“Anyone wishing to hear how Indo-Europeans spoke should come and listen to a Lithuanian peasant.”
Antoine Meillet, an important twentieth-century French linguist.
Number of speakers worldwide: 4 to 5 million (3.5 million native speakers)
Global presence: Lithuanian is spoken in Lithuania, as well as in Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, Estonia, France, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Poland, Russia (specifically in Kaliningrad Oblast), Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Uruguay and the United States.
Official language: Lithuanian is the official language of Lithuania and it is one of the 23 official languages of the European Union.
Family: Lithuanian, along with Latvian, belongs to the Baltic branch (in the Balto-Slavic group) of the Indo-European family.
The State Commission of the Lithuanian Language, the language’s regulator, at http://www.vlkk.lt/lit/1; the Dictionary of the Lithuanian Language at http://www.lkz.lt/; Lituanus, and English language journal dedicated to Lithuanian and Baltic art, history, language and literature, at http://www.lituanus.org/main.php?id=home
Lithuanian’s written language has evolved very little over time and has therefore kept many features of an Indo-European language, in terms of sentence structure, and of Ancient Greek, Latin and Sanskrit, in terms of word function. As such, many linguists consider Lithuanian to be the most conservative living Indo-European language, in the sense that it has retained many features of its linguistic ancestors. Lithuanian orthography uses a 32-letter variant on the Latin alphabet, with 9 diacritical symbol additions to the Latin standard. The use of the Latin alphabet had far-reaching political implications throughout the 19th century, when the Russian Imperial government banned the Lithuanian alphabet to popularise the Cyrillic one. The ban resulted in the creation of Knygnešiai [book-smugglers], who brought illegal Lithuanian language publications across the border from Prussia.