The discussion concerning unusual spelling of names and surnames
On September 13th 2014 the European Foundation of Human Rights (EFHR) representative, Ewelina Baliko, participated in radio discussion concerning the spelling of names and surnames in the documents of Lithuanian citizens. The discussion was held in Lithuanian Radio and Television (LRT). The EFHR representative talked about examples of cases related to this topic which are looked into by EFHR and about the problems Lithuanian citizens encounter when trying to have their names registered with the use of original spelling, among others.
The discussion started after Commission of the Lithuanian Language (PKJL, Valstybinė lietuvių kalbos komisja) has given an opinion stating that only certain citizens should be granted the right to use the original spelling of names and surnames, namely, the citizens who obtained citizenship and the citizens of Lithuania who married a foreigner.
In the radio discussion PKJL chairman and other linguists wondered if the two projects registered in parliament concerning spelling of names and surnames in documents are not disrespectful for the citizens and if the use of “w” and “x” would be harmful for Lithuanian language.
It should be noted that Commission of the Lithuanian Language has changed its opinion on original spelling of names and surnames in documents of the citizens of Lithuania which it gave on January 14th 2008. In the statement the Commission criticized registration of names and surnames on the alternate passport page and decided that non Lithuanian names and surnames should not be lithuanizated. We mentioned the Commission nonresistance to the use of the original spelling of names and surnames in the statement from June. However, the opinion given by PKJL in September is different.
Namely, the Commission adduces to old statements of Constitutional Court (from 1991 and 1999) which restricts original spelling of names and surnames. However, it does not mention the most recent statement of Constitutional Court from February 27th 2014 which allows non Lithuanian spelling. The most important aspect of Constitutional Court which explains a lot is the opinion that non Lithuanian names and surnames can be registered not only be means of Lithuanian characters but also by means of different characters of the Latin alphabet which are consistent with the tradition of Lithuanian language and do not violate the rules of the national language. This opinion is of great importance mostly because it means that the Court did not favour mixed marriages and foreigners in any way when it comes to the right to use original spelling of names and surnames which the Commission has done in its last statement.
What is more the Commission claims that its moves are limited as it looks only into the cases which are given to it and it is the parliament which is to decide here. However, according to the last announcement of the Constitutional Court from February 2014 it is PKJL’s task is not only to consider draft laws but also to make suggestions and show initiative in this field. One could get an impression that the Commission is not eager to take responsibilty and do not work properly. EFHR claims also that the change of the opinion may imply that the institution is not efficient enough and that it succumbs to political pressure. The discussion on spelling of names and surnames were held as part of the “Kultūros savaitė” program. The broadcast can be listened to here.