In anticipation of a coming trip to Lithuania this fall, I wanted to learn a little about the language. I decided this would be a good opportunity for me to put my list of the 10 most important things to know, to get by in any language to the test.
I had initially expected Lithuanian question words to be difficult, as the parent language of those complicated Slavic languages. But while they do turn out to be just a bit more difficult than question words in vulgar Latin languages, they're actually not so bad — and much easier than Russian or Polish.
Kas? : Who?
Kas? : What?
Kur? : Where?
Kada? : When?
Kaip? : How?
Kiek? : How much/many?
Kuris? : Which?
Kodėl? : Why?
Už ką? : For what?
Kam? : To whom?
Su kuo? : With whom?
Iš kur? : From where?
Kur yra ...? : Where is ...?
Kur jūs dabar einate? : Where are you going now?
Kas tai? : Who (or what) is this?
Koks jūsų vardas? : What is your name?
Kiek tai kainuoja? : How much does it cost?
Kiek valandų? : What time is it?
Basic answers might include:
Taip. : Yes.
Ne. : No.
Gal. : Maybe.
Galbūt. : Maybe.
I immediately took note of the fact that who? and what? both use the same word. Conceptually, this isn't a problem for me, as I'm already used to calling things he or she. (Most languages lack a word for it.) But it's interesting to me that this is the first time I'm seeing no difference in the question word.
That question word, kas, goes through full noun declension, which is why we see who and what appearing in the various forms kas, ką, kam, and kuo. There are actually seven noun cases (but I'll leave out the vocative because it doesn't make sense to ask who or what in that form):
While the noun declension can make things a little more difficult with who/what questions — especially if you're not previously accustomed to that with any other language — the good news is that the rest of the question words are completely straightforward. I was surprised to see that where questions don't change form to reflect motion.