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Baltic languages

The Baltic languages form one branch of the Indo-European language family. In this group there are two extant languages: the East-Baltic Latvian and Lithuanian, and many extinct languages, including the West-Baltic Old Prussian and Curonian. Prussian was spoken in Prussia (since 1945 Kaliningrad and northern Poland). With the ongoing Christianization and Germanization of Prussia, the Old Prussian language became extinct at the end of the 17th century.

Before the first conquest attempts a thousand years ago, the Balts lived protected at the Baltic Sea. Therefore the Baltic languages remained some of the oldest and least changed Indo-European languages. They did have trade connections for thousands of years along the ancient amber roads.

Today the Latvian language is considered younger than East Lithuanian, although that greatly changed from its first recording in the 16th century. The old Prussian language retained the most archaic features. It was written down in the 14th century in the Elbing Prussian Vocabulary.

The Baltic languages have for a long time been oral languages, the Balts did not use writing until fairly recently. (The first books were published in 1547 in Lithuanian and 1585 in Latvian. However, writing in those languages was not widespread until the middle of the 19th century, partly due to the fact that Latvia was not independent until 1918, while Lithuania was part of the Lithuanian-Polish Commonwealth (until 1795) where Polish was the more commonly used official language of the two.

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Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45