Volume 46, No.1 - Spring 2000
Editor of this issue: Violeta Kelertas
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 2000 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.

Vanags, Pçteris, Wörter=büchlein / Wie Etzliche gebräuche Sachen auff Teutsch I Schwedisch / Polnisch und Lettisch / Zu benennen seynd / (Glossary Designating some Ordinary Things in German, Swedish, Polish and Latvian) Stockholm, Memento, 1999, 111 pp.

This small volume consists primarily of a facsimile edition of the 1705 Wörter=büchlein, published by the Georg Matth. Nöller printing house in Riga (7-64). There is a table of contents (5), a general description of the history of the glossary (65-70), a commentary on its linguistic and orthographic characteristics (71-79), notes (80), a brief English summary of the preceding description and commentary (81-83), references (84), and an index, (85-111) with instructions as to its use in Latvian and English.

According to Vanags, (p. 81) the glossary contains 1, 233 entries, which are not alphabetized, but rather organized into 24 thematic groups, for example, "about God and the Spirit, " "About the Sky and the Earth, " etc. The entries, which are primarily nouns, are placed in four columns: on the left page, German and Swedish and, on the right, Polish and Latvian. Thus, the second entry in the glossary is Gott der Vater, (German) Gudh Fader, (Swedish) Bog, (Polish) Deews tas Tehws (Latvian) 'God the Father. ' This 1705 glossary is usually thought to be the second printing of the Vocabularium published by the same printer in 1688, but this cannot be quite the case, since the 1688 glossary has Latin instead of Swedish and the Polish text diverges somewhat. Still, according to Vanags, since the thematic groups and entries are similar, the 1705 glossary seems to be partly based on the 1688 work.

Vanags writes 'The synonyms, archaisms and borrowings found in the 1705 glossary are a rich source for studying Latvian lexical development around the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries. ' (p. 83)

One of the most interesting things to me is that many of the nouns have a different gender in this dictionary than they do in contemporary Latvian (73). For example, in the dictionary, we encounter the masculine nominatives Tas Ugguns 'the fire,' Tas Myggurs 'back,' Tee Sarni (pl. ) 'intestines,' Tas Pawads 'bridle,' Tas makschkeris 'fishing rod,' Tas Laktis 'anvil,' Tas Gallodis 'whet-stone,' Tas Krahsnis 'stove,' Tas Sahls 'salt,' Tas Wadmals 'cloth,' etc., beside the contemporary feminine nouns: uguns, mugura, zarna, (sg. ) pavada, makðkere, lakta, galoda, krâsns, sâls, vadmala, etc. There are even more that are feminine in the dictionary, but masculine in contemporary Standard Latvian, for example Ta Pawassara 'spring,' Ta Wilna 'wave,' Ta Maure 'lawn,' Tahs Puppas (pl. ) 'woman's breasts,' Ta Krihte 'chalk,' Ta Kahpsle 'stirrup,' Ta Drudze 'fever,' Ta Wegge 'bun, roll,' Tahs Taukas (pl. ) 'fat,' Thas Deegas 'thread,' Ta Mahle 'clay,' Ta Sahge 'saw,' Tas Behrses Kohks (gen. sg. ) 'birch tree,' Tas Alksnes Kohks (gen. sg. ) 'alder tree,' etc. beside the contemporary masculine nouns: pavasaris, vilnis, maurs, pupi, (pl. ) krîts, kâpslis, drudzis, végis, tauki, (pl. ) diegs, zâgis, mâls, bçrzs, alksnis, etc.

In a general sort of way, the gender of standard Latvian nouns is the same as that of their Lithuanian cognates, thus, for example, Lithuanian (fern. ) ugnìs 'fire,' nugarà "back,' þarnà 'intestine,' meðkeré 'fishing rod,' krósnis 'stove,' and (masc. ) pavãsaris, máuras 'duckweed,' drugs 'fever,' taukaĩ 'fat,' mólis 'day,' bérþas 'birch,' and alksnis 'elder tree. ' Still, the Lithuanian (fern. ) vilnìs 'wave' and the borrowing kreidà 'chalk' correspond in gender to that of the Wörterbüchlein rather than to standard Latvian.

Sometimes, the inconstancy of noun class is found in the Wörterbüchlein itself. Thus, under the thematic heading Von dem Ungezieffer "About Vermin, " one encounters both Ta Khoda and Ta Kohde 'moth,' Ta Ohda and Ta Ohde 'mosquito,' Ta Blusse and Ta Blussa 'flea. ' The inconstancy of stemclass is a commonplace of Baltic philology and has been discussed by Endzelins (1971, paragraph 93). Still, Vanags' comments call our attention to this particularly interesting feature of Baltic comparative morphology.

Another interesting morphological feature (p. 73) is the fact that some nominative plural masculine nouns have the ending -ee, e. g., Tee Pelnee 'ashes,' Tee Rekstee 'nuts,' Tee Salmee 'straw,' Tee Miltee 'flour. ' Vanags writes that here the nominative plural ending -ee is to be read as [-ie] just like the pronoun or definite adjective ending. This poses a conundrum for philologists. I note that all of the nouns, with the possible exception of Tee Rekstee 'nuts,' can be considered mass nouns, rather than count nouns. One noun, Tee Miltee 'flour,' is an etymological -t- participle and could imaginably have been interpreted as having definite adjectival morphology with an original meaning 'the milled (wheat),' although this does not seem likely since the Lithuanian cognate mìltai already has noun morphology. I have no solution, but the morphological problem, nevertheless, remains.

I noticed only one misprint, viz., on p. 73, Ta Sabbaka 'boot' should be corrected to Ta Sahbaka.

The book is nicely printed, useful and interesting, and Vanags is to be thanked for making this early eighteenth century dictionary easily available to researchers in the field of Baltic comparative linguistics. He is also to be thanked for his careful preparation of the index and his linguistic commentary.


Endzelîns, Jânis. 1971. Comparative Phonology and Morphology of the Baltic Languages. The Hague, Paris, Mouton. This is the English translation of his book Baltu valodu skanas un formas (Riga, 1948).

William R. Schmalstieg
The Pennsylvania State University