This article investigates the interaction between the developing Standard Lithuanian and spoken dialects as reflected in lower class writing (correspondence written by emigrants and to emigrants). More specifically the article focuses on the choice and use of those phonological or morphological variables that are the most salient in the scribes' dialects, in order to establish and define those features that indexed "standard" for lower class writers in the first half of the twentieth century. The data consists of sixty-five letters (17,990 word tokens) written by twenty-four individuals between 1905 to 1939. Analysis revealed that lower class scribes did not write pure dialect, but rather shifted toward the "intended" standard. At least two writing strategies toward the "intended"standard - imitation and conscious adoption of "standard" spellings (generalization) - are outlined in the article. Graphic representation (non-vernacular spellings) of certain phonological features was first visually memorized in the high frequency words and later generalized (consciously modified) to all positions. The use of memorized spellings of certain words, as well as later conscious choices to use standard spellings rather than graphic representation of their local dialects indicate that less educated writers perceived written and spoken varieties as distinct.
© Faculty of English, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland, 2013