ALEKSAS GIRDENIS. A well-known Vilnius University professor, Aleksas Girdenis, 61, is an authority in the field of dialectology. In 1964, still at the beginning of his career, together with a co-author, he classified contemporary Lithuanian dialects.
His Phonology (1983) and The Basic Theoretical Principles of Phonology (1995) are of fundamental importance to the science of the sounds of the Lithuanian language.
Researching into the peculiarities of his native zemaiciu dialect (the dialect of Samogitia, one of the country’s four ethnic regions, occupying the greater part of western Lithuania), Girdenis hid a tape recorder in the wall of his parents’ house in his home town near Telsiai to record the language of his close family. In this way he obtained over 400 hours of spoken language which he used for his book on the local dialect published in 1996.
The professor says that he has been collecting material for this book since 1968.
“I’m a native of Samogitia. We are famous for our accuracy and meticulousness, traits which have served me well in the field of phonology and phonetics.”
The university’s Department of General Linguistics, headed by Professor Girdenis, is jokingly called the department of Samogitian linguistics: most of his colleagues are from Samogitia and speak their native dialect among themselves.
“To be a phonetician you need keen hearing and to be good at mathematics and literature,” says Girdenis. He won a prize at a nationwide physicists competition while still at secondary school. He also used to play the violin and wrote poems in his native dialect.
“I started writing verses at the age of ten and it must have influenced my decision to choose Lithuanian language studies at Vilnius University,” Girdenis says.
He still writes poetry in his native dialect. This spring saw the publication of a collection of verses in the dialect. Edited by Professor Aleksas Girdenis himself, the book includes several of his own poems.