Category Archives: Baltic languages

Lithuanian intonation

For several weeks I had been trying to grasp the basics of Lithuanian intonation, oh-so-poorly described in my introductory grammar. While Beginner’s Lithuanian by Dambriunas, Klimas, and Schmalstieg (New York: Hippocrene, 1998) does a lot of things well, its discussion of pronunciation isn’t so hot. But then a simple Usenet post by Miguel Carrasquer Vidal on sci.lang made it all clear:

Lith. has either ˜ (rising) or ´ (falling) tone on long
syllables. Short syllables have only stress (marked as `).

That’s all there is to it. Can it really be that simple? Terje Mathiassen’s A Short Grammar of Lithuanian (Columbus: Slavica, 1996), which I picked up later today through inter-library loan, states the same in just as few words. Moral of the story: never depend on one textbook for anything. Of course, the fact that the acute accent represents falling tone causes some consternation for students like myself whose first experience with a tonal accent was in Greek.

Historical grammar of Lithuanian

Cyril Babaev (founder of the aforementioned Cybalist list) has written a historical grammar of Lithuanian with some interesting comments on Lithuanian’s evolution from Proto-Indo-European. Babaev’s Indo-European Database contains links to other grammars. It is probably the most useful site ever hosted at a Bizland.com address.

(Thanks to Rodrigo Portela Sánchez for bring this to my attention).