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Reviewed by:
  • Lithuanian root list by Cynthia M. Vakareliyska
  • Peter Arkadiev
Cynthia M. Vakareliyska. Lithuanian root list. Bloomington, IN: Slavica, 2015. ii + 91 pp. ISBN 9780893574475.

Lithuanian root list by Cynthia Vakareliyska is a welcome publication, in that probably for the first time in English, it presents the basic elements of Lithuanian word formation, i.e., roots and affixal morphemes with their variants, in a systematic and fairly comprehensive fashion. The book consists of a short introduction (1–6) outlining the purposes of the root list, describing the most common phonological and morphophonemic rules affecting the shape of morphemes as well as the methodology of presentation of the material. The central part of the book is the root list itself (7–64), containing about 2,000 Lithuanian roots and root variants in alphabetical order. There follows a comprehensive list of the common derivational affixes (65–85) arranged according to the part-of-speech (noun, adjective, verb) they derive, including both suffixes and prefixes with their basic meanings or functions and, importantly, information about the accentuation of the respective derivatives. The book closes with a concise glossary of linguistic terms for nonlinguists (86–90) and a short list of references (91).

It is worth noting, as the author herself does on page 1 of the introduction, that the root list provides the synchronic forms and meanings of roots disregarding etymological information. Therefore, it is not surprising that having abstracted away from the more or less automatic morphophonological processes affecting the shapes of roots, such as, e.g., palatalization or “mutation” of the final consonant before certain suffixes (e.g., rýt-as ‘morning’ ~ pùs-ryči-ai ‘breakfast’, lit. ‘half-morning-ers’), Vakareliyska lists (sometimes in the same entry, sometimes in different entries) root variants related by such nonautomatic processes as ablaut (e.g., skand- ‘sink, drown’ ~ skend- ‘submerge, drown’), nasal infixation (e.g., gud-, gund- ‘accustom’), or synchronically opaque final consonant variation (e.g., moj-, mos- ‘wave’). This is perfectly justified given that such variants, which for some roots are quite numerous (e.g., svar- ‘weigh, weight’, svarb- ‘important’, sver-, svėr-, svor- ‘weigh’ ~ svir-, svyr- ‘bend, hang’), tend to develop their own meanings, often lexicalized in combination with certain derivational affixes.

All in all, the book is certainly useful, both for students of Lithuanian, for whom it facilitates breaking up polymorphemic words of Lithuanian into their constituent parts and recognition of the sometimes fairly complex relations [End Page 393] between words, as well as for scholars, who now have an opportunity to make synchronic generalizations about Lithuanian roots and their variants, as well as derivational affixes (though for scientific purposes a reverse index of roots would also be welcome).

The general criticism that is possible to level at this book concerns the lack of explicit criteria for the choice of material and the somewhat inconsistent use of those criteria, which are spelled out in the introduction. Starting with the introduction itself, the list of the common ablaut patterns attested in verbal inflection (2) crucially lacks the pattern e-e-e: (kélti : kẽlia : kė́lė ‘raise’); there also is no reference to the nonautomatic lengthening of the stressed /a/ and /æ/ (perhaps because this is not reflected in the orthography). The description on page 2 (repeated on 89) of the alternation illustrated above by the pair tas ~ pùsryčiai is at best inaccurate if not entirely misleading, since as it implies that any t, d “mutates” to č, “before a back vowel,” while in reality this “mutation” occurs only in positions where an etymological *j preceded the back vowel. It cannot be formulated without reference to the so-called “soft” inflectional classes and “palatalizing” derivational suffixes. The formulation on the same page that nasals “can drop before obstruents” is also inaccurate. Nasals never drop before stops and systematically drop before fricatives and affricates (with a number of well-defined exceptions). The characterization of the so-called “grave accent” as “falling” (3) is inadequate, since this accent sign is no more than a purely graphic marker of stress on short syllables. Moreover, speaking about “tones” in Lithuanian is an outdated and ill-informed practice, which...


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