Toward the New Approach of the History of Written Lithuanian

Aurelija Tamošiūnaitė (University of Illinois at Chicago)

The history of written Lithuanian is often perceived as a process toward a standard and uniform written language. As Palionis claims, “the history of written Lithuanian deals only with the development of consciously more or less cultivated, codified written language”(1995). Thus, the sources that might not exhibit above mentioned features might be excluded from the scope of the analysis of written Lithuanian. Such approach, that Elspaß defines as “language history from above” (2007), neglects text sources that represent informal, everyday language, thus, it omits the data that might provide more insights on the “actual” usage of the written language among previously understudied social groups.

In my presentation, relying on the outcomes of recent studies in historical sociolinguistics (Elspaß 2002, van der Wal 2007, Vandenbussche 2002, etc.), I will attempt to look at the history of written Lithuanian from the point of view of the language user. My analysis is based on 119 manuscript Lithuanian letters, written at the turn and the first half of the 20th century by less educated rural Lithuanians, who at that time constituted the majority of Lithuanian speakers. I will focus on the orthographic variation in the letters and its possible relationship with author’s age, literacy level, and writing time. The main aim of the presentation is to provide “another view” of the linguistic picture of Lithuanian language, and to show that orthographical practices in handwritten manuscripts exhibited much more diversity than in printed texts.

Keyword: Tamosiunaite

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