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Vilnius speech

Vilnius Speaking II: city and urban linguistic diversity (2012-2014)
Vilnius Speaking: the role of Vilnius Speech in present Lithuania (2010)

Here we present the project Vilnius Speaking, which consists of two projects, the second of which was a continuation of a three month short-term pilot study (already completed).
Urban speech is an interesting object of research. Cities, especially major cities, are linguistically diverse due to their social stratification, cultural changes and contacts. Those are the reasons we have decided to analyse the speech of the capital of Lithuania – sociolects of Vilnius youth and adults, their social meanings, relation to the standard variety as well as its spread and influence on television and on the radio.
The normative tradition in Lithuania is characterised by a firmly entrenched negative attitude to urban linguistic varieties as well as youth speech: it is often referred to as incorrect, nonstandard or as semi-speech. Dissatisfaction is expressed that Vilnius speech spreads in the public domain. The youth is often criticised for the use of borrowings. Features from other languages are typical to the language of multicultural urban youth and they serve as a means of teenagers’ identity expression. Scholars claim that each linguistic variety is a distinctive and valuable construct developed by the speech community and certain historical circumstances. Although research has shown that the language of the capital Vilnius has prestige, its features and spread have not yet been investigated.

Aims and Goals

First we have to prepare the data for research. During both projects it is planned to collect an approx. 270 hours corpus of about 360 speakers of different age and occupation and to transcribe the major part of the recordings (over 200 hours). A database of adult interviews about their hometown will be compiled for further language, culture and urban studies.
The main aim of the research is to analyse the phonetic and lexical features of the speech of Vilnius dwellers, to examine which of them are used on the radio and television, what is typical for Vilnius youth speech and how Vilnius dwellers assess their own language.

Strands and Methods

The project consists of two parts: (1) research of adult speech variation and attitudes and (2) the research of youth speech and identity: (2.1) features of other languages in the speech of Vilnius youth and (2.2) social categories of Vilnius adolescents.
The following set of sociolinguistic methods is applied:
  • Sociolinguistic interviews with 5 age-groups (18–24, 25–34, 35–44, 45–54, >55; equal numbers of men and women) Vilnius dwellers having Lithuanian as mother tongue and (for comparison) interviews with speakers from mixed families (Lithuanian and Polish/Russian/Belarusian/Ukrainian) as well as a group of elderly Polish and Russian Vilnius dwellers. Following the friend of a friend principle, in the first instance second and third generation Vilnius speakers are searched for. Statistical analysis of phonetic variants is undertaken and the attitudes of the speakers towards Vilnius speech are investigated.
  • Volunteer students, representing two age groups (10–13 and 14–16), from several schools in different neighbourhoods of Vilnius were recruited in order to compile the corpus of youth speech. The volunteers had to carry turned-on voice-recorders with them and record their conversations with friends in various settings outside the school setting. They also had to fill in special questionnaires about the recordings and the speakers. The objective of this project part is to investigate lexical items of the youth speech as well as to make comparisons across the neighbourhood, gender, and age.
  • Ethnographic research has been carried out in one secondary school of Vilnius. Three 8th grade classes have been daily observed for 8 months: The researcher participated in the school life as well as conducted interviews with the students. In addition, special tasks were arranged and volunteers were recruited for recording spontaneous speech. The goal of the research is to identify adolescents’ social categories and to analyse what linguistic (both lexical and phonological) and non-linguistic resources are being employed in the construction of the categories. 
  • Additionally, social meanings of different phonetic variants of Vilnius speech are investigated. We plan to conduct experiments with at least 800 students in different schools of Vilnius.


The project is carried out by the Research Institute of the Lithuanian Language and funded by the Research Council of Lithuania as part of the national programme State and Nation: Heritage and Identity. The head of the projects is Assoc. Prof. Loreta Vaicekauskienė.