• September 27, 2023
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VLKK: legalisation of female surnames with an ‘-a’ ending would have a negative impact on the language

Legalising the spelling of female surnames with the ending ‘-a’ would have a negative impact on the linguistic and cultural identity of our country and is incompatible with the tradition of the Lithuanian language, according to an assessment of a draft amendment to the Law on the Spelling of Names and Surnames made by the Commission of the Lithuanian Language (VLKK).

The draft, authored by MP Ieva Pakarklytė of the Freedom Party, allows the surname of women who have married to be written with the ending ‘-a’ or ‘-ia’.

VLKK Chairperson Violeta Meiliūnaitė claims that legalising such a spelling would “violate the Lithuanian name system and have a negative impact on the country’s linguistic and cultural identity and distinctiveness”.

VLKK stresses that the principle of spelling female names is described in the grammar and regulated by a resolution of the Language Commission, and that the origin of female names is based on authentic facts of the Lithuanian language, recorded in historical documents and dialects.

– The proposal to make an exception for female surnames with the ending ‘-a’ or ‘-ia’ when it is a male surname should be seen as a step towards the convergence of male and female surnames, in other words, the literal establishment of a common surname – says Meiliūnaitė.

She adds that different forms of surnames for members of the same family are a cultural uniqueness of Lithuanian culture and do not constitute grounds for discrimination.

– I am not aware of any cases of discrimination against Lithuanians based on the form of their surname. In Lithuania, women occupy the highest positions in the Parliament and the government, regardless of whether they bear Lithuanian surnames with suffixes, or only with the ending “-ė”, or other surnames – the Commission statement wrote. It was added that surnames are part of the linguistic system, and have their established patterns, and the proposed change is not in line with Lithuanian linguistic tradition.

– There is no evidence that second (i.e. after the first name) female first names, which later became surnames, had “-a”, and “-ia” endings (i.e. that they were identical to male surnames with such endings). Lithuanian surnames ending in ‘-a’ and ‘-ia’ are masculine, not feminine. In general, male and female family members have different forms of surnames inherited from family tradition, linguists said.

They also pointed out that the spelling of female surnames should not be the subject of the Surname Act, as the issue is regulated by the VLKK resolution of 26 June 2003. “On the spelling of female surnames”.

The Language Commission supports the request of the Parliament lawyers that the proposed legal regulation would destroy the integrity of the system of rules for the pronunciation of Lithuanian female names.

At the beginning of July, the Parliament approved a proposal to allow female surnames to be written with the ending “-a”, subject to certain rules.

I. Pakarklytė says that the current situation is a kind of curiosity, as female surnames are forbidden for women. Men, she points out, have the surnames Mažeika, Lydeka, Šarka, while women cannot have surnames with an “-a” ending. The MP believes that women should be able to choose, as the surname is part of the identity.

Currently, the procedure for naming women is determined by the VLKK through a resolution.

It states that women’s surnames are derived from the basic male surname with the suffixes “-aitė”, “-ytė”, “-utė”, “-(i)ūtė”, as well as “-ienė” and “-(i)uvienė”, and in cases where a form of the surname that does not indicate marital status is desired, the surname may be derived from the male form of the surname with the suffix “-ē”.

Translated by Katarzyna Korniak within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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