Lithuanian is the official language in Lithuania, with over 85% of native speakers and 90% fluent speakers in the country. Due to centuries of usage in the country, Lithuanian is a national identity. However, other minor languages exist in some regions of the country which also have native speakers, including Russian and Polish languages.
Official Language: Lithuanian
The official national language in Lithuania is Lithuanian, which is also used as an official language in the European Union. Lithuanian is the most popular language in the country, with over 3 million native Lithuanian speakers. Lithuanian is an Eastern Baltic language and is grouped under the Indo-European language family. It is the most conservative language in the Indo-European family and retains most of the original features found in ancient languages, such as Ancient Greek. Since the 19th century, the ability to speak Lithuanian has been used as one of the definitive factors used to determine whether an individual is a Lithuanian citizen or not.
History Of The Lithuanian Language
The earliest Lithuanian written manuscript dates back to about 1525 and features the translation of the Christian “Lord’s Prayer,” as well as the “Hail Mary.” Jonas Jablonskis, a prominent 19th-century Lithuanian linguist, was a central figure in the formation of a standard Lithuanian language, providing necessary principles in his book, “Lietuviskos kalbos gramatika” with the standard version of the language being adopted as the national language. The language experienced its greatest threat during years of Soviet occupation in the 20th century, where “Russification” encouraged the use of the Russian language.
Dialects Of Lithuanian
In its original form, Lithuanian exists in two distinct dialects: Aukstaitian (also known as Highland Lithuanian) and Samogitian (also known as Lowland Lithuanian). These two dialects are further subdivided into three patarmes or sub-dialects. Aukstaitian is subdivided into West, South, and East, while Samogitian is subdivided into West, South, and East. It is from the West Aukstaitian that standard Lithuanian is primarily derived. Lithuanian uses Latin script and numerals in conjunction with diacritics. Official use of standard Lithuanian in the country is regulated by the Commission of the Lithuanian Language.
Foreign Use Of Lithuanian
Lithuanian is also used outside the national borders of Lithuania. A significant population of native Lithuanian speakers live in Poland, known as the Punsk community, and have Lithuanian incorporated in their local education curriculum. Increased emigration from Lithuania since the 19th century has also caused people in foreign countries to identify with the language. As a result, Lithuanian speakers exist in countries including the US, UK, and Norway.
Minority Languages Of Lithuania: Russian and Polish
Russian is one of the minor languages spoken by about 8.2% of Lithuania's citizens. While the language has been used in the country for centuries, its use was enforced during Lithuania's occupation by Soviet Russia, whereby Russian was used as the Lingua Franca. Russian is not only spoken by Russians, but also by Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Jews in Lithuania. Polish is another minority language and is natively spoken by about 5.8% of Lithuanians. The language is primarily used in southeast Lithuania by a minority ethnic Polish community in the region. While Lithuanian is used in all official communication in the country, the government promotes the use of these minority languages in the regions where they exist by using them as the medium of instruction in learning institutions.
Foreign Languages Spoken In Lithuania
English is the most popular foreign language in Lithuania, and is spoken by about 80% of the country's youth. English is primarily used in locations frequented by foreign tourists, such as museums and hotels.