Volume 32, No. 3 - Fall 1986
Editor of this issue: Jonas Zdanys
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 1986 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.

Zigmas Zinkevičius. Lietuvių kalbos istorija I. Lietuvių kalbos kilmė

Vilnius, "Mokslas," 1984. 390 p. 
('History of the Lithuanian Language l. The Origin of the Lithuanian Language').

Professor Zigmas Zinkevičius (b. 1927) is now, without any doubt, one of the most prominent Lithuanian linguists. Since 1957, he has published ten books, all dealing with Lithuanian linguistics:

1. Lietuvių kalbos įvardžiuotinių būdvardžių istorijos bruožai. ('Some Characteristics of the History of the Lithuanian Definite Adjectives'), 1957.

2. Lietuvių dialektologija. Lyginamoji tarmių fonetika ir morfologija. ('Lithuanian Dialectology. Comparative Phonetics and Morphology of Lithuanian Dialects'), 1966.

3. Lietuvių kalbos tarmės. ('The Dialects of Lithuanian'), 1968.

4. Kalbotyros pradmenys. ('Introductory Linguistics'),1969; second edition, 1980.

5. Iš lietuvių istorinės akcentologijos. 1605 m. katekizmo kirčiavimas. ('Concerning the History of Lithuanian Accentology. The Accentuation of the 1605 Catechism'), 1975.

6. Lietuvių antroponimika. Vilniaus lietuvių asmenvardžiai XVII a. pradžioje. ('Lithuanian Anthroponymics. Lithuanian Personai Names in Vilnius at the Beginning of the 17th Century'), 1977.

7. Lietuvių kalbos dialektologija. ('Lithuanian Dialectology'), 1978.

8. Kazimieras Būga. Gyvenimas ir darbai. ('Kazimieras Būga. His Life and his Works'), 1979.

9. Lietuvių kalbos istorinė gramatika. ('A Historical Grammar of Lithuanian'), Vol. l, 1980; Vol. II, 1981.

10. Kalbininkas K. Būga. ('The Linguist K. Būga'), 1981.

Ten scholarly books in linguistics in less than 30 years (1957-1985) is quite an achievement in itself. Of course, some of them (Cf. Nos. 2, 3, and 7) grew out of earlier publications. But it stili requires a lot of painstaking work. But several of them (like Nos. 2, 6, and 9) are major contributions to Lithuanian (and Baltic as well as Indo-European) linguistics. His Lithuanian Dialectology (No. 1, 1966) is a unique, large, and pioneering work giving a full view of the development of Lithuanian dialects. His Historical Grammar of Lithuanian (No. 9, 1980 and 1981) is the very first full historical grammar of Lithuanian. (The famous historical grammar of Lithuanian, that of the late Professor Jonas Kazlauskas, 1968, comprises only the noun, 'the verb, and accentuation. (Cf. William R. Schmalstieg, "Jonas Kazlauskas' Contribution to Lithuanian Linguistics," Lituanus, Vol. 18, No. 1 (Spring, 1972), pp. 5-14).

In addition to these ten books mentioned above, Zinkevičius has also published many articles and reviews in several periodicals and collective works. All these years, he has also been teaching at the ancient University of Vilnius (ėst. 1579), and has been in various administrative positions at this University.

But what really may have given the major impetus for the numerous and important publications of his own, or at least we can assume that, is the fact that Zinkevičius, before beginning to publish his own contributions, edited a very fine edition of the major writings of the late Professor Kazimieras Būga. Now, without any doubt, Būga was the most important Lithuanian linguist of all times (Cf. Antanas Klimas, "Kazimieras Būga and the Academic Dictionary of Lithuanian," Lituanus, Vol. 27, No. 4 (Winter, 1981), pp. 5-10). These selected vvritings of Būga were published in three huge volumes, plus a complete index volume. Zinkevičius also wrote a long and detailed introduction which for many years was the best "monograph" on Būga until Zinkevičius published his other books on Būga (cf. Nos. 8 and 10, above).

It is, thus, fairly obvious that the book under review here is the culmination, as it were, of Zinkevičius' publications. Or, more exactly, it is the first volume of the planned five, of a grandiose history of the Lithuanian language. As it is generally held that Lithuanian is very important for Indo-European linguistics (Cf. William R. Schmalstieg, "The Lithuanian Language: Past and Present," Lituanus, Vol. 28, No. 1 (Winter, 1982), pp. 4-110. In spite of this widely recognized fact, there has never been a full history of Lithuanian written until now. All previous publications in this area have been sketchy and incomplete.

The present volume, first of the projected five, deals with the time continuum of several thousand years: from the split up of the (late) Proto-lndo-European proto-language usualiy dated about 3,000 B.C. until about the 7th century A.D. when one can begin to speak about the Lithuanian language proper. The planned four additional volumes will deal with the various stages of the development of the Lithuanian language until the present day.

Before Zinkevičius begins to discuss the split of the Proto-lndo-European, he briefly describes the Indo-Europeans in general (pp. 11-12), and then discusses the structure of the prot-language (i.e., Proto-lndo-European) in a rather extensive chapter (pp. 23-59).

What kind of a proto-language does Zinkevičius posit? The answer is clear: hisposited proto-language is absolutely and totally traditional, old-fashioned, and canonical. One feels a slight disappointment here. One would like to expect, l assume, some "wild ideas," some "genius strokes," some standing of the Indo-European proto-language is concerned some really challenging controversies. Because, let us be honest, as far as the understand-ing of the Indo-European proto-language is concerned, it is a wonderfully "free" area, or arena. But here Zinkevičius sticks to the proverbial "old and reliable." Not only that: some of his ideas smack, really, of the thirties and, later, the forties of this century. It is a little strange because on p. 7, in his introductory chapter, Zinkevičius statės that he has used literature which was available by July 1st, 1982.

Now, most Indo-Europeanists could live with his basic assump-tions, but that reconstructed era has not left us a single shred of contemporary evidence. One can only assume, imagine, posit, reconstruct, e.g., a possible phonological level of Proto-lndo-European. But, for example, there has been so much discussion on the so-called laryngeal hypothesis that to mention this very fact with a fevv lines only, is certainly some kind of omission. Indeed, all the very complicated and complex laryngeal question which, at least in the West, is accepted in one way or another by a large number of Indo-Europeanists, is mentioned here in only about 30 lines (p. 30), and then only in connection with the discussion about the origin of Indo-European ablaut (also known as apophony, or vowel gradation-alteration). It is true that the Baltic languages, despite some desperate efforts to show them, show no real traces of the hypothesized laryngeals, if they really did exist in the proto-language. Maybe that is one of the reasons why Zinkevičius devotes so little of his book to this very controversial, yet very intriguing, hypothesis.

That leads us to another curious fact: throughout the entire book, Zinkevičius cites very few reference sources. Frankly, l cannot understand his choice to write this major contribution to Lithuanian Baltic as well as to Indo-European linguistics popularly (italics mine, A. K.), to quote from his introductory chapter (p. 6):

l made efforts to write popularly, so that people who are not so well acquainted with linguistics (e.g., historians, archeolo-gists, ethnographers and oterhs) could understand it (Transla-tion mine, A. Kl.)

These, of course, are very noble reasons, but such a pioneering work is almost impossible to produce in a "popular manner." And, indeed, it is not a popular, but strictly scientific /scholarly book. One is forced to accept this discrepancy on practical grounds: if one claims to be writing popularly, one can disregard the exhaustive and endless lists of literature preceding this study as well as the exact quotations and the then unavoidable references.

After all, the literature on most of the questions discussed in this book is so vast that it is virtually impossible to mention even the most important books, without even thinking about listing tens of thousands of articles cluttering up several dozen journals throughout the world. (E.g., just the listing of the most important literature on one question, the genetic relationship between Slavic and Baltic would fill a large book...).

Basically, Zinkevičius sees the entire "panorama," as it were, of the several thousand years development of Lithuanian as follows:

1. Proto-lndo-European

2. Proto-Baltic

3. Proto-East Baltic

4. Prehistoric Proto-Lithuanian

5. (Unrecorded) Old Lithuanian

6. (Recorded/vvritten) Old Lithuanian

7. Modern Lithuanian

The volume under review here deals, primarily, with the first three periods. In spite of what we said previously, in which we tried to point out that, in our opinion, Zinkevičius is too cautious, too "middle of the road," too traditional, the reader does get a rather rounded out picture.

As already alluded to above, one of the most complex, the most difficult and the most controversial problems of Indo-European linguistics is the genetic (or: genealogical) relationship bewveen Baltic and Slavic, or, rather, the degree of this relationship.

Zinkevičius discusses this problem carefully and in detail. His conclusions are very interesting, and we will quote the main part of these in its entirety (translation mine A. Kl.):

The author of this book considers that Baltic and Slavic originated from different dialects of Proto-lndo-European. Those dialects most probably belonged to the same dialect area, possibly the "Northern One." from which the Germanic languages might have originated, too. The original dialects of the prot-language which gave rise to Baltic and Slavic were, apparently, almost identical at the very early period; they were separated only by some isoglosses. By and by, they moved away from each other. Tribes vvho spoke those dialects migrated in such a way that they found themselves neighbors geographical-ly, and then they went through a period of common development, which was caused both by their geographical proximity as well as close mutual contacts. (p. 135).

According to Zinkevičius, the ancient territory inhabited by ancient Baltic tribes, was much larger than it is today: the territory inhabited by the Baltic people today (i.e., Latvia and Lithuania. etc.) is six times smaller than the ancient territory inhabited by various Baltic tribes. It iš quite possible that, around 1500 B.C., the Baltic area was larger than that inhabited by the (Proto-) Slavic tribes, and also larger than the area inhabited by the Germanic tribes. From then on, due to many reasons, the ancestors of the Slavs kept expanding into several huge areas, and many formerly Baltic areas were Slavicized. The Germanic tribes began expanding about the same time, pushing tha Baltic tribes from the West and from the South. And this, indeed, has continued almost until the present. Zinkevičius discusses sll these problems in detail. Here, some very interesting ideas are summarized, for example, about the mysterious tribes, or nations, of the Suduvians, or Yotvingians. Much that is new has been discovered in this area, and Zinkevičius even mentions that the Yotvingians may have been the dominant tribe of all the original tribes: the Suduvians, the Dainavians, and even the Polexians. In other words, there had been more separate Baltic tribes, and languages, than assumed until now.

In the later chapters, Zinkevičius presents the split up of the (Proto-) Baltic protolanguage, its structure, and similar technical details. In the finai chapter, he presents the description of the East Balts, and their finai split up into the following tribes, or languages: the Couronians, the Zemgallians (or: the Semigollians), the Selians (or: Selonians), and the Latvians, or Latgallians. All of this is done with great competence and very clearly.

The last two chapters comprise a list of abbreviations used as well as a word index.

Generally speaking, l would say that this is a very important and valuable book for everyone not only linguists interested in the origin of the Lithuanians, Lithuanian, and Baltic as well as Indo-European linguistics.

Antanas Klimas The University of Rochester