What are their common characteristics? I was reading about it on Wikipedia but didn't understand much since I have no background in linguistics. I would appreciate if someone could just name some basic common features (without too much rigor if possible) and give examples. Thank you!

2 Answers 2


If you look at the aspect system of Baltic and Slavonic languages, Baltic systems actually resemble the earlier stages of Slavonic systems (Comrie, 1976). In Lithuanian, adding a prefix to a verb root renders it Perfective, sometimes resulting also in some other semantic change. There is also a suffix -inè, albeit with limited productivity, which changes these prefixed verbs back into Imperfective. Latvian is similar, though without this suffix.

This in fact echoes the paths of change in language such as Russian. In the beginning there was a verb, say Russian pisat' ('write'), to which would be added a prefix to form perfective form, either without change in meaning, as in Russian na-pisat' ('write'), or with such a change, as in vy-pisat' ('write out'). Latvian is still at this stage. Later, Imperfective versions of those verbs which gained more-than-aspectual prefixes would appear, so the Russian word vy-pisyvat appeared. Lithuanian is going through this stage.

Source: Comrie, B. (1976). Aspect: An introduction to the study of verbal aspect and related problems. Cambridge University Press.

  • 8
    @MaxB The Russian words were intended to illustrate the paths only. There was no implication that cognates exist in Baltic languages, only analogous diachronic processes. I've edited the answer to clarify this; sorry if my original post was unclear. Feb 14, 2017 at 1:28
  • 1
    the word you transcribe as vy-pisyvat' is what I know as a secondary imperfective. From what I understand in your post, the common ancestor to Latvian and Lithuanian did not have such verbs, but they are being innovated in Lithuanian. Why is this happening? Is there "something in the Proto Balto Slavic genes" that has made it separately appear in Slavic and Lithuanian? Or is it under influence from neighbouring languages somehow? Aug 4, 2021 at 15:09

Lettish and Russian :

galva - голова(head), roka - рука(hand),

pardot - продать (to sell), dot - дать (to give),

zirņi (pea) - зерно (grain,seed), pagrabs - погреб (cellar),

Pērkons (lettish pagan god, and a thunder) - Perunas (lithuanian so) - Перун (rus. pagan god, arhc. lightning),

saule - солнце (sun), tu - ты (thou), mes - мы (we),

šis, ši - сии (these),kad - когда (when),

nē - не/нет (no), viss - все (all),

divi - два (two),tris - три (three),

četri - четыре(four),pieci - пять (five),

seši - шесть (six),septiņi - семь (seven),

mazs - малый (small),cilvēks - человек (human),

māte - мать (mother),zvērs - зверь (beast),

zobs - зуб (tooth),sirds - сердце (heart),

ēst - есть (to eat),domāt - думать (to think),

mirt - у-мирать (to die),iet - идти (to go),

pelni - пепел (ash), medus - мёд (the mead(honey)),

sāls - соль (salt), uguns - огонь (fire),

brālis - брат(brother), diens - день (day),

nakts - ночь (night), ziema - зима (winter),

draugs - друг (friend) ...

et cetera...

The consructions like Lettish "Es esmu ..." and archaic Russian "Аз есмь ...",

the great similarity of the Case System, etc.

Baltic Swodesh List

  • 6
    Those word lists without any comment don't form an answer to the question. To make a point for Balto-Slavic you should demonstrate some innovations that are common to Baltic and Slavic, but absent in Indo-Iranian, Celtic, Hellenic or other branches of Indogermanic. Aug 3, 2021 at 8:11
  • 2
    Reinstate Monica, the question was : "What are their common characteristics?" Aug 4, 2021 at 22:26
  • 3
    Even that needs some comments and not just bare word lists. Aug 5, 2021 at 9:13
  • what are you means ? it's the rhetorical question, i don't ask you really - "whether or not the vocabulary of languages (especcially about words comparable to the Swodesh List) such the common characteristic", since it's obvious and i'm not interested in the arguing about this. Aug 7, 2021 at 10:04
  • cilvēks and domāt are borrowings. Aug 9, 2021 at 15:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.