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

ANTANAS KLIMAS. Lietuvių kalbos dalyvių vartosena (The use of Lithuanian participles). Mokslo ir enciklopedijų leidykla (Science and encyclopedia publishers), Vilnius 1993. 84 pp.

In his foreword (p. 6) the author writes that a good deal has been written about Lithuanian participles in the comparative grammars of the Indo-European languages, in various works and periodicals and school grammars. But until now, as far as he knows, nobody has written a practical handbook about their use, although such a handbook has been necessary for a long time, since Lithuanian has several times as many participles as in any other living Indo-European language. But to use them correctly is not easy, perhaps because not all thirteen participles are used in a single Lithuanian dialect.

In a semi-autobiographical vein the author continues that perhaps those who remember the days of independence from 1918-1940 (with nostalgia, with a yearning for the days of their youth) will remember that for the poor high-school students (gimnazistai) the participles were a tough nut to crack. The author himself remembers drawing the question about participles at an examination in June of 1937 at the Prienai high school (gimnazija). And even now on both sides of the Atlantic linguists scold editors, journalists, authors, teachers, students and pupils that they still haven't learned how to use the participles, that they still make mistakes. The book is aimed at readers both in Lithuania and abroad.

There are eighteen chapters, an index (very important in this reviewer's opinion), a list of abbreviations, a brief bibliography and several appendices, including a table of the declension of participles and a table illustrating their use (with English commentary), a group of readings illustrating the use of the participles and a table of contents.

The first chapter, entitled 'Why are there so many participles in Lithuanian?' shows that six of the participles are inherited from the Indo-European proto-language, viz. the present active participle skaitąs 'reading/the past active participle skaitęs 'having read,' the future active participle skaitysiąs 'will be reading,' the present passive participle skaitomas 'being read,' the past passive participle skaitytas 'having been read,' the future passive participle skaitysimas 'will be (being) read'. Of East Baltic origin are the special gerunds skaitant 'reading,' skaičius 'having read,' skaitysiant 'will be reading,' perhaps the adverbial participle skaitydamas 'reading' and the participle of necessity skaltytinas 'which should be read.' Only to be found in Lithuanian are the frequentative past participle skaitydavęs 'having read (frequently)' and frequentative past special gerund skaitydavus 'having read (frequently).' I would say that it is hardly to be wondered at that even the native speaker would have difficulty in selecting the correct participle or participial form from this plethora of choices.

Chapter two contains a few brief comments on the history of the participial formations, comparing, e.g., the present active participle nom. sg. masc. dirb-ąs, fern. dirb-anti 'working' which is derived with the formant -nt; also encountered in other Indo-European languages, cf. (ace. sg. masc.) Old Indic bhárantam, Greek phéronta, Latin ferentem 'carrying.' Interestingly enough in Hittite the same participle is encountered, e.g., kunanza 'killed,' but in Hittite for transitive verbs this is a passive, not an active participle as it is in all the other Indo-European languages.

Chapter three is a very helpful table showing how to form the various participles and chapter four discusses the use of the participles in indirect speech. In indirect discourse the speaker himself disclaims responsibility for his words. The author gives the example: Ateinąs gaidys ir prašąs įsileisti 'A rooster comes and asks to be let in.' The present active participles ateinąs 'comes' and prašąs 'asks' show some distance between the writer and the act, although it would have been perfectly correct to use the third person present ateina 'comes' and prašo 'asks' instead of the participles, but then the meaning would be somewhat different. The writer would then have been speaking on his own authority.

Chapter four discusses other uses of the present active participle, e.g., the common adjectival use as in the sentence Džiova sergąs žmogus turi tuojau gydytis 'The man suffering from tuberculosis must be treated immediately.' In chapter six the various uses of the past active participle are discussed, among which is the adjectival use, e.g., Atvėsusiame vandenyje plaukiojo pulkelis ančių 'In the cool (literally: having become cool) water swam a flock of ducks.' Chapter seven discusses the frequentative past active participle which has only the function of indirect discourse, e.g., Jis nuo peršalimo darbe dažnai sirgdavęs 'He (they say) frequently used to get sick from the freezing (temperature) at work.' Similarly, as pointed out in chapter 8, the future active participle has almost exclusively that function also, e.g., Jis visiems gyrėsi, kad šią žiemą tikrai praleisiąs pietuose 'He boasted to everybody that he would spend (literally: will be spending) this winter in the south.' Probably the present passive participle (chapter 9) is the closest to being an adjective, e.g., Jis buvo visų mylimas 'He was loved by everybody.' The past passive participle (chapter 10) is commonly used both to form compound passive tenses and also as an adjective, e.g., aš esu priimtas 'I am accepted' and Aš valgau tik keptus obuolius 'I eat only baked apples.'

The future passive participle (chapter 11) is used only in special circumstances, but particularly common is the use of the word būsimasis in the meaning of the word 'future.' The special adverbial participle (chapter 12) in -damas always has the same tense as the main verb of the clause, thus (present) Skaitydami geras knygas daug išmokome 'We learned a lot (by) reading good books.'

The interesting feature of the special gerunds (chapter 13) in (present) -ant, (past) -us, (frequentative past) -davus, (future) -siant is that the subject of the gerund must be different from the subject of the main verb. Thus Saulei tekant, paukšteliai pradeda čiulbėti 'When the sun comes up (literally: the sun coming up), the birds begin to chirp.' An equivalent of the participle of necessity (chapter 14) is unknown in English, but in Lithuanian we encounter, e.g., Šios knygos yra skaitytinos "These books should be read.'

Chapter 15 discusses the replacement of subordinate clauses by participial constructions, thus the sentence Kai perskaičiau knygą, išėjau pasivaikščioti 'When I finished the book, I went out for a walk' could be replaced by the participial sentence Perskaitęs knygą, išėjau pasivaikščioti 'Having finished the book, I went out for a walk.'

Chapter 16 is devoted to various exceptional constructions, one of which is the much discussed neuter past passive participle with a genitive complement, e.g., Jo čia būta 'He was really here,' Kieno čia gulėta 'Who was lying here?,' etc. Another such unusual construction consists of the use of the phasal verb nustoti 'to stop* with a nominative plural past active participle, e.g., Kada gi nustojo liję 'When did it stop raining?' Other subjects discussed in this paragraph include the reflexive participles, the definite forms of the participles, the stress and the orthography of the participles.

In chapter 17 the author relates how he received a long letter from a young American Lithuanian girl studying in Germany who had read his article in Lituanus about the system and functions of the participles. She wrote that she had spoken Lithuanian at home all her life, but that she just could not fathom the participles. She asked him in her letter whether it wouldn't be possible to simplify the Lithuanian participial system leaving only those participial forms which were absolutely essential for the language. It was in fact this letter which set him to thinking about writing a book which would be useful to those who speak Lithuanian fluently, but still are uncertain about participial usage.

Chapter 18, the final chapter, entitled 'Concluding remarks' takes up some special aspects of the participles, such as the innovative nominative masculine forms, e.g., singular esantis (as opposed to older esąs), plural esantys (as opposed to older esą). Another interesting feature is the fact that many participles are treated as adjectives and as such they can have a comparative and superlative degree, e.g., pasiutęs 'crazy,' pasiutesnis 'crazier,' pasiučiausias 'craziest.'

I think that one can truly agree with the author (p. 77) that the large number of participles in the Lithuanian language do not lead to a lack of clarity in the language, but rather embellish the language with a variety of semantic nuances. Take for example the two more or less synonymous sentences: Kai aš pavalgiau, išėjau pasivaikščioti 'After I ate, I went out for a walk' vs. Pavalgęs, išėjau pasivaikščioti 'Having eaten, I went out for a walk.' The second sentence is warmer, more concrete than the first one; the second sentence can be understood as meaning that one still feels the results of eating when one goes for a walk, etc.

The author is to be thanked for this little book which we all hope will encourage Lithuanians both in America and in Lithuania to take pride in their participles and to use them with care and attention.

William R. Schmalstieg
The Pennsylvania State University