- November 9, 2015
Antanas Smetona: original spelling of surnames does not contradict the Lithuanian constitution
The spelling of non-Lithuanian surnames in their original version is not a threat to the status of the Lithuanian language – said Antanas Smetona, a linguist and the dean of the Faculty of Philology of the Vilnius University in “The Political Salon” of the Radio “Znad Wilii”.
A week ago, a social group “Cooperative Movement for the National Lithuanian Language”, which brings together right-wing and nationalist politicians, informed that they managed to collect the required number of signatures under the bill about the spelling of non-Lithuanian surnames. The bill suggests that the non-Lithuanian names in their original form be written on further pages of the passport. If the signatures are approved by the Central Electoral Commission, the bill will be discussed by the Seimas.
Smetona believes that the nationalists’ worries are groundless. “I believe that their worries are groundless (…)” – said the linguist. He also added that according to the law, names and surnames must be written in the official language and pointed out that exceptions sometimes happen.
Politicians make use of ignorance and emotions of society, they create artificial problems so that they do not have to solve the surname problem” – said Smetona. He said that both Songaila and Tomaszewski would not be happy about the permission of the original spelling of surnames: “You lose your political cards then”.
The spelling of non-Lithuanian surnames in their original version is not a threat to the status of the Lithuanian language” – he emphasised. In his opinion, it is also allowed by the law. However, he observed that the Lithuanian society is not ready yet for such change.
According to him, it is not true that original spelling of surnames is contrary to the National Language Act or the Constitution.
Translated by Natalia Skowronek within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.