Samogitian Dialect
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Samogitian Dialect
Samogitian dialect
?emaitiu kalba
Native toLithuania
Native speakers
< 500,000 (2009)[1]
Latin script[2]
Language codes

Samogitian (Samogitian: ?emaitiu kalba or sometimes ?emaitiu rokunda or ?emaitiu ruoda; Lithuanian: ?emai?i? tarm?) is an Eastern Baltic variety spoken mostly in Samogitia (in the western part of Lithuania). It is sometimes treated as a dialect[3] of Lithuanian, but is considered a separate language by some linguists outside Lithuania. Its recognition as a distinct language is increasing in recent years,[4] and attempts have been made to standardize it.[5]

The Samogitian dialect should not be confused with the interdialect of the Lithuanian language as spoken in the Duchy of Samogitia before Lithuanian became a written language, which later developed into one of the two variants of written Lithuanian used in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania based on the so-called middle dialect of the K?dainiai region. This was called the Samogitian (?emaitian) language; the term "Lithuanian language" then referred to the other variant, which had been based on the eastern Auk?taitian dialects centred around the capital Vilnius; Samogitian was generally used in the Samogitian Diocese while Lithuanian was generally used in the Vilna Diocese. This Samogitian language was based on western Auk?taitian dialects and is unrelated to what is today called the Samogitian dialect; it is instead the direct ancestor of the modern Lithuanian literary language.[6]


The Samogitians and Lithuanians in the context of the other Baltic tribes, around 1200

The Samogitian language, heavily influenced by Curonian, originated from the East Baltic proto-Samogitian dialect which was close to Auk?taitian dialects.

During the 5th century, Proto-Samogitians migrated from the lowlands of central Lithuania, near Kaunas, into the Dubysa and J?ra basins, as well as into the Samogitian highlands. They displaced or assimilated the local, Curonian-speaking Baltic populations. Further north, they displaced or assimilated the indigenous, Semigallian speaking peoples. Assimilation of Curonians and Semigallians gave birth to the three Samogitian subdialects: "Douninink?", "Doninink?" and "D?ninink?."

In the 13th century, ?emaitija 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 intermarried with that population over the next three hundred years. The Curonians had a huge cultural influence upon Samogitian and Lithuanian culture, but they were ultimately assimilated by the 16th century. Its dying language has enormously influenced the dialect, in particular phonetics.

The earliest writings in Samogitian language appeared in the 19th century.


Samogitian and its subdialects preserved many features of the Curonian language, for example:

  • widening of proto-Baltic short i (i -> ? sometimes e)
  • widening of proto-Baltic short u (u -> o)
  • retraction of ? in northern sub-dialects (? -> õ) (pilkas -> p?lks põlks)
  • preservation of West Baltic diphthong ei (standard Lithuanian i.e. -> Samogitian ?i)
  • no t' d' palatalization to ? d? (Latvian ?, ?)
  • specific lexis, like c?rulis (lark), p?le (duck), leitis (Lithuanian) 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 earliest writings in the Samogitian language appeared in the 19th century.


The Samogitian language 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. Relics of historical neuter are almost fully extinct while in standard Lithuanian some isolated forms remain. Those forms are replaced by masculine ones in Samogitian. Samogitian stress is mobile but often retracted at the end of words, and is also characterised by pitch accent. Samogitian has a broken tone like the Latvian and Danish languages. The circumflex of standard Lithuanian is replaced by an acute tone in Samogitian. It has five noun and three adjective declensions. Noun declensions are different from standard Lithuanian (see the next section). There are only two verb 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 a 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 eight cases: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental, locative (inessive), vocative and illative.


The earliest writings in Samogitian dialect appear in the 19th century. Famous authors writing in Samogitian:

  • Józef Arnulf Giedroy? [pl] also called Giedraitis (1754-1838) Bishop of Samogitia from 1801, champion of education and patron of Lithuanian literature, published the first translation of the New Testament into Samogitian or J?zyk ?mudzki in 1814. It was subsequently revised a number of times.
  • Silvestras Teofilis Vali?nas [lt] and his heroic poem "Biruta", first printed in 1829. "Biruta" became a hymn of Lithuanian student emigrants in the 19th century.
  • Simonas Stanevi?ius (S?muons Stanevios) with his famous book "?es pasakas" (Six fables) printed in 1829.
  • Simonas Daukantas (S?muons Daukonts in Samogitian), he was the first Lithuanian historian writing in Lithuanian (actually in its dialect). His famous book - "B?ds Senov?s Lietuviu Kalnienu ir Zamaitiu" (Customs of ancient Lithuanian highlanders and Samogitians) was printed in 1854.
  • Motiejus Valan?ius (Muotiejos Valon?ios or Valont?) and one of his books "Palangos Juz?" (Joseph of Palanga), printed in 1869.

There are no written grammar books in Samogitian because it is considered to be a dialect of Lithuanian, but there were some attempts to standardise its written form. Among those who have tried are Stasys Anglickis [lt], Pranas Genys [lt], Sofija Kymantait?-?iurlionien?, B. Jurgutis, Juozas Pabra [lt]. Today, Samogitian has a standardised writing system but it still remains a spoken language, as nearly everyone writes in their native speech.

Differences from Standard Lithuanian

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

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

Standard Lithuanian ~ Samogitian[]

  • Short vowels:
    • i ~ short ?, sometimes e (in some cases õ);
    • u ~ short o (in some cases u);
  • Long vowels and diphthongs:
    • ? ~ ie;
    • o ~ uo;
    • ie ~ long ?, ?i, ? (y) (West, North and South);
    • uo ~ ?, ou, ? (West, North and South);
    • ai ~ ? ;
    • ei, iai ~ ?;
    • ui ~ oi;
    • oi (oj) ~ uo;
    • ia ~ ?;
    • io ~ ?;
  • Nasal diphthongs:
    • an ~ on (an in south-east);
    • un ~ on (un in south-east);
    • ? ~ an in south-eastern, on in the central region, ? / ou in the north;
      • unstressed i? ~ ?;
    • ? (e) ~ en in south-eastern, ?n in the central region and õ, ? or ?i in the north;
    • ? ~ ? (in some cases un, um);
    • ? in stressed endings ~ un and um;
      • unstressed ? ~ o;
    • y ~ ? (y), sometimes in;
  • [clarification needed]
    • i from ancient *? ~ ?;
    • u from ancient *? (Lithuanian uo) ~ ? / ou / ? (West / North / South)
    • i from ancient *ei (Lithuanian ie) ~ long ? / ?i / ? (West / North / South)
  • Postalveolar consonants
    • ? ~ t (also ? under Lithuanian influence);
    • d? ~ d (also d? under Lithuanian influence);

The main difference between Samogitian and standard Lithuanian is verb conjugation. The past iterative tense is formed differently from Lithuanian (e.g., in Lithuanian the past iterative tense, meaning that action which was done in the past repeatedly, is made by removing the ending -ti and adding -davo (mirti - mirdavo, p?ti - p?davo), while in Samogitian, the 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 (-m?s) and other dialects. Samogitian preserved a lot of relics of athematic conjugation which did not survive in standard Lithuanian. The intonation in the future tense third person is the same as in the infinitive, in standard Lithuanian it shifts. The subjunctive conjugation is different from standard Lithuanian. Dual is preserved perfectly while in standard Lithuanian it has been completely lost.

The differences between nominals are considerable too. The fifth noun declension has almost become extinct, it merged with the third one. The plural and some singular cases of the fourth declension have endings of the first one (e.g.: singular nominative s?nos, plural nom. s?n?, in standard Lithuanian: sg. nom. s?nus, pl. nom. s?n?s). The neuter of adjectives is extinct (it was pushed out by adverbs, except lt 'warm', ?alt 'cold', kar?t '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. krep?ys, Latvian ?ocis), tevs 'thin' (Lith. plonas, t?vas, Latvian tievs), rebas 'ribs' (Lith. ?onkauliai, Latvian ribas), a jebentas! 'can't be!' (Lith. negali b?ti!).


Map of the sub-dialects of the Lithuanian language (Zinkevi?ius and Girdenis, 1965).
  Western Samogitian sub-dialect
Northern Samogitian :
  Sub-dialect of Kretinga
  Sub-dialect of Tel?iai
Southern Samogitian :
  Sub-dialect of Varniai
  Sub-dialect of Raseiniai

Samogitian is also divided into three major subdialects: Northern Samogitian (spoken in Tel?iai and Kretinga regions), Western Samogitian (was spoken in the region around Klaip?da, now nearly extinct, - after 1945, many people were expelled and new ones came to this region) and Southern Samogitian (spoken in Varniai, Kelm?, Taurag? 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 D?nininkai (from D?na).

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 are some radio broadcasts in Samogitian (in Klaip?da and Tel?iai). 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 Tel?iai city put marks with Samogitian names for the city at the roads leading to the city, while the council of Skuodas claim to use the language during the sessions. 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 similar letters to standard Lithuanian, but with the following differences:

  • There are no nasal vowels (letters with ogoneks: ?, ?, ?, ?).
  • There are three additional long vowels, written with macrons above (as in Latvian): ?, ?, ?.
  • Long i in Samogitian is written with a macron above: ? (unlike standard Lithuanian where it is y).
  • The long vowel ? is written like ? with macron: and . Image:E smg.jpg In the pre-Unicode 8-bit computer fonts for Samogitian, the letter '? with macron' was mapped on the code of the letter õ. From this circumstance a belief sprang that '? with macron' could be substituted with the character õ. It is not so, however. In fact, if the letter '? with macron' is for some reason not available, it can be substituted with the doubling of the macron-less letter, that is, ''.
  • The letter õ is used to represent a vowel characteristic of Samogitian that does not exist in Standard Lithuanian; the unrounded back vowel /?/. This is a rather new innovation which alleviates the confusion between the variations in pronunciation of the letter ?. The letter ? can be realised as a close-mid front unrounded vowel /e/ (?emait?j?) or as an unrounded back vowel /?/ (T?n) or (P?lks) -> Tõn, Põlks. The addition of this new letter distinguishes these 2 vowels sounds previously represented as a single letter.
  • There are two additional diphthongs in Samogitian that are written as digraphs: ou and ?i. (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 ? and ee for ?; 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 ?, 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:

A a
? ?
[?lguoj? ?]
B b
C c
? ?
D d
E e
? ?
[?lguoj? ?]
? ?

[?lguoj? ]
F f
G g
[g?, gie]
H h
I i
? ?
[?lguoj? ?]
J j
K k
L l
M m
N n
O o
? ?
[?lguoj? ?]
Õ õ
P p
R r
S s
? ?
T t
U u
? ?
[?lguoj? ?]
V v
Z z
[z?, zet]
? ?
[, ?et].


English Samogitian Lithuanian Latvian Latgalian Old Prussian
Samogitian ?emaitiu kalba ?emai?i? tarm? ?emai?u valoda ?emai?u vol?da zem?tijiskan bli?
English onglu kalba angl? kalba ang?u valoda ong?u vol?da ?ngliskan bil?
Yes Je, Ja, Jo, Noje, T?p Taip(Jo in informal speech) J? Nuj J?
No Ne Ne N? N? Ni
Hello! Sv?ks Sveikas Sveiks Vasals Ka?ls
How are you? K?p g?ven/ K?p Kaip gyveni / laikaisi / einasi? K? tev iet? Kai ?t? K?igi tebbei ?it?
Good evening! Lab vakar! Labas vakaras! Labvakar! Lobs vokors! Labban b?tan!
Welcome [to...] Sv?k? atv?k! Sveiki atvyk? Laipni l?dzam Vasali atguoju?i Ebka?lina
Good night! Labanaktis Labos nakties / Labanakt! Ar labu nakti Lobys nakts! Labban naktin!
Goodbye! Sudieu, võsa gera Viso gero / Sudie(vu) / Viso labo! Visu labu Palicyt vasali Sand?i
Have a nice day! Geruos d?inuos! Geros dienos / Labos dienos! Jauku dienu! Breineigu d?nu M?lingis d?inas
Good luck! Siekmies! S?km?s! Veiksmi! Lai l?bs?s! Izpalsnas
Please Pra?au Pra?au L?dzu Lyudzams Madli
Thank you Diekou A?i? / D?kui / D?koju Paldies Pa?dis D?nkun
You're welcome Pra?uom Pra?om L?dzu! Lyudzu! Madli!
I'm sorry Ats?pra?au/ Atl?sk?t Atsipra?au / Atleiskite Atvaino (Piedod) Atlaid Etwin?ja si
Who? Kas? Kas? Kas? (Kur) Kas? Kas?
When? Kumet? Kada / Kuomet? Kad? Kod? Kaddan?
Where? Kor? Kur? Kur? Kur? Kw?i?
Why? Kudie / Diukuo? Kod?l / D?l ko? K?d (K?p?c?) Die? kuo? Kasse paggan?
What's your name? Kuoks tava vards? Koks tavo vardas? / Kuo tu vardu? K?ds ir tavs v?rds? (K? tevi sauc?) Kai tevi sauc? K?igi assei b?litan? / K?igi assei t? b?litan?
Because Tudie / Diutuo Tod?l / D?l to T?d (T?p?c) Die? tuo Beggi
How? K?p? Kaip? K Kai? K?i? / K?igi?
How much? K?ik? Kiek? Cik daudz? Cik daudzi? Kelli?
I do not understand. Nesopronto/Nasopronto Nesuprantu Nesaprotu Nasapr?tu Niizpresta
I understand. Soprontu Suprantu Saprotu Sapr?tu Izpresta
Help me! Ratavuok?t! Pad?kite / Gelb?kite! Pal?g?! Paleig?! Pagalbsei!
Where is the toilet? Kor ?r tolets? Kur yra tualetas? Kur ir tualete? Kur ir? tualets? Kw?i ast tualetti?
Do you speak English? Ruokounaties onglk (Ar) kalbate angli?kai? Vai run?jat angliski? Runuojit ongliski? B?lai t? ?ngliskan?
I don't speak Samogitian. Neruokoujous ?emaitk?. ?emaiti?kai nekalbu Es nerun?ju ?emaitiski As narunuoju ?emaitiski As nib?lai zem?tijiskan
The check, please. (In restaurant) S?skaita pratiuo Pra?y?iau s?skait? / S?skait?, pra?y?iau / S?skait?, pra?au, pateikite Rinu, l?dzu! Lyudzu, saskaitu Rekkens, madli


  1. ^ "Request for New Language Code Element in ISO 639-3" (PDF). ISO 639-3 Registration Authority. 2009-08-11.
  2. ^ Samogitian dialect at Ethnologue (21st ed., 2018)
  3. ^ "Lithuania". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2018.
  4. ^ "Dr. Juozas Pabra: ,,Stipriausia kalba Lietuvoje yra ?emai?i?"" [Dr. Juozas Pabra: "The Strongest Language in Lithuania Is Samogitian"]. Santarv?.lt (in Lithuanian). Archived from the original on 2018-10-18. Retrieved 2018.
  5. ^ Marácz, László; Rosello, Mireille, eds. (2012). Multilingual Europe, Multilingual Europeans. Brill. p. 177. ISBN 978-94-012-0803-1.
  6. ^ Dziarnovi?, Alieh (2014-2015). "In Search of a Homeland: "Litva/Lithuania" and "Rus'/Ruthenia" in the Contemporary Belarusian Historiography" (PDF). Belarusian Political Science Review. 3: 90-121. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-09-08. Retrieved 2019.

External links

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