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Žemaitiu kalba
Native toLithuania
Native speakers
< 500,000 (2009)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3sgs

Samogitian (endonym: žemaitiu kalba or sometimes žemaitiu rokunda, žemaitiu šnekta or žemaitiu ruoda; Lithuanian: žemaičių tarmė, žemaičių kalba)[2] is an Eastern Baltic language spoken mostly in Samogitia (in the western part of Lithuania). Although originally regarded as a Lithuanian dialect, Samogitian has since been recognized as a separate language[3] inside[4] and outside of Lithuania, obtaining increasingly more recognition as a distinct language in the recent years.[5] Several attempts have been made to standardize it.[6]


The Samogitians, Lithuanians and other Baltic tribes, around the year 1200

The Samogitian language, heavily influenced by Curonian, originated from the East Baltic proto-Samogitian dialect which was close to Aukštaitian dialects.

During the 5th century, Proto-Samogitians migrated from the lowlands of central Lithuania, near Kaunas, into the Dubysa and Jūra basins, as well as into the Samogitian highlands. They displaced or assimilated the local, Curonian-speaking Baltic populations. Further north, they displaced or assimilated the indigenous, Semigallian speaking peoples. Assimilation of Curonians and Semigallians gave birth to the three Samogitian subdialects: "Dounininkų", "Donininkų" and "Dūnininkų."

In the 13th century, Žemaitija became a part of the Baltic confederation called Lietuva (Lithuania), which was formed by Mindaugas. Lithuania conquered the coast of the Baltic sea from the Livonian order. The coast was populated by Curonians, but became a part of Samogitia. From the 13th century onwards, Samogitians settled within the former Curonian lands, and intermarried with the population over the next three hundred years. The Curonians were assimilated by the 16th century. Its dying language has influenced the dialect, in particular phonetics.[citation needed]

The earliest writings in the Samogitian language appeared in the 19th century.


The earliest writings in Samogitian language appeared in the 19th century.

Samogitian and its subdialects preserved many features of the Curonian language, for example:

as well as various other features not listed here.

The earliest writings in Samogitian language appeared in the 16th century (Catechism of Martynas Mažvydas has been written mostly in south Samogtian dialect), more in 18th century (starting with "Ziwatas Pona Yr Diewa Musu Jezusa Christusa" written in 1759 in north Samogitian dialect).

Front Central Back
High i ɪ (ɤ) u
Mid e ɔ o
Low æ ɛ ɐ a

(ɤ) ė may be retracted in some sub-dialects to form (ɤ) represented by the letter õ. Tėkrus → tõkrus, lėngvus → lõngvus, tėn → tõn. The vowel can be realized as close-mid central [ɘ] or close-mid back [ɤ], depending on the speaker.


The Samogitian dialect is highly inflected like standard Lithuanian, in which the relationships between parts of speech and their roles in a sentence are expressed by numerous flexions. There are two grammatical genders in Samogitian – feminine and masculine. Relics of historical neuter are almost fully extinct while in standard Lithuanian some isolated forms remain. Those forms are replaced by masculine ones in Samogitian. Samogitian stress is mobile but often retracted at the end of words, and is also characterised by pitch accent. Samogitian has a broken tone like the Latvian and Danish languages. The circumflex of standard Lithuanian is replaced by an acute tone in Samogitian.

It has five noun and three adjective declensions. Noun declensions are different from standard Lithuanian (see the next section). There are only two verb conjugations. All verbs have present, past, past iterative and future tenses of the indicative mood, subjunctive (or conditional) and imperative moods (both without distinction of tenses) and infinitive. The formation of past iterative is different from standard Lithuanian. There are three numbers in Samogitian: singular, plural and dual. Dual is almost extinct in standard Lithuanian. The third person of all three numbers is common. Samogitian as the standard Lithuanian has a very rich system of participles, which are derived from all tenses with distinct active and passive forms, and several gerund forms. Nouns and other declinable words are declined in eight cases: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental, locative (inessive), vocative and illative.


The earliest writings in Samogitian dialect appear in the 19th century. Famous authors writing in Samogitian:

There are no written grammar books in Samogitian because it is considered to be a dialect of Lithuanian, but there were some attempts to standardise its written form. Among those who have tried are Stasys Anglickis [lt], Pranas Genys [lt], Sofija Kymantaitė-Čiurlionienė, B. Jurgutis, Juozas Pabrėža [lt]. Today, Samogitian has a standardised writing system but it still remains a spoken language, as nearly everyone writes in their native speech.

Differences from Standard Lithuanian

Samogitian differs from Standard Lithuanian in phonetics, lexicon, syntax and morphology.

Phonetic differences from standard Lithuanian are varied, each Samogitian subdialect (West, North and South) has different reflections.

Standard Lithuanian → Samogitian

The main difference between Samogitian and standard Lithuanian is verb conjugation. The past iterative tense is formed differently from Lithuanian (e.g., in Lithuanian the past iterative tense, meaning that action which was done in the past repeatedly, is made by removing the ending -ti and adding -davo (mirtimirdavo, pūtipūdavo), while in Samogitian, the word liuob is added instead before the word). The second verb conjugation merged with the first in Samogitian. The plural reflexive ending is -muos instead of expected -mies which is in standard Lithuanian (-mės) and other dialects. Samogitian preserved a lot of relics of athematic conjugation which did not survive in standard Lithuanian. The intonation in the future tense third person is the same as in the infinitive, in standard Lithuanian it shifts. The subjunctive conjugation is different from standard Lithuanian. Dual is preserved perfectly while in standard Lithuanian it has been completely lost.

The differences between nominals are considerable too. The fifth noun declension has almost completely merged with the third declension. The plural and some singular cases of the fourth declension have endings of the first declension (e.g.: singular nominative sūnos, plural nom. sūnā, in standard Lithuanian: sg. nom. sūnus, pl. nom. sūnūs). The neuter of adjectives has been pushed out by adverbs (except for šėlt 'warm', šalt 'cold', karšt 'hot') in Samogitian. Neuter pronouns were replaced by masculine. The second declension of adjectives has almost merged with the first declension, with only singular nominative case endings staying separate. The formation of pronominals is also different from standard Lithuanian.

Other morphological differences

Samogitian also has many words and figures of speech that are altogether different from typically Lithuanian ones, e.g., kiuocis – basket (Lith. krepšys, Latvian "ķocis"), tevs – thin (Lith. plonas, tęvas, Latvian "tievs"), rebas – ribs (Lith. šonkauliai, Latvian – "ribas"), a jebentas! – "can't be!" (Lith. negali būti!) and many more.


Map of the sub-dialects of the Lithuanian language (Zinkevičius and Girdenis, 1965).
  Western Samogitian sub-dialect
Northern Samogitian :
  Sub-dialect of Kretinga
  Sub-dialect of Telšiai
Southern Samogitian :
  Sub-dialect of Varniai
  Sub-dialect of Raseiniai

Samogitian is also divided into three major subdialects: Northern Samogitian (spoken in Telšiai and Kretinga regions), Western Samogitian (was spoken in the region around Klaipėda, now nearly extinct, – after 1945, many people were expelled and new ones came to this region) and Southern Samogitian (spoken in Varniai, Kelmė, Tauragė and Raseiniai regions). Historically, these are classified by their pronunciation of the Lithuanian word Duona, "bread." They are referred to as Dounininkai (from Douna), Donininkai (from Dona) and Dūnininkai (from Dūna).

Political situation

The Samogitian dialect is rapidly declining: it is not used in the local school system and there is only one quarterly magazine and no television broadcasts in Samogitian. There are some radio broadcasts in Samogitian (in Klaipėda and Telšiai). Local newspapers and broadcast stations use standard Lithuanian instead. There is no new literature in Samogitian either, as authors prefer standard Lithuanian for its accessibility to a larger audience. Out of those people who speak Samogitian, only a few can understand its written form well.

Migration of Samogitian speakers to other parts of the country and migration into Samogitia have reduced contact between Samogitian speakers, and therefore the level of fluency of those speakers.

There are attempts by the Samogitian Cultural Society to stem the loss of the dialect. The council of Telšiai city put marks with Samogitian names for the city at the roads leading to the city, while the council of Skuodas claim to use the language during the sessions. A new system for writing Samogitian was created.[citation needed]

Writing system

The first use of a unique writing system for Samogitian was in the interwar period, however it was neglected during the Soviet period, so only elderly people knew how to write in Samogitian at the time Lithuania regained independence. The Samogitian Cultural Society renewed the system to make it more usable.

The writing system uses similar letters to standard Lithuanian, but with the following differences:

As previously it was difficult to add these new characters to typesets, some older Samogitian texts use double letters instead of macrons to indicate long vowels, for example aa for ā and ee for ē; now the Samogitian Cultural Society discourages these conventions and recommends using the letters with macrons above instead. The use of double letters is accepted in cases where computer fonts do not have Samogitian letters; in such cases y is used instead of Samogitian ī, the same as in standard Lithuanian, while other long letters are written as double letters. The apostrophe might be used to denote palatalization in some cases; in others i is used for this, as in standard Lithuanian.

A Samogitian computer keyboard layout has been created.[citation needed]

Samogitian alphabet:

A a
Ā ā
[ėlguojė ā]
B b
C c
Č č
D d
E e
Ē ē
[ėlguojė ē]
Ė ė
Ė̄ ė̄
[ėlguojė ė̄]
F f
G g
[gė, gie]
H h
I i
Ī ī
[ėlguojė ī]
J j
K k
L l
M m
N n
O o
Ō ō
[ėlguojė ō]
Õ õ
P p
R r
S s
Š š
T t
U u
Ū ū
[ėlguojė ū]
V v
Z z
[zė, zet]
Ž ž
[žė, žet].


English Samogitian Lithuanian Latvian Latgalian
Samogitian žemaitiu ruoda žemaičių tarmė žemaišu valoda žemaišu volūda
English onglu kalba anglų kalba angļu valoda ongļu volūda
Yes Je, Noje, Tēp Taip Nuj
No Ne Ne
Hello! Svēks Sveikas Sveiks Vasals
How are you? Kāp gīvenė? Kaip gyveni / laikaisi / einasi? Kā tev iet? Kai īt?
Good evening! Lab vakar! Labas vakaras! Labvakar! Lobs vokors!
Welcome [to...] Svēkė atvīkė̄! Sveiki atvykę Laipni lūdzam Vasali atguojuši
Good night! Labanakt Labos nakties / Labanakt! Ar labu nakti Lobys nakts!
Goodbye! Sudieu, vėsa gera Viso gero / Sudie(vu) / Viso labo! Visu labu Palicyt vasali
Have a nice day! Geruos dėinuos! Geros dienos / Labos dienos! Jauku dienu! Breineigu dīnu
Good luck! Siekmies! Sėkmės! Veiksmi! Lai lūbsīs!
Please Prašau Prašau Lūdzu Lyudzams
Thank you Diekou Ačiū / Dėkui / Dėkoju Paldies Paļdis
You're welcome Prašuom Prašom Lūdzu! Lyudzu!
I'm sorry Atsėprašau Atsiprašau / Atleiskite Atvaino (Piedod) Atlaid
Who? Kas? Kas? Kas? (Kurš?) Kas?
When? Kumet? Kada / Kuomet? Kad? Kod?
Where? Kor? Kur? Kur? Kur?
Why? Kudie / Diukuo? Kodėl / Dėl ko? Kādēļ? (Kāpēc?) Dieļ kuo?
What's your name? Kuoks tava vards? Koks tavo vardas? / Kuo tu vardu? Kāds ir tavs vārds? (Kā tevi sauc?) Kai tevi sauc?
Because Tudie / Diutuo Todėl / Dėl to Tādēļ (Tāpēc) Dieļ tuo
How? Kāp? Kaip? Kā? Kai?
How much? Kėik? Kiek? Cik daudz? Cik daudzi?
I do not understand. Nesopronto/Nasopronto Nesuprantu Nesaprotu Nasaprūtu
I understand. Soprontu Suprantu Saprotu Saprūtu
Help me! Ratavuokėt! Padėkite / Gelbėkite! Palīgā! Paleigā!
Where is the toilet? Kor īr tolets? Kur yra tualetas? Kur ir tualete? Kur irā tualets?
Do you speak English? Ruokounaties onglėškā? (Ar) kalbate angliškai? Vai runājat angliski? Runuojit ongliski?
I don't speak Samogitian. Neruokoujous žemaitėškā. Žemaitiškai nekalbu Es nerunāju žemaitiski As narunuoju žemaitiski
The check, please. (In restaurant) Sāskaita prašītiuo Prašyčiau sąskaitą / Sąskaitą, prašyčiau / Sąskaitą, prašau, pateikite Rēķinu, lūdzu! Lyudzu, saskaitu


  1. ^ "Request for New Language Code Element in ISO 639-3" (PDF). ISO 639-3 Registration Authority. 2009-08-11.
  2. ^ Juozas Pabrėža. Žemaičių kalba ir rašyba. Šiauliai: Šiaulių universitetas, 2017.
  3. ^ "Lithuania". Ethnologue. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  4. ^ Žemaičių kalba ir rašyba, Juozas Pabrėža, Šiaulių universitetas, 2017
  5. ^ "Dr. Juozas Pabrėža: "Stipriausia kalba Lietuvoje yra žemaičių"" [Dr. Juozas Pabrėža: "The Strongest Language in Lithuania Is Samogitian"]. Santarvė.lt (in Lithuanian). Archived from the original on 2018-10-18. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  6. ^ Marácz, László; Rosello, Mireille, eds. (2012). Multilingual Europe, Multilingual Europeans. Brill. p. 177. ISBN 978-94-012-0803-1.