is a Baltic language spoken in the Baltic region.
As a Baltic language, Lithuanian is closely related to neighbouring Latvian and more distantly to Slavic, Germanic and other Indo-European languages. It is written in a Latin alphabet.
The Lithuanian language still retains much of the original sound system and morphological peculiarities of the prototypal Indo-European language and therefore is fascinating for linguistic study. Some reconstructions have even concluded that Lithuanian is the modern language which is most closely related to Proto-Indo-European (the speech of a Lithuanian peasant, for example, is probably the closest semblance you can get to the tongue spoken by the hypothetical Proto-Indo-European people). Some evidence suggests that the Baltic language group has existed, distinct from other Indo-European languages, since perhaps the 10th century BC. While the possession of many archaic features is undeniable, the exact manner by which the Baltic languages have developed from the Proto-Indo-European language is disputed.
The Eastern Baltic languages split from the Western Baltic ones (or, perhaps, from the hypothetic proto-Baltic language) between 400 and 600 AD. The differentiation between Lithuanian and Latvian started after 800, with a long period of being one language but different dialects. At a minimum, transitional dialects existed until the 14th or 15th century, and perhaps as late as the 17th century. As well, the 13th and 14th century occupation of the western part of the Daugava basin (almost coinciding with the territory of modern Latvia) by German Sword Brethren had a significant influence on the languages’ independent development.
The earliest-known written Lithuanian text is a hymnal translation from 1545. Printed books exist from 1547, but the level of literacy among Lithuanians was low through the 18th century and books were not commonly available. In 1864, following the January Uprising, Mikhail Nikolayevich Muravyov, Governor General of Lithuania, instituted a complete ban on the use of the Latin alphabet and education and printed matter in Lithuanian. Books written using the Latin alphabet continued to be printed across the border in East Prussia and in the United States. Smuggled into the country despite stiff prison sentences, they helped fuel growing nationalist sentiment that finally led to the lifting of the ban in 1904.
Lithuanian has been the official language of Lithuania since 1918. During the Soviet period (see History of Lithuania), it was used in official affairs alongside Russian which, as the official language of the USSR, took precedence over Lithuanian.