Samogitian dialect

Samogitian dialect

fam4=Eastern Baltic
iso2=bat (Baltic languages)
lc1=lit|ld1=Lithuanian|ll1=Lithuanian language

Samogitian (Samogitian: "Žemaitiu ruoda", _lt. Žemaičių tarmė) is a dialect (considered as an independent Baltic language by some people outside academic literature) of the Lithuanian language spoken mostly in Samogitia (in the west part of Lithuania). Certain attempts have been made to standardize it. The Samogitian dialect should not be confused with the middle dialect of the Lithuanian language, that sometimes was referred to as the Samogitian language in the time from the 16th to the 18th century.


Until the end of 19th century the modern Samogitians are mentioned only as the Western Samogitians; the latterwhat? are considered by scientists to be the descendents of lithuanianised (or samogitianised) Semigallians (for the Southern subdialect of Samogitian) and Curonians (for the Northern and Western subdialects of Samogitian).

The earliest writings in Samogitian dialect appeared in 19th century (read topic about grammar).

The Samogitian dialect, heavily influenced by Curonian, originated from the East Baltic proto-Samogitian dialect which was very close to Aukstaitian dialects.

In 5th century Proto-Samogitians moved from the lowlands of central Lithuania (around Kaunas) into the Dubysa and Jūra basins, as well as the Samogitian highlands. In new territories they pushed out or assimilated local, Curonian-speaking Baltic populations. Further north, they pushed out or assimilated indigenous, Semigallian-speaking peoples.

In the 13th century Samogitia became a part of the Baltic confederation called Lietuva (Lithuania), which was formed by Mindaugas. Lithuania conquered the coast of the Baltic sea from the Livonian order. The coast was populated by Curonians, but became a part of Samogitia. From the 13th century onwards, Samogitians settled within the former Curonian lands, and for 300 years there was an intensive migration and intermarriage. The Curonians had a huge cultural influence of Samogitian and Lithuanian culture, leading to the assimilation of the Curonian population by the 16th century. Samogitian and its subdialects preserved many features of the Curonian language, for example:
*widening of proto Baltic short i (i-> ė sometimes e)
*widening of proto Baltic short u (u -> o)
*preservation of West Baltic diphthong ei (standard Lithuanian ie -> Samogitian ėi)
*no t' d' palatalization to č dž (Latvian š, ž)
*specific lexis, like cīrulis (lark), pīle (duck), leitis (Lithuanian) and etc...
*retraction of stress
*shortening of ending -as to -s like in Latvian and Old Prussian (Proto-Indo-European o-stem)as well as various other features not listed here.


The Samogitian dialect is highly inflected like standard Lithuanian in which the relationships between parts of speech and their roles in a sentence are expressed by numerous flexions.There are two grammatical genders in Samogitian - feminine and masculine. Relicts of historical neuter are almost fully extinct while in standard Lithuanian there are left some isolated forms. These forms are replaced by masculine ones in Samogitian. Samogitian stress is mobile but often retracted from the end of words, and is also characterized by pitch accent. Samogitian has broken tone like Latvian and Danish languages. Circumflex, which is in standard Lithuanian, in Samogitian is replaced by acute tone. It has five noun and three adjective declensions. Noun declensions are different from standard Lithuanian (read in next topic). There are only two verbal conjugations. All verbs have present, past, past iterative and future tenses of the indicative mood, subjunctive (or conditional) and imperative moods (both without distinction of tenses) and infinitive. The formation of past iterative is different from standard Lithuanian. There are three numbers in Samogitian: singular, plural and dual. Dual is almost extinct in standard Lithuanian. The third person of all three numbers is common.Samogitian as the standard Lithuanian has very rich system of participles, which are derived from all tenses with distinct active and passive forms, and several gerund forms. Nouns and other declinable words are declined in seven cases: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental, locative, and vocative. Earliest writings in Samogitian dialect appear in 19th century. Famous Authors writing in Samogitian:
*Silvestras Valiūnas and his heroic poem “Biruta”, first printed in 1829. “Biruta” became a hymn of Lithuanian students emigrants in 19th century.
*Simonas Stanevičius (Sėmuons Stanevičios) with his famous book “Šešės pasakas” (Six fables) printed in 1829.
*Simonas Daukantas (Sėmuons Daukonts in Samogitian), he was first Lithuanian historian writing in Lithuanian (actually in its dialect). His famous book – “Būds Senovės Lietuviu Kalnienu ir Zamaitiu” (Customs of ancient Lithuanians highlanders and Samogitians) printed in 1854.
*Motiejus Valančius (Muotiejos Valončios or Valontė) and one of his books “Palangos Juzė” (Joseph of Palanga), printed in 1869. Palangos Juzė is considered to be the first geography manual in LithuanianWho|date=September 2007.There is no written grammar books of Samogitian because it is considered as a dialect of Lithuanian language, but there were some tries to standardize its written form. Such standardizers are S. Anglickis, P. Genys, S. Čiurlionienė-Kymantaitė, B. Jurgutis, J. A. Pabrėža.Today Samogitian has a standardized writing system but it still remains spoken language and everyone writes in native speech.

Linguistic differences between Samogitian and Standard Lithuanian

Samogitian differs from Standard Lithuanian in phonetics, lexicon, syntax and morphology.

Phonetic differences from standart Lithuanian are varied, each Samogitian subdialect (West, North and South) has different reflections.

Standard Lithuanian -> Samogitian

*i -> short ė, sometimes e;
*u -> short o (in some cases u);
*ė -> ie;
*o -> uo;
*ie -> long ė, ėi, ī (y) (West, North and South);
*uo -> ō, ou, ū (West, North and South);
*ai -> ā ;
*ei, iai -> ē;
*ui -> oi;
*oi (oj) -> uo;
*an -> on (in eastern-southern part an);
*un -> on (in eastern-southern part un);
*ą -> an in eastern-southern, on in middle part and ō or ou in north;
*ę -> en in eastern-southern, ėn in middle part and õ, ō or ėi in north;
*ū -> ū and in some cases un, um;
*ų -> in stressed endings un and um;
*unstressed ų -> o;
*y -> ī (y), sometimes in;
*i originated from ancient ī -> ī;
*u originated from ancient ō (Lithuanian uo) -> ō, ou, ū(West, North and South)
*i originated from ancient ei (Lithuanian ie) -> long ė, ėi, ī (West, North and South)
*č -> t and č where occurs Lithuanian influence;
*dž -> d and dž where occurs Lithuanian influence;
*ia -> ė (somewhere i and e);
*io -> ė (somewhere i and e);
*unstressed ią -> ė (somewhere i and e);

The main difference is between Samogitian and standard Lithuanian verb conjugation.
Past iterative tense is formed differently than in Lithuanian (e.g., in Lithuanian the Past iterative tense, meaning that action used to be done in past repeatedly, is made by removing the ending of verb "ti" and adding "davo" (mirti - mirdavo, pūti - pūdavo), while in Samogitian word "Liuob" is added instead before the word). The second verb conjugation is extinct in Samogitian, it merged with the first one. The plural reflexive ending is -muos instead of expected -mies which is in standard Lithuanian (-mės) and other dialects. Samogitian preserved a lot of relics of athematic conjugation which didn't remain in standard Lithuanian. The intonation in future tense third person is the same as in infinitive, in standart Lithuanian it shifts. The subjunctive conjugation is different from standard Lithuanian. Dual is preserved perfectly while in standard Lithuanian it is completely lost.

The differences between nominals are considerable too.The fifth noun declension almost became extinct, it merged with the third one. The plural and some singular cases of the fourth declension have endings of the first one (eg.: singular nominative "sūnos", plural nom. "sūnā", in standard Lithuanian: sg. nom. "sūnus", pl. nom. "sūnūs"). The neuter of adjectives is extinct (it was pushed out by adverbs, except "šėlt" 'warm', "šalt" 'cold', "karšt" 'hot') while in standard Lithuanian it is still alive. Neuter pronouns were replaced by masculine. The second declension of adjectives is almost extinct (having merged with the first declension)--only singular nominative case endings survived. The formation of pronominals is also different from standard Lithuanian.

Other morphological differences

Samogitian also has many words and figures of speech that are altogether different from typically Lithuanian ones, e.g., "kiuocis" - basket (Lith. krepšys), "tevs" - thin (Lith. plonas), "rebas" - ribs (Lith. šonkauliai), "a jebentas!" - "can't be!" (Lith. negali būti!) and many more.


Samogitian is also divided into three major subdialects: Northern Samogitian (spoken in Telšiai and Kretinga regions), Western Samogitian (was spoken in the region around Klaipėda, now nearly extinct, - after 1945, many people were expelled and new ones came to this region) and Southern Samogitian (spoken in Varniai, Kelmė, Tauragė and Raseiniai regions). Historically, these are classified by their pronunciation of the Lithuanian word "Duona," "bread." They are referred to as Dounininkai (from "Douna"), Donininkai (from "Dona") and Dūnininkai (from "Dūna").

Political situation

The Samogitian dialect is rapidly declining: it is not used in the local school system and there is only one quarterly magazine and no television broadcasts in Samogitian. There is some radio broadcast in Samogitian (in Klaipėda and Telšiai). Local newspapers and broadcast stations use standard Lithuanian instead. There is no new literature in Samogitian either, as authors prefer standard Lithuanian for its accessibility to a larger audience. Out of those people who speak Samogitian only a few can understand its written form well.

Migration of Samogitian speakers to other parts of the country and migration into Samogitia have reduced contact between Samogitian speakers, and therefore the level of fluency of those speakers.

There are attempts by the Samogitian Cultural Society to stem the loss of the dialect. The council of Telšiai city put marks with Samogitian name for the city at the roads leading to the city. A new system for writing Samogitian was created.

Writing system

The first use of a unique writing system for Samogitian was in the interwar period, however it was neglected during the Soviet period, so only elderly people knew how to write in Samogitian at the time Lithuania regained independence. The Samogitian Cultural Society renewed the system to make it more usable.

The writing system uses the same letters as standard Lithuanian, but with the following differences:

*There are no nasal vowels (letters with ogoneks: ą, ę, į, ų).
*There are three additional long vowels, written with macrons above (as in Latvian): ā, ē, ō.
*Long i in Samogitian is written with a macron above: ī (unlike standard Lithuanian where it is y).
*The long vowel ė is written as o with tilde above (õ). In fact it is written like ė with macron: Ė̄ and ė̄. [
*There are two additional diphthongs in Samogitian that are written as digraphs: ou and ėi. (The component letters are part of the standard Lithuanian alphabet.)

As previously it was difficult to add these new characters to typesets, some older Samogitian texts use double letters instead of macrons to indicate long vowels, for example aa for ā and ee for ē; now the Samogitian Cultural Society discourages these conventions and recommends using the letters with macrons above instead. The use of double letters is accepted in cases where computer fonts do not have Samogitian letters; in such cases y is used instead of Samogitian ī, the same as in standard Lithuanian, while other long letters are written as double letters. The apostrophe might be used to denote palatalization in some cases; in others i is used for this, as in standard Lithuanian.

A Samogitian computer keyboard layout has been created.

Samogitian alphabet:



External links

* [ Samogitia]
* [ Maps of Lithuania with Samogitian Dialects' Borders]
* [ Samogitian dictionary]

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