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Lesson 10: Latvian

Lilita Zalkalns, Peteris Vanags, and Jonathan Slocum

The initiator and translator of the first Latvian Bible, Johann Ernst Glück (1654-1705), was born in Wettin, Saxony. He went to Latin school in Altenburg, Thüringen, and later studied theology at Wittenberg University. From the age of 21 he spent some years in Livonia, learning Latvian and Estonian.

Glück then returned to Germany to improve his knowledge of Hebrew and Old Greek at Leipzig University under the tutelage of Esdras Edzardus (1629-1708), a renowned orientalist. In 1680 he was appointed minister of the Swedish regiment at Dünamünde, near Riga. He married Christina Emerentia von Reuter, daughter of a Baltic-German army officer. In 1682 Glück was appointed pastor of the large Aluksne parish, which extended from the river Daugava in the south to the town of Aluksne to the north-east. Here he completed the translation of the Bible into Latvian and began to translate the Bible into Russian.

In the 1690s Martha Skavronska (1685-1727), a peasant child of unknown parentage, was taken in by the Glücks to help look after the six Glück children. When Aluksne was occupied by the Russian army in 1702, the Glück family and Martha Skavronska were taken as prisoners to Moscow. As well-born prisoners, the Glücks were treated well by the Russians. Glück was appointed head of a newly established Latin gymnasium, and for a year he was also the private tutor of the Tsarevitch. Martha Skavronska, due to her beauty, pleasant nature and wit, became the mistress of Tsar Peter I and after their marriage was crowned as Catherine I.

Throughout his life, Ernst Glück was tireless in his work of explaining the word of God and educating the masses. He believed in following the letter and intent of the law of the land, and therefore was often involved in disputes with colleagues and superiors. In 1683, he established the first three schools in the Livonian countryside for children of peasants. Previously, there had been only four schools in the larger towns for children of the aristrocracy.

Glück, either alone or with assistants, translated the following into Latvian: the Book of Worship (1690), the Little Catechism (1699, frequently reprinted until 1818), the Latvian Prayer Book (compiled 1686) and the complete Bible (1685-1694).

As a prisoner in Moscow, he continued to translate the Bible into Russian -- though, unfortunately, this manuscript has been lost. He founded a weekly Russian newspaper and translated works of classical authors and books about navigation, the art of war and history. He also wrote poetry in Russian.

Ernst Glück died in Moscow in 1705. Due to Martha Skavronska's connections and care, Glück's widow and children were well provided for. Christina Emerentia Glück was bequeathed two country estate holdings in present-day Estonia, where she died in 1745, having survived her husband by 40 years.

Reading and Textual Analysis

The translation of the Latvian Bible by pastor Johann Ernst Glück and his helpers was one of the most important events at the end of the 17th century. This work, totalling over 2500 pages, was the most extensive printed work in the Latvian language for several centuries.

The New Testament was published in 1685, the Old Testament in 1689 and the Apocrypha in 1692. The distribution of the Bible began in 1694 and was actively supported by the King Charles XI of Sweden, who ordered that a part of the total of 1,500 printed Bibles were to be distributed to parish churches and schools without cost. The Glück Bible became the basic reader and work of reference for the Latvian peasantry until well into the 19th century. Thus the orthography and language of the Bible, which was based on the Central dialect, also became the basis of Modern Standard Latvian.

The Bible was published in the Gothic (fraktur) script, a tradition that continued in printed Latvian well into the 20th century. Handwritten texts, however, were written in Latin letters.

Johann Ernst Glück admitted that his Latvian translations of the Bible and other religious texts were important improvements over earlier translations carried out by other clergymen. However, he was not able to reform the German language-based writing traditions that were in use at the time, nor could he significantly erase the heavy traces of German syntax and concepts from his Latvian translations. A very obvious example of German language influence is the use of the Latvian demonstrative pronoun tas 'that' to translate the German definite article der.

The orthographic rules of this period can be generalized as follows:

  1. doubled consonants indicate that the previous vowel is short;
  2. nouns are capitalized;
  3. differentiation is made between the conjunction ir 'and' and verb irr 'is';
  4. a topped by a circumflex = locative ending a';
  5. e topped by a circumflex = locative ending e';
  6. ee = ie;
  7. h = a silent letter to indicate the lengthening of the previous vowel in word roots and in some endings;
  8. crossed-over k = k';
  9. crossed-over n = n';
  10. s = z in word initial and middle position;
  11. long crossed-over s in the beginning or middle of a word = s;
  12. long crossed-over s + ch = s';
  13. s + ch = z';
  14. z = c;
  15. w = v.

The orthographic representation of the text presented below -- chapter 2 of the Gospel according to Matthew -- has been transcribed from the Gothic script and partly modernized. A transcription which fully follows the original spelling can be studied at http://www.ailab.lv/SENIE/static/Mt.html. The base forms of the words below, enclosed by < >, are given in Modern Standard Latvian.

1 - Un kad Jesus dsimmis bij Betleme' eeksch Juddo Semmes, tha K'ehnin'a Erodus Laika', redsi, tad nahze Gudree no Austruma Semmes us Jerusalemi, un sazzija:

  • Un -- conjunction <un> and -- and
  • kad -- adverb <kad> when -- when
  • Jesus -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Je'zus> Jesus -- Jesus
  • dsimmis -- verb; nominative singular masculine past active participle of <dzimt, dzimstu, dzimu> to be born -- been born
  • bij -- verb; 3rd person singular preterit of <bu't, esmu, biju> to be -- had
  • Betleme' -- proper noun, feminine; locative singular of <Bethlehem> Bethlehem -- in Bethlehem
  • eeksch -- adverb; <ieks'> in -- in
  • Juddo -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <ju'ds> Jew -- of the Jews
  • Semmes -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <zeme> land, country -- land
  • tha -- demonstrative pronoun; genitive singular masculine of <tas, ta'> that -- the
  • K'ehnin'a -- noun, masculine; genitive singular of <k'e'nin's'> king -- of king
  • Erodus -- proper noun, masculine; genitive singular of <Herods> Herod -- Herod
  • Laika' -- noun, masculine; locative singular of <laiks> time -- in the days
  • redsi -- verb; 2nd person singular imperfect of <redze't, redzu, redze'ju> to see -- behold
  • tad -- adverb; <tad> then, after that -- then
  • nahze -- verb; 3rd person plural preterit of <na'kt, na'ku, na'cu> to come -- came
  • Gudree -- definite adjective; nominative plural masculine of <gudrais> wise man -- wise men
  • no -- preposition <no> from -- from
  • Austruma -- noun, masculine; genitive singular of <austrums> east -- the east
  • Semmes -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <zeme> land, country -- ...
  • us -- preposition <uz> on, upon -- to
  • Jerusalemi -- proper noun, feminine; accusative singular of <Jeruza'leme> Jerusalem -- Jerusalem
  • un -- conjunction <un> and -- and
  • sazzija -- verb; 3rd person preterit of <saci't, saku, saci'ju> to say -- said

2 - Kur irr tas peedsimmis K'ehnin'sch tho Juddo? jo mehs essam vin'n'a Swaigsni redsejschi Austruma Semme', un nahkuschi to peeluhgt.

  • Kur -- adverb <kur> where -- where
  • irr -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <bu't, esmu, biju> to be -- is
  • tas -- demonstrative pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <tas, ta'> that -- he
  • peedsimmis -- verb; nominative singular masculine past active participle of <piedzimt, piedzimstu, piedzimu> to be born -- who is born
  • K'ehnin'sch -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <k'e'nin's'> king -- king
  • tho -- demonstrative pronoun; genitive plural masculine of <tas, ta'> that -- of the
  • Juddo -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <ju'ds> Jew -- Jews
  • jo -- adverb <jo> because -- for
  • mehs -- pronoun; nominative plural of <es> I -- we
  • essam -- verb; 1st person plural present of <bu't, esmu, biju> to be -- have
  • vin'n'a -- pronoun; genitive singular masculine of <vin's'> he -- his
  • Swaigsni -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <zvaigzne> star -- star
  • redsejschi -- verb; nominative plural masculine past active participle of <redze't, redzu, redze'ju> to see -- seen
  • Austruma -- noun, masculine; genitive singular of <austrums> east -- in the eastern
  • Semme' -- noun, feminine; locative singular of <zeme> land, country -- land
  • un -- conjunction <un> and -- and
  • nahkuschi -- verb; nominative plural masculine past active participle of <na'kt, na'ku, na'cu> to come -- have come
  • to -- demonstrative pronoun; accusative singular masculine of <tas, ta'> that -- him
  • peeluhgt -- verb; infinitive of <pielu'gt, pielu'dzu, pielu'dzu> to worship -- to worship

3 - Kad tas K'ehnin'sch Erodus to dsirdeja, issabijajahs vin'sch, un vissa Jerusaleme ar vin'n'a.

  • Kad -- adverb; <kad> when -- when
  • tas -- demonstrative pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <tas, ta'> that -- ...
  • K'ehnin'sch -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <k'e'nin's'> king -- king
  • Erodus -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Herods> Herod -- Herod
  • to -- demonstrative pronoun; accusative singular masculine of <tas, ta'> that -- it
  • dsirdeja -- verb; 3rd person singular preterit of <dzirde't, dzirdu, dzirde'ju> to hear -- heard
  • issabijajahs -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <izsabija'ties, izsabija'jos, izsabija'jos> to be frightened -- was troubled
  • vin'sch -- pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <vin's'> he -- he
  • un -- conjunction <un> and -- and
  • vissa -- adjective; nominative singular feminine of <viss> all -- all
  • Jerusaleme -- proper noun, feminine; nominative singular of <Jeruza'leme> Jerusalem -- Jerusalem
  • ar -- preposition <ar> with, together, and -- with
  • vin'n'a -- pronoun; genitive singular masculine of <vin's'> he -- him

4 - Un saaizinajs vissus Augstus Preester'us un Raksta Mahzitajus starp teem L'audim isklausija vin'sch no teem: Kur Kristum bij dsimt?

  • Un -- conjunction <un> and -- and
  • saaizinajs -- verb; nominative singular masculine past active participle of <saaicina't, saaicinu, saaicina'ju> to invite -- having gathered
  • vissus -- adjective; accusative plural masculine of <viss> all -- all
  • Augstus -- adjective; accusative plural masculine of <augsts> high, chief -- chief
  • Preester'us -- noun, masculine; accusative plural of <priesteris> priest -- priests
  • un -- conjunction <un> and -- and
  • Raksta -- noun, masculine; genitive singular of <raksts> text, writing -- ...
  • Mahzitajus -- noun, masculine; accusative plural of <ma'ci'ta'js> pastor -- scribes
  • starp -- adverb; <starp> between, among -- of
  • teem -- demonstrative pronoun; dative plural masculine of <tas, ta'> that -- the
  • L'audim -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <l'audis> people -- people
  • isklausija -- verb; 3rd person singular preterit of <izklausi't, izklausu, izklausi'ju> to inquire, ask -- asked
  • vin'sch -- pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <vin's'> he -- he
  • no -- preposition <no> from -- ...
  • teem -- demonstrative pronoun; dative plural masculine of <tas, ta'> that -- them
  • Kur -- adverb <kur> where -- where
  • Kristum -- proper noun, masculine; dative singular of <Kristus> Christ -- the Christ
  • bij -- verb; 3rd person singular preterit of <bu't, esmu, biju> to be -- had
  • dsimt -- verb; infinitive of <dzimt, dzimstu, dzimu> to be born -- been born

5 - Un tee sazzija tam: Betleme' eeksch Juddo Semmes; Jo ta' irr rakstihts zaur to Praveetu:

  • Un -- conjunction <un> and -- ...
  • tee -- demonstrative pronoun; nominative plural masculine of <tas, ta'> that -- they
  • sazzija -- verb; 3rd person past of <saci't, saku, saci'ju> to say -- said
  • tam -- demonstrative pronoun; dative singular masculine of <tas, ta'> that -- to him
  • Betleme' -- proper noun, feminine; locative singular of <Bethlehem> Bethlehem -- in Bethlehem
  • eeksch -- adverb; <ieks'> in -- in
  • Juddo -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <ju'ds> Jew -- of the Jews
  • Semmes -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <zeme> land, country -- the land
  • Jo -- adverb <jo> because -- for
  • ta' -- adverb; <ta'> so, thus -- thus
  • irr -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <bu't, esmu, biju> to be -- it is
  • rakstihts -- verb; nominative singular masculine past passive participle of <raksti't, rakstu, raksti'ju> to write -- written
  • zaur -- adverb; <caur> through -- through
  • to -- demonstrative pronoun; accusative singular masculine of <tas, ta'> that -- the
  • Praveetu -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <pravietis> prophet -- prophet

6 - Un tu Betleme Juddo Semme', tu ne ka' essi ta Masaka starp teem Leeleem Kungeem no Juda: Jo no tewim buhs man nahkt tam Valdneekam, kas pahr manneem L'audim Israel'a valdihs.

  • Un -- conjunction <un> and -- ...
  • tu -- pronoun; nominative singular of <tu> you -- you
  • Betleme -- proper noun, feminine; nominative singular of <Bethlehem> Bethlehem -- Bethlehem
  • Juddo -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <ju'ds> Jew -- of the Jews
  • Semme' -- noun, feminine; locative singular of <zeme> land, country -- land
  • tu -- pronoun; nominative singular of <tu> you -- you
  • ne -- negative particle; <ne> not -- not
  • ka' -- pronoun; genitive singular masculine of <kas> which -- ...
  • essi -- verb; 2nd person singular present of <bu't, esmu, biju> to be -- are
  • ta -- demonstrative pronoun; nominative singular feminine of <tas, ta'> that -- the
  • Masaka -- comparative definite adjective; nominative singular feminine of <maza> little -- least
  • starp -- adverb; <starp> between, among -- among
  • teem -- demonstrative pronoun; dative plural masculine of <tas, ta'> that -- the
  • Leeleem -- adjective; dative plural masculine of <liels> big -- ...
  • Kungeem -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <kungs> lord, master -- princes
  • no -- preposition <no> from -- of
  • Juda -- proper noun, masculine; genitive singular of <Ju'ds> Judah -- Judah
  • Jo -- adverb <jo> because -- for
  • no -- preposition <no> from -- out of
  • tewim -- pronoun; dative singular masculine of <tu> you -- you
  • buhs -- verb; 3rd person singular future of <bu't, esmu, biju> to be -- shall
  • man -- pronoun; dative singular masculine of <es> I -- ...
  • nahkt -- verb; infinitive of <na'kt, na'ku, na'cu> to come -- come
  • tam -- demonstrative pronoun; dative singular masculine of <tas, ta'> that -- the
  • Valdneekam -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <valdnieks> governor, leader -- governor
  • kas -- pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <kas> that -- who
  • pahr -- adverb; <pa'r> over -- over
  • manneem -- pronoun; dative plural masculine of <mans> my -- my
  • L'audim -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <l'audis> people -- people
  • Israel'a -- proper noun, masculine; genitive singular of <Israe'lis> Israel -- Israel
  • valdihs -- verb; 3rd person singular future of <valdi't, valdu, valdi'ju> to lead, rule -- shall rule

Lesson Text

1 Un kad Jesus dsimmis bij Betleme' eeksch Juddo Semmes, tha K'ehnin'a Erodus Laika', redsi, tad nahze Gudree no Austruma Semmes us Jerusalemi, un sazzija: 2 Kur irr tas peedsimmis K'ehnin'sch tho Juddo? jo mehs essam vin'n'a Swaigsni redsejschi Austruma Semme', un nahkuschi to peeluhgt. 3 Kad tas K'ehnin'sch Erodus to dsirdeja, issabijajahs vin'sch, un vissa Jerusaleme ar vin'n'a. 4 Un saaizinajs vissus Augstus Preester'us un Raksta Mahzitajus starp teem L'audim isklausija vin'sch no teem: Kur Kristum bij dsimt? 5 Un tee sazzija tam: Betleme' eeksch Juddo Semmes; Jo ta' irr rakstihts zaur to Praveetu: 6 Un tu Betleme Juddo Semme', tu ne ka' essi ta Masaka starp teem Leeleem Kungeem no Juda: Jo no tewim buhs man nahkt tam Valdneekam, kas pahr manneem L'audim Israel'a valdihs.

Translation

Matthew 2:1-6 --
(1) And when Jesus had been born in Bethlehem in the land of the Jews in the days of King Herod, behold, wise men from the east then came to Jerusalem, and said, (2) "Where is he who is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the eastern land, and have come to worship him." (3) When King Herod heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. (4) And having gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he asked them where the Christ had been born. (5) They said to him, "In Bethlehem the land of the Jews, for thus it is written through the prophet, (6) 'You Bethlehem, land of the Jews, you are not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of you shall come the governor, who shall rule over my people, Israel.'"

Grammar

11. Reflexives

The Indo-European medial voice (Latin: genus medium), as a voice existing between the active and the passive, has not been retained in the Baltic languages. In Latvian, the medial forms have been replaced by reflexive verbs that mainly express an action which is directed towards the subject or that express an action which is reciprocal.

The signifier -s of the reflexive form is a relic of the archaic enclitic pronoun *si (=sevi, sev), which, not being accented, has merged with its adherent verb.

The development of the form can be illustrated as follows. The first person singular in the active present (except a'-stems) and in the active future had the ending -uo. Over the course of time, the short ending vowels disappeared, and the long vowels and diphthongs were shortened. Thus, the uo shortened to u in the first person singular. In the reflexive, however, the uo was retained, since it was no longer the last syllable, after that the *si-form had been added. At the same time, the sj changed into s'. Example of the verb mazga't 'to wash'; mazga'ties 'to wash oneself':

    1st Sg. Present   1st Sg. Future
Active   *mazga'juo > mazga'ju   *mazga'sjuo > mazga's'u
Reflexive   *mazga'juo-si > mazga'juos   *mazga'sjuo-si > mazga's'uos

(The orthographic representation of the forms mazga'juos, mazga's'uos in Standard Written Latvian is mazga'jos, mazga's'os.)

For the a'-stems, the older ending in the first person singular present and past in the active was -au, for example *zinau 'I know' (Lith. z'inau), *darau 'I do' (Lith. darau), *gru'dau 'I pushed' (Lith. gru'dau). The old corresponding reflexive forms were *zinausi (Lith. z'inausi), *darausi (Lith. darausi), *gru'dausi (Lith. gru'dausi). However, the forms in Latvian did not reduce to the expected *zinaus, *daraus, *gru'daus, but to the current zinos, daros, gru'dos, probably in analogy to the other verb conjugations.

In prefixed verbs, the reflexive pronoun (-si-, or -s-, -sa-, -za-, -z-) was formerly inserted directly after the suffix. This form is still found in older folksongs and in some western and eastern Latvian dialects. For example: at-si-rada 'found oneself, was situated'; sa-sa-tiku 'I met (with someone)'.

In non-prefixed verbs, the reflexive pronoun was added to the end of the verb.

Some verbs are found only in the reflexive, for example: bi'ties 'to fear', kaune'ties 'to be/feel ashamed', gadi'ties 'to happen', maldi'ties 'to get lost', bri'ni'ties 'to wonder (at)'.

11.1. The Reflexive Infinitive

The reflexive infinitive is formed from the indicative active infinitive stem plus the reflexive ending -ties. For example: ma'ci'-t 'to teach'; ma'ci'-ties 'to learn'.

11.2. The Present Tense

The present tense in the reflexive is formed by adding subset 1 or subset 2 endings to the present stem. Subset 2 applies to all class III verbs (mixed conjugation) that in the indicative active end in -i't and -ina't, including zina't 'to know'. Subset 1 applies to all other verbs.

    Subset 1
1 Sg.   -os
2 Sg.   -ies
3 Sg.   -as
1 Pl.   -amies
2 Pl.   -aties
3 Pl.   -as
     
    Subset 2
1 Sg.   -os
2 Sg.   -ies
3 Sg.   -a's
1 Pl.   -a'mies
2 Pl.   -a'ties
3 Pl.   -a's

Example of the present tense of reflexive verbs: Infinitives: gla'bties 'to save one's self, take refuge', dali'ties 'partake, share'

    Singular   Plural
1st   gla'bjos, dalos   gla'bjamies, dala'mies
2nd   gla'bies, dalies   gla'bjaties, dala'ties
3rd   gla'bjas, dala's   gla'bjas, dala's
11.3. The Simple Past (Preterite) Tense

To form the simple past (preterite) tense in the reflexive, subset 2 endings are added to the past stem. This applies to verbs of all classes.

Example of the simple past tense of reflexive verbs: Infinitives: gla'bties 'to save one's self, take refuge', dali'ties 'partake, share'

    Singular   Plural
1st   gla'bos, dali'jos   gla'ba'mies, dali'ja'mies
2nd   gla'bies, dali'jies   gla'ba'ties, dali'ja'ties
3rd   gla'ba's, dali'ja's   gla'ba's, dali'ja's
11.4. The Simple Future Tense

To form the simple future tense in the reflexive, the following endings are added to the future stem. This applies to verbs of all classes.

1 Sg.   -s'os
2 Sg.   -sies
3 Sg.   -sies
1 Pl.   -simies
2 Pl.   -si(e)ties
3 Pl.   -sies

Example of the simple future tense of reflexive verbs: Infinitives: gla'bties 'to save one's self, take refuge', dali'ties 'partake, share'

    Singular   Plural
1st   gla'bs'os, dali's'os   gla'bsimies, dali'simies
2nd   gla'bsies, dali'sies   gla'bsi(e)ties, dali'si(e)ties
3rd   gla'bsies, dali'sies   gla'bsies, dali'sies
12. Pronouns
12.1. Demonstrative Pronouns

The basic demonstrative pronouns are:

    Masculine   Feminine
'this'   s'is   s'i'
'that'   tas   ta'
'this kind'   s'a'ds   s'a'da
'that kind'   ta'ds   ta'da

s'is/s'i', tas/ta' are declined according to the paradigms below. Of the three parallel forms in the locative, the nethermost locatives s'ini'/tani', s'ini's/tani's are used in colloquial style:

Singular   Masc.   Masc.   Fem.   Fem.
Nom.   s'is   tas   s'i'   ta'
Gen.   s'i'/s'a'   ta'   s'i's/s'a's   ta's
Dat.   s'im   tam   s'ai   tai
Acc.   s'o   to   s'o   to
Loc.   s'aja'   taja'   s'aja'   taja'
    s'ai   tai   s'ai   tai
    s'ini'   tani'   s'ini'   tani'
                 
Plural   Masc.   Masc.   Fem.   Fem.
Nom.   s'ie   tie   s'i's/s'a's   ta's
Gen.   s'o   to   s'o   to
Dat.   s'iem   tiem   s'i'm   ta'm
Acc.   s'os   tos   s'i's/s'a's   ta's
Loc.   s'ajos   tajos   s'aja's   taja'
    s'ais   tais   s'ais   tais
    s'ini's   tani's   s'ini's   tani's

The demonstrative pronouns s'a'ds/s'a'da, ta'ds/ta'da are declined according to the -a-stem paradigm for the masculine forms and accordig to the -a'-stem paradigm for the feminine forms.

Other demonstrative pronouns are:

    Masculine   Feminine
'this here'   s'itas   s'ita'
'this kind here'   s'ita'ds   s'ita'da

These forms are compounds of s'is + tas, ta'ds, and are used to direct special emphasis onto the nearest thing. In general, these forms are used in colloquial style. They are declined as tas/ta' above.

In Latvian and Lithuanian, historical pronominal endings were taken over into the adjective declensions. In Latvian, the endings then migrated from the adjective declensions into the noun declensions. According to Endzeli'ns (1951), for example, the dative singular ending -am has been taken over from the pronominal declension.

In older texts and in certain dialects, the older dative plural forms *tiems, *s'iems, *ta'ms, *s'a'ms, *s'i'ms have been retained.

12.2. The Anaphoric Pronoun

The demonstrative pronoun tas, ta' is also used as an anaphoric pronoun of the third person, and corresponds to the English 'it' (sg.) and 'they' (pl.). For example: Ma'ja ir maza 'The house is little', Ta' ir maza 'It is little'.

12.3. The Interrogative, Relative and Indefinite Pronouns

Three so-called 'k-pronouns', all beginning with a k (Nau, 1998), can have an interrogative, relative or an indefinite function:

  • kas 'who, what, which, something, anything'
  • kurs'/kura (formerly kur's'/kur'a) 'who, which' (fem., masc.)
  • ka'ds/ka'da 'what kind (of), somebody, someone, anybody, anyone, some, any' (fem., masc.)

The substantival pronoun kas does not have a full declension. No distinction is made between masculine and feminine, singular and plural. The declension of kas is as follows:

Nom.   kas 'who, what, which, something, anything'
Gen.   ka' 'whose'
Dat.   kam 'to whom'
Acc.   ko 'whom, what'
Loc.   replaced by adverb kur 'where', or the locative of kurs': kura' 'in which'.

kurs'/kura, ka'ds/ka'da are inflected according to the a-stem and a'-stem paradigms, respectively.

Compound indefinite pronouns are formed by adding the particles kaut or jeb- to the 'k-pronouns':

  • kaut kas 'something, anything' --
  • kaut kurs', kaut kura 'somebody, anybody' (masc., fem.)
  • kaut ka'ds, kaut ka'da 'somebody, someone' (masc., fem.)
  • jebkas 'anything' --
  • jebkurs', jebkura 'anybody, anyone' (masc., fem.)
  • jebka'ds, jebka'da 'anybody, anyone' (masc., fem.)

Other indefinite pronouns are (masculine and feminine forms, respectively): viens/viena 'one', cits/cita 'another', daz's/daz'a 'some, several'. These are inflected according to the a-stem paradigm for the masculine form and the a'-stem paradigm for the feminine form.

13. Adjectives

Adjectives agree with their nouns in number, gender and case, whether used attributively or predicatively, for example:

  • Melns kak'is pa'rskre'ja cel'am 'A black cat ran across the street'
  • Melni kak'i pa'rskre'ja cel'am 'Black cats ran across the street'
  • Kak'is ir melns 'The cat is black'
  • Kak'i ir melni 'Cats are black'

The distinction between indefinite and definite nouns is made by the different forms of an adjective, which accompanies the noun:

    Indefinite   Definite
    lab-s draugs 'a good friend'   lab-ais draugs 'the good friend'
    lab-a gra'mata 'a good book'   lab-a' gra'mata 'the good book'
13.1. Inflection of the Indefinite Form

The indefinite adjectives are a much older form than the definite adjectives. Today, the masculine adjective in the nominative singular thus has the ending -s or -s'; the feminine adjective in the nominative singular, -a.

In older Latvian, there were also adjectives ending with -is and -us. These forms have later flowed into the a-stems and a'-stems. Two parallel forms have arisen from the many old u-stem adjectives, which often have different meanings in Standard Written Latvian, for example ass 'sharp', as's 'quick'; plats 'broad', plas's 'widespread'. Parallelism in adjectives of one and the same stem is an archaic phenomenon, which is still widely found in dialects and folkloristic texts.

The indefinite adjectives are declined according to the a-stems for the three masculine noun declensions (I, II, II) and according to the a'-stems for the three feminine declensions (IV, V, VI). For example, the nominative masculine: skal's' be'rns 'noisy child', skal's' ork'estris 'loud orchestra', skal's' tirgus 'noisy market'; the nominative feminine: balta lapsa 'white fox', balta pu'ce 'white owl', balta govs 'white cow'.

Paradigm for stiprs pamats 'strong foundation', dievis'k'i'ga skan'a 'heavenly sound':

Masculine   Singular   Plural
Nom.   stipr-s pamats   stipr-i pamati
Gen.   stipr-a pamata   stipr-u pamatu
Dat.   stipr-am pamatam   stipr-iem pamatiem
Acc.   stipr-u pamatu   stipr-us pamatus
Loc.   stipr-a' pamata'   stipr-os pamatos
         
Feminine   Singular   Plural
Nom.   dievis'k'i'g-a skan'a   dievis'k'i'g-as skan'as
Gen.   dievis'k'i'g-as skan'as   dievis'k'i'g-u skan'u
Dat.   dievis'k'i'g-ai skan'ai   dievis'k'i'g-a'm skan'a'm
Acc.   dievis'k'i'g-u skan'u   dievis'k'i'g-as skan'as
Loc.   dievis'k'i'g-a' skan'a'   dievis'k'i'g-a's skan'a's
13.2. Inflection of the Definite Form

The definite declension is a lengthened form of the indefinite declension, in which the ending has been modified over time according to certain phonetic rules. The definite adjectives were created before the end-vowels in multi-syllable words had begun to be shortened or lost: the old pronoun jis (masculine) or ji' (feminine) of the io- stem, which seemed to have had a relative meaning or function, was attached to the long ending of the unshortened definite adjective. Both parts of the word were declined separately.

The definite adjective in the feminine, and its changes, can be illustrated by the following example of maza' 'the little (fem.)' in the nominative and dative:

Nom.   *maza' + ji' > *maza'ji' > *maza'(j)i > *maza'j > maza'
Dat.   *mazai + jai > *mazaijai > mazajai

The masculine dative singular mazajam was formed in analogy to the feminine dative singular mazajai. The other case forms have arisen in a similar manner. Forms with -aj- have been retained only in the dative and locative of the masculine and feminine, in both singular and plural. In present day Lithuanian, the longer forms of definite adjectives have been retained to a much fuller extent. In older texts, the -ms ending can also be found for the dative plural in the masculine and feminine, for example: *mazajiems, *mazaja'ms.

Paradigm for mazais putns 'the little bird', maza' meitene 'the little girl':

Masculine   Singular   Plural
Nom.   maz-ais putns   maz-ie putni
Gen.   maz-a' putna   maz-o putnu
Dat.   maz-ajam putnam   maz-ajiem putniem
Acc.   maz-o putnu   maz-os putnus
Loc.   maz-aja' putna'   maz-ajos putnos
         
Feminine   Singular   Plural
Nom.   maz-a' meitene   maz-a's meitenes
Gen.   maz-a's meitenes   maz-o meiten'u
Dat.   maz-ajai meitenei   maz-aja'm meitene'm
Acc.   maz-o meiteni   maz-a's meitenes
Loc.   maz-aja' meitene'   maz-aja's meitene's
13.3. Degrees of Comparison

Latvian adjectives have three degrees of comparison: the positive, the comparative, and the superlative. All three degrees have both indefinite and definite forms. The forms of the positive degree have been described in sections 13.1 and 13.2 above.

13.3.1 The Comparative Degree

The comparative is signified by the suffix -a'k-; it is formed by inserting the suffix -a'k- between the stem and the ending of both the indefinite and definite adjective:

    Indefinite   Definite
Masc.   maz-a'k-s nazis 'a smaller knife'   maz-a'k-ais nazis 'the smaller knife'
Fem.   maz-a'k-a pils 'a smaller castle'   maz-a'k-a' pils 'the smaller castle'

The comparative forms are inflected according to the paradigms of the corresponding positive adjective endings above.

Often, the definite comparative is used as a superlative, the succession being thus: mazs, maza'ks, maza'kais 'small, smaller, smallest'. (For more about the superlative cf. 13.3.2.)

The -a'k- form as comparative is unique to Latvian alone. In its closest related languages it is not found. The outwardly similar form in Lithuanian (-okas) denotes an increase in degree of the attribute, not a comparison of the attribute to itself.

The old Indo-European comparative has been lost in Latvian. Only a few traces remain, for example pastars 'final, last', which is the comparative of the substantivized adjective (compare Lith. pa'staras, Latin posterus).

13.3.2 The Superlative Degree

In Latvian as well as in Lithuanian, the old form of the superlative degree has disappeared. Today the superlative can be expressed as the definite form of the comparative (see above), or as a compound where the non-accented prefix vis- is joined to the definite form of the comparative; for example:

Masc.   vis-maz-a'kais nazis 'the smallest knife'
Fem.   vis-maz-a'ka' pils 'the smallest castle'

The superlative is most often formed with the definite ending; indefinite superlatives, though rare, are also observed. The superlative forms are inflected according to the paradigms of the corresponding comparative adjective endings.

In folklore, dialects, and older texts, the superlative is expressed by visu (the unshortened form of vis-) + the comparative, for example visu liela'kais 'the very largest'. This form is occasionally used to give an archaic character to present day texts.

The definite form of the superlative can also be formed by placing the pronoun pats/pati in front of the definite form of the comparative, for example: pats maza'kais nazis 'the smallest knife', pati maza'ka' pils 'the smallest castle'.

14. Mood

There are five moods in Latvian: indicative (unmarked), imperative, subjunctive, debitive and relative (also called evidential).

14.1. The Imperative

There are two imperative forms in Latvian: one for the second person singular and one for the second person plural. The imperative of the second person singular is identical to the second person singular present indicative. For example: na'c 'come', atvaino 'pardon me', piedod 'forgive me', stra'da' 'work', guli 'sleep', ma'cies 'study', mazga'jies 'wash yourself'.

The imperative in the 2nd plural is formed by changing the 2nd person plural endings -at or a't in the indicative present to -iet or, in the reflexive, the endings -aties or -a'ties to -ieties. For example: atvainojiet 'pardon me', piedodiet 'forgive me', stra'da'jiet 'work', guliet 'sleep', celieties 'wake up' steidzieties 'hurry'.

The root is always formed with the consonant of the 2nd person singular present, for example: na'ciet 'come' instead of *na'kiet!

The imperative can also be expressed for the third person (singular and plural) by adding the particle lai 'let, may' before the verb in the third person indicative. For example: lai na'k 'let him/her/them come', lai vin'i stra'da' 'let them work'.

To express the imperative in the first person plural, an adhortative form is used, which is identical with the first person plural of the future indicative. For example: iesim 'let us go', stra'da'sim 'let us work', sag'e'rbsimies 'let us get dressed'.

The imperative in the first person plural can also be expressed by an adhortative which is identical with the first person plural of the present indicative. For example: dzeram, bra'l'i 'let us drink, brothers'; raudam, meitas 'let us lament, daughters', ejam 'let us go'.

The negative imperative is formed the same way as the negative indicative: nena'c 'don't come', neguliet 'don't sleep', neuztraucies 'don't worry'.

14.2. The Subjunctive

The subjunctive (also called conditional) is formed by adding the ending -tu (or -tos in the reflexive) to the infinitive stem. This form is the same for all persons. For example bu't 'to be', bu'tu 'would be': Kaut man bu'tu daudz naudas 'If only I had lots of money'; dari't 'to do', dari'tu 'would do': Vin'i to dari'tu, ja vin'i bu'tu jauni 'They would do it if they were young'.

In older literature and in folklore, the archaic first person plural form with the ending -tum/-tumies and the second person plural form with the ending -tut can be found. These forms are not used in Standard Written Latvian. For example: Ka' bu'tu, ja me's pas'u nelabo n'emtum pali'ga'? 'What would happen if we took the devil to our help?'

14.3. The Debitive

The debitive, a mood to denote necessity or obligation, is formed by prefixing the particle ja'- to the third person of the present indicative, which then takes the dative form of the subject. The ja'- is used only to form debitives. For example:

    Indicative   Debitive
    es eju 'I go'   man ja'iet 'I must go'
    vin'i saraksta's 'they write to each other'   Vin'iem ja'saraksta's 'they must write to each other'

In the debitive, the accusative object is changed into the nominative. For example:

    Indicative   Debitive
    es rakstu ve'stuli 'I write a letter'   man ja'raksta ve'stule 'I must write a letter'
    me's kul'am labi'bu 'we thresh the grain'   mums ja'kul' labi'ba 'we must thresh the grain'

The verb bu't 'to be' is irregular, and the debitive is formed by prefixing ja'- to the infinitive, instead of the third person of the present indicative. For example:

    Indicative   Debitive
    es esmu 'I am'   man ja'bu't 'I must be'
    tu esi 'you (sg) are'   tev ja'bu't 'you must be'

According to Endzeli'ns (1951), the prefix ja'- (dialectal form ju-) has arisen from the archaic relative pronoun *ios. The form ja'- is the common form of the genitive singular and ablative singular of the io-stem. Over the course of time, this old relative pronoun attained the meaning of a form-bearing affix.

The debitive has three tenses: present, past, and future, which are expressed by the auxilliary bu't 'to be' + the debitive form. In the present, the auxilliary ir 'is' is usually omitted. For example:

    Debitive
Present   Tev (ir) ja'dzied 'You must sing'
Past   Tev bija ja'dzied 'You had to sing'
Future   Tev bu's ja'dzied 'You shall have to sing'

Recent grammars challenge the designation of the debitive as a mood (Mathiassen, 1997). Nau (1998) calls the debitive a modal voice.

14.4. The Relative

In Latvian, the relative (also known as the evidential) is a late formation which has not been inherited from older verbal moods. Instead, the relative function has been taken over by the ot-gerund (the indeclinable present participle ending in -ot/-oties), and the indeclinable future participle ending in -s'ot/-s'oties. The latter no longer has a participial meaning in Standard Written Latvian. According to Mathiassen (1997), the ot-gerund reflects a petrified form, derived from the dative case of the masculine singular of the present active participle.

The relative mood has four tenses: the simple present and future, and the compound present and future. The relative is used to denote indirect speech or to convey unsure claims.

The relative in the present tense is formed by adding the endings -ot/-oties to the present stem. The relative in the future tense is formed by adding the endings -s'ot/s'oties to the future stem. There are no personal endings, and the same form is used for all persons. For example:

    Infinitive   Present Relative   Future Relative
    mi'le't 'to love'   mi'lot 'supposedly loves'   mi'le's'ot 'supposedly shall love'

The relative in the compound present is formed by the present relative of the verb bu't 'to be' + the past participle, for example: esot ga'jis 'supposed to have gone'.

The relative in the compound future is formed by the future relative of the verb bu't 'to be' + the past participle, for example: bu's'ot ga'jis 'supposed to (shall) have gone'. This form is rarely used.

15. Interrogative Sentences and the Interrogative Particle vai

A general interrogative sentence can be formed in Latvian by maintaining the same word order of a declaratory sentence, but by raising the pitch of the voice towards the end of the sentence. For example:

  • Ja'nis stra'da'. 'John is working'.
  • Ja'nis stra'da'? 'Is John working?'

General interrogative sentences can also be formed with the help of the interrogative particle vai, which is added to the sentence as the initial word. For example: Vai Ja'nis stra'da'? 'Is John working?'

Other interrogative sentences are formed by using interrogative pronouns, interrogative adverbs, and the interrogative qualifier cik 'how much'. The interrogative pronouns kas, kurs'/kura, ka'ds/ka'da were discussed in chapter 12.2 above. Interrogative adverbs in Latvian are:

  • kur 'where'
  • kurp 'where to'
  • uz kurieni 'where to'
  • no kurienes 'where from'
  • kad 'when'
  • ka' 'how'
  • ka'pe'c 'why'
  • ka'de'l' 'why, for what reason'

Examples of interrogative sentences:

  • Kur ir muzejs? 'Where is the museum?'
  • Kad tu bu'si darba'? 'When will you be at work?'
  • Ka'pe'c mums ja'gaida? 'Why do we have to wait?'