Volume 41, No.2 - Summer 1995
Editor of this issue: Antanas Klimas, University of Rochester
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright 1995 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.



Jules F. Levin is not always wrong. I intend to prove that. Will Rogers once said: "We're all ignorant. Only on different subjects." Levin once said (at some AABS conference): "Slavic and Baltic are both conservative. Only in different areas." Levin continued:

"In fact, in morphology we find some fossils in Slavic unmatched in Baltic". I add the following which should give an overall clarifying perspective to this whole question.

Baltic is more conservative in phonology. Slavic is more conservative in morphology. But Baltic's more conservative phonology makes its morphology seem more conservative than Slavic's. The following explains why this is so.

Even though Slavic morphology contains more categories which Baltic has lost than vice versa, Baltic still seems grammatically more "ancient" than Slavic. Substantive endings in Lithuanian and Latvian to this day remind one of Latin and Greek. Slavic endings do not. The explanation for this is that Slavic lost more final consonants than Baltic.

A Lithuanian text with so many nouns ending in -us, -is, and even -as reminds us of Greek and Latin words with similar endings. And what do Slavic nouns seem to end in most? Vowels and consonants other than -s. And, certainly, very rarely in -us or -is like Lithuanian and Latvian ones. In fact, because of similar endings, I have confused Lithuanian and Latvian last names with Greek ones. I have never done that with Slavic ones. This is so, primarily, because Slavic has lost original final -s in many noun endings. Baltic has kept it.

Before continuing, we must remember to view Baltic as a whole, as a composite of facts in Lithuanian, Latvian, and Prussian, even though, as Stang (1966, 12) warns, there may not have been a single Common Baltic prototype for everything in all three groups, to say nothing of barely attested and merely mentioned others like Curonian, Selonian, etc. This we view against the background of a more certain comprehensive Common Slavic prototype.

Now, even though Baltic, like Slavic, is supposed to have lost final dental stops, t, d. as in neut. sg. nom.-acc. Lith. álta, Prus. sta = Slav. dobro, to (OInd. tát, Latin istud, Goth. thata; pres. part. Lith. sùk / OInd. bhárat, o-stem sg. abl-gen. Lith. diẽvo, Latv. dìeva = Slav. boga, Latin de / OInd. deváat, Old Latin Gnaivd; 3d pers. verb forms Lith. sùka, sùko, sãk, girdi, tesukiẽ bùs, Prus. polinka, turri, kra, bousei; Latv. zina, zinãja / OInd. (á)bharat, bharet, we sometimes find non-final position variants of these forms or forms like them where the dental, -t, is restored like Lith. tataĩ from neut. tat- plus -ai. (Vaillant, 1958, 367 cites OCS. tode from nom. -ace. sg. neut. *tad-je as a Slavic counterpart with final -d kept.) And since all other final consonants are retained, Stang (1966, 113) concluded that in Proto-Baltic all final consonants were retained. Proto-Slavic may have started that way. But final s was lost in Early Common Slavic.

This keeping of final s in Baltic is precisely what makes it seem more archaic grammatically than Slavic which lost final s as the following examples show. Greek nos huiús (older form), Gothic niujis sunus = Lithuanian naũjas snùs / Old Church Slavonic nov" syn" 'new son', Gr. treĩs = Lith. trys / OCS. trije 'three', Gr. sũn hekuroĩs = Lith. sù eurais / OCS. s" svekry 'with fathers in law,' Gr. ns thugatros (Homer) = Lith. naũjos dukters / OCS. novyj d"stere 'a new daughter's'.

But when a specialist reviews grammatical materials carefully, he finds that Slavic has kept more old substantive and verb forms than Baltic.

Among the substantives we find: 1. Slavic possessive adjectives in -j' from Indo-European *-yo-and -ov" as in Ijakovl' 'Jakob's' and Isusov" 'Jesus's', a general category matched by one lone example in Lithuanian, kien 'whose,' with numerous Slavic counterparts in -in- (from *-ein- like the Lith. -ien-) like gostin" 'a guest's,' 2. A Slavic instrumental singular in long -, Czech i, Polish czy 'whether,' and, possibly, parallel long - as in Latin ur 'truly' in adverbs in - (if not from the locative in -ai) like dobr (with parallel Lith. instrumental singulars in former long - like tu vilkù 'with that wolf matched by some examples in Slavic like ta(-e), tak", tamo 'and, such a, there' with a from that same long like Lith. -u, -uo), 3. Neut. pl. and dual in long - from I.E. -y- + schwa in nouns like tlesi 'bodies,' imeni 'names,' comparatives like gor"i 'worse,' and in the numeral etyri 'four' matched in the numerals category by the try- in Lith. trý-lika 'thirteen' for Slav. tri 'three,' 4. Athematic plural forms as in Old Russ. dat. Vavilonjam" 'to the Babylonians,' loc. Poljax" 'in, among the Poljane', old Czech loc. Doljas 'in, among the lowlanders,' Old Serb. instr. Dubrovami 'with the Dubrovane', formations with the terminations -m", -x", -s", -mi affixed to noun stems in -jan- which, therefore, arose here from *Vavilonjan-m", * Poljan-x", *Doljan-s" ,*Dubrov'an-mi, constructions with counterparts in Sanskrit pad-bhíh, pat-sú, pad-bhyáh 'with.., in, on..; to feet.'

Even where Baltic seems to have categories missing in Slavic like i-stem adjectives in Prussian dat. pl. druwngimans 'to the faithful,' ace. pi. druwngins, neut. nom. -acc. sg. = adverb arwi 'eternally,' and u-stem adjectives in Lithuanian, e.g., saldùs 'sweet' (its Slavic counterpart o-stemmed by suffix -k-, OCS. slad"k"), platùs 'wide,' category-matching Slavic relics can be found like OCS. udob' 'comfortably,' vel'mi 'greatly' from i-stem adjectives and Russ. vnizú 'below,' snízu 'from below' from u-stem adjectives. And though Prussian has two old relics in the numerals absent in Slavic, one with a trace of the original w in the form for "six", uschts, a numeral, supposedly, at first, *ksweks in Indo-European, and the other with initial n- in the word for "ninth," newnts, instead of initial d- from the words for "ten(th)," OCS. devt" like devt' 'nine' with d- from dest' 'ten,' dest" 'tenth,' Slavic, as if to compensate, has two old forms for "four," athematic nom. masc. etyre and nom. -acc. neut. in long -' from I.E. -y- plus schwa (or laryngeal, i.e., -yH) etyri.

Stang (1966, 405) mentions three overall innovations in Baltic leaving Slavic, as a rule, more conservative in the vero. These are: 1. Singular forms only for the third person, 2. No forms expressing the middle voice, 3. Primary forms only, that is, no difference between primary and secondary forms.

Since Slavic retains forms for these and other lost overall categories, we find among its verbs the following old forms unmatched by ones in Baltic: 1. The perfect in possible athematic first pers. plurals, BRuss. dam, jem, Ukr. dam, vim (= OCS. vmo 'we know,' an old perfect), SC. dámo, lmimo 'we give, eat, break' with original stressed -m as in OInd. vidmá 'we know' and in two 1st person sg. perfects in the same stem, vm', vd 'I know,' the second with 2. The middle voice form - from -ai, a voice also reflected in the sense of some present passive participles (a sense no longer found in comparable Baltic forms), e.g., lakom" 'greedy' and ljubim" 'loving' as in ljubim" zlatu 'loving for gold' (i.e., 'wanting gold for onesself) used to translate Greek filarguría, literally, 'love of silver,' i.e., 'of money,' 3. Imperfect secondary endings in root aorists like id" "I went,' ido 'they went' with desinences -", -o from I.E. --(o)m, *-(o)nt opposed to primary, present tense counterparts *-(o)mi, *-(o)nti as in OInd. bharaami, bharanti 'I bear, they bear,' 4. Sigmatic aorists (ones in -s-) like s" 'I took,'1  5. Third person dual and plural forms different from singular ones, namely, -te, -ot", -t", -o for present and preterite tenses as in OCS. d"va brata vidite, privste 'two brothers see, brought, vidt", idot", ido 'they see, go, went.'

Again, even where Baltic seems to have something old missing in Slavic, like separate masc. and neut. nom. forms in the participles, e.g., Lith. masc. nes : ne / OCS masc. -neut. nesy, nes" 'carrying, having carried,' Slavic, here, more than compensates for this by having the following participial forms absent in Baltic: 1. An athematic form in nom. pi. masc. nes"e 'having carried,' 2. A resultative form in -lo- for making compound preterite forms, e.g., OCS. ty esi v"zl" 'you have taken,' baxo pri'li 'they had come,' a form with a counterpart in Armenian sireal 'having loved' (versus a present tense sirem 'I love'). This echoes a general condition where holes in Slavic filled by Baltic forms are compensated for by holes in Baltic filled by Slavic ones, further examples of which, in other than verb categories are the following. 1. Final -r in adverbs of place in Baltic, e.g., Lith. kur 'where,' though unmatched by Slavic counterparts, are compensated for by Slavic ones in -de (from I.E. *-dhe), e.g., k"de 'where,' with no Baltic counterparts. 2. Baltic derivatives with the suffixes -kl-, -tl-, both from -tl-, missing in Slavic, e.g., Lith. arklys 'horse,' nklas 'sign,' Prus. ebsentliuns (from the same root) 'having given the sign, having marked' Lith. gurklys : Prus. gurcle 'craw, throat' missing from but compensated for in Slavic by derivatives in -dl- (from I.E. *-dhl-) like Pol. rado 'small plow,' gardo 'throat' (with -t- in the same root in Russ. gortán' 'larynx').

Thus, Levin is right about Slavic's being more conservative than Baltic in morphology. This we see with four Slavic antiquities in declension (substantives) and five Slavic antiquities in conjugation (verbs) no longer matched in Baltic. But Levin must also remember that the fact that Baltic is archaic in phonology while Slavic is archaic in morphology only emphasizes the inescapable fact that Baltic has never been Slavic and Slavic has never been Baltic, however much both groups have influenced one another. Both have always been separate, a fact borne out by their continuingly separate drifts demonstrated by the facts presented in this paper. All the same, I sincerely hope that this article will encourage Levin to have confidence in his scholarly vision, enough so even, on occasion, to contradict influential people in the field.


Meillet, A. (1965), Le slave commun, Librairie Honor Champion, Paris. 
Stang, C. (1966), Vergleichende Grammatik der baltischen Sprachen, Universitetsforlaget, Oslo-Bergen-Troms.
Vaillant, A. (1958), Grammaire compare des langues slaves, II, IAC/ Lyon-Paris.

1 The Baltic sigmatic future (Lith. bsiu 'I shall be/ matched by relic Slavic sigmatic future participial forms, OCS. by55te-je, byte-je 'future,' OCz. probysúcný (adj.) 'useful.'