Sudovian language

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Sudovian (also known as Jatvingian or Yotvingian) is an extinct western Baltic language of Northeastern Europe. Closely related to the Old Prussian language, it was formerly spoken southwest of the Nemunas river in what is now Lithuania, east of Galindia and north of Yotvingia, and by exiles in East Prussia.



Sudovia and neighboring Galindia were two Baltic tribes or nations mentioned by the Greek geographer Ptolemy in the 2nd Century A.D. as Galindai and Soudinoi, ( Γαλίνδαι, Σουδινοί ). Although Sudovian and Yotvingian were separate dialects of the same language, Sudovian and Yotvingian merged as a common dialect in the 10th century when the two nations created a Federation together with the Denowe - Dainavians. Peter of Dusburg, in his 14th century Chronicon Terrae Prussiae, refers to Sudovia and to its inhabitants as Sudovites.

After the district was conquered by the Teutonic Knights, the language died out and its speakers were gradually absorbed by German, Lithuanian and Slavic populations.

The language has six grammatical cases: nominative, vocative, accusative, genitive, dative and locative, and a complex morphology with a variety of moods. It was a frontier dialect of Old Baltic, which preserved many archaic features which had been lost in the Middle Baltic group.

Sudovian was very similar to and mutually intelligible with the archaic Old Prussian language, as stated in the introduction to the 1st Old Prussian Catechism (printed in Königsberg - 1545 - the 1st Baltic language book):

Die Sudawen aber wiewol ihre rede etwas nyderiger wissen sich doch inn diese preüßnische sprach : wie sie alhie im Catechismo gedruckt ist auch wol zuschicken und vernemen alle wort - "But the Sudovians, although their speech is somewhat lower, understand this Prussian language, as it is printed in the Catechism, and they express themselves well and understand every word".

There are also some Sudovian language phrases in "Warhafftige Beschreibung der Sudawen auff Samland sambt ihren Bock heyligen und Ceremonien" - True Description of the Sudovians in Samland together with their goat sanctifications and ceremonies - written in the mid 16th century by Hieronymus Meletius.

  • Beigeite beygeyte peckolle.
  • Kails naussen gnigethe.
  • Kails poskails ains par antres. (a drinking toast)
  • Kellewesze perioth, Kellewesze perioth.
  • Ocho Moy myle schwante Panike.

John Poliander wrote in 1535 about the Sudovians living near Königsberg, Prussia, while referring to amber production, that 32 villages used Sudini speech in a 6-7 mile stretch of land of the Samland Corner that bears the name of Sudavia. They spoke their own speech, which is near to Old Prussian language. They used the term "gentaras" for amber and not the Samlandish (Old Prussian) term. From him we learn that the Sudovians lived secluded from the Samlandish, would marry within their own tribe and did not allow intermarriage with the neighbouring Prussian population "even if begged". They stubbornly held to their own traditions, and wore finger and ear rings with bronze bells and silver belts. Nothing was imported from abroad, but everything was produced by local craftsmen. Christoph Hartknoch reported in 1684 that there were still Sudovians there.

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