Volume 40, No.3 - Fall 1994
Editor of this issue: Antanas Klimas, University of Rochester 
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 1994 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.



Baltists recognize Non-Lithuanian sources for Baltic words with s and z for s and z if these are reflexes of Indo-European palatals. They have failed to do so if these are ruki law reflexes.

Examples of the first category of these West Balticisms, for that is what I am sure they are, include the following items. I list East Baltic counterparts wherever possible after slashes in parentheses (/-): akstinas, akstins, akstyns (ELith.), akstis with -k- insert (/akštis); gùzas, gùzulas (gùžti, gùžulas); graznà, grazne (/gražùs); grebezúoti (/grabažúoti); grevezúoti; kemzà (/kemžà); kemzras, kemsti (-mstù, -msau)/(kemžt -žtù, kemžýti, kemėžúoti); myzgaruoti (/myžãlius, mįžauti, mįžinéti); zurdóti, zurdyti, nuzurdoti, išzurdoti (/zurdyti, nuzurdoti, išzurdoti; Būga says: initial z-forms = Curonianisms); parplezas (Skardžius says: suffix -ezas = pejorative);peiz(i)oti, išpeizioti (Būga says: z for ž = Curonianism); remezis, remezytis (Fraenkel, 1965, Skardžius says: words with z = vulgate as opposed to rémžtis); rezlinti, rõzas (ręžti, ręžiu, ręžiau, rąžyti, režti, rėžtù, rėžtau, režinti, režìnti); svidéti, svidra(s) (/švidra); svéndrė (/švendrai); siurų vėjelių (Fraenkel, 1965 says: s borrowed from svyrúoti, siūruoti (/šiáurė, šiūras, šiūrùs); sykščiai (/šykstùs, šykštauti, šykštėti); slamštas (/šlemšti); vaikezas, vaikezas (z = pejorative); zálva (želvas); Zãrasas (/ežeras); zarios (/žarà, pažãras); zylė (/žylė); zirksóti (/žirgsóti); zuras (/žiūras); zvayzdė (z for ž) (/žvaiždė — Zíetela, žvaigždė) (all items from Fraenkel).

Some onom. forms not necessarily West Baltic in origin are the following: zamba, zambãtyti, zumb(r)yti, zevernoti, zevernu, zabãtyti, zimbti, zirbti (ELith.), zirkti, zirzti, zùrza, zizlà, zižėti, zilenti, zurgti, zuiti, zvagóti, etc.

Additional examples include items which are listed as dialectal, particularly, southern, where š to s and ž to z are said to occur sporadically. These include the following: mazynikas (Curonian Bay Fisherman Lith., Skardžius says: z is from Prus. or Curon. substratum, for mažynikas); maznilis (/mažniùlis) (where we find mažynikas ?); sakės (Fraenkel, 1965: in South Lith.) (/šakà, šãkė, šãkės); sienas (Fraenkel, 1965: South Lith. dialects) (/šienas); šìrtas (Žem.) (/šìrtas); slìstis (in Kùpiškis, ELith.) (Būga says: a Selonian word) (/šlìstis); tauzyti, tauziju, Žem. tauzà, tauzylà (Endzelins says: z from Curonian); vazmà, pervãzas (/važmà with z for ž in Low Lith. dialect area as the reflex of former Curonian); ząsis (in Zíetela, ELith., with ū for +a, zūsis, zusitis (dim.)) (/žąsìs); zaukti with z for ž from Selonian; zaunà, zaunius, zaunys, zaunyti, zauniju with z for ž, possibly, from Selonian if not onom. (/žaunas, žavéti); zuikis (WLith.) from Curon. *zuojekas; zvūng (Žem., a hypernormalism, according to Fraenkel, 1965); zirgas (South Lith.) (/žìrgas); plėskė, plieskė (Žem. = Curonian character of Zem. marks this item) (/pleške, plaškinis) (from I.E. k'). The items marked as East Lithuanian including ones supposedly from Selonian may represent forms acquired when these ELith. regions of today, at one time, were the western extent of Lithuanian, that is, East Baltic. They, then, were acquired as East Baits were first moving into these Eastern Lithuanian territories of today.

No particular semantic coloring seems to be attached to items with s for š. I see the attitude toward that change as, more or less, positive. But a pejorative one may arise with z for ž when ir is not followed by d. All the same, I consider all non-onomotopoetic s for š and z for ž West Baltic substratic or diglottic elements. This means that even where the argument for analogy can be used to explain away much of s for š, especially, in ruki law contexts, still that analogy, I believe, was definitely helped by substratic and, particularly, where morphological categories were involved, by diglottic forces since attitudes toward them by East Baltic Lithuanian speakers underlay not only semantic colorings attached to them, but also their very selection as 'proper'.1

I state here, as I have stated elsewhere, that I consider only Lithuanian to be East Baltic. Like others, I designate Prussian as West Baltic. Unlike others, I designate Latvian, also, as West Baltic. I consider Prussian South-West Baltic and Latvian North-West Baltic. Lithuanian, I believe, is an East Baltic intrusive element into what used to be West Baltic territory. Hence, the West Baltic diglottic element in Lithuanian. This element, as I shall demonstrate, is substantial, so substantial that we must speak not just of substrata, but, really, of diglossia in Lithuanian. In other words, I believe the West Baltic element in Lithuanian to be analogous to the South Slavic element in Russian. Only the South Slavic element in Russian ir neatly documented by texts dating from the Middle Ages. No similar documents exist for the West Baltic element in Lithuanian.

I imagine that when Lithuanians first came from the east, they found a thriving West Baltic society consisting of Prussians, Curonians, Selonians, and others who actively traded with nearby Germanic and other western groups. These West Baits surely had in their material culture items from the west unknown to the incoming East Baltic Lithuanians as well as a society obligatorily more established than East Baits now migrating into western territories. They would be expected to admire West Baltic usage and consider it "correct" and, therefore, normative, that is, standard as far as language was concerned and even "lofty" or "elevated". But resentment leading sometimes to ridicule was to be expected. And so, I believe, we find all this reflected in Lithuanian in the following ways.

Grammatical morphemes are normalized, mostly, according to West Baltic phonetic patterns whether these include inflectional items, certain paradigmatic stem suffixes, or abstract (or "elevated") derivational suffixes. These include the following. Nom. sgs. in -us, -is, -ys, -ysis (def. adj.); nom. pls. in -ūs, -ys; gen. sgs. in -aus, -ers, -ies (from -eis); loc. pls. in -use, -isè, -yse, -iese (from -eise or -aise); inst. pls. in -ais, -omis, -imis, -umis, -ėmis, -aisiais; dat. pls. in -iesiems, -iemus, -amus, -omus, -ėmus, -imus (OLith.); futures like sùks, bùs, lìs, klausys, sùksis, stvérsis (reflexive); participles like dirbantis, bùvusi, vèdusi; the superlative suffix -ausias; and abstract derivational suffixes (fem.) -ystė (217 examples) and -sena (23 examples) (e.g., kiaulystė "swinish behavior", rašýsena "the process of writing"). Even lexical items with an abstract, "elevated" meaning like vìsas "all", glùsnus "obedient" follow the West Baltic ruki law norm.

Lexical items and derivational suffixes more concrete or direct in meaning follow East Baltic ruki law norms like the following examples: glùšas "stupid", kriáušė "pear", vetušas "old", maišas "sack", diminutive suffixes -iūkštė (3 examples), -iūkštis (14 examples), iókštis (pejorative 3 examples; substantivizing suffixes -ykštis (adj., 19 examples), -(št)imas (20 examples) (e.g., mergiūkšte "little girl", vaikiūkštis "little child", arkliokštis "nasty little horse, nag", krykštìmas "a shout".

Opposed to this open acceptance of West Baltic as the official source of "correctness" and "high tone", we find opposite tendencies, particularly, the inclination to ridicule what is West Baltic. This, I believe, is the source of the pejorative marking of certain words by pronouncing z instead of ž as if to say "contemptible like a West Bait". Examples of these listed by Fraenkel include the following. The suffix -ėzas. keverza, kauzūrai, kauzyti, klyzúoti, kùlza, kulziúoti, pliùrza, pliùrzinti, raitūzas, pūzrà, pūznìs. Others, I expect, would be the following: pilvūzas, kemerzis, kemzras, kemzrai, kemzà, keperzai, kezulas.2

Clearly, the influence of West Baltic on Lithuanian has been considerable when we review the affected categories, grammatical, including declensional forms in -is-, -ys-, -us; -ūs-; the superlative form -ausias; the participle formant -us-; the futures like lìs, bùs, būsiu, stvérs; and participial and other definite adjectives in -ysis like dirbantysis, dirbusysis, paskutinysis, etc., reflexives like sùksis, and lexical, items like abstract suffixes -sena, -ystė, and words like vìsas "all", glusnùs "obedient", and even ausìs "ear", a word, possibly, considered technical at that time (a physician's word). Items of a more concrete, untechnical nature like kriáušė "pear", vetušas "old", maišas "sack", and diminutive suffixes like -iūkštė, -iūkštis display the East Baltic phonetic stamp.3

We can document, in a general way, phonetic compromises between East Baltic and West Baltic types which have resulted in today's Lithuanian standard language and dialects. Not only do we see evidence of them in the forms of many words like inst. pi. vetušais, vetušomis "with old ones" instead of theoretical extreme types *vetušaiš, *vetušomiš (East Baltic), *vetusais, *vetusomis (West Baltic), or in rigidly maintained external sandhi forms like pérsekioti instead of a theoretical East Baltic extreme type like *péršekioti "persecute", but also we have bits of evidence from Old Lithuanian texts allowing us to trace some of these phonological compromises between East Baltic and West Baltic. Thus, with concrete 'cross', we have western OLith. texts with krikstas, a word, most likely, borrowed from Prussian, now East Balticized to krìkštas. and with somewhat more abstract 'thousand', we have OLith. tukštantis, a word now West Balticized to tūkstantis. This final example is decisive. In it, we can see clearly that Modern Lithuanian tūkstantis represents not a failure on the part of East Baltic to yield ruki law š for phonetic reasons, but its replacement by West Baltic s for stylistic considerations' We note, finally, that unlike Russian documentary evidence, copious by comparison, mostly we find an enormous, unchronicled West Baltic element imposed on Lithuanian. Because of it, we find a sort of diglossia in Lithuanian similar to the South Slavic monumental element in Russian within its East Slavic vernacular cushioning.


1 The cluster zd is native in East Baltic from dd and is, therefore, familiar to its speakers.
2 Nowadays, this attitude seems to have been transferred to the Žemaitis dialect.
3 The East Baltic counterpart to the West Baltic suffix -ystė seems to be -ykštė as in vaivórykštė "rainbow". But even here, it is concrete in meaning, typical for something East Baltic.


Fraenkel, Ernst. Litauisches etymologisches Wörterbuch, Carl Winter, Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, Heidelberg, Göttingen, 1962, 1965. 
Robinson, David F. Lithuanian Reverse Dictionary, Slavica, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1976. 
Stang, Christian S. Vergleichende Grammatik der baltischen Sprachen, Universitetsforlaget, Oslo-Bergen-Tromsö, 1966.