Latvian language

Last updated
Lettish [1]
latviešu valoda
Pronunciation [ˈlatviɛʃuˈvaluɔda]
Native to Latvia
Region Baltic
Ethnicity Latvians
Native speakers
1.5 million [2]  (2023)
Early forms
  • Livonian
  • Middle
  • Upper Latvian
Latin (Latvian alphabet)
Latvian Braille
Official status
Official language in
Flag of Latvia.svg  Latvia
Flag of Europe.svg  European Union
Language codes
ISO 639-1 lv
ISO 639-2 lav
ISO 639-3 lav – inclusive code
Individual codes:
lvs    Standard Latvian language
ltg    Latgalian language
Glottolog latv1249
Linguasphere 54-AAB-a
Latvian as primary language at home by municipalities and cities (2011).svg
Use of Latvian as the primary language at home in 2011 by municipalities of Latvia
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Latvian (endonym : latviešu valoda, pronounced [ˈlatviɛʃuˈvaluɔda] ), [3] is an East Baltic language belonging to the Indo-European language family. It belongs to the Baltic subbranch of the Balto-Slavic branch of the family and it is spoken in the Baltic region. It is the language of Latvians and the official language of Latvia as well as one of the official languages of the European Union. [4] There are about 1.2 million native Latvian speakers in Latvia and 100,000 abroad. Altogether, 2 million, or 80% of the population of Latvia, spoke Latvian in the 2000s, before the total number of inhabitants of Latvia slipped to 1.8 million in 2022. [5] Of those, around 1.16 million or 62% of Latvia's population used it as their primary language at home, though excluding the Latgale and Riga regions it is spoken as a native language in villages and towns by over 90% of the population. [6] [7] [8]


As a Baltic language, Latvian is most closely related to neighboring Lithuanian (as well as Old Prussian, an extinct Baltic language); however, Latvian has followed a more rapid development. [9] In addition, there is some disagreement whether Latgalian and Kursenieki, which are mutually intelligible with Latvian, [10] should be considered varieties or separate languages. [11]

Latvian first appeared in print in the mid-16th century with the reproduction of the Lord's Prayer in Latvian in Sebastian Münster's Cosmographia universalis (1544), in Latin script.


Latvian belongs to the Indo-European language family. It is classified as a part of the Baltic subbranch of the Balto-Slavic branch of the family. It is one of two living Baltic languages with an official status (the other being Lithuanian). The Latvian and Lithuanian languages have retained many features of the nominal morphology of Proto-Indo-European, though their phonology and verbal morphology show many innovations (in other words, forms that did not exist in Proto-Indo-European), [12] with Latvian being considerably more innovative than Lithuanian. However, Latvian has been also influenced by the Livonian language. [13] For example, Latvian borrowed first-syllable stress from Finno-Ugric languages. [14]


Distribution of the Baltic tribes, c. 1200 (boundaries are approximate). Baltic Tribes c 1200.svg
Distribution of the Baltic tribes, c.1200 (boundaries are approximate).
In 1649
settlement of the Latvian speaking Kursenieki spanned from Memel (Klaipeda) to Danzig (Gdansk). Curonians kursenieki in 1649.png
In 1649 settlement of the Latvian speaking Kursenieki spanned from Memel (Klaipėda) to Danzig (Gdańsk).
Dictionary of the Polish-Latin-Latvian languages by Georgs Elgers, published in Vilnius, Grand Duchy of Lithuania, 1683 Dictionarium Polono-Latino-Lothavicum opus posthumum (Dictionary of the Polish-Latin-Latvian languages) by Georgs Elgers, Vilnius, 1683.jpg
Dictionary of the Polish-Latin-Latvian languages by Georgs Elgers, published in Vilnius, Grand Duchy of Lithuania, 1683


According to some glottochronological speculations, the East Baltic languages split from West Baltic (or, perhaps, from the hypothetical proto-Baltic language) between 400 and 600 CE. [15] The differentiation between Lithuanian and Latvian started after 800 CE. At a minimum, transitional dialects existed until the 14th century or 15th century, and perhaps as late as the 17th century. [16]

Latvian as a distinct language emerged over several centuries from the language spoken by the ancient Latgalians assimilating the languages of other neighboring 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 and forced christianization, which formed a unified political, economic, and religious space in Medieval Livonia. [17]

16th–18th century

The oldest known examples of written Latvian are from a 1530 translation of a hymn made by Nikolaus Ramm  [ lv ], a German pastor in Riga. [18] The oldest preserved book in Latvian is a 1585 Catholic catechism of Petrus Canisius currently located at the Uppsala University Library. [19]

The first person to translate the Bible into Latvian was the German Lutheran pastor Johann Ernst Glück [20] (The New Testament in 1685 and The Old Testament in 1691). The Lutheran pastor Gotthard Friedrich Stender was a founder of Latvian secular literature. He wrote the first illustrated Latvian alphabet book (1787), the first encyclopedia "The Book of High Wisdom of the World and Nature  [ lv ]" (Augstas gudrības grāmata no pasaules un dabas; 1774), grammar books and Latvian–German and German–Latvian dictionaries.

19th century

Until the 19th century, the Latvian written language was influenced by German Lutheran pastors and the German language, because Baltic Germans formed the upper class of local society. [9] In the middle of the 19th century the First Latvian National Awakening was started, led by "Young Latvians" 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 started.

According to the 1897 Imperial Russian Census, there were 505,994 (75.1%) speakers of Latvian in the Governorate of Courland [21] and 563,829 (43.4%) speakers of Latvian in the Governorate of Livonia, making Latvian-speakers the largest linguistic group in each of the governorates. [22]

20th century

After the death of Alexander III at the end of the 19th century, Latvian nationalist movements re-emerged. In 1908, Latvian linguists Kārlis Mīlenbahs and Jānis Endzelīns 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 becomes Tilikutrija.

After the Soviet occupation of Latvia, the policy of Russification greatly affected the Latvian language. At the same time, the use of Latvian among the Latvians in Russia had already dwindled after the so-called 1937–1938 Latvian Operation of the NKVD, during which at least 16,573 ethnic Latvians and Latvian nationals were executed. In the 1941 June deportation and the 1949 Operation Priboi, tens of thousands of Latvians and other ethnicities were deported from Latvia. Massive immigration from Russian SFSR, Ukrainian SSR, Byelorussian SSR, and other republics of the Soviet Union followed, primarily as a result of Stalin's plan to integrate Latvia and the other Baltic republics into the Soviet Union through 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 Latvian was the language spoken at home by 62% of the country's population. [6] [7]

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. [23]

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, Yiddish, Polish, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Estonian and Roma 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). [24]

The Official Language Law was adopted on 9 December 1999. [25] Several regulatory acts associated with this law have been adopted. Observance of the law is monitored by the Latvian State Language Center run by the Ministry of Justice.

21st century

To counter the influence of Russian and 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 Terminology Commission suggested eira or eirs, with their Latvianized and declinable ending, would be a better term for euro than the widely used eiro, while European Central Bank insisted that the original name euro be used in all languages. [26] New terms are Latvian derivatives, calques or new loanwords. For example, Latvian has two words for "telephone"—tālrunis and telefons, 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 dators or kompjūters. Both are loanwords; the native Latvian word for "computer" is skaitļotājs, which is also an official term. However, now dators has been considered an appropriate translation, skaitļotājs is also used.

There are several contests held annually to promote the correct use of Latvian. One of them is "Word of the year" (Gada vārds) organized by the Riga Latvian Society since 2003. [27] It features categories such as the "Best word", "Worst word", "Best saying" and "Word salad". In 2018 the word zibmaksājums (instant payment) won the category of "Best word" and influenceris (influencer) won the category of "Worst word". [28] The word pair of straumēt (stream) and straumēšana (streaming) were named the best words of 2017, while transporti as an unnecessary plural of the name for transport was chosen as the worst word of 2017. [29]


A young man speaking in Latvian

There are three dialects 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

Geographical distribution of the dialects in Latvia. Varieties of the Livonian dialect (Libiskais dialekts) are in blue, the Middle dialect (Vidus dialekts) in green, the Upper dialect (Augszemnieku dialekts) in yellow. Latvaldialekti.svg
Geographical distribution of the dialects in Latvia. Varieties of the Livonian dialect (Lībiskais dialekts) are in blue, the Middle dialect (Vidus dialekts) in green, the Upper dialect (Augšzemnieku dialekts) in yellow.
Languages and dialects in Latvia around 1860. 1: Middle dialect, or Latvian written language, 2: the "purest" Latvian language, 3: Courlanders variant (Nordwestkurisch oder Tamisch), 4: the real estimater's variant (eigentliches Tamisch), 5: the northern variant of Livonian-Latvian (nordliches Live-Lettisch), 6: Highland dialect (Oberlandischer Dialekt oder Hochlettisch), 7: "True" Highland dialect (eigentliches Oberlandisch), 9: Livonian language (Livisch) Julius Doring, Tafel I, Karte des lettischen Sprachgebiets ca1860.jpg
Languages and dialects in Latvia around 1860. 1: Middle dialect, or Latvian written language, 2: the "purest" Latvian language, 3: Courlanders variant (Nordwestkurisch oder Tamisch), 4: the real estimater's variant (eigentliches Tamisch), 5: the northern variant of Livonian-Latvian (nordliches Live-Lettisch), 6: Highland dialect (Oberländischer Dialekt oder Hochlettisch), 7: "True" Highland dialect (eigentliches Oberländisch), 9: Livonian language (Livisch)

The Livonian dialect of Latvian was more affected by the Livonian language substratum than Latvian in other parts of Latvia. It is divided into the Vidzeme variety and the Courland variety (also called tāmnieku). There are two syllable intonations in the Livonian dialect, extended and broken. In the Livonian dialect, short vowels at the end of words are discarded, while long vowels are shortened. In all genders and numbers, only one form of the verb is used. Personal names in both genders are derived with the endings -els, -ans. In prefixes ie is changed to e. Due to migration and the introduction of a standardised language, this dialect has declined. It arose from assimilated Livonians, who started to speak in Latvian and assimilated Livonian grammar into Latvian. Although initially its last native speaker, Grizelda Kristiņa, died in 2013, [30] a child, Kuldi Medne, born in 2020 is reported to be a native speaker of Livonian. Her parents are Livonian language revival activists Jānis Mednis and Renāte Medne. [31] The Latvian Government continued attempts to preserve the dialect following the restoration of independence in 1990 and currently it is learned by some people as a hobby. [8] [32]

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, which used to be spoken along Curonian Spit, is closely related to the varieties of the Middle dialect spoken in Courland.

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, the Latgalian language, which is based on deep non-Selonian varieties spoken in the south of Latgale. The term "Latgalian" is sometimes also applied to all non-Selonian varieties or even the whole dialect. However, it is unclear if using the term for any varieties besides the standard language is accurate. While the term may refer to varieties spoken in Latgale or by Latgalians, not all speakers identify as speaking Latgalian, for example, speakers of deep Non-Selonian varieties in Vidzeme explicitly deny speaking Latgalian. [33] It is spoken by approximately 15% of Latvia's population, but almost all of its speakers are also fluent in the standard Latvian language and they promote the dialect in popular culture in order to preserve their distinct culture. [8] The Latvian Government since 1990 has also taken measures to protect the dialect from extinction. [8]

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 many non-native speakers speak it compared to native speakers. The immigrant and minority population in Latvia is 700,000 people: Russians, Belarusians, Ukrainians, Poles, and others. The majority of immigrants settled in Latvia between 1940 and 1991;[ citation needed ] supplementing pre-existing ethnic minority communities (Latvian Germans, Latvian Jews, Latvian Russians). The trends show that the proficiency of Latvian among its non-native speakers is gradually increasing. In a 2009 survey by the 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%. [34]

The increased adoption of Latvian by minorities was brought about by its status as the country's only official language and other changes in the society after the fall of the Soviet Union that mostly shifted linguistic focus away from Russian. 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.


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. There are no articles in Latvian; definiteness is expressed by an inflection of adjectives. Basic word order in Latvian is subject–verb–object; however, word order is relatively free.


There are two grammatical genders in Latvian (masculine and feminine) and two numbers, singular and plural. Nouns, adjectives, and declinable participles decline into seven cases: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental, locative, and vocative. There are six declensions for nouns.


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


Latvian in Latin script was first based upon the German orthography, 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:

Majuscule forms (also called uppercase or capital letters)
Minuscule forms (also called lowercase or small letters)

The modern standard Latvian alphabet uses 22 unmodified letters of the Latin alphabet (all except q, w, x, y). It adds a further eleven characters by modification. The vowel letters a , e , i and u 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 , s and z are pronounced [ts], [s] and [z] respectively, while when marked with a caron, č, š, ž, they are pronounced [tʃ], [ʃ] and [ʒ] respectively. The letters ģ, ķ, ļ, ņ, written with a comma placed underneath (or above them for lowercase g), which indicate palatalized versions of g, k, l, n representing the sounds [ɟ], [c], [ʎ] and [ɲ]. Latvian orthography also contains nine digraphs, which are written ai, au, ei, ie, iu, ui, oi, dz, dž. 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 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 e, ē represent two different sounds: æ/ and /ɛːæː/. The second mismatch is that letter o indicates both the short and long [ɔ], and the diphthong [uɔ]. These three sounds are written as o, ō and uo in Latgalian, and some Latvians campaign for the adoption of this system in standard Latvian. However, Latvian grammarians argue that o and ō are found only in loanwords, with the /uɔ/ sound being the only native Latvian phoneme. The digraph uo was discarded in 1914, and the letters ō and ŗ have not been used in the official Latvian language since 1946. Likewise, the digraph ch was discarded in 1957, although ō, ŗ, and ch are still used in some varieties and by many Latvians living beyond the borders of Latvia. The letter y is used only in Latgalian, where it represents /ɨ/, a sound not present in other dialects.

Old orthography

Latvian Lutheran hymnbook in old orthography. Old latvian bible.jpg
Latvian Lutheran hymnbook in old orthography.

The old orthography was based on German and did not represent the Latvian language phonemically. Initially, 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: 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 mark in the ending indicating two accents. Consonants were written using multiple letters following the example of German. The old orthography was used until the 20th century when modern orthography slowly replaced it.

Latvian on computers

The rarely used Latvian ergonomic keyboard layout Latvian Ergonomic Keyboard Layout.png
The rarely used Latvian ergonomic keyboard layout

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 did not gain popularity due to its need for a custom-built keyboard. [35]

Nowadays standard QWERTY or the US keyboards are used for writing in Latvian; diacritics are entered by using a dead key (usually ', occasionally ~). [35] Some keyboard layouts use the modifier key AltGr (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 translits , to emerge for use in situations when the user is unable to access Latvian diacritic marks (e-mail, newsgroups, web user forums, chat, SMS etc.). It uses the basic Modern Latin alphabet 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, 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. [36] 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 coding, it is possible to input those two letters using a numerical keypad. Latvian language code for cmd and .bat files - Windows-1257

Comparative orthography

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

First orthography
(Cosmographia Universalis, 1544)
Old orthography, 1739 [37] Modern orthographyInternet-style
Muuſze Thews exkan tho DebbesMuhſu Tehvs debbeſîsMūsu tēvs debesīsMuusu teevs debesiis
Sweetyttz thope totws waerdtczSwehtits lai top taws wahrdsSvētīts lai top tavs vārdsSveetiits lai top tavs vaards
Enaka mums touwe walſtibeLai nahk tawa walſtibaLai nāk tava valstībaLai naak tava valstiiba
Tows praetcz noteſeTaws prahts lai noteekTavs prāts lai notiekTavs praats lai notiek
ka exkan Debbes tha arridtczan wuerſſon ſemmeskà debbeſîs tà arirdſan zemes wirsûKā debesīs, tā arī virs zemesKaa debesiis taa arii virs zemes
Muſze beniſke mayſe bobe mums ſdjobenMuhsu deeniſchtu maizi dod mums ſchodeenMūsu dienišķo maizi dod mums šodienMuusu dienishkjo maizi dod mums shodien
Vnbe pammet mums muſſe parrabeUn pametti mums muhſu parradus [later parahdus]Un piedod mums mūsu parādusUn piedod mums muusu paraadus
ka mehs pammettam muſſims parabenekimskà arri mehs pamettam ſaweem parrahdneekeemKā arī mēs piedodam saviem parādniekiemKaa arii mees piedodam saviem paraadniekiem
Vnbe nhe wedde mums exkan kaerbenaſchenneUn ne eeweddi muhs eekſch kahrdinaſchanasUn neieved mūs kārdināšanāUn neieved muus kaardinaashanaa
Seth atpeſthmums no to lounebet atpeſti muhs no ta launa [later łauna]Bet atpestī mūs no ļaunaBet atpestii muus no ljauna
Aefto thouwa gir ta walſtibeJo tew peederr ta walſtibaJo tev pieder valstībaJo tev pieder valstiiba
Vnbe tas ſpeez vnb tas Goobtcz tur muſſige.Un tas ſpehks un tas gods muhſchigi [later muhzigi].Spēks un gods mūžīgi. Speeks un gods muuzhiigi.



Latvian consonants
Labial Dental/Alveolar Post-alveolar/Palatal Velar
Nasal mnɲ[ŋ]
Stop p  bt  dc  ɟk  ɡ
Affricate  t͡s  d͡zt͡ʃ  d͡ʒ 
Fricative (f)  vs  zʃ  ʒ(x)
Central approximant/Trill  rj 
Lateral approximant  lʎ 

Consonants in consonant sequences assimilate to the voicing of the subsequent consonant, e.g. apgabals [ˈabɡabals] or labs [ˈlaps]. Latvian does not feature final-obstruent devoicing.

Consonants can be long (written as double consonants) mamma[ˈmamːa], or short. Plosives and fricatives occurring between two short vowels are lengthened: upe[ˈupːe]. Same with 'zs' that is pronounced as /sː/, šs and žs as /ʃː/.


Latvian has six vowels, with length as distinctive feature:

Latvian vowels
  Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid e (ɔ)(ɔː)
Open ææːa 

ɔː/, and the diphthongs involving it other than /uɔ/, are confined to loanwords.

Latvian also has 10 diphthongs, four of which are only found in loanwords (/aiuiɛiauiu(ɔi)ɛu(ɔu)/), 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.


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. [38] It also has loanwords from the Finnic languages, mainly from Livonian and Estonian. [39] 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). [14]

Loanwords from other Baltic language include ķermenis (body) from Old Prussian, as well as veikals (store) and paģiras (hangover) from Lithuanian. [38]

History of the study

The first Latvian dictionary Lettus compiled by Georg Mancelius was published in 1638. [40]

The first grammar of the Latvian language is a short “Manual on the Latvian language” (Latin : Manuductio ad linguam lettonicam) by Johans Georgs Rehehūzens  [ lv ], published in 1644 in Riga. [41]


Literary histories in Latvian

See also

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Lithuanian is an East Baltic language belonging to the Baltic branch of the Indo-European language family. It is the language of Lithuanians and the official language of Lithuania as well as one of the official languages of the European Union. There are approximately 2.8 million native Lithuanian speakers in Lithuania and about 1 million speakers elsewhere. Around half a million inhabitants of Lithuania of non-Lithuanian background speak Lithuanian daily as a second language.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Livonian language</span> Finnic language in western Latvia

The Livonian language is a Finnic language whose native land is the Livonian Coast of the Gulf of Livonia, located in the north of the Kurzeme peninsula in Latvia but also used to be spoken in the Salaca River. Although initially its last native speaker died in 2013, a child, Kuldi Medne, born in 2020 is reported to be a native speaker of Livonian. Her parents are Livonian language revival activists Jānis Mednis and Renāte Medne. Also, there are about 40 reported L2 speakers and 210 having reported some knowledge of the language. Possibly uniquely among the Uralic languages but similarly to Latvian and Lithuanian, Livonian has been described as a pitch-accent language.

A phonemic orthography is an orthography in which the graphemes correspond to the language's phonemes. Natural languages rarely have perfectly phonemic orthographies; a high degree of grapheme–phoneme correspondence can be expected in orthographies based on alphabetic writing systems, but they differ in how complete this correspondence is. English orthography, for example, is alphabetic but highly nonphonemic; it was once mostly phonemic during the Middle English stage, when the modern spellings originated, but spoken English changed rapidly while the orthography was much more stable, resulting in the modern nonphonemic situation. On the contrary the Albanian, Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian/Montenegrin, Romanian, Italian, Turkish, Spanish, Finnish, Czech, Latvian, Esperanto, Korean and Swahili orthographic systems come much closer to being consistent phonemic representations.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Livonians</span> Ethnic group in the Baltics

The Livonians, or Livs, are a Balto-Finnic people indigenous to northern and northwestern Latvia. Livonians historically spoke Livonian, a Uralic language closely related to Estonian and Finnish. Initially, the last person to have learned and spoken Livonian as a mother tongue, Grizelda Kristiņa, died in 2013, making Livonian a dormant language. In 2020, it was reported that newborn Kuldi Medne had once again become the only living person who speaks Livonian as their first language. As of 2010, there were approximately 30 people who had learned it as a second language.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Selonians</span>

The Selonians were a tribe of Baltic peoples. They lived until the 15th century in Selonia, located in southeastern Latvia and northeastern Lithuania. They eventually merged with neighbouring tribes, contributing to the ethnogenesis of modern Latvians and Lithuanians. They spoke the Eastern Baltic Selonian language.

Samogitian is an Eastern Baltic language spoken mostly in Samogitia. Although originally regarded as a Lithuanian dialect, Samogitian has since been recognized as a separate language inside and outside of Lithuania, obtaining increasingly more recognition as a distinct language in the recent years. Several attempts have been made to standardize it.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Historical Latvian Lands</span> Regions of Latvia

Historical Latvian Lands or formerly Cultural regions of Latvia are several areas within Latvia formally recognised as distinct from the rest of the country. These are: Kurzeme (Courland), Zemgale, Latgale, Vidzeme, and Sēlija (Selonia). While some of these regions are seen purely as culturally distinct, others have historically been parts of different countries and have been used to divide the country for administrative and other purposes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Latgalian language</span> Eastern Baltic language

Latgalian is an Eastern Baltic language, although it is sometimes considered a dialect of Latvian. The Latvian language law classifies it as a "historical form of Latvian". It is mostly spoken in Latgale, the eastern part of Latvia. Its standardized form is recognized and protected as a "historical language of Latvia" under national law. The 2011 Latvian census established that 8.8% of Latvia's inhabitants, or 164,500 people, speak Latgalian daily. 97,600 of them live in Latgale, 29,400 in Riga and 14,400 in the Riga Planning Region.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Semigallia</span> Historic region in Latvia

Semigallia, also spelt Semigalia, is one of the Historical Latvian Lands located to the south of the Daugava river and to the north of the Saule region of Samogitia. The territory is split between Latvia and Lithuania, previously inhabited by the Semigallian Baltic tribe. They are noted for their long resistance (1219–1290) against the German crusaders and Teutonic Knights during the Northern Crusades. Semigallians had close linguistic and cultural ties with Samogitians.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">East Baltic languages</span> Group of languages belonging to the Baltic language family

The East Baltic languages are a group of languages that along with the extinct West Baltic languages belong to the Baltic branch of the Indo-European language family. The East Baltic branch has only four living languages—Latvian, Latgalian, Lithuanian, and Samogitian. It also includes now-extinct Selonian, Semigallian, and possibly Old Curonian.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shina language</span> Indo-Aryan language primarily spoken in Gilgit-Baltistan and Gurez valley

Shina is a Dardic language of Indo-Aryan language family spoken by the Shina people. In Pakistan, Shina is the major language in Gilgit-Baltistan spoken by an estimated 1,146,000 people living mainly in Gilgit-Baltistan and Kohistan. A small community of Shina speakers is also found in India, in the Guraiz valley of Jammu and Kashmir and in Dras valley of Ladakh. Outliers of Shina language such as Brokskat are found in Ladakh, Kundal Shahi in Azad Kashmir, Palula and Sawi in Chitral, Ushojo in the Swat Valley and Kalkoti in Dir.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vidzeme</span> Historical region in Latvia

Vidzeme is one of the Historical Latvian Lands. The capital of Latvia, Riga, is situated in the southwestern part of the region. Literally meaning "the Middle Land", it is situated in north-central Latvia north of the Daugava River. Sometimes in German, it was also known as Livland, the German form from Latin Livonia, though it comprises only a small part of Medieval Livonia and about half of Swedish Livonia. Most of the region's inhabitants are Latvians (85%), thus Vidzeme is the most ethnically Latvian region in the country.

The modern Latvian orthography is based on Latin script adapted to phonetic principles, following the pronunciation of the language. The standard alphabet consists of 33 letters – 22 unmodified Latin letters and 11 modified by diacritics. It was developed by the Knowledge Commission of the Riga Latvian Association in 1908, and was approved the same year by the orthography commission under the leadership of Kārlis Mīlenbahs and Jānis Endzelīns. It was introduced by law from 1920 to 1922 in the Republic of Latvia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Finnish language</span> Uralic language mostly spoken in Finland

Finnish is a Uralic language of the Finnic branch, spoken by the majority of the population in Finland and by ethnic Finns outside of Finland. Finnish is one of the two official languages of Finland. In Sweden, both Finnish and Meänkieli are official minority languages. The Kven language, which like Meänkieli is mutually intelligible with Finnish, is spoken in the Norwegian counties Troms and Finnmark by a minority group of Finnish descent.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Norwegian orthography</span> Norwegian language writing conventions

Norwegian orthography is the method of writing the Norwegian language, of which there are two written standards: Bokmål and Nynorsk. While Bokmål has for the most part derived its forms from the written Danish language and Danish-Norwegian speech, Nynorsk gets its word forms from Aasen's reconstructed "base dialect", which is intended to represent the distinctive dialectal forms. Both standards use a 29-letter variant of the Latin alphabet and the same orthographic principles.

Kohistani Shina is an Indo-Aryan language spoken in the former Kohistan District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, northern Pakistan. According to Ethnologue, Kohistani Shina is mutually intelligible with the Shina variety of Chilas, but not with the standard dialect of Gilgit. Bateri and Kalkoti speakers speak Kohistani Shina as a second language. Indus Kohistani loanwords can be found in the language. A grammar and a dictionary of the language have been published.


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Further reading