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Latvian ( ), also known as Lettish, is an Eastern Baltic language belonging to the Balto-Slavic branch of the
Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing ...
, spoken in the
Baltic region The terms Baltic Sea Region, Baltic Rim countries (or simply Baltic Rim), and the Baltic Sea countries/states refer to slightly different combinations of countries in the general area surrounding the Baltic Sea The Baltic Sea is an arm of the ...
. It is the language of
Latvians Latvians ( lv, latvieši) are a Balts, Baltic ethnic group and nation native to Latvia and the immediate geographical region, the Baltics. They are occasionally also referred to as Letts, although this term is becoming obsolete. Latvians share a c ...
and the official language of
Latvia Latvia ( or ; lv, Latvija ; ltg, Latveja; liv, Leţmō), officially known as the Republic of Latvia ( lv, Latvijas Republika, links=no, ltg, Latvejas Republika, links=no, liv, Leţmō Vabāmō, links=no), is a country in the Baltic re ...

Latvia
as well as one of the official languages of the
European Union The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of that are located primarily in . The union has a total area of and an estimated total population of about 447million. has been established through a standardised that apply in ...

European Union
. There are about 1.3 million native Latvian speakers in Latvia and 100,000 abroad. Altogether, 2 million, or 80% of the population of Latvia, speak Latvian. Of those, around 1.16 million or 62% used it as their primary language at home. As a
Baltic language The Baltic languages belong to the Balto-Slavic languages, Balto-Slavic branch of the Indo-European languages, Indo-European language family. Baltic languages are spoken by the Balts, mainly in areas extending east and southeast of the Baltic Se ...

Baltic language
, Latvian is most closely related to neighboring
Lithuanian Lithuanian may refer to: * Lithuanians Lithuanians ( lt, lietuviai, singular ''lietuvis/lietuvė'') are a Balts, Baltic ethnic group. They are native to Lithuania, where they number around 2,561,300 people. Another million or more make up the Lith ...
; however Latvian has followed a more rapid development. In addition, there is some disagreement whether Latgalian and
Kursenieki The Kursenieki ( lv, kursenieki, kāpenieki, german: Kuren – 'Curonians'; lt, kuršiai; pl, Kuronowie pruscy – 'Prussian Curonians') are a nearly extinct Balts, Baltic ethnic group living along the Curonian Spit. "Kuršiai" refers only to i ...
, which are
mutually intelligible In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include p ...
with Latvian, should be considered varieties or separate languages. Latvian first appeared in Western print in the mid-16th century with the reproduction of the Lord's Prayer in Latvian in Sebastian Münster's (1544), in
Latin script Latin script, also known as Roman script, is an alphabetic An alphabet is a standardized set of basic written symbols A symbol is a mark, sign, or word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest seque ...

Latin script
.


Classification

Latvian belongs to the
Baltic Baltic may refer to: Geography Northern Europe * Baltic Sea, a sea in Europe * Baltic region, an ambiguous term referring to the general area surrounding the Baltic Sea * Baltic states (also Baltics, Baltic nations, Baltic countries or Baltic rep ...

Baltic
branch of the
Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family native to western and southern Eurasia. It comprises most of the languages of Europe together with those of the northern Indian subcontinent and the Iranian Plateau. Some European languages of t ...
language family. It is one of two living Baltic languages with an official status (the other being
Lithuanian Lithuanian may refer to: * Lithuanians Lithuanians ( lt, lietuviai, singular ''lietuvis/lietuvė'') are a Balts, Baltic ethnic group. They are native to Lithuania, where they number around 2,561,300 people. Another million or more make up the Lith ...
). The Latvian and Lithuanian languages have retained many features of the nominal morphology of
Proto-Indo-European Proto-Indo-European (PIE) is the theorized common ancestor of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( ...
though, in matters of phonology and verbal morphology, they show many innovations (in other words, forms that did not exist in Proto-Indo-European), with Latvian being considerably more innovative than Lithuanian. However Latvian has been also influenced by the
Livonian language The Livonian language ( liv, līvõ kēļ, link=no or ) is a Finnic language. Although its last native speaker died in 2013, there are about 40 reported speakers and 210 having reported some knowledge of the language. The native land of the Livon ...
. For example, Latvian borrowed first-syllable stress from
Finno-Ugric languages Finno-Ugric ( or ; ''Fenno-Ugric'') or Finno-Ugrian (''Fenno-Ugrian''), is a traditional grouping of all languages in the Uralic language family The Uralic languages (; sometimes called Uralian languages ) form a language family A languag ...

Finno-Ugric languages
.


History

According to some glottochronological speculations, the Eastern Baltic languages split from Western
Baltic Baltic may refer to: Geography Northern Europe * Baltic Sea, a sea in Europe * Baltic region, an ambiguous term referring to the general area surrounding the Baltic Sea * Baltic states (also Baltics, Baltic nations, Baltic countries or Baltic rep ...

Baltic
(or, perhaps, from the hypothetical
proto-Baltic Proto-Balto-Slavic (PBS) is a reconstructed Reconstruction may refer to: Politics, history, and sociology *Reconstruction (law), the transfer of a company's (or several companies') business to a new company *''Perestroika'' (Russian for "reco ...
language) between 400 and 600 CE. The differentiation between
Lithuanian Lithuanian may refer to: * Lithuanians Lithuanians ( lt, lietuviai, singular ''lietuvis/lietuvė'') are a Balts, Baltic ethnic group. They are native to Lithuania, where they number around 2,561,300 people. Another million or more make up the Lith ...
and Latvian started after 800 CE, with a long period of being one language but different dialects. At a minimum, transitional dialects existed until the 14th century or 15th century, and perhaps as late as the 17th century. Latvian as a distinct language emerged over several centuries from the language spoken by the ancient Latgalian tribe assimilating the languages of other neighbouring Baltic tribes— Curonian, Semigallian and Selonian—which resulted in these languages gradually losing their most distinct characteristics. This process of consolidation started in the 13th century after the
Livonian Crusade The Livonian Crusade refers to the various Christianization campaigns in the area constituting modern Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia during the Papal-sanctioned Northern Crusades. It was conducted mostly by Germans from the Holy Roman Empire and ...
and forced
christianization Christianization ( or Christianisation) is the conversion of individuals to Christianity or the conversion of entire groups at once. Various strategies and techniques were employed in Christianization campaigns from Late Antiquity and througho ...
. These tribes came under
Livonian
Livonian
rule thus forming a unified political, economic and religious space.Livonia. 13th-16th Century
/ref> The oldest known examples of written Latvian are from a 1530 translation of a hymn made by Nikolaus Ramm, a German pastor in
Riga Riga (; lv, Rīga , liv, Rīgõ, ) is the capital of and is home to 614,618 inhabitants (2021), which is a third of Latvia's population. Being significantly larger than , Riga is the country's . It is also the in the three and is home to ...

Riga
. The oldest preserved book in Latvian is a 1585 Catholic catechism of
Petrus Canisius Peter Canisius ( nl, Pieter Kanis; 8 May 1521 – 21 December 1597) was a renowned Dutch Jesuit The Society of Jesus (SJ; la, Societas Iesu) is a religious order of the Catholic Church The Catholic Church, often referred to as t ...
currently located at the
Uppsala University Library The Uppsala University Library ( sv, Uppsala universitetsbibliotek) at Uppsala University in Uppsala Uppsala (, or all ending in , ; archaically spelled ''Upsala'') is the county seat of Uppsala County and the fourth-largest city in Sweden ...
. The first one to translate the Bible into Latvian was the German
Lutheran Lutheranism is one of the largest branches of Protestantism Protestantism is a form of Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life ...
pastor Johann Ernst Glück (
The New Testament The New Testament grc, Ἡ Καινὴ Διαθήκη, transl. ; la, Novum Testamentum. (NT) is the second division of the Christian biblical canon. It discusses the teachings and person of Jesus, as well as events in first-century Chris ...
in 1685 and The Old Testament in 1691). The Lutheran pastor
Gotthard Friedrich Stender Gotthard Friedrich Stender ( lv, Gothards Frīdrihs Stenders; 1714–1796) was a Baltic Germans, Baltic German Lutheran pastor who played an outstanding role in Latvia's history of culture. He was the first Latvian language, Latvian grammarian and ...

Gotthard Friedrich Stender
was a founder of the Latvian secular literature. He wrote the first illustrated Latvian
alphabet book An alphabet book is a book A book is a medium for recording information Information can be thought of as the resolution of uncertainty; it answers the question of "What an entity is" and thus defines both its essence and the nature of ...
(1787) and the first encyclopedia “The Book of High Wisdom of the World and Nature” (; 1774), the Grammar books and the Latvian–German and German–Latvian dictionaries. Until the 19th century, the Latvian written language was influenced by German Lutheran pastors and the
German language German ( Standard High German: , ) is a West Germanic language mainly spoken in Central Europe Central Europe is an area of Europe between Western Europe and Eastern Europe, based on a common History, historical, Society, social and cultu ...

German language
, because the upper class of local society was formed by
Baltic Germans The Baltic Germans (german: Deutsch-Balten or , later ; and остзейцы ''ostzeitsy'' 'Balters' in Russian) are ethnic German inhabitants of the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea, in what today are Estonia and Latvia. Since their reset ...
. In the middle of the 19th century the First Latvian National Awakening was started, led by “
Young Latvians New Latvians ( lv, jaunlatvieši) is the term most often applied to the intellectuals of the First Latvian National Awakening ( lv, Tautas atmoda), active from the 1850s to the 1880s. The movement was modeled on the Young Germany (german: Junges De ...
” who popularized the use of Latvian language. Participants in this movement laid the foundations for standard Latvian and also popularized the Latvianization of loan words. However, in the 1880s, when Czar Alexander III came into power,
Russification Russification or Russianization (russian: Русификация, ''Rusifikatsiya'') is a form of cultural assimilation process during which non- Russian communities (whether involuntarily or voluntarily) give up their culture and language in fav ...
started. During this period, some Latvian scholars suggested adopting
Cyrillic The Cyrillic script ( ) is a writing system used for various languages across Eurasia and is used as the national script in various Slavic languages, Slavic, Turkic languages, Turkic, Mongolic languages, Mongolic, Uralic languages, Uralic, Caucas ...
for use in Latvian. According to the 1897 Imperial Russian Census, there were 505,994 (75.1%) speakers of Latvian in the Governorate of Courland and 563,829 (43.4%) speakers of Latvian in the
Governorate of Livonia The Governorate of Livonia (russian: Лифляндская губерния, Lifljandskaja gubernija; german: Livländisches Gouvernement; lv, Vidzemes guberņa, after the Latvian inhabited Vidzeme region; et, Liivimaa kubermang) was one of ...
, making Latvian-speakers the largest linguistic group in each of the governorates. After the czar's death, around the start of the 20th century, nationalist movements re-emerged. In 1908, Latvian linguists and
Jānis Endzelīns Jānis Endzelīns (22 February 1873 – 1 July 1961) was a Latvia Latvia ( or ; lv, Latvija ), officially known as the Republic of Latvia ( lv, Latvijas Republika, links=no), is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is one ...
elaborated the modern Latvian alphabet, which slowly replaced the old orthography used before. Another feature of the language, in common with its sister language Lithuanian, that was developed at that time is that proper names from other countries and languages are altered phonetically to fit the phonological system of Latvian, even if the original language also uses the Latin alphabet. Moreover, the names are modified to ensure that they have noun declension endings, declining like all other nouns. For example, a place such as Lecropt (a Scottish parish) is likely to become Lekropta; the Scottish village of
Tillicoultry Tillicoultry ( ; Scottish Gaelic Scottish Gaelic ( gd, Gàidhlig or Scots Gaelic, sometimes referred to simply as Gaelic) is a Goidelic language (in the Celtic languages, Celtic branch of the Indo-European languages, Indo-European langua ...

Tillicoultry
becomes Tilikutrija. During the Soviet time (1940–1991), the policy of
Russification Russification or Russianization (russian: Русификация, ''Rusifikatsiya'') is a form of cultural assimilation process during which non- Russian communities (whether involuntarily or voluntarily) give up their culture and language in fav ...
greatly affected the Latvian language. Throughout this period, many Latvians and Latvia's other ethnicities faced deportation and persecution. Massive immigration from the Soviet republics of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and others followed, largely as a result of Stalin's plan to integrate Latvia and the other Baltic republics into the Soviet Union by means of Russian colonization. As a result, the proportion of the ethnic Latvian population within the total population was reduced from 80% in 1935 to 52% in 1989. In Soviet Latvia, most of the immigrants who settled in the country did not learn Latvian. According to the 2011
census A census is the procedure of systematically calculating, acquiring and recording information Information is processed, organised and structured data Data (; ) are individual facts, statistics, or items of information, often numeric. In ...

census
Latvian was the language spoken at home by 62% of the country's population. After the re-establishment of independence in 1991, a new policy of language education was introduced. The primary declared goal was the integration of all inhabitants into the environment of the official state language while protecting the languages of Latvia's ethnic minorities. Government-funded bilingual education was available in primary schools for ethnic minorities until 2019 when Parliament decided on educating only in Latvian. Minority schools are available for
Russian Russian refers to anything related to Russia, including: *Russians (русские, ''russkiye''), an ethnic group of the East Slavic peoples, primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries *Rossiyane (россияне), Russian language term ...
,
Yiddish Yiddish (, or , ''yidish'' or ''idish'', , ; , ''Yidish-Taytsh'', ) is a West Germanic The West Germanic languages constitute the largest of the three branches of the Germanic languages, Germanic family of languages (the others being the ...
,
Polish Polish may refer to: * Anything from or related to Poland Poland ( pl, Polska ), officially the Republic of Poland ( pl, Rzeczpospolita Polska, links=no ), is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 Voivodeships of Pol ...
,
Lithuanian Lithuanian may refer to: * Lithuanians Lithuanians ( lt, lietuviai, singular ''lietuvis/lietuvė'') are a Balts, Baltic ethnic group. They are native to Lithuania, where they number around 2,561,300 people. Another million or more make up the Lith ...
,
Ukrainian Ukrainian may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Ukraine * Something relating to Ukrainians an East Slavic people from Eastern Europe * Something relating to Demographics of Ukraine, in terms of demography: population of Ukraine * Somethi ...
,
Belarusian Belarusian may refer to: * Something of, or related to Belarus * Belarusians, people from Belarus, or of Belarusian descent * A citizen of Belarus, see Demographics of Belarus * Belarusian language * Belarusian culture * Belarusian cuisine * Byeloru ...
,
Estonian Estonian may refer to: *Something of, from, or related to Estonia, a country in the Baltic region in northern Europe *Estonians, people from Estonia, or of Estonian descent *Estonian language *Estonian cuisine *Estonian culture See also

* * La ...
and
Roma Roma or ROMA may refer to: Places Australia * Roma, Queensland, a town ** Roma Airport ** Roma Courthouse ** Electoral district of Roma Roma was an electoral district An electoral district, also known as an election district, legislative ...
schools. Latvian is taught as a second language in the initial stages too, as is officially declared, to encourage proficiency in that language, aiming at avoiding alienation from the Latvian-speaking linguistic majority and for the sake of facilitating academic and professional achievements. Since the mid-1990s, the government may pay a student's tuition in public universities only provided that the instruction is in Latvian. Since 2004, the state mandates Latvian as the language of instruction in public secondary schools (Form 10–12) for at least 60% of class work (previously, a broad system of education in Russian existed). The Official Language Law was adopted on 9 December 1999. Several regulatory acts associated with this law have been adopted. Observance of the law is monitored by the State Language Centre run by the Ministry of Justice. To counter the influence of
Russian Russian refers to anything related to Russia, including: *Russians (русские, ''russkiye''), an ethnic group of the East Slavic peoples, primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries *Rossiyane (россияне), Russian language term ...
and
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

English
, government organizations (namely the Terminology Commission of the Latvian Academy of Science and the State Language Center) popularize the use of Latvian terms. A debate arose over the Latvian term for
euro The euro (currency symbol, symbol: euro sign, €; ISO 4217, code: EUR) is the official currency of 19 of the Member state of the European Union, member states of the European Union. This group of states is known as the eurozone or euro area ...

euro
. The Terminology Commission suggested or , with their Latvianized and declinable ending, would be a better term for
euro The euro (currency symbol, symbol: euro sign, €; ISO 4217, code: EUR) is the official currency of 19 of the Member state of the European Union, member states of the European Union. This group of states is known as the eurozone or euro area ...

euro
than the widely used , while
European Central Bank The European Central Bank (ECB) is the prime component of the Eurosystem The Eurosystem is the monetary authority In finance Finance is the study of financial institutions, financial markets and how they operate within the financia ...

European Central Bank
insisted that the original name ''euro'' be used in all languages. New terms are Latvian derivatives,
calque In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the me ...

calque
s or new loanwords. For example, Latvian has two words for "telephone"— and , the former being a direct translation into Latvian of the latter international term. Still, others are older or more euphonic loanwords rather than Latvian words. For example, "computer" can be either , . Both are loanwords; the native Latvian word for "computer" is , which is also an official term. However, now has been considered an appropriate translation, is also used. There are several contests held annually to promote the correct use of Latvian. One of them is "Word of the year" () organized by the Riga Latvian Society since 2003. It features categories such as the "Best word", "Worst word", "Best saying" and "
Word salad A word salad, or schizophasia, is a "confused or unintelligible mixture of seemingly random words and phrases", most often used to describe a symptom Signs and symptoms are the observed or detectable signs, and experienced symptoms of an illness, ...
". In 2018 the word (
instant payment Instant payment is a method of exchanging money and processing payments, allowing for almost immediate transfer of money between bank accounts, instead of the more typical one to three business days. Many countries have implemented instant paym ...
) won the category of "Best word" and (
influencer An Internet celebrity (also known as a social media influencer, social media personality, internet personality, or simply influencer) is a celebrity Celebrity is a condition of fame and broad public recognition of an individual or group as a ...
) won the category of "Worst word". The word pair of (
stream A stream is a body of water (Lysefjord) in Norway Norway, officially the Kingdom of Norway,Names in the official and recognised languages: Bokmål Bokmål (, ; literally "book tongue") is an official written standard for the No ...

stream
) and (streaming) were named the best words of 2017, while as an unnecessary plural of the name for
transport Transport (in British English British English (BrE) is the standard dialect A standard language (also standard variety, standard dialect, and standard) is a language variety that has undergone substantial codification of grammar and ...

transport
was chosen as the worst word of 2017.


Dialects

There are three
dialect The term dialect (from Latin , , from the Ancient Greek word , 'discourse', from , 'through' and , 'I speak') can refer to either of two distinctly different types of Linguistics, linguistic phenomena: * One usage refers to a variety (linguis ...
s in Latvian: the Livonian dialect, High Latvian and the Middle dialect. Latvian dialects and their varieties should not be confused with the Livonian, Curonian, Semigallian and Selonian languages.


Livonian dialect

The Livonian dialect of Latvian was more affected by the
Livonian language The Livonian language ( liv, līvõ kēļ, link=no or ) is a Finnic language. Although its last native speaker died in 2013, there are about 40 reported speakers and 210 having reported some knowledge of the language. The native land of the Livon ...
substratum In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the m ...
than Latvian in other parts of Latvia. It is divided into the
Vidzeme Vidzeme (; lt, Vidžemė; liv, Vidūmō, russian: Видземе, pl, Liwonia)Līvõkīel-ēstikīel-lețkīel sõnārōntõzVidzeme/ref> is one of the cultural regions of Latvia, historical and cultural regions of Latvia. The capital of Latvia, ...

Vidzeme
variety Variety may refer to: Science and technology Mathematics * Algebraic variety, the set of solutions of a system of polynomial equations * Variety (universal algebra), classes of algebraic structures defined by equations in universal algebra Hort ...
and the
Courland Courland (; lv, Kurzeme; liv, Kurāmō; German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nat ...
variety (also called ''tāmnieku''). There are two syllable intonations in the Livonian dialect, extended and broken. In the Livonian dialect, short vowels in the endings of words are discarded, while long vowels are shortened. In all genders and numbers, only one form of the
verb A verb () is a word (part of speech) that in syntax conveys an action (''bring'', ''read'', ''walk'', ''run'', ''learn''), an occurrence (''happen'', ''become''), or a state of being (''be'', ''exist'', ''stand''). In the usual description of E ...
is used.
Personal name A personal name, or full name, in onomastic Onomastics or onomatology is the study of the etymology, history, and use of proper names. An ''wikt:orthonym, orthonym'' is the proper name of the object in question, the object of onomastic study. ...
s in both genders are derived with endings – els, -ans. In
prefix A prefix is an affix In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) ...
es ''ie'' is changed to ''e''. Due to migration and the introduction of a standardised language this dialect has declined. It arose from assimilated
Livonians The Livonians, or Livs ( Livonian: ''līvlizt''; Estonian Estonian may refer to: *Something of, from, or related to Estonia, a country in the Baltic region in northern Europe *Estonians, people from Estonia, or of Estonian descent *Estonian langu ...
, who started to speak in Latvian and assimilated Livonian grammar into Latvian.


Middle dialect

The Middle dialect spoken in central and Southwestern Latvia is the basis of standard Latvian. The dialect is divided into the Vidzeme variety, the Curonian variety and the Semigallian variety. The Vidzeme variety and the Semigallian variety are closer to each other than to the Curonian variety, which is more archaic than the other two. There are three syllable intonations in some parts of Vidzeme variety of the Middle dialect, extended, broken and falling. The Curonian and Semigallian varieties have two syllable intonations, extended and broken, but some parts of the Vidzeme variety has extended and falling intonations. In the Curonian variety, ''ŗ'' is still used. The
Kursenieki language Kursenieki language (Kursenieki: ; lv, kursenieku valoda; lt, kuršininkų kalba) or Curonian language of Curonian isthmus (german: kurische Sprache der Kurischen Nehrung) is a dialect of the Latvian language Latvian ( ), also known as Lettish ...
, which used to be spoken along
Curonian Spit The Curonian Spit ( lt, Kuršių nerija; russian: Ку́ршская коса́ (Kurshskaya kosa); german: Kurische Nehrung, ; lv, Kuršu kāpas) is a long, thin, curved sand-dune Spit (landform), spit that separates the Curonian Lagoon from the ...

Curonian Spit
, is closely related to the varieties of the Middle dialect spoken in
Courland Courland (; lv, Kurzeme; liv, Kurāmō; German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nat ...
.


Upper Latvian dialect

Upper Latvian dialect is spoken in Eastern Latvia. It is set apart from the rest of the Latvian by a number of phonetic differences. The dialect has two main varieties – Selonian (two syllable intonations, falling and rising) and Non-Selonian (falling and broken syllable intonations). There is a
standard language A standard language (also standard variety, standard dialect, and standard) is a language variety In sociolinguistics Sociolinguistics is the descriptive study of the effect of any and all aspects of society, including cultural Norm (sociology ...
, the
Latgalian language Latgalian (''latgalīšu volūda'', lv, latgaliešu valoda) is an Eastern Baltic language often spoken in Latgale Latgale ( ltg, Latgola; russian: Латгалия; la, Lettgallia) is one of the four historical and cultural regions of Latvia ...
, which is based on deep non-Selonian varieties spoken in the south of
Latgale Latgale ( ltg, Latgola; russian: Латгалия; la, Lettgallia) is one of the Historical Latvian Lands. It is the easternmost region and is north of the Daugava River. While most of Latvia is historically Lutheranism, Lutheran, Latgale is pred ...
. The term "Latgalian" is sometimes also applied to all non-Selonian varieties or even the whole dialect. However, it is unclear if it is accurate to use the term for any varieties besides the standard language. While the term may refer to varieties spoken in
Latgale Latgale ( ltg, Latgola; russian: Латгалия; la, Lettgallia) is one of the Historical Latvian Lands. It is the easternmost region and is north of the Daugava River. While most of Latvia is historically Lutheranism, Lutheran, Latgale is pred ...
or by
Latgalians Latgalians (, nds, Letti, Lethi, modern ; variant translations also include Latgallians, Lettigalls or Lettigallians) were an ancient Baltic tribe. They likely spoke the Latvian language Latvian ( ), also known as Lettish, is an Eastern Bal ...
, not all speakers identify as speaking Latgalian, for example, speakers of deep Non-Selonian varieties in
Vidzeme Vidzeme (; lt, Vidžemė; liv, Vidūmō, russian: Видземе, pl, Liwonia)Līvõkīel-ēstikīel-lețkīel sõnārōntõzVidzeme/ref> is one of the cultural regions of Latvia, historical and cultural regions of Latvia. The capital of Latvia, ...

Vidzeme
explicitly deny speaking Latgalian.


Non-native speakers

The history of the Latvian language (see below) has placed it in a peculiar position for a language of its size whereby it is spoken by a large number of non-native speakers as compared to native speakers. The immigrant and minority population in Latvia is 700,000 people:
Russians , native_name_lang = ru , image = , caption = Wedding ceremony in the national Russian tradition. , population = 134 million , popplace = 117,319,000 , region1 = , pop1 = 7,170,00 ...

Russians
,
Belarusians Belarusians ( be, беларусы, biełarusy, russian: белорусы, byelorusy), also and Byelorussians (from the Byelorussian SSR The Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (BSSR, or Byelorussian SSR; be, Беларуская Са ...
,
Ukrainians , native_name_lang = uk , image = , caption = , population = 37-40 million , popplace = 37,541,693 , region1 = , pop1 = 3,269,992 , ref1 = , region2 = ...
,
Poles The Poles,, ; singular masculine: ''Polak'', singular feminine: ''Polka'' or Polish people, are a nation A nation is a community A community is a social unitThe term "level of analysis" is used in the social sciences to point to the loc ...

Poles
, and others. The majority of immigrants came to Latvia between 1940 and 1991; supplementing pre-existing ethnic minority communities ( Latvian Germans,
Latvian Jews The location of Latvia (dark green) in Europe The history of the Jews in Latvia dates back to the first Jewish colony established in Piltene in 1571. Jews contributed to Latvia's development until the Great Northern War, Northern War (1700– ...
). The trends show that the proficiency of Latvian among its non-native speakers is gradually increasing. In a 2009 survey by Latvian Language Agency 56% percent of respondents with Russian as their native language described having a good knowledge of Latvian, whereas for the younger generation (from 17 to 25 years) the number was 64%. The increased adoption of Latvian by minorities was brought about by its status as the only official language of the country and other changes in the society after the
fall of the Soviet Union The dissolution of the Soviet Union, also negatively connoted as rus, Разва́л Сове́тского Сою́за, r=Razvál Sovétskovo Sojúza, ''Ruining of the Soviet Union''. (1988–1991) was the process of internal political, e ...
that mostly shifted linguistic focus away from
Russian Russian refers to anything related to Russia, including: *Russians (русские, ''russkiye''), an ethnic group of the East Slavic peoples, primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries *Rossiyane (россияне), Russian language term ...
. As an example, in 2007, universities and colleges for the first time received applications from prospective students who had a bilingual secondary education in schools for minorities. Fluency in Latvian is expected in a variety of professions and careers.


Grammar

Latvian grammar represents a classic Indo-European (Baltic) system with well-developed inflection and derivation. Primary word stress, with some exceptions in derivation and inflection, is on the first
syllable A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds. It is typically made up of a syllable nucleus (most often a vowel A vowel is a Syllable, syllabic speech sound pronounced without any stricture in the vocal tract. Vowels a ...

syllable
. There are no articles in Latvian; definiteness is expressed by an inflection of adjectives. Basic word order in Latvian is
subject–verb–object In linguistic typology Linguistic typology (or language typology) is a field of linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for ...
; however, word order is relatively free.


Nouns

There are two
grammatical gender In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most langua ...
s in Latvian (masculine and feminine) and two
numbers A number is a mathematical object A mathematical object is an abstract concept arising in mathematics. In the usual language of mathematics, an ''object'' is anything that has been (or could be) formally defined, and with which one may do deduc ...
, singular and plural. Nouns, adjectives, and declinable participles decline into seven cases:
nominative In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as ...
,
genitive In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, a ...
,
dative In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as we ...
,
accusative The accusative case (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ) of a noun is the grammatical case used to mark the direct object of a transitive verb. The same case is used in many languages for the objects of (some or all) prepositions. It is ...
,
instrumental An instrumental is a recording normally without any vocals, although it might include some inarticulate vocal The human voice consists of sound In physics, sound is a vibration that propagates as an acoustic wave, through a transmissio ...
,
locative In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, a ...
, and
vocative In grammar, the vocative Grammatical case, case (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ) is a grammatical case which is used for a noun that identifies a person (animal, object, etc.) being addressed, or occasionally for the determiner (li ...
. There are six declensions for nouns.


Verbs

There are three conjugation classes in Latvian. Verbs are conjugated for person, tense, mood and voice.


Orthography

Latvian in
Latin script Latin script, also known as Roman script, is an alphabetic An alphabet is a standardized set of basic written symbols A symbol is a mark, sign, or word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest seque ...

Latin script
was first based upon the
German orthography German orthography is the orthography used in writing the German language, which is largely phonemic orthography, phonemic. However, it shows many instances of spellings that are historic or analogous to other spellings rather than phonemic. T ...
, while the alphabet of the Latgalian dialect was based on the Polish orthography. At the beginning of the 20th century, it was replaced by a more phonologically consistent orthography.


Standard orthography

Today, the Latvian standard orthography employs 33 characters: The modern standard Latvian alphabet uses 22 unmodified letters of the Latin alphabet (all except ). It adds a further eleven characters by modification. The vowel letters

<a>
,

<e>
,

<nowiki><i></nowiki>
and '''' can take a macron to show length, unmodified letters being short; these letters are not differentiated while sorting (e.g. in dictionaries). The letters

<c>
,

<nowiki><s></nowiki>
and

<z>
are pronounced , and respectively, while when marked with a
caron A caron (), háček or haček ( or ; plural ''háčeks'' or ''háčky'') also known as a hachek, wedge, check, kvačica, strešica, mäkčeň, paukščiukas, inverted circumflex, inverted hat, or flying bird, is a diacritic (ˇ) commonly placed ...

caron
, <č š ž''>'', they are pronounced , and respectively. The letters <ģ ķ ļ ņ>, written with a comma placed underneath (or above them for lowercase ''g''), which indicate palatalized versions of representing the sounds , , and . Latvian orthography also contains nine digraphs, which are written . Non-standard varieties of Latvian add extra letters to this standard set. Latvian spelling has almost one-to-one correspondence between graphemes and phonemes. Every
phoneme In phonology and linguistics, a phoneme is a unit of sound that distinguishes one word from another in a particular language. For example, in most List of dialects of English, dialects of English, with the notable exception of the West Midlan ...
corresponds to a letter so that the reader can almost always pronounce words by putting the letters together. There are only two exceptions to this consistency in the orthography: the letters represent two different sounds: /ɛ æ/ and /ɛː æː/. The second mismatch is that letter indicates both the short and long , and the
diphthong A diphthong ( ; , ), also known as a gliding vowel, is a combination of two adjacent vowel A vowel is a Syllable, syllabic speech sound pronounced without any stricture in the vocal tract. Vowels are one of the two principal classes of spe ...
. These three sounds are written as and in Latgalian, and some Latvians campaign for the adoption of this system in standard Latvian. However, Latvian grammarians argue that and <ō> are found only in loanwords, with the /uo/ sound being the only native Latvian phoneme. The digraph was discarded in 1914, and the letter <ō> has not been used in the official Latvian language since 1946. Likewise, the letters <ŗ> and the digraph '' were discarded in 1957, although they are still used in some varieties and by many Latvians living beyond the borders of Latvia. The letter is used only in Latgalian, where it represents , a sound not present in other dialects.


Old orthography

The old orthography was based on that of German and did not represent the Latvian language phonemically. At the beginning, it was used to write religious texts for German priests to help them in their work with Latvians. The first writings in Latvian were chaotic: there were twelve variations of writing ''Š''. In 1631 the German priest Georg Mancelius tried to systematize the writing. He wrote long vowels according to their position in the word – a short vowel followed by ''h'' for a radical vowel, a short vowel in the suffix and vowel with a
diacritic A diacritic (also diacritical mark, diacritical point, diacritical sign, or accent) is a glyph The term glyph is used in typography File:metal movable type.jpg, 225px, Movable type being assembled on a composing stick using pieces that ...
mark in the ending indicating two accents. Consonants were written following the example of German with multiple letters. The old orthography was used until the 20th century when it was slowly replaced by the modern orthography.


Latvian on computers

In late 1992 the official Latvian computing standard LVS 8-92 took effect. It was followed by LVS 24-93 (Latvian language support for computers) that also specified the way Latvian language (alphabet, numbers, currency, punctuation marks, date and time) should be represented on computers. A Latvian ergonomic keyboard standard LVS 23-93 was also announced several months later, but it didn't gain popularity due to its need for a custom-built keyboard. Nowadays standard
QWERTY QWERTY () is a keyboard layout, keyboard design for Latin-script alphabets. The name comes from the order of the first six Computer keyboard keys#Key types, keys on the top left letter row of the keyboard ( ). The QWERTY design is based ...

QWERTY
or the US keyboards are used for writing in Latvian; diacritics are entered by using a
dead key A dead key is a special kind of a modifier key In computing Computing is any goal-oriented activity requiring, benefiting from, or creating computing machinery. It includes the study and experimentation of algorithmic processes and development of ...
(usually ', occasionally ~). Some keyboard layouts use the
modifier key In computing Computing is any goal-oriented activity requiring, benefiting from, or creating computing machinery. It includes the study and experimentation of algorithmic processes and development of both computer hardware , hardware and softwar ...
AltGr AltGr (also Alt Graph) is a modifier key found on many computer keyboards (rather than a second Alt key found on US keyboards). It is primarily used to type characters that are not widely used in the territory where sold, such as foreign cur ...
(most notably the Windows 2000 and XP built-in layout (Latvian QWERTY), it is also default modifier in X11R6, thus a default in most Linux distributions). In the 1990s, lack of software support of diacritics caused an unofficial style of orthography, often called '''', to emerge for use in situations when the user is unable to access Latvian diacritic marks (e-mail, newsgroups, web user forums, chat,
SMS SMS (Short Message Service) is a text messaging service component of most telephone A telephone is a telecommunication Telecommunication is the transmission of information by various types of technologies over wire A wire is ...

SMS
etc.). It uses the only, and letters that are not used in standard orthography are usually omitted. In this style, diacritics are replaced by digraphs – a doubled letter indicates a long vowel (as in Finnish and Estonian); a following ''j'' indicates palatalisation of consonants, i.e., a cedilla; and the postalveolars ''Š'', ''Č'' and ''Ž'' are written with ''h'' replacing the
háček A caron (), háček or haček ( or ; plural ''háčeks'' or ''háčky'') also known as a hachek, wedge, check, kvačica, strešica, mäkčeň, paukščiukas, inverted circumflex, inverted hat, or flying bird, is a diacritic A diacritic (also ...

háček
, as in English. Sometimes the second letter, the one used instead of a diacritic, is changed to one of two other diacritic letters (e.g. š is written as ss or sj, not sh), and since many people may find it difficult to use these unusual methods, they write without any indication of missing diacritic marks, or they use digraphing only if the diacritic mark in question would make a semantic difference. Sometimes an apostrophe is used before or after the character that would properly need to be diacriticised. Also, digraph diacritics are often used and sometimes even mixed with diacritical letters of standard orthography. Although today there is software support available, diacritic-less writing is still sometimes used for financial and social reasons. As ''š'' and ''ž'' are part of the
Windows-1252 Windows-1252 or CP-1252 (code page In computing Computing is any goal-oriented activity requiring, benefiting from, or creating computing machinery. It includes the study and experimentation of algorithm of an algorithm (Euclid's algorith ...

Windows-1252
coding, it is possible to input those two letters using a numerical keypad. Latvian language code for cmd and .bat files - 1257


Comparative orthography

For example, the Lord's Prayer in Latvian written in different styles:


Phonology


Consonants

Consonants in consonant sequences Consonant voicing and devoicing#Voicing assimilation, assimilate to the voicing of the subsequent consonant, e.g. apgabals or labs . Latvian does not feature final-obstruent devoicing. Consonants can be long (written as double consonants) , or short. Plosives and fricatives occurring between two short vowels are lengthened: . Same with 'zs' that is pronounced as , šs and žs as .


Vowels

Latvian has six vowels, with Vowel length, length as distinctive feature: , and the diphthongs involving it other than , are confined to loanwords. Latvian also has 10
diphthong A diphthong ( ; , ), also known as a gliding vowel, is a combination of two adjacent vowel A vowel is a Syllable, syllabic speech sound pronounced without any stricture in the vocal tract. Vowels are one of the two principal classes of spe ...
s, four of which are only found in loanwords (), although some diphthongs are mostly limited to proper names and interjections.


Syllable accent

Standard Latvian and, with some exceptions in derivation and inflection, all of the Latvian dialects have fixed initial stress. Long vowels and diphthongs have a tone, regardless of their position in the word. This includes the so-called "mixed diphthongs", composed of a short vowel followed by a sonorant.


Loanwords

During the period of Livonia many Middle Low German words such as ''amats'' (profession), ''dambis'' (dam), ''būvēt'' (to build) and ''bikses'' (trousers) were borrowed into Latvian, while the period of Swedish Livonia brought loanwords like ''skurstenis'' (chimney) from Swedish language, Swedish. It also has loanwords from the Finnic languages, mainly from Livonian and
Estonian Estonian may refer to: *Something of, from, or related to Estonia, a country in the Baltic region in northern Europe *Estonians, people from Estonia, or of Estonian descent *Estonian language *Estonian cuisine *Estonian culture See also

* * La ...
. There are about 500-600 borrowings from Finnic languages in Latvian, for example: ''māja'' ‘house’ (Liv. ''mōj''), ''puika'' ‘boy’ (Liv. ''pūoga''), ''pīlādzis'' ‘mountain ash’ (Liv. ''pī’lõg''), ''sēne'' ‘mushroom’ (Liv. ''sēņ''). Loanwords from other Baltic language include ''ķermenis'' (body) from Old Prussian language, Old Prussian, as well as ''veikals'' (store) and ''paģiras'' (hangover) from
Lithuanian Lithuanian may refer to: * Lithuanians Lithuanians ( lt, lietuviai, singular ''lietuvis/lietuvė'') are a Balts, Baltic ethnic group. They are native to Lithuania, where they number around 2,561,300 people. Another million or more make up the Lith ...
.


History of the study

The first Latvian dictionary ''Lettus'' compiled by Georg Mancelius was published in 1638. The first grammar of the Latvian language is a short “Manual on the Latvian language” ( lat, Manuductio ad linguam lettonicam) by :lv:Johans Georgs Rehehūzens, published in 1644 in Riga.


Bibliography

* Bielenstein, ''Die lettische Sprache'' (Berlin, 1863–64) * Bielenstein, ''Lettische Grammatik'' (Mitau, 1863) * Bielenstein, ''Die Elemente der lettischen Sprache'' (Mitau, 1866), popular in treatment * Ulmann and Brasche, ''Lettisches Wörterbuch'' (Riga, 1872–80) * Bielenstein, ''Tausend lettische Räthsel, übersetzt und erklärt'' (Mitau, 1881) * Adalbert Bezzenberger, Bezzenberger, ''Lettische Dialekt-Studien'' (Göttingen, 1885) * Bezzenberger, ''Ueber die Sprach der preussischen Letten;; (Göttingen, 1888)'' * Thomsen, ''Beröringer melem de Finske og de Baltiske Sprog'' (Copenhagen, 1890) * Bielenstein, ''Grenzen des lettischen Volksstammes und der lettischen Sprache'' (St. Petersburg, 1892) * Baron and Wissendorff, ''Latwju dainas'' (Latvian Folksongs, Mitau, 1894) * Andreianov, ''Lettische Volkslieder und Mythen'' (Halle, 1896 ) * Bielenstein, ''Ein glückliches Leben'' (Riga, 1904) * Brentano, ''Lehrbuch der lettischen Sprache'' (Vienna, c. 1907) * Holst, ''Lettische Grammatik'' (Hamburg, 2001) * Wolter, "Die lettische Literatur," in ''Die ost-europäische Literaturen'' (Berlin, 1908) * Kalning, ''Kurzer Lettischer Sprachführer'' (Riga, 1910)


Literary histories in Latvian

* Klaushush, ''Latweeschu rakstneezibas wehsture'' (Riga, 1907) * Pludons, ''Latwiju literaturas vēsture'' (Jelgava, 1908–09) * Lehgolnis, ''Latweeschu literaturas wehsture'' (Riga, 1908) * Prande, ''Latviešu Rakstniecība Portrejās'' (Rīga, 1923)


See also

*List of Latvian words borrowed from Old East Slavic


References


Further reading

* * *


External links


Live Latvian-language radio streams online

On line TV in Latvian

Official Language Law in English

Letonika



State (Official) Language Commission (linguistic articles, applicable laws, etc.)

English–Latvian / Latvian–English dictionary

English-Latvian and Latvian–English online translation

Latvian–English Dictionary
fro
Webster's Online Dictionary
nbsp;– The Rosetta Edition
National Agency for Latvian Language Training

Examples of Latvian words and phrases (with sound)



Latvian bilingual dictionaries

Latvian Swadesh list of basic vocabulary words
(from Wiktionary'
Swadesh-list appendix
{{DEFAULTSORT:Latvian Language Latvian language, Languages of Latvia Subject–verb–object languages