• February 20, 2013
  • 274

Vaišnys: Last names are the matter of grammar and not politics (Lithuanian will not die out if there is Tomaszewski written in passport)


The grammar is not enacted by the law. Nonetheless, in life, we not only have written many dictations, but we have also taken decisions, created laws and other documents. And so it has been going for hundred years now, since the norms of Lithuanian have been established.

In the figurative sense, “the grammar” is a set of rules that are applied in communication in every possible fields. The domestic and foreign politics (including the diplomacy) is, and it is time to admit it, an exception.

The commotion around the Linas Linkevičius’s apology for the decision of the Parliament indicates that the Lithuanian grammar sank into oblivion. Those who were “in favour” and those “against” actions of the minister of foreign affairs, as well as the minister himself, if we look at his motives, seem to forget about the grammar.

On the one hand, there are comments that the problem of spelling will be solved in the parliament because the ministerial group is working on it. On the other hand, some warn us that the foundation of the language can not be demolished.

In the top hat of the diplomats we will find several things: not only the “problem” of writing Lithuanian last names in Latin alphabet, but also spelling the names of towns or even the Lithuanian language national exam.

Who is this competent person who doesn’t know that the last name is not a part of the language? Starting with the Jonas Jablonskis grammar, next to the Lithuanian alphabet the author commented that personal names can also be written using Latin letters.

Our politicians should also look through “The contemporary grammar of Lithuanian language” where they would find: „Comment. 1. In non Lithuanian words (especially in personal names) are also used: Q q, W w, X x, seldom – Ä ä, Ö ö, Ü ü Æ æ Å å Ø ø and others (…).“ These, and others Latin letters can be found in Lithuanian last names. It is interesting who, when and why hit up on an idea of not only ignoring the grammar rules, but also imparting a sense of gravity so extensive that it became a political matter, or even a “problem” in bilateral, Lithuanian-Polish relations?

It is hard to say where could the Constitutional Court get the knowledge from while taking the decision concerning spelling non Lithuanian last names. One thing is sure: Lithuania’s error arose only due to lack of competence or a plot. And now, a plan to bring the issue on the parliamentary session is in preparation, although it had already been there in 2010.

Why while searching for the problem where it does not exist, you create obstacles and then you want to consider whether to expand the Lithuanian alphabet? Not only you shouldn’t, you can not. There is no need for that. Politicians need to do what they should be doing. You can sympathize with the ministerial experts, who will be commissioned to prepare draft laws.

And yet it would be enough, yet at the end of the twentieth century (the decision of the Constitutional Court),, for the ministers of justice and foreign affairs to establish that service should follow the rules of grammar while issuing documents to citizens. Common sense, in other words. One Lithuanian daily writes all oddly sounding names in original, the other one – using only Lithuanian letters. In one they write Wolfgangas, in another – Volfgangas, again, in one – Giuseppe, in another – Džiuzepė. Because they can, because nobody forbids. Because it is in accordance with the rules established by J. Jablonskis. Lithuanian language will not die if in the passport there will be written, for example, Tomaszewski.

All of this comes for the benefit of a better political communication. The modern world exposes political limitations, which is not good for our image. Of course, if names like Jonas Jablonskis or Aleksas Girdenis are not authorities in this matter, it is not only the spelling of names that should be regulated by law, it also deserves a “ praise of folly.”

However, we are concerned that work on any law can be of a different nature. After all in this magical hat, which I mentioned, there are also a lot of other things. Probably in order to cause even more confusion, some might even think that democracy can allow even the disintegration of the state.

Names. Is it only about boards indicating the entrance to the city? We learned more about an intricate case – the intention of “raising” the Lithuanian names of places, because “it’s time”. A politician who expresses such a view ought to specify from which century we should take them. Perhaps we can take a wad of maps from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, and choose the document of the period of the partitions that will be the best fit.

Let’s be honest, the problem with the names is not a matter of “Solecznik”. This issue concerns Klaipeda, Władysławowo (Kudirkos Naumestis), maybe Vilnius. For these and other cities the “correct name” would be the one in German, Russian or French. But first, it would be enough to reduce them to  Polish names – we have such a discourse at the moment. Does the Republic of Poland demand that? In fact, the appeal concerns the interests of national minorities. But in this region of Europe is Poland, a country on the borders of which, live representatives of different nations – perhaps there it would be possible to save the original spelling of the names of towns (starting from Suwalki, Puńsk – these are not Polish names). Do we want to prove to ourselves that “Soleczniki” is “original” name?! Given the political outlook and planned activities, by the end of this term, we can conclude that Lithuania will accept all occupations and partitions and change the topography of all the maps, because the country now known as “Lithuania” will not exist.

The criticism of the national anthem, the flag of Lithuania, or even the name of our country that appear from time to time, bores. But now, even the state services sow doubts. The president’s remark, that only a selected institution or person can speak on behalf of the state, has a wider context. The magic hat can hold so many things that can be turned into an international problem that while trying to solve them with one law, we forget to whom the diplomatic hat belongs. I think that the proposal of “raising” geographical names should be evaluated in the context of an oath of the allegiance to the state.

It is worth mentioning the language, history and traditions, because these are the insignificant things in Lithuanian politics. Linguists are said to interfere with doing business. I just do not know how, because the linguist has no power to change the language – that is possible only to its users. Historians are responded differently: “You are the romantics, and we – the realists”, but the reality is what historians “do not notice.” On the other hand, the traditions and symbols can even be a subject of anecdotes. One day, in the parliament, the staff of the diplomatic protocol noticed, alongside our three-color flag, the historic flag of Lithuania. They ordered to hide it in the closet, because “someone may misunderstand.”

If it was not for our language, underestimated linguists and the authors of the Constitution of 1922, I do not know exactly whose province would this country be. Today, in an expensive and well-paid international politics, the representatives of the country see real and alleged obstacles, they support themselves using the arguments, which are built up out of ignorance, arrogance and temporarily possessed political power. For those who only took it over for a while, they do not have to pass language exams, history exams, or any other.

Politicians decide what is the maximum number of errors allowed the examination of the Lithuanian language. And this is happening in the twenty-first century, in the European country! Of course, if you are trying to create a legal basis for the new Lithuanian alphabet, maybe you can call it consistency.

But one question bothers me: will they also check the work of high school graduates? And universities should consider the introduction of entrance exams – so that everyone had the same conditions.

Source: http://pl.delfi.lt/opinie/opinie/vaisnys-nazwiska-to-sprawa-gramatyki-nie-polityki.d?id=60714361

Tłumaczenie Agnieszka Wiecheć w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Agnieszka Wiecheć the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu. 


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