Article on Lithuanian spelling of Polish names in Lithuania results in a surprisingly large number of comments

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

An article here from the Economist last week on a court case in Lithuania regarding spelling Polish names there has ignited a bit of a firestorm of debate in the comments section below. The issue is whether Polish Lithuanians can spell their names using Polish orthography or not, and the court has ruled that they have to use Lithuanian norms.

Lithuanian and Latvian are a bit unusual here though, as declination cannot be properly done without a Lithuanian or Latvian ending. Without that you don't know whether the genitive is -o or -os or -ės or anything else, so both these countries have more of a practical reason for insisting that names are converted to their norms. A good rule of thumb is to look at their Wikipedia and see how proper names are treated there. Pages like Baraks Obama and Als Gors show that you can't just leave proper names as spelled in their original languages.

Such debates are an inevitable result of closeness between two countries: not only historical ties, but the fact that both countries use the Latin alphabet. Move all the way over to the US or Canada and diacritics simply get thrown out the window because nobody uses them in English and wouldn't know how to input them even if they wanted to. Nobody gets diacritics there, end of story. Well, maybe á ó é í ú ñ à ç etc. (Spanish and French) from time to time, certainly not å ø æ and the rest.


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