Dialect prestige in contemporary Lithuania. A pilot study.

Schneider, Christa (28 October 2015). Dialect prestige in contemporary Lithuania. A pilot study. (Unpublished). In: 12th International Congress of Baltistics. Vilnius. 28. – 31. 10. 2015.

Pres_BaltuKongresas.pdf - Presentation
Available under License BORIS Standard License.

Download (3MB) | Preview

Dialect prestige in contemporary Lithuania – a pilot study

Sociolinguistics is a relatively new research field in Lithuania. Studies in perceptual dialectology, as suggested by Dennis Preston from the 1980s on, are not found in Lithuania so far, even if the language situation is very suitable for such research projects. During a stay abroad in Lithuania, I became aware of a certain discomfort of Lithuanian students when asked to speak in their traditional dialect. Today, many Lithuanians do not speak a traditional dialect (cf. Zinkevičius 1994) any more and if they do, they use dialect only in private, informal situations. For me as a speaker of a high prestige Swiss German dialect, such a situation is hard to imagine, even if not unusual compared to other dialect situations like those in Germany or to some extent also in the United Kingdom.
In 2013, I decided to have a closer look at dialect use and dialect prestige among students at the Vilnius University. I wanted to find out, whether the questioned students think Lithuanian dialects have a low prestige, if they regard their dialects as a part of their identity, or if the Lithuanian dialects are only preserved as cultural heritage today and therefore keep a certain prestige. In order to answer these questions, both a qualitative and quantitative approach was needed. I therefore designed a questionnaire, which was completed by 285 students of the University of Vilnius, but also included interviews with language experts in my study.
More than 90% of the questioned students declared to be Lithuanian and to speak Lithuanian as their mother tongue. Only around 50% of all informants indicated to speak a dialect. Asked about their impression of the dialect's prestige, almost 70% answered that the traditional Lithuanian dialects have a low prestige. More than 90% of the questioned dialect speakers understand dialect as a part of their identity in spite of the dialect being a low prestige variety, as discussed before. The traditional Lithuanian culture is strongly connected with some dialects and it is therefore easy to understand why dialects are understood as a part of Lithuanians' cultural heritage. To sum up, the present study may indeed make clear that the traditional Lithuanian dialects have a rather low prestige, but it seems as if they are no longer treated as an everyday language, but more as an important and well preserved part of the very rich Lithuanian tradition and culture.

Preston, Dennis (1999). Introduction. In: Dennis Preston (Hrsg.). Handbook of Perceptual Dialectology, Vol. 1. Amsterdam: John Benjamin Publishing Company

Schneider, Christa (2013). Die litauischen Dialekte: Dialect Death durch Low Prestige, Identitätsmerkmal der Litauer oder nur noch Kulturgut? Bern: Unpublished master thesis

Zinkevičius, Z. (1994). Lietuvių kalbos dialektologija. Vilnius, Mokslo ir Enciklopedijų leidykla.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Other Institutions > Walter Benjamin Kolleg (WBKolleg) > Digital Humanities
06 Faculty of Humanities > Other Institutions > Walter Benjamin Kolleg (WBKolleg)
06 Faculty of Humanities > Other Institutions > Walter Benjamin Kolleg (WBKolleg) > Center for the Study of Language and Society (CSLS)

Graduate School:

Graduate School of the Humanities (GSH)

UniBE Contributor:

Schneider, Christa


400 Language
400 Language > 410 Linguistics
400 Language > 490 Other languages




Christa Schneider

Date Deposited:

14 Apr 2021 12:05

Last Modified:

14 Apr 2021 12:05





Actions (login required)

Edit item Edit item
Provide Feedback