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Lisped domain names: trend or necessity?

Professor of Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) Stanislovas Masiokas notices that the increasing use of the English language and incorrect spelling when people avoid the use of the specific Lithuanian letters online has become a widely spread fashion that may have a negative effect on the Lithuanian language.

According to the professor, Estonians and Scandinavians love their national languages more, that is why they almost always use the correct spelling online. However, the fully-fledged keyboards are widely used in Estonia and Scandinavian countries; it allows faster writing with specific letters of national alphabets. While English keyboards are more popular in Lithuania and Latvia; they encourage incorrect spelling due to their inconvenience.

.lt domain

“If a keyboard lacks a Lithuanian letter, if we cannot type it with one click, we look for a faster replacement. To some extent, we are all lazy. We do not want to look for a letter “Š” if it is hidden somewhere or we need to switch between the keyboards; thus, we write “S” instead of “Š”, – says prof. S. Masiokas.

“Another reason for the incorrect spelling is some kind of fashion when Lithuanians are susceptible to the influence of the foreign guests; it is a sign of hospitality, respect and tolerance. Back when Lithuania was a part of the Soviet Union, people would speak Russian if at least one person in the group could not speak Lithuanian. Now, everybody speaks English if at least one person cannot speak Lithuanian.

I had a chance to participate in a very interesting youth conference in Vilnius; the entire event was held in English. All the Lithuanians spoke English according to the varying degrees of their knowledge. After the event, I asked its organisers how many participants could not speak English. I was astonished to find out there was only one such person, who was not even British”, – shares this thoughts KTU professor.

Incorrectly spelled domains of the Lithuanian cities

The inspection of the Internet names of the largest Lithuanian cities and districts revealed that only the Molėtai District Municipality has registered its domain molė out of 35 municipalities with names containing specific letters ą, č, ę, ė, į, š, ų, ū, ž of the Lithuanian alphabet. The websites of the remaining Lithuanian municipalities have the incorrectly spelled addresses.

“Not only it compromises the city’s image online, but it also compromises its officials. They consider themselves real patriots of Lithuania and their cities and districts, give nice speeches about their cities, but lack the understanding or patriotism to call their own city by its real name online”, – says prof. S. Masiokas.

The business also uses incorrect spelling

The fashion of the incorrectly spelled domain names is also liked by business and other users. According to the data of KTU Internet Service Centre DOMREG, only 2 000 or just 1% of almost 200 000 registered .lt domains are the domain names with specific Lithuanian letters (IDN). The possibility to register such domains has been provided since 2004.

“The fact that business does not use specific Lithuanian letters must be a historically familiar phenomenon. There was a historical period when people were told to pray in another language since God did not understand Lithuanian. It is the same phenomenon, except now we have English instead of Polish. The business focuses on the English language that is international and more convenient; people think if they use the name without specific Lithuanian letters, it will make, for example, British people understand the incorrectly spelled Lithuanian language. It will not happen. If a business is created for the foreign market, it may be better not to use the incorrect spelling and not to distort the Lithuanian language, choosing the English domain name instead. If we choose a Lithuanian domain name, let’s write it in Lithuanian”, – recommends prof. S. Masiokas.

According to the professor, the incorrect spelling could be reduced by the use of AŽERTY keyboard. This keyboard contains specific Lithuanian letters and characters located according to the Lithuanian standard; it allows writing in Lithuanian, English and program without switching between the keyboards. Moreover, all the Lithuanian letters are located in three rows; it is convenient for fast typing with all 10 fingers and to learn touch typing.

The English language is inevitable in computers

President of the Lithuanian Computer Society, scientist of the Institute of Data Science and Digital Technologies at Vilnius University (VU) dr. Saulius Maskeliūnas explains that the English language is inevitable in computers because almost all software is created in this language.

“It is inevitable, the primary computer language is English; software is created in English, using the Latin alphabet. Since the first inventors who created the computer and the Internet were not Lithuanian, many things need to be Lithuanised which is not always easy”, – dr. S. Maskeliūnas explains the reasons for the use of the English language in computers.

According to the respondent, the majority of the Lithuanians spell incorrectly because of the force of habit rather than trying to save time or money.

“Let me remind you of the situation with TXT messages when people said that a message could contain more words if you only used the Latin letters. As if, incorrect spelling helped to save money that would be paid for additional messages with Lithuanian letters. Even though this argument is irrelevant now because mobile connection operators offer particularly favourable payment plans, the habit remains. The situation with domain names may be similar”, notes dr. S. Maskeliūnas.

Mimicry should be avoided

Even though the majority of the registered domain names are spelled incorrectly, some users register options, the incorrectly spelled one and the one with specific Lithuanian letters.

“I can give a very interesting example. There is a well-known international clothing brand “ZARA”; its Lithuanian website is accessible by the general .com domain name. In Lithuania, the domain name that is identical to the name of the clothing brand is used by the Lithuanian publishing house “Žara”; it has also registered a domain ž with a Lithuanian letter “ž”. Both incorrectly and correctly spelled addresses are used together to make it more convenient to the visitors of the website. If the publishing house had decided to use only one option of the domain name and another one would be used by the international company, a certain flow of the Internet users would be lost; it would cause confusion and would not be beneficial to the companies. The so-called mimicry is widely spread in various areas, including the domain names; therefore, it was a wise decision in this case”, – summarises dr. S. Maskeliūnas.

The Head of the Client Service Office at KTU Internet Service Centre DOMREG Tomas Mackus has also noticed the trend when the domain names with specific Lithuanian letters (IDN) are registered at the same time as the most commonly used incorrectly spelled names. It helps to avoid confusion and provides protection against the similarities of the domain names that could mislead the users.

“Many Internet users are not aware of the possibility to use specific Lithuanian letters in domain names. That is the reason for the prevailing registration of the incorrectly spelled .lt domain names. Other users either do not realise or have malicious intentions (to have an unfair competition for the flow of the Internet users) and register the identical domain name with specific Lithuanian letters. The misleadingly similar domain name causes the risk of disputes as well as confusion to the users. In order to avoid such problems, we always recommend to register both options of the domain name”, – explains T. Mackus.

Decreasing technical barriers

According to the respondent, some programmers and other IT specialists are sceptical and think that domain names with specific Lithuanian letters (IDN) are not necessary because there are no possibilities to fully use them.

“I think this approach is outdated because currently, most of the email systems and latest Internet browsers can decode the domain names with specific Lithuanian letters; therefore, such domains can be fully used. There are quite a few websites accessible by completely Lithuanian Internet addresses that successfully use such a domain name as the main website address. Of course, typing the domain names with specific Lithuanian letters may be more difficult to the foreigners, but Lithuanian domain would be an advantage to the websites intended for the Lithuanians, both for the advertisement of the brand and for the convenience to the users”, – states T. Mackus.

Published 2019-03-27