather' or 'I'm gathering' (the present tense)
- veikiu 'I do' or 'I act' (the present tense)
- tyliu 'I keep silence' (the present tense)
- manau 'I think', 'I suppose', 'I believe' (the present tense)
- likau 'I stayed' (the past tense)
- rašiau “I wrote' (the past tense)
- The second singular person always ends with i, but actual its ending may be longer.
- renki 'you gather' or 'you're gathering' (the present tense)
- veiki 'you do' or 'you act' (the present tense)
- tyli 'you keep silence' (the present tense)
- manai 'you think', 'you suppose', 'you believe' (the present tense)
- likai 'you stayed' (the past tense)
- rašei “you wrote' (the past tense)
- Note, that these endings are used for single person only, like as the old English thou dost, thou gatherst etc.
- The third person is one both for the singular and for the plural. Its endings are -a / -ia, -i, -o or ė.
- renka [ren...] 'he /she gathers' or 'he /she is gathering' (the present tense)
- veikia 'he /she does' or 'he /she acts' (the present tense)
- tyli 'he /she keeps silence' (the present tense)
- mano [mā...] 'he /she thinks', 'he /she supposes', 'he /she believes' (the present tense)
- liko 'he /she stayed' (the past tense)
- rašė [rā...] 'he /she wrote' (the past tense)
- The first plural person has endings, regularly made from endings of the third person. One simply should add -me after the ending of the third person (possible variants are -ame /-iame, -ime, -ome, -ėme).
- renkame [ren...] 'we gather' or 'we are gathering' (the present tense)
- veikiame 'we do' or 'we act' (the present tense)
- tylime 'we keep silence' (the present tense)
- manome [mā...] 'we think', 'we suppose', 'we believe' (the present tense)
- likome 'we stayed' (the past tense)
- rašėme [rā...] 'we wrote' (the past tense)
- The second plural person has endings, regularly made from endings of the third person. One simply should add -te after the ending of the third person (possible variants are -ate / -iate, -ite, -ote, ėte).
- renkate [ren...] 'you gather' or 'you are gathering' (the present tense)
- veikiate 'you do' or 'you act' (the present tense)
- tylite 'you keep silence' (the present tense)
- manote [mā...] 'you think', 'you suppose', 'you believe' (the present tense)
- likote 'you stayed' (the past tense)
- rašėte [rā...] 'you wrote' (the past tense)
- The first singular person always ends with u, but actual its ending may be longer.
- The future tense and the past iterative tense have regular endings
|Person||Ending of the future tense
with the suffix
|Forms of the future tense|
|1st singular||-siu||rinksiu, veiksiu, tylėsiu, manysiu|
|2nd singular||-si||rinksi, veiksi, tylėsi, manysi|
|3rd||-s||rinks, veiks, tylės, manys|
|1st plural||-sime||rinksime, veiksime, tylėsime, manysime|
|2nd plural||-site||rinksite, veiksite, tylėsite, manysite|
- Note, that the future tense, as an exclusion, hasn't any ending without the suffix s at all in the 3rd person.
|Person||Ending of the past iterative
tense with the suffix
|Forms of the past iterative tense|
|1st singular||-davau||rinkdavau, veikdavau, tylėdavau, manydavau|
|2nd singular||-davai||rinkdavai, veikdavai, tylėdavai, manydavai|
|3rd||-davo||rinkdavo, veikdavo, tylėdavo, manydavo|
|1st plural||-davome||rinkdavome, veikdavome, tylėdavome, manydavome|
|2nd plural||-davote||rinkdavote, veikdavote, tylėdavote, manydavote|
- There are also few other suffixes, used in the present or in the past tense, that have their own regular endings for every person.
The personal pronouns
Verbs may be used in a sentence without personal pronouns, but personal pronouns are useful, especially for the 3rd person.
|1st person||aš [aʃ] 'I'||mes [mæs] 'we'|
|2nd person||tu 'you'
|2rd person||ji 'she', jis 'he'||jos 'they (feminine)', |
- Here are forms of the nominative only in the table. You should use forms of other cases to speak about something or somebody as a direct object or as an indirect object.
- It's polite to use the 2nd plural person instead of the second singular in the official style . Remember, that you should speak in this case as if you deal with many people, not simply changing Tu to Jūs only. For example: not
tu eini → jūs eini, but tu eini → jūs einate.
The simplest sentences
- The simplest sentence consists of a single verb. But everybody feels that such a sentence is too unclear. We'll skip this point here.
- The next step is a sentence with a subject and a verb. The subject should be put in the nominative case. Word order is either S-V or the V-S. The S-V is more common, although native English speakers shouldn't forget, that the second possibility sometimes may be used too.
- Examples (the S-V – the V-S):
- mergaitė valgo [vālgō] 'a girl eats'
- valgo [vālgō] mergaitė 'a girl eats'
- berniukas piešė 'a boy drew'
- piešė berniukas 'a boy drew'
- mes [mæs] liksime 'we'll stay'
- liksime mes [mæs] 'we 'll stay'
- kas [kas] nori [nōri]? 'who wants?'
- (the V-S isn't used)
- lietus lyja 'it rains', literally 'a rain rains' (less common than with the V-S)
- lyja lietus 'it rains', literally 'a rain rains' (the main variant in such case)
- Going further, we could add the object to a sentence. The object may be added anywhere in a sentence in Lithuanian. When one changes the place of the object, intonation of the sentence and some fine nuances (which we'll skip here) of its meaning change too.
- The object may be in one of few cases, and it depends on what kind of the object we have.
- mergaitė valgo [vāl...] obuolį 'a girl eats an apple' (the object is in the accusative case).
- berniukas piešė katiną [kāt...] 'a boy drew a cat' (the object is in the accusative case).
- kas [kas] nori pieno? 'who wants some milk?' (the object is in the genitive case).
- jis nori arbatos [...bāt...] 'he wants some tea' (the object is in the genitive case).
- ji neužmiršta draugės 'she don't forget the friend' (the object is in the genitive case).
The cardinal numbers
The ordinal numbers
|2nd||antras [antr...]||antra [...tra]||antra [antr...]|
|3rd||trečias [træ...]||trečia [...tʃa]||trečia [træ...]|
|5th||penktas [penktas]||penkta [...ta]||penkta [penkta]|
|6th||šeštas [ʃæʃ...]||šešta [...ta]||šešta [ʃæʃ...]|
|and so on...|
|and so on...|
The names of colours
The colours of the rainbow
- (Rainbow colours = vaivorykštės spalvos [spal...])
- red: raudona spalva [...va] (the masculine adjective raudonas, the feminine adjective raudona)
- orange: oranžinė [orān...] spalva [...va] (the masculine adjective oranžinis [orān...], the feminine adjective oranžinė [orān...])
- yellow: geltona spalva [...va] (the masculine adjective geltonas, the feminine adjective geltona)
- green: žalia [...lia] spalva [...va] (the masculine adjective žalias [ʒāli...], the feminine adjective žalia [...lia])
- cyan: žydra [...dra] spalva [...va] (the masculine adjective žydras, the feminine adjective žydra [...dra])
- blue: mėlyna spalva [...va] (the masculine adjective mėlynas, the feminine adjective mėlyna)
- violet: violetinė spalva [...va] (the masculine adjective violetinis, the feminine adjective violetinė)
- white: (white:) balta [...ta] spalva [...va] (the masculine adjective baltas [bāl...], the feminine adjective balta [...ta])
- black: juoda [...da] spalva [...va] (the masculine adjective juodas, the feminine adjective juoda [...da])
- grey: pilka [...ka] spalva [...va] (the masculine adjective pilkas, the feminine adjective pilka [...ka])
- brown: ruda [...da] spalva [...va] (the masculine adjective rudas, the feminine adjective ruda [...da])
the different examples
- Lithuania~Lietuva [...va]
- Lithuanian: Lietuviškai (“lietu'vishkai”)
- hello: labas (“lA-bas”)
- goodbye: sudie! (“sudiE'“)
- please: prašau(“prashau”)
- thank you: ačiū (“Ahchjooh”)
- that one: tas(masculine), ta(feminine)
- how much?: kiek? (“kjEk”)
- yes: taip (“taIp”)
- no: ne (“ne'“)
- sorry: atsiprašau (“atsiprashau”)
- what?: ką?
- I don’t understand: nesuprantu
- Cheers! (toast): į sveikatą! (“Ii sveikAtA!”)
- Do you speak English?: kalbi angliškai? (informal); ar kalbate angliškai? (formal)
- I love you: Aš tave myliu
- Where is (the center) ? Kur yra (centras)?
- You are a good friend. Tu esi geras draugas.