Baltic languages

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Baltic tribes around 1200.svg

The Baltic languages are a branch within the language family of the Indo-European languages .


The Baltic languages ​​are mostly divided into two groups:

There is no agreement on the assignment of the Curonian to the West or East Baltic group. One doctrine sees it as a West Baltic language, which under the influence of East Baltic languages ​​changed to the East Baltic type. Other scientists reject a separation in the East and West Baltic.

Except for Lithuanian and Latvian, all of these languages ​​became extinct in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Spit Curonian, de facto a Latvian dialect and not to be confused with Curonian, is currently dying out ([2013] seven native speakers ).

The Latgalian language , spoken by over one hundred thousand inhabitants in Latgale today , is classified differently: partly as a dialect of Latvian and partly as an independent language, especially since there is literature with its own orthography and grammar.

The languages ​​spoken in the northern Baltic states , Estonian and Livonian , do not belong in this group, but are branches of the Finno-Ugric languages, i.e. they are relatives of Finnish and Hungarian.


The oldest scientifically usable written records of Baltic languages ​​come from West Baltic Pruzzisch from the 14th century from the Elbingen Old Prussian dictionary .

The first written records of the East Baltic Lithuanian date from the 16th century. The first book is the catechism of Martynas Mažvydas , which was printed in 1547 with the support of Albrecht von Brandenburg-Ansbach . It was made in the Evangelical University of Königsberg (today's Kaliningrad ). Latvian literature appears from the 17th century.

The Baltic and Slavic groups are generally traced back to the hypothesis of a Baltic -Slavic preform. A common Baltic predecessor language is also supported by both lexicostatistical studies and glottochronological studies (e.g. Starostin 2004). Starostin gives there the time of the separation with approx. 1200 BC. BC, which should be given ± 500 years because of the inherent inaccuracies in the glottochronology.

The Baltic languages ​​have received a number of originally considered properties of the Indo-European languages, in particular a heavy use of inflection , which has disappeared to this extent in many other languages. (However, the inflection is largely well preserved in the Slavic languages ​​to this day.) Among the modern European languages, the Baltic languages ​​are the ones most similar to ancient Indian Sanskrit .

Archaic languages ​​(Old Prussian)

The West Baltic Old Prussian is particularly archaic. In addition to its relationship with the East Baltic languages, it showed many peculiarities that are not present in Latvian and Lithuanian. Lithuanian, which is still relatively independent, is much more archaic than Latvian, which has taken on strong influences from the German, Finno-Ugric, Scandinavian and Russian regions.

The individual Baltic languages ​​are so different that they are largely not mutually understandable.

Early Baltic-Germanic similarities

The developed early forms of Baltic and Germanic have some specific similarities; they relate in particular to verbal stem formation as well as personal pronouns and numerals (numeralia). Particularly noticeable are the matching dual forms of the personalia, which probably arose at a time when the pre-form of the later Germanic languages ​​(“ Prägermanisch ”) did not differ too much phonologically from the “Protobaltic” of this time, i.e. before the ins 2nd millennium satemization of the Baltic. Other Germanic-Baltic similarities, such as the numerals for 'eleven' and 'twelve' and the words for 'a thousand', 'people', 'gold' and 'rye', on the other hand, are evidently younger and can best be explained by borrowing .

See also


Web links

  • Vifanord - Virtual Library for Northern Europe and the Baltic Sea Region

Individual evidence

  1. Letas Palmaitis: The Prussian Dictionary: Reconstruction vs. Lithuanization. In: May 25, 1998, accessed July 13, 2020 .
  2. Edwin Baumgartner: When a language dies. In: Wiener Zeitung . September 25, 2013, accessed July 13, 2020 .
  3. Georg Heinrich Ferdinand Nesselmann (ed.): A German-Prussian vocabulary from the beginning of the 15th century. Edited from an Elbingen manuscript. In: Old Prussian monthly. Volume 4, Issue 5, Königsberg 1868 ( preview on Google Books ).
  4. ^ Hans J. Holm: The Distribution of Data in Word Lists and its Impact on the Subgrouping of Languages. In: Christine Preisach, Hans Burkhardt, Lars Schmidt-Thieme, Reinhold Decker (Eds.): Data Analysis, Machine Learning, and Applications. Proc. of the 31th Annual Conference of the German Classification Society (GfKl), University of Freiburg, March 7–9, Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg / Berlin 2007.
  5. ^ Václav Blažek: From August Schleicher to Sergei Starostin: On the development of the tree-diagram models of the Indo-European languages. In: JIES. 35 (1-2), 2005, pp. 82-109.
  6. Wolfram Euler, Konrad Badenheuer: Language and Origin of the Germanic Peoples - Outline of Proto-Germanic before the first sound shift . London / Hamburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-9812110-1-6 , p. 28.