Category Archives: Linguistics

Sprachkultur as Manifestation of Power: A Case of Soviet Lithuania

Nerijus Šepetys (Vilnius University ) and Loreta Vaicekauskienė (The  Institute of Lithuanian Language, Vilnius)

The presentation provides empirical evidence on how the soviets manipulated language standardization turning it gradually into an overall regulation of “correctness” of national language. The research is based on a case of Soviet ruled Lithuania, which today can serve as an example of one of the most developed systems of language supervision in Europe.

The comparison of present Lithuania with other speech communities makes one wonder where the power-employing institutionalisation of language comes from. Some similarities can be found with late-standard communities, dominated by other languages and established during the 19th century (Subačius 2002), where the idea of Sprachkultur was a part of national(ist) ideology (cf. Spitzmüller 2007). However, in independent Lithuania (1918–1940), even during the years of authoritarian nationalist regime, tendencies of liberalization and modernization became apparent. In 1940/1944–1990 this development was terminated by Soviet occupation.

Keyword:  Sepetys

Keyword: Vaicekauskiene

Concerning the Vitality of Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian in Higher Education

Birute Klaas-Lang (University of Tartu)

Linguistic and cultural diversity is definitely one of the core values and riches of Europe. However, a language exists until its trouble-free use is granted in all the domains, including higher education. A language itself must be capable of it and meet the needs of the domains. On the other hand, a state / society / institution must have an environment that enables the use of the language. In the higher-education space, which is open and international, universities are making efforts to keep a balance between international (i.e. almost always English-medium) and mother-tongue-medium teaching. Promotion of the international environment is important for universities from the perspective of both business and institutional quality. On the other hand, a mission of the university is to ensure the continuity of the native-language intelligentsia, which is needed for the continuation of the state and nationality and the development of one’s mother tongue.

Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian represent those lesser used languages of Europe in the case of which one can speak about mother-tongue-medium higher education (incl. doctoral studies) and research. The presentation will compare the position of Estonian, Lithuanian, and Latvian in higher education; it is an attempt to show whether and how the regulation of institutional language environment and the resultant actions can maintain a balance between mother-tongue-medium instruction (in the case of lesser used languages) in higher education and international openness. The presentation will also analyse how the language-policy regulations of the state and institutions of higher education interact with one another.

Pronunciation Problems of Standard Lithuanian: An Experimental Study of Consonant [j] and Vowel [i] in International Words

Lina Murinienė (Vilnius Pedagogical University)

The situation is compounded by the fact that the letter i figures prominently in the Lithuanian language. Two spelling studies based on thorough data collections have been conducted to research the pronunciation problems of the consonant [j] and the vowel [i] in international words such as genialus, oficialus, specialybė. They showed that more than two thirds of respondents did not comply with the spelling rules of the consonant [j] in international words.

A problematic relationship between spelling and pronunciation of the consonant [j] and the vowel [i] was examined at the international conference of Arturs Ozols’ Day, Riga. It provoked a scientific debate over the need to revise the standard pronunciation rules in order to reflect its present usage. To provide a more tangible scientific foundation, pronunciation of the target sounds was researched with the PRAAT computer programme of Paul Boersma and David Weenink, phonetics scientists, University of Amsterdam.

The study measured the total sound duration and the value of the first three formants. The finding confirmed the previous statement that the majority of respondents perceived the letter i as a sign of softness in international words but did not pronounce the short vowel [i]. Now on the grounds of this finding, it seems reasonable to promote the idea of revising the pronunciation norms of the Lithuanian language.

Keyword: Muriniene

Lithuanian Literature in English: A Corpus-Based Approach Towards Translation of Author-Specific Neologisms


Jurgita Vaičenonienė (Vytautas Magnus University)

Translation of literature plays a crucial role in enhancing cross-cultural understanding and communication. Literary works can be the first acquaintance with a culture different from one’s own. It is in the interest of a country not only to translate and spread its literary heritage worldwide, but also to inquire whether a translation represents adequately what was meant in the original. Parallel corpus and corpus-based methods can be seen as a way to analyze how Lithuanian literature is translated into English. Ongoing research in the field of Descriptive Translation Studies has concentrated on the features that pervade translated texts and possible reasons for that (Toury 1995; Baker 1993). One such proposed feature of translation is the law of growing standardization, seen as a tendency to modify textual relations of the original text in favour of more habitual options for target repertoire (Toury, 1995: 268). The feature is assumed to be especially prevalent in minor-to-dominant languages’ translation direction. The aim of the presentation is to investigate whether lexical standardization is a dominant feature of translation in the specially compiled parallel corpus of Lithuanian-English prose works consisting of 1,7 million words. The object of the research is author-specific neologisms – stylistically marked, occasional and contextually dependant lexical items in literary texts. Corpus-based methods, qualitative and quantitative analyses of the data reveal that although standardization dominates the translation of author-specific neologisms, it is not the only approach; cases of creative translation of the data occur.

Keyword: Vaicenoniene

Proper Names of Foreign Languages: Perspectives of Conveying in Latvian and Lithuanian


Regina Kvašytė (Šiauliai University)

The interest in conveying proper names of foreign languages remains relevant in Lithuanian and Latvian texts. The presentation analyzes and compares various aspects of the usage of Lithuanian and Latvian proper names and perspectives of their conveying. Theoretic attitudes, concerning conveying of Lithuanian proper names in Latvian, do not change: it is required to write them according to pronunciation (an exception is place-names, which have traditional Latvian forms). Conveying of Latvian vowels, consonants or endings is important for the culture of the Lithuanian language; however, declension of the proper names mentioned is not of less importance. In Latvian, endingless names and surnames are not used; thus, they are spelled in these sentences according to the forms used in foreign sources. From this point of view, Latvian proper names in Lithuanian are exceptional. Theoretically, it is considered that they should be Lithuanianised. However, new tendencies are observed, still, not so widely spread in press. Therefore, it is obvious that names and surnames of the authors whose books were translated into Lithuanian are often spelled in the language of origin, i.e. like proper names of other foreign languages. The reason for these deformations can simply be an inaccurate proof; that is why such single cases should not be referred to as absolute and attributed to serious mistakes. However, it is possible to find different incorrect variants of Lithuanian proper names usage in Latvian and Latvian proper names in Lithuanian usage  in periodical press.

Keyword: Kvasyte

Are There Perspectives for (Real) Multilingualism in Lithuania?

Ineta Dabašinskienė (Vytautas Magnus University)

Knowledge of foreign languages facilitates international flow of work force and tourism, enables people to draw on the cultural heritage of mankind, and opens up possibilities for economic and political cooperation between countries. Joining the EU opened up for Lithuanians enormous possibilities for mobility including academic, professional and cultural. It was supposed that political freedom would encourage people from Lithuania and other Baltic countries start learning not only English, but also other traditional European languages, French and German in particular.

The fact that a significant portion of Lithuanians learns foreign languages at school highlights the crucial role of education systems in promoting multilingualism. The new Curriculum framework for primary and basic (lower secondary) education was approved in 2009. It states that teaching a first foreign language shall start from the second grade and a second foreign language shall be introduced in the fourth grade. The linguistic landscape for the 2010/2011 academic year reveals several important tendencies (the data come from the Ministry of Education and Science of Lithuania). First, the statistics of learning English, German and French as compared to the 2004 situation show an increase for English (96% – 82%), but a sharp fall for German (2.88% – 14%) and French (0.66% – 2.6%). Next, the most popular second foreign language is still Russian (80.9%), followed by German (12.6%), French (3.5%) and English (2.9%). Only very small numbers of schoolchildren take up other languages, such as Spanish, Polish and Italian. In view of this it would be safe to claim that the preferred English – Russian combination has emerged at the expense of traditional linguistic diversity. It seems that economic factors and the prestige of English may play a crucial role here.

Keyword:  Dabasinskiene

Devotion to the Native Tongue (A Short Story on the Linguistic Nationalism in Lithuania)

Giedrius Tamaševičius (Institute of Lithuanian Language, Vilnius)

“Modern Lithuania emerged from philology and language” – the validity of these words by Czeslaw Miłosz from his book In Search of a Homeland is newly confirmed by the discussions about the threats against the destiny of Lithuanian language and the future of the nation. The historical period described by Milosz (the end of the 19th  century and the beginning of the 20th century) is still a kind of ‘dreamtime’ not only for Lithuanian nationalism, but also for the language ideology – this is the time when Lithuanian standard variety was born. The aim of this paper is to follow the development of the ideology of the linguistic nationalism during the 20th century up to this day. Particular attention will be given to the Soviet period, when the fight for the culture of language officially was declared as both a tool for constructing the Communist society and a weapon for strengthening the Lithuanian nation.

Keyword: Tamasevicius

Practices of Inclusion and Exclusion: Perspectives on Equitable Futures in Estonian Language Policy

Delaney Michael Skerrett (University of Queensland)

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with four (two Russian-speaking and two -Estonian speaking) individuals that are either directly involved in language policy activities or have a public role as authorities on social issues in Estonia. The interview questions were designed to elicit how the individuals are involved in language policy activities, how they perceive the viability of the Estonian language and what they would recommend to improve this, and how they assess current language policy in terms of its equitability for (different groups of) Russian-speakers and how it could be improved in order to treat them more fairly and increase their likelihood of acquiring and speaking Estonian. It is this final issue that I concentrate on in this paper: namely, how the interviewees perceive the issue of the motivation of Russian-speakers to learn Estonian and what can be done to increase this. The poststructuralist paradigm informing the analysis requires us to understand behaviours as contingent on context; discourses need to be reshaped to admit more diversity in the acceptable and appropriate “performance” of everyday life and thus within identity group structures. The practices of everyday life that maintain and reflect discourses thus need to promote heterogeneity: be queerer. I call these practices of inclusion in contrast to many current practices which sustain barriers between ethnic Estonians and Russian-speakers, which we can call thus practices of exclusion.

“You Should Hear Us Speak Among Ourselves!”: American Estonian Speakers’ Attention to Own Speech

Piibi-Kai Kivik (Indiana University, Bloomington)

The paper explores the phenomenon of self-repair and other manifestations of attention to own speech by American Estonians, mainly of the refugee generation.  It applies methods of conversation analysis to the audio-recorded sociolinguistic interviews in Estonian, conducted by the author in the Unites States.

In the interview situation, there is some heightened attention to own speech. The paper analyzes sequences from the interviews where speakers orient to their identity as (bilingual) Estonian speakers. This orientation is made visible in explicit metalinguistic comments about the language use of the speakers themselves and others, in self-repairs in the form of reformulations, and in ways of switching codes.  American Estonians will often avoid or self-correct the use of loanwords.  From the viewpoint of modern Estonian, the repaired versions are archaisms or clumsy circumlocutions. At the same time, this practice serves as a marker for the variety of American (or more broadly, expatriate) Estonian.

The paper also discusses the need for the study of American Estonian using a variety of methods and approaches, as well as the potential topics to be explored given the sociolinguistic situation in Estonia and the U.S. The Estonian spoken in the U.S. is increasingly going to be shaped by the so-called new immigrants since the 1990s. Although their situation is very different from that of the refugee communities, their language will be similarly in a bilingual and often diglossic situation. At the same time, the Estonian and English languages are increasingly in contact in Estonia.

Interpretation of a ‘Petrified Negative Construction’ in Lithuanian

Violeta Kalėdaitė (Vytautas Magnus University)

Most research devoted to existential sentences (ES) in the world‘s languages has concentrated on the ‘mainstream’ ES construction and the features considered salient to existential sentences in general (empty (grammatical) subjects, the definiteness restriction, or the semantic classes of verbs eligible for existential assertion).

The aim of this paper is to offer an existential interpretation of a language-specific sentence type, or ‘petrified negative construction’ in Lithuanian, whose peculiarity lies in its syntactic organization and the grammatical form that the obligatory elements of the construction take:

Kojos         nėra    kur      pastatyti!

leg:GENsg not-is where  put:INF

‘There is no place to put a foot in!’/‘It is not possible to find some place to put a foot in!’

The paper examines the Lithuanian construction in terms of its existential import and the modal value of the proposition related to the (non-)existence of a ‘possibility’for carrying out an action referred to by the infinitive. The Lithuanian construction is discussed in the light of analyses proposed for the Greek ‘potential’ esti + infinitive construction by Kahn (1973), the Russian BKI construction (Rappaport 1986), infinitival relative clauses in Baltic (Holvoet 1999)  and the gerundive there-construction in English (Erdmann 1976, Kjellmer 1980).

Keyword: Kaledaite