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Lithuanian is European language with around three million native speakers. Roughly 80% of the population of Lithuania are native Lithuanian speakers. There are however large populations of Polish and Russian native speakers.
Lithuanian is one of the two Baltic languages which forms a part of the Indo-European languages. The other being Latvian. According to the 2013 ONS estimate, there are around 144,000 Lithuanians currently residing in the UK. We therefore encounter quite a few Lithuanian projects at Atlas.
Famous French linguist Antoine Meillet claimed “Anyone wishing to hear how Indo-Europeans spoke should come and listen to a Lithuanian peasant”. This is largely because Lithuanian retains many antiquated features of older languages. It bears similarities to the ancient languages of Sanskrit. Words such as ‘vilkas’, meaning wolf closely resemble the Sanskrit ‘vrkas’. The Lithuanian language contains 32 letters with a number of diacritical marks.
A great deal of early written works in Lithuania, were actually written in Latin. It wasn’t until the 16th Century when books began to be published in the Lithuanian language. Famous Lithuanian writers include Antanas Škėma, a modernist writer who wrote ‘The White Shroud’ and Balys Sruoga whose ‘The Forest of the Gods’ depicts the Nazi concentration camps.
There are two main dialects of spoken Lithuanian. There is Aukštaičių or ‘Highland Lithuanian’ and Žemaičių/Žemaitiu or ‘Lowland’ Lithuanian. These two main dialects are further split into sub-dialects based on the geographical region the speaker hails from.
I have to admit I struggled to find any notable non-native speakers. If you know any please leave a comment! There are however several well-known Lithuanians in the Western sporting world. Currently the NBA plays host to Lithuanian stars like Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Donatas Motiejūnas and Jonas Valančiūnas. The NHL is home to Lithuanian players Dainius Zubrus and Pijus Rulevičius. And Lithuanian Antana Guoga (Tony G) is a famous poker player, who moved to Australia as a child.
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