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Latvian (latviešu valoda), also known as Lettish, is an Eastern Baltic language, alongside Lithuanian, spoken natively in Latvia and by Latvian diaspora abroad.[1] It is written in the Latvian alphabet, a Latin-based alphabet. Latvian has retained many features of Proto-Indo-European in comparison to other Indo-European languages.[2][3] Languages that have influenced Latvian vocabulary include Russian,[4] German,[5] and Estonian.[6]

Orthography Edit

Latvian uses the Latin script, with extra characters marked by diacritics, and lacking q, w, x, and y. Letters with macrons (ā, ē, ī, ū) are long vowels. In addition, letters č, ģ, ķ, ļ, ņ, š, and ž appear. Letters f, h and o (/o/, /o:/) are only found in loanwords.[7]

Vowels Edit

Grapheme IPA
a /ɑ/
ā /ɑː/
e /e/, /æ/
ē /eː/, /æː/
i /i/
ī /i:/
o /uɔ/, /o/, /o:/
u /u/
ū /u:/

Consonants Edit

Grapheme IPA
b /b/
c /t̪͡s̪/
č /t͡ʃ/
d /d̪/
dz /d̪͡z̪/
/d͡ʒ/
f /f/
g /g/
ģ /ɟ/
h /x/
j /j/
k /k/
ķ /c/
l /l/
ļ /ʎ/
m /m/
n /n̪/, /ŋ/
ņ /ɲ/
p /p/
r /r/
s /s̪/
š /ʃ/
t /t̪/
v /v/
z /z̪/
ž /ʒ/

Rules Edit

  • Consonants b, d, g, z, ž, dz, dž are pronounced like p, t, k, s, š, c, č respectively before voiceless consonants, and vice versa before voiced consonants.[8]
  • Word-ending ds and ts are pronounced like c, while šs and žs are pronounced like š.
  • Consonants v and j are pronounced similarly to vowels u and i respectively after short vowels. Between vowels and diphthongs, v might be pronounced like w.
  • Similar to in English, the consonant n before g or k is pronounced like /ŋ/.

Latvians tend to Latvianize foreign names when writing them, for example John Lennon will be written as Džons Lenons and Taylor Swift will be written as Teilore Svifta.[citation needed]

Grammar Edit

Latvian has 7 cases, 2 genders, 3 tenses, 3 compound perfect constructions, and 5 moods. There are no articles. Word order is flexible, but the standard word order in Latvian is Subject-Verb-Object.[9] Adjectives come before nouns. Prepositions are used.

Pronouns Edit

Singular Plural
1st person Es (I) Mēs (we)
2nd person Tu (informal), Jūs (formal) (You) Jūs (you)
3rd person Viņš (masc.), viņa (fem.) (he, she) Viņi (they)

Genders Edit

Masculine nouns end in an s or š in the nominative case. Meanwhile, feminine nouns end in in a, e, or an s.[10] Gender affects adjectives, plural forms, case declension.

Masculine noun Translation Feminine noun Translation
Vīrs Man Sieva Woman
Latvietis Latvian (male) Latviete Latvian (female)
Draugs Friend (male) Draudzene Friend (female)
Koks Tree Māja House
Skapis Wardrobe Upe River
Tirgus Market Nakts Night
Masculine adjective Feminine adjective English translation
Sarkans Sarkana Red
Garš Gara Tall, long
Labs Laba Good
Slikts Slikta Bad
Latvisks Latviska Latvian

Plural Edit

The plural form of a word depends on its gender and ending. For masculine nouns, one ending in s or us will have s or us changed into i, and one ending in is will have is changed into ji in the nominative case.[11] For feminine nouns, one ending in a or e will add s, and one ending in s will have s changed into is.[12] Number also affect case declensions.

Singular Plural
Vīrs Vīri
Latvietis Latvieši
Draugs Draugi
Koks Koki
Skapis Skapji
Tirgus Tirgi
Sieva Sievas
Latviete Latvietes
Draudzene Draudzenes
Māja Mājas
Upe Upes
Nakts Naktis

Adjectives are affected by number.

Singular Plural
Masculine Labs Labi
Feminine Laba Labas

Declension Edit

Nouns will have different endings based on their function or purpose in a sentence. These different functions are called cases. The nominative case is used in the dictionary, in the subject of the sentence, and for both nouns in constructions like "(noun) (copula) (noun)". The genitive case marks possession. The dative case is typically used to mean "to" or "for". The accusative case is used for the direct object of the sentence. The instrumental case is used to express that an action was done "with" or "through" someone or something. The locative case is used to mean "in" or "at". And finally, the vocative case is used to address someone or something. Some nouns will take different case endings depending on the verb. You may likely need examples or practice to understand when to use cases, so there are some basic examples below.

Case sg. masc. pl. masc. sg. fem. pl. fem.
Nominative Koks Koki Māja Mājas
Genitive Koka Koku Mājas Māju
Dative Kokam Kokiem Mājai Mājām
Accusative Koku Kokus Māju Mājas
Instrumental Koku Kokiem Māju Mājām
Locative Kokā Kokos Mājā Mājās
Vocative Koks Koki Māja Mājas

Remember that there are more declension endings based on noun ending (masc.: s, is, us; fem: a, e, s) not shown in the chart above.

Adjectives are also affected by the case of the nouns they describe.

Conjugation Edit

Latvian verbs have different conjugations depending on whether they, in their infinitive (dictionary) forms, end in āt, ēt, īt, ot, or t.[13] Like in most if not all languages, there are irregular verbs that you should look into, like būt below.

Būt - to be Edit

Past Present Future
Es Biju Esmu Būšu
Tu Biji Esi Būsi
Viņ(š/a) Bija Ir Būs
Mēs Bijām Esam Būsim
Jūs Bijāt Esat Būsit
Viņi Bija Ir Būs

Example of regular conjugation Edit

Strādāt - to work

Past Present Future
Es Strādāju Strādāju Strādāšu
Tu Strādāji Strādā Strādāsi
Viņ(š/a) Strādāja Strādā Strādās
Mēs Strādājām Strādājam Strādāsim
Jūs Strādājāt Strādājat Strādāsiet
Viņi Strādāja Strādā Strādās

Negation Edit

Negation is usually expressed by adding the prefix ne to a verb.

Pronoun and verb Negated
Es strādāju Es nestrādāju
Tu strādā Tu nestrādā
Mēs strādājam Mēs nestrādājam

Note that the negated form of ir, the present tense "is", is nav.

Latvian makes use of double negatives.[citation needed]

Prefixes Edit

There is a number of prefixes on verbs and adjectives used to change their meanings.[14]

Typical meaning Example English
Aiz- Under, toward, away, closed
Ap- Around, about
At- Away, open
Ie- In, into
Iz- Out, out of
No- From
Pa- Under, for a short time
Pie- To, to the front, joining, in addition
Priekš- Ahead of, before
Pār- Above, over
Sa- (marker of perfective aspect)
Uz- On, onto

Resources Edit

General Resources Edit

Resource Duolingo Lingvist Clozemaster Memrise JW Languages Lingq
Available? No No Yes Yes No No
Resource Assimil Pimsleur Michel Thomas Language Transfer Rosetta Stone Ba Ba Dum
Available? No No No No No No

Dictionaries Edit

  • Letonika - Online Latvian-English dictionary
  • Freelang - Offline Latvian-English dictionary, with flashcard practice and options to add or modify entries

Literature Edit

News Edit

Movies Edit

TV Series Edit

Music Edit

YouTube Edit

  • Palīgā! - Listening and vocabulary practice with Latvian subtitles

Brotips Edit

  • Do not fret over conjugation and declension charts. You should familiarize yourself with these rules one by one through using and practicing Latvian, not by memorizing a chart by heart.

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