Lithuanian: loss of nasality in "nasal" vowels


Senior Member

In Lithuanian there are four letters (ą, ę, į, ų) that are called "nasal" (nosinė) but actually they represent long, non-nasal vowels.
In some cases there is a clear link between the "pseudo-nasal" vowel and an actual nasal consonant:
kąsti - to bite
kanda - he/she bites

When did ą, ę, į and ų lose their nasal pronunciation? Is the name "nosinė" a recent etymological invention, a Polish-influenced name or does it actually pre-date the loss of nasal pronunciation?
  • ahvalj

    Senior Member
    Zinkevičius Z · 1980 · Lietuvių kalbos istorinė gramatika. I: 69: mentions that in some older texts an, en, in and un are found: ßanʃis (žąsis), ikanʃiu (įkąsiu), ʃchwenʃtas (švęstas), mirrens (miręs), ʃiunʃdamas (siųsdamas), paßinʃtam (pažįstame), and that hooked (ą, ę) or simple (i, u: since there were no Polish prototypes) vowel letters are used in the place of the modern tautosyllabic an, en, in and un: brągus (brangus), ßwętos (šventos), ʃukiei (sunkiai), likʃmai (linksmai).

    The exact time of denasalization is hard to specify for a language with such an unstabilized orthography as Old Lithuanian, but since the texts of the 16–17th centuries still occasionally show those an, en, in and un, this process should have occurred shortly before the 19th century. A special case represent the final acute nasal vowels in the Instr. Sg. -a and -e (from *-ān and *-ēn; retained in the compound adjective declension: gerą́ja, geresnę́ja), which are already simplified in the texts of the 16–17th centuries (pp. 69–70).

    In many Samogitian dialects nasal vowels did not emerge (p. 70), so we found nowadays žansis, tensti, skunsti and linsti.
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