A Guide to the Lithuanian Language for Speakers of English

by ASBusinessMagnet, translator of Homestuck to Lithuanian




The Lithuanian language is a member of the Indo-European language family, to which - surprise - the English language also belongs. But then the Indo-European language family is split into groups like Baltic, Slavic, Germanic, Romance and others. So out of these, Lithuanian and also Latvian languages are Baltic. The Lithuanian language is spoken by about 2.8 million people in Lithuania and about 200 thousand ethnic Lithuanians in other countries, most of whom reside in the country that thinks it's the best country in the world, the United States. And probably also several individuals who are Axis Powers Hetalia fans and think Toris Lorinaitis is a legitimate Lithuanian name, which it isn't. (Also not a Lithuanian name: Vairuotojo Pažymėjimas)

The main extreme to which the Lithuanian language can lean is the Lithuanian of Valstybinė lietuvių kalbos komisija (VLKK, National Commission of the Lithuanian Language). All narrative in Įstrigę namuose as well as all narrative in all Lithuanian literature, original and translated alike, since 1990 adheres to this constant, however, it turns out people who are not writers think VLKK is evil for trying to teach people a language which they think is too hard, and end up distorting Lithuanian. The distortions are many and various, but one of them everyone can agree on, and call it "the one.lt language".

At this point I would like to mention that my current English teacher, who pretty much is more like a conversational partner and less like a teacher to me, told my class that at her lesson we were learning the Queen's English rather than London slang. I, as the only guy who spreads Lithuanian around that you know, would like to wish you the same: to learn the Lithuanian of VLKK, rather than the one.lt language. And, if you excuse me, I'm going to refer to the Lithuanian of VLKK simply as "Lithuanian" or "modern Lithuanian".

History

The Lithuanian language got a written treatment fairly lately. The first Lithuanian book ever was Martynas Mažvydas's "Catechismvsa prasty Szadei..." (modern Lithuanian: Katekizmo (pa)prasti žodžiai..., English: The Simple Words of Catechism...) released in 1547, and then there was a guy named Mikalojus Daukša, who precisely 413 years before my translation began talked about what if the lion decided to bleat like a goat and piss on his turntables. But at the time everyone in Lithuania spoke Polish and it wasn't until the ban of "Lithuanian texts in Latin letters" in 1864 when people realized Lithuanian was a cool language and started writing in it. Then the floodgates opened and there was this one guy nicknamed Maironis who is the same to Lithuanian as Shakespeare is to English.

From that time until 1990, Lithuanian was at a constant level, if you don't count The Oppression of the Lithuanian Language No. 2, when even when people weren't forced to "раит лаик фис" (write like this), Russian was the only official language and people knew Russian widely.

In 1990, after Lithuania declared independence, people started saying the Soviet Union and everything Russian sucks and looking into English. This warranted one big thing, which is the aforementioned VLKK, which, I swear, aims to licence the Lithuanian language as its property and forces everyone to write in it properly. But English still won't stop spreading to Lithuania, and even worse, people actually end up speaking a mixture of languages that is neither Lithuanian nor English nor Russian, and this is where I and my translation come in, and in which I try to get English people to think of Lithuanian as "so fuckin' cool".

Abrigded version of first translations:
The Bible - 1579-1590 by Jonas Bretkūnas (not published)
Hamlet by William Shakespeare - end of 19th century by ???
Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling - 2000-2008 by Zita Marienė
Homestuck by Andrew Hussie - 2014 September 21-ongoing by ASBusinessMagnet (current version)

Dialects

The single major dialect of Lithuanian, besides VLKK Lithuanian and the one.lt language, is the Samogitian dialect/language. It's how Calliope speaks. You know, since in the original she speaks British English. (This part not crossed out since it's still relevant)

Quote me on Tumblr:

"Meanwhile, the dialects of Lithuanian according to me:

* VLKK Lithuanian ("maigyklės tvarkyklės keityklės trumpyklė")
* The Lithuanian that I usually type in (i.e. "normal" Lithuanian; not too official, but not too fucked up either)
* Dave's Coolkid Speech (that one language in which "jo", rather than "taip", means yes)
* The three dialects available on this converter:
** The one.lt Language
** The Samogitian Dialect (i.e. what I think Latvian sounds like)
** Old Lithuanian"

Alphabet

A Ą B C Č D E Ę Ė F G H I Į Y J K L M N O P R S Š T U Ų Ū V Z Ž

Of course, I have to continue beyond this because 32 letters don't constitute a section.

The letters which are in the English alphabet but aren't in the Lithuanian one are Q, W and X.

The letters which are in the Lithuanian alphabet but aren't in the English one are what I call "the diacritics", or Ą, Č, Ę, Ė, Į, Š, Ų, Ū and Ž. Additionally, Calliope and Caliborn's speech patterns include the Latvian letters Ā, Ē and Ī, but more about that was included earlier. You know, Samogitian.

"BUT OMG WHERE Y AND THAT Y NOT QUESTION WORD"

First of all, "Y" isn't a word neither in Lithuanian nor in English, and the word you are looking for is "why" (Lithuanian: kodėl).

The thing with the letter Y in English is that it's the equivalent of a transgender man in human society, namely, the "Consonant-to-Vowel" (CTW) type, but you already know that.

The thing with the letter Y in Lithuanian is that it murdered X, went on to live between the letters Į and J and finally got through with becoming a true vowel, but that wasn't enough for it and it decided to come to The Diacritic Party and it turned out there were 13 letters in it and the party was damned for life.

The morale is the letter Y is the single worst letter of the Latin script by a nautical mile. End of.

Pronunciation

For most of the time, the pronunciation corresponds to the spelling like this: (Long - stressed like á or ã or unstressed o; short - stressed like à or unstressed like a)

Lithuanian - IPA
A short - /ɐ/ - u in but
A long, Ą - /äː/ - a(r) in far
B - /b/ - b in but
C - /ts/ - not an English C, because that is filed under K
CH - /x/
Č - /tʃ/
D - /d/
E short - /ɛ/
E long, Ę - /æː/
Ė - /eː/ - same as French É
F - /f/ - f in far
G - /g/
H - /ɣ/
I - /ɪ/
Į, Y - /iː/
J - /j/
K - /k/ - c in cat
L - /l/
M - /m/
N - /n/
O short - /ɒ/
O long - /oː/
P - /p/
R - /r/
S - /s/
Š - /ʃ/
T - /t/ - t in but
U - /ʊ/
Ų, Ū - /uː/
V - /ʋ/
Z - /z/
Ž - /ʒ/

And there's this cool app here to let you know when and how a letter is stressed.

BUT

There are exceptions.

When several consonants, voiced and voiceless alike, are bunched up together, you make them all one kind (voiced/voiceless) based on the last one.

When you get a zz or ss sound, you glue it to one.

And then there are international words that even my automatic converter of speech to Samogitian and one.lt languages chokes on, but one handful rule is that if the word has an "-ient-" part, I and E aren't friends anymore. (Hint: you get a stressed n, which looks like "ñ", when this occurs)

Grammar

Now this is where it gets real hard and confusing for English speakers. Let's take the very first sentence of my translation:

"Jaunas vaikinas stovi savo miegamajame."

Now things to note:

1. No articles
2. No prepositions (at least in this case)
3. The word "vaikinas" translated as "a teenaged man" so you're stumped because if in your language boys immediately become men, in Lithuanian they go through an intermediate stage
4. The word "savo" best corresponds to English "self" but doesn't work like it, more on that later.

To begin analysing this gramatically let's note that the word order in this particular case is Subject-Verb-Object like in English, but at times it can get different, especially in poetry (in case you were catching up with Maironis after reading through Įstrigę namuose).

Anyway, the grammatical analysis of this sentence looks like this:

"vaikinas stovi" - grammatical center, that means the noun is in nominative case (vardininkas), always and forever, and since "vaikinas" is a noun and not a pronoun, you have to use the 3rd person for "stovi".

"jaunas vaikinas" - noun-adjective collocation, the case, gender and quantity (singular/plural) have to be the same in both words.

"stovi miegamajame" - the word "stovi" raises a question "kur?" (where?) so you have to use the locative case (vietininkas) for all "where" questions. No exceptions. In fact, the same collocation is in the title: "Įstrigę namuose" - the participle serves the role of the verb "įstrigti" (to get stuck) so for all intents and purposes, it is the same.

"savo miegamajame" - the pronoun pretends that it's an adjective (think the possessive form of English, with the 's ending after nouns, save for "he's", "she's" and "it's"), so you have to use the genitive case (kilmininkas). Again, no exceptions.

Vocabulary

And the most fun part for the ending. You can't know the language without the words, you know.

Lithuanian (language) - lietuvių kalba
(in L.) - lietuviškai, lietuvių kalba
(person) - lietuvis, lietuvė
(of L.) - lietuvių
English (language) - anglų kalba
(in E.) - angliškai, anglų kalba
(person) - anglas, anglė
(of E.) - anglų
hello - labas
hi - sveikas
goodbye - viso gero, iki pasimatymo
please - prašau
sorry - atsiprašau
yes - taip*
no - ne
to translate - versti
a translation - vertimas
(more simple phrases are available here)

Homestuck - "Įstrigę namuose" (complete with the quotes)
(more terms of Homestuck are available in the Consistency Check - "Pastovumo patikroje" (the green link above this text))

* Dave Strider instead of "taip" says "jo", but that's a distortion of the Lithuanian language** and "jo" means something else in VLKK Lithuanian.

** I FIGURED OUT WHAT THE HELL IS BEHIND "JO". It's apparently a version of the German "ja".

Useful links

http://anglu-lietuviu.xb.lt/ - the Lithuanian-English dictionary I personally use for my translation
http://www.debeselis.net/ - the only community of learning Lithuanian I could find that is still (if barely) active
http://www.garsiai.lt/ - Lithuanian text-to-speech program, though it sounds robotic and messes up stresses it is the only one out there

 

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