The Lithuanian mirative present and its history


The article deals with a Lithuanian mirative construction based on the present active participle with the continuative and progressive prefix be-. In Lithuanian grammar it has been described as a tense form or (more recently) as a member of the evidential system, but it is here dealt with as a construction in its own right. On the basis of a corpus search the authors attempt to define the place of the mirative present among constructions containing the present active participle with the prefix be-, as well as its formal and functional properties and lexical input. In the diachronic section of the article it is suggested that the rise of the construction under discussion could have been, at least partly, the outcome of a distinct path of grammaticalisation (involving a post-nominal participial modifier in a presentative construction), different from that of both the progressiveproximative tense forms containing the participle with be- and the evidential forms based on participles. This, however, was not necessarily the only source of the construction: the pragmatic and emotive overtones developed by present progressives have probably also contributed to it. Mirativity has hitherto been known as one of the cluster of meanings characteristic of the Lithuanian evidential, but the analysis carried out in the article suggests that Lithuanian also has mirativity as a category in its own right, distinct from evidentiality.


Lithuanian, mirativity, evidentiality, progressive, presentative construction

Aikhenvald, Alexandra Y. 2004. Evidentiality. Oxford etc.: Oxford University Press.

Aikhenvald, Alexandra Y. 2012. The essence of mirativity. Linguistic Typology 16, 435–485.

Ambrazas, Vytautas. 1979. Lietuvių kalbos dalyvių istorinė sintaksė [Historical Syntax of Lithuanian Participles]. Vilnius: Mokslas.

Ambrazas, Vytautas, ed., 1994. Dabartinės lietuvių kalbos gramatika [A Grammar of Contemporary Lithuanian]. Vilnius: Mokslo ir enciklopedijų leidykla.

Ambrazas, Vytautas, ed., 1997. Lithuanian Grammar. Vilnius: Baltos lankos.

Arkadiev, Peter. 2011. On the aspectual uses of the prefix be- in Lithuanian. Baltic Linguistics 2, 37–78.

Arkadiev, Peter. 2019. The Lithuanian “buvo + be-present active participle” construction revisited. Baltic Linguistics 10, 65–108.

Arkadiev, Peter, Axel Holvoet & Björn Wiemer. 2015. Introduction: Baltic linguistics — State of the art. In: Peter Arkadiev, Axel Holvoet & Björn Wiemer, eds., Contemporary Approaches to Baltic Linguistics. Berlin etc.: Mouton de Gruyter, 1–109.

Baranauskas, Antanas. 1896. = Kalbomokslis lëtuviszkos kalbos [Lithuanian Grammar]. Sine auctore. Tilsit: E. Jagomast.

Comrie, Bernard. 1976. Aspect. An Introduction to the Study of Verbal Aspect and Related Problems. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

DeLancey, Scott. 1997. Mirativity: The grammatical marking of unexpected information. Linguistic Typology 1, 33–52.

DeLancey, Scott. 2001. The mirative and evidentiality. Journal of Pragmatics 33.3, 369–382.

de Wit, Astrid, Peter Petré & Frank Brisard. 2020. Standing out with the progressive. Journal of Linguistics 56.3, 479–514.

Gesenius, Wilhelm & Emil Kautzsch. 1909. Wilhelm Gesenius’ Hebräische Grammatik, völlig umgearbeitet von E. Kautzsch. Leipzig: F. C. W. Vogel.

Güldemann, Tom. 2003. Present progressive vis-à-vis predication focus in Bantu. Studies in Language 27.2, 323–360.

Holvoet, Axel. 2018. Sources for historical imperatives. Acta Linguistica Hafniensia 50.1, 2018, 36–51.

Huddleston, Rodney & Geoffrey Pullum, eds. 2002. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Jablonskis, Jonas [Petras Kriaušaitis]. 1901. Lietuviškos kalbos gramatika. Rašytojams ir skaitytojams vadovėlis [Lithuanian Grammar. A Guide for Writers and Readers]. Tilsit: Otto von Mauderode.

Jablonskis, Jonas. 1919. Lietuvių kalbos gramatika [Lithuanian Grammar]. Cited from the 2nd edition, Kaunas 1922, reprinted in: Jonas Jablonskis, Rinkiniai raštai Vol. 1, edited by Jonas Palionis. Vilnius: Valstybinė politinės ir mokslinės literatūros leidykla, 1957, 183–433.

Kurschat, Friedrich. 1876. Grammatik der litauischen Sprache. Halle: Buchhandlung des Waisenhauses.
Kuteva, Tania. 1998. On identifying an evasive gram: Action narrowly averted. Studies in Language 22.1, 113–160.

Petit, Daniel. 2010. On presentative particles in the Baltic languages. In: Nicole Nau & Norbert Ostrowski, eds., Particles and Connectives in Baltic. Vilnius: Vilniaus universitetas, 151–170.

Rett, Jessica & Sarah E. Murray. 2013. A semantic account of mirative evidentials. Proceedings of salt 23, 453–472.

Schleicher, August. 1856. Handbuch der litauischen Sprache. I. Grammatik. Prague: J. G. Calve.

Sližienė, Nijolė. 1961. Apie sudurtines pradėtines veiksmažodžių formas [About the compound inceptive forms of the verb]. Lietuvių kalbotyros klausimai 4, 67–72.

Ulvydas, Kazys, ed. 1971. Lietuvių kalbos gramatika. ii. Morfologija [Lithuanian Grammar Vol. II. Morphology]. Vilnius: Mintis.

Published : 2022-01-03

Holvoet, A., & Kavaliūnaitė, G. (2022). The Lithuanian mirative present and its history. Baltic Linguistics, 12(12), 413-439.

Axel Holvoet 
Vilnius University  Lithuania
Gina Kavaliūnaitė 
Vilnius University  Lithuania