Volume 40, No.1 - Spring 1994
Editor of this issue: Antanas Klimas, University of Rochester
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 1994 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.

Banfi, Emanuele, ed. La formazione dell'Europa linguistica: Le lingue d'Europa tra la fine del I e del ll millennio (The formation of Europe's language situation: The languages of Europe between the end of the I and II millenium). Pp. i-ix and 1-626. Florence, La Nuova Italia, 1993.

According to the editor, Emanuele Banfi, p. 2-3, in the year 1,000 the grand lines of the linguistic map of Europe had been established and beginning at this time one can speak of the European linguistic situation in the modern meaning. It is this date which is used inasmuch as possible for the starting date of the linguistic studies in the book. Following a preface and general introduction (pp. 1-35) by the editor the following organizational plan is used. Part one consists of essays about the Indo-European languages of Europe which are further classified into (a) large groups, (which include the Romance language [essay by Marcello Meli, pp. 91-144], Slavic languages [essay by Aldo Cantarini, pp. 145-193]), (b) small groups (which include the Baltic languages [essay by Pietro U. Dini, pp. 197-254), the Celtic languages [essay by Pierluigi Cuzzolin, pp. 255-337), and the dialects of the gypsies [essay by Gianguido Manzelli, pp. 339-349]) and (c) the separate languages (which include Greek [essay by Emanuele Banfi, pp. 353-412] and Albanian [essay by Shaban Demiraj, pp. 413-424]). Part two consists of an essay by Gianguido Manzelli on the general aspects of non-Indo-European languages of Europe (pp. 427-479) and separate essays by the same author on Basque (pp. 481-490), the Uralic languages (pp. 491-551), the Turkic languages (pp. 553-570), the Mongolian languages (i.e., Kalmyck, pp. 571-573) and the Semitic languages (i.e., Maltese, pp. 575-580). These essays are followed by a list of abbreviations (pp. 581-582) an index of maps (p. 583), an index of languages and linguistic systems (pp. 585-592), a thematic index of historical and socio-cultural events (pp. 593-605), an index of problems relevant to linguistics (pp. 607-613) and an index of names (pp. 615-626).

The book is impressive if only for its sheer size and the number of languages discussed, but I assume that for the readers of Lituanus the most interesting essay is that by Pietro U. Dini on the Baltic languages. In his introduction Dini writes, p. 197, that in view of the great importance of the Baltic languages for comparative linguistics, there are abundant studies of their prehistory, but studies of the more recent epochs are more rare. After a brief review of the history of the Baltic peoples and their mention in early literature, e.g., the mention by Tacitus of the Aistiorum gentes in his Germania and the notice by Michael the Lithuanian in De moribus Tartarorum Litvanorum et Moschorum (Basel 1615) that many Lithuanian words are similar to Latin words, Dini notes that Rask was the first to realize the importance of the study of the Baltic languages in 1814. Although I can find no mention of it in Dini's article I assume that he has in mind Rask's prize-winning Undersögelse om det gamle Nordiske eller Islandske Sprogs Oprindelse (Investigation of the origin of the Old Norse or Icelandic language — Sabaliauskas, 1979, 49). In a personal letter in 1823 Franz Bopp wrote that he had included Lithuanian, Latvian, Old Prussian and the Slavic languages in a lecture given at the Berlin Academy of Sciences earlier in the spring (Sabaliauskas, .1979,47). In his Vergleichende Grammnatik des Sanskrit, Zend, Griechischen, Lateinischen, Lithauischen, Gothischen und Deutschen (Comparative Grammar of Sankrit, Zend, Greek, Latin, Lithuanian, Gothic and German} which began to appear in 1823 Bopp devoted a good deal of space to the study of the Baltic languages (Sabaliauskas, 1979, 48), but Nesselmann was the one who in 1845 in his book on Old Prussian introduced the term Baltic on the basis of the name mare Balticum 'Baltic Sea' for Lithuanian, Latvian and Old Prussian (Die Sprache der alten Preussen an ihren Ueberresten erläutert).

Next Dini takes up the Baltic dialects at the end of the tenth century, a period which he dubs 'Baltia antiqua.' Relying on Endzelins, Kazlauskas, Mažiulis and Girdenis, Dini reconstructs the proto-Baltic phonological system, the vocalic part of which he presents in the following manner:

Short vowels Long vowels
i                 u

e        a (<*o,*a)
i:               u:

I realize that such a system has the proponents mentioned by Dini, but the long vowel system is typologically extremely unlikely. It violates the typological constraint that vocalic systems do not ordinarily have more back vowels than front vowels. Considerations of both articulatory and acoustic economy are advanced to support this notion. In articulatory terms there is more space in the front of the mouth than in the back and in acoustic terms the distance between the second and third formants is less for the back vowels than for the front vowels. I was disappointed that Dini did not mention Levin's path-breaking 1975 article in which the latter traces the development of the vocalic systems in various dialects according to the principles enunciated by William Labov in his studies of on-going sound change.

Dini writes further (p. 203) that still in a prehistoric epoch towards the beginning of the second millenium before Christ the linguistic area of proto-Baltic began to be differentiated into two dialectal zones which are called a central zone from which Lithuanian and Latvian developed and a peripheral zone from which the Prussian, Jatvingian and Curonian languages developed (p. 203). Following Urbutis, 1962, Dini dates the split between the East Baltic languages in the 7th to 8th centuries A.D. (p. 205). Although Urbutis uses lexicostatistical methods (which in my view are highly suspect—a former colleague has suggested renaming 'language decay' as 'linguistic rot') the dates of the separation are probably as likely as any that could be proposed by any other method.

Around the end of the first millennium A.D. the original Baltic area had been considerably restricted and much of the area which was probably originally Baltic according to the evidence of hydronyms was no longer Baltic. There still existed, however, the following groups (p. 208):

West Baltic  East Baltic

West Galindian (extinct 13th cent.) 
Jatvingian (extinct 13th cent.)
Old Prussian (extinct 18th cent.)
Curonian (extinct 16th cent.)
East Galindian (extinct 13th cent.) 
Selonian (extinct 13th cent.) 
Semigallian (extinct 16th cent.) 

Contacts with other languages were common in the periphery, thus Old Prussian has such Germanic borrowings as rikijs 'sir' < Gothic *reikeis, and Slavic borrowings as somukis 'castle' from Slavic, cf., e.g.. Old Church Slavic zamuku, Russ. zamok (in the article misprinted as zamoku), etc. (p. 211). The Baltic Sea would have appeared to present a barrier in the west, but one does not encounter Swedish dialect vak 'child' perhaps from Lithuanian, cf. Klaipėdan vaks, standard Lith. vaikas 'child.' Cf. also Lith. Vokietija, Latv. Vacija 'Germany' probably originally denoting a tribe in south-west Scandinavia, viz., Vazgoth (p. 212).

Dini gives a quite satisfactory account of the development of proto-Baltic consonantism to that of Latvian on pp. 212-213, but reverts to the long vowel system given above for common Lithuanian-Latvian, which, he says, develops into the following system in the 7th to 13th centuries:

Long vowels
o: (>uo)

But Levin writes, 1975, 148: 'It is not at all necessary to see a common ancestor in the ingliding diphthongs of Lithuanian and Latvian, since the details differ, and such diphthongs are a typological feature of North Eastern Europe."

In fact Levin's schema, 1975, 151, presents a much more reasonable and typologically plausible Common East Baltic vocalic system:

Following his discussion of the East Baltic phological system Dini gives a good account of the effects of the introduction of Christianity on the Baltic languages (pp. 214-215), cf., e.g., the borrowing from Polish pieklo, Belorussian peklo which entered Old Prussian as pyculs, Lithuanian as pekla and Latvian as pekle 'hell,' and the use of native words with new Christian meanings, e.g., Lith. pragaras 'abyss' but also 'hell.' Dini also discusses the multi-ethnic nature of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (1236-1795) and notes that the Lithuanian language remained a spoken language, Latin being used for relations with the Christian west and after the acceptance of Christianity the language of religion, German being used for relations with the Teutonic knights and a kind of Russian being used in the official administrative documents for the eastern territories annexed to the Grand Duchy. Dini discusses here the borrowings from the Germanic and Slavic languages into Lithuanian and even mentions a Turkish borrowing probably dating from repeated encounters with Tatar peoples situated to the south, thus Lith. svogūnas 'onion,' cf. Karaim sogun, Volga Tatar sygun 'id.'

Next Dini discusses the 16th and 17th century religious texts which exist in Lithuanian, Latvian and Old Prussian noting dialect differences and differences according to religious faith. On p. 221 we find a schematic presentation of the 16th century and 17th century religious texts which exist in Lithuanian, Latvian and Old Prussian noting dialect differences and differences according to religious faith. On p. 221 we find a schematic presentation of the 16th century Old Prussian vocalic system and what Dini calls the future development of the distinct Lithuanian and Latvian vocalic systems, the latter being reproduced here as closely as the type available to this press renders possible:

        Short vowels            Long vowels
        i        u            i:                     u:
        (e)                     (o)             ie                   uo
Lith e:             Lith a: Lith e:           Lith. o
   Latv. ę ę            Latv. a LKatv. ę:ę:    Latv. a:
                                 Diphthongs L ui, ei, ai, au

Immediately following this chart Dini explains that in Lithuanian short e and a tended to become long in stressed position, e.g., ratas 'wheel' <*ratas and veža 'transports' < vela, a lengthening which did not take place in certain morphological categories (footnotes 43). Dini gives as examples the instrumental singular (su) ranka '(with the) hand,' (su) gėle '(with the) flower,' nešti 'to carry,' aukštesnis 'higher,' mano 'my, mine.' In the first place it would probably have been better to have omitted the examples ranka and gėlė because these are usually thought to show contractions of long vowels or diphthongs in word final position, cf. the instr. sg. fern. definite adjective balt-ą-ja 'white' which may serve as evidence for an earlier ending *-an. In the second place the chart does not make clear that for standard Lithuanian at least the e: from *e is a low vowel, cf. veža whereas the e: from *e: is a higher vowel, cf., e.g., ėda 'eats, gobbles down' (<*e:d-).

Dini discusses next (p. 222) the morphology of the Baltic languages. He writes that neuter substantives are still attested in the Old Prussian Enchiridion, but already competition with the masculine is observed in the Catechisms. I surmise that Enchiridion here is a mistake for Vocabulario di Elbing (Elbing Vocabulary), first because the Enchiridion is the last attested catechism (also called the Third Catechism) and second because several of the examples given by Dini, viz. assaran 'lake' (beside the Lith. masculine ežeras) and eristian 'lamb' (beside the Lith. masculine eriukas) stem from the Elbing Vocabulary and not from the Enchiridion. It is indeed the common assumption that such words with the final -n here may merely reflect an accusative case, since we have no reason to believe that the author of the Elbing Vocabulary was familiar with the modern lexical practice of glossing words in the nominative singular case, if, indeed, he had any idea what an Old Prussian nominative case was. There is, of course, a neuter in the Baltic languages as Dini himself notes, thus Lith. gera 'good,' šalta 'cold' which show no trace of the nasal ending typical of Greek, Latin and Sanskrit *o-stem neuters. This lack of final -n would be supported by Slavic, cf. seno 'hay' and the Finnic borrowings from Baltic, cf. e.g., Finn. heina (<Baltic *šeina, cf. Lith. masc. šiena-s 'hay').

On p. 224 Dini writes that the Baltic future tense was sigmatic (like that in Slavic, Greek and Indo-Iranian) formed with the suffix -s(i) and is considered an innovation of these linguistic groups. Actually the Slavic evidence for a sigmatic future is very limited, thus Old Church Slavic byšęšteje '[Greek] to mellon, 'the future' and Czech probyšucny 'useful.' In Greek and Indo-Iranian on the other hand the sigmatic future is a well developed morphological category.

In the section on the development of the lexicon and the introduction of foreign elements Dini notes that the greater part of foreign words penetrated into Old Prussian at the beginning of the 14th century in connection with the colonization and assimilation of the Baltic tribes by the Germans (p. 227). Foreign lexical influence is found particularly in the translation of the catechisms, but the degree of integration into the spoken language is uncertain. Naturally the religious language is the semantic field in which one encounters both borrowings and loan translations. As an example of a borrowing Dini gives Old Prussian engels 'angel' < German Engel and as an example of a loan translation Dini gives Old Prussian Kaimaluke from German Heimsucht which he translates into Italian as 'nostalgia.' It is true that kaima-luke is a loan translation from German heim-sucht, but Dini's use of the capital letter in the German word and the Italian translation 'nostalgia' would give the unwary reader the impression that Old Prussian kaimaluke and German Heimsucht are nouns. The word occurs in the following Old Prussian passage (Trautmann, 1918, 29, 3-6): As stas Rikijs twais Deiws asmau ains Stūrintickroms Deiws kas nostans quoi mien dergd stans grikans steisei tawans kaimaluke ensteimans malnijkans ergi en tirtin bhe ketwirtin streipstan = German Ich der HERR dein Gott bin ein eiueriger Gott der uber die so mich hassen die sunde der Vater heimsucht an den Kindern bis ins Dritte und Vierde gelied 'I the Lord thy God am a jealous God who visits the sins of the fathrs of those who hate me on the children into the third and fourth generation.' Thus Old Prussian kaimaluke and German heimsucht 'visits' are 3rd present verbs. Similarly Old Prussian Saqllūban-limtwei is indeed a loan translation of German Ehe-brechen 'to commit adultery' (lit. 'to break marriage') which Dini translates as 'divorzio.' But both the Old Prussian and German words are noun plus verbal infinitive compounds figuring in the sixth commandment 'Thou shalt not commit adultery' (Trautmann, 1918, 25, 20).

The strongest parts of Dini's article have to do with Lithuanian and in his section on the position of the Baltic languages in the national period (19th and 20th centuries). He remarks rightly that the spoken language of the large Lithuanian community in the United States varied depending upon the regularity or irregularity of the flow of immigrants. According to Dini (p. 233) American Lithuanian retained a number of Slavisms which had been removed in Lithuania proper as a result of the influence of the national schools.

In American Lithuanian, the word for 'war' changed stems and gender to become karė in order not to be confused with karas which translates American English 'car.' Dini writes also that American Lithuanians use moteris 'woman' in the sense of 'wife' (standard Lith. žmona). This may well have been true of earlier immigrants, but all of the post World War II American Lithuanians (displaced persons) from whom I learned Lithuanian (Kostas Ostrauskas, Antanas Salys, Antanas Klimas, Vincas Maciūnas) used the word žmona as 'wife' and perhaps only jokingly might have used the word moteris in that meaning. Similarly I must confess that I have never heard the word karė, my teachers using consistently, as far as I can remember, karas. Among the children of the immigrants there are many degrees of mastery of Lithuanian, from near native command to almost no knowledge of the language at all. Probably the children of immigrants are responsible for the semantic-syntactic influence noted in such American Lithuanian expressions as aš myliu šį valgį 'I love this food' as opposed to standard Lithuanian man patinka šis valgis or aš mėgstu šitą valgį. I believe that the Slavic influence that Dini mentions derives from the later 19th and early 20th century immigration which had had very little if any schooling in the Lithuanian language.

In a section entitled 'Sociolinguistic situation between Russifying bilingualism and incipient linguistic de-Russification' Dini remarks (p. 234) that in sharp contradiction to the Leninist principles on nationality (no privilege to any nation or language), the political as well as the linguistic policy of the USSR was realized as Russification. For the entire Soviet period the number of people knowing Russian as well as their native language was increasing. Only in 1989 with the coming of independence to the Baltic states have a few beginning measures been taken to strengthen the position of the native languages (p. 236).

Starting with the second half of the 19th century many international words of Greek and Latin origin were introduced into Lithuanian and Latvian primarily through the mediation of other European languages. At this time, many Polish and German borrowings were replaced by native Lithuanian neologisms or dialect words, e.g., Lith. dziegorius 'clock' < Pol. zegar was replaced by laikrodis, Lith. balkis 'beam' < German Balken was replaced by sija. In part, however, some borrowings and loan translations from various epochs were codified, e.g., Lith grybas 'mushroom' < Polish grzyb or Russian grib, Lith. pusiausvyra, lygsvara 'balance' < Russian ravnovesie (pp. 239-240).

In the Soviet period there were frequent semantic shifts in native words, thus Lith. draugas, Latv. draugs 'friend' came to be used to denote 'comrade (party comrade).' Lith. kovoti, Latv. cinities 'to fight, to try to win' came to translate Russian borot'sja 'to struggle for, to try to get.' In addition there were many neologisms such as those with the prefix Lith. tarp-, Latv. starp- (on the model of Russian meždu-), thus Lith. tarpplanetinis, Latv. starpplanetu— 'interplanetary,' etc. (p. 241).

Dini also mentions the interesting and curious attempts to revive Old Prussian, although such attempts are not shared by the majority of the population, but remain at present limited to a small group of enthusiasts (p. 242).

I was disappointed that the Basel epigram, the earliest written document in Old Prussian, and, dating from 1369, apparently the oldest extant written document in any Baltic language goes unmentioned. Even in a brief review of the Baltic languages it seems that this item should be mentioned, because of its historic importance—and it dates after the first millenium, that date which the studies in this book are to use as their starting point. The existence of the Basel epigram has been generally known since 1975 when the article by Mažiulis appeared in Lithuania. It is also mentioned in my two books on Old Prussian (1974 and 1976), both of which are listed by Dini in his bibliography (p. 246).

Finally, in spite of the few minor criticisms which I have expressed above, I should like to congratulate Dini on the fine article on Baltic languages which he has produced for this useful and interesting volume.


Levin, Jules. 1975. Dynamic linguistics and Baltic historical phonology. General Linguistics 15.144-158.
Mažiulis, V. 1975. Seniausias baltų rašto paminklas. Baltistica 11(2). 125-131.
McCluskey, Stephen C., Schmalstieg, William R. and Zeps, Valdis J. The Basel epigram: A new minor text in Old Prussian. General Linguistics 15.159-165.
Sabaliauskas, Algirdas. 1979. Lietuvių kalbos tyrinėjimo istorija iki 1940 m. Vilnius, Mokslas.
Schmalstieg, William R. 1974. An Old Prussian grammar: The phonology and morphology of the Three Catechisms. University Park and London. The Pennsylvania State University Press.
—1976. Studies in Old Prussian. University Park and London, The Pennsylvania State University Press.
Trautmann, R. 1910. Die altpreussischen Sprachdenkmäler. Göttingen, Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht.

William R. Schmalstieg 
The Pennsylvania State University