Grammar and Spelling
Section One - Grammar and Spelling
1. Genders and cases: all nouns must have an appropriate ending, which denotes the noun's gender and case and, therefore, its function in the sentence. There are two genders - masculine and feminine - and seven cases. However, the seventh case, the vocative - which is used for addressing someone or something directly - is formed by removing the ending of the noun entirely (i.e. the girl's name Marija would become Marij! in the vocative, if someone were calling to the girl Marija). The remaining cases and their endings are shown here:
The following shows the possible endings for each case:
Nominative -s / -š / -is / -us -i -a / -e / -s -as / -es
Any words (generally taken from other languages) ending in o are not declined, as in radio, foto (photo), etc.
When writing a letter, the second person singular and polite form pronouns (as in Tev, Tu, Tavs, Jums, Jūsu, Jūs, etc.) are capitalised. However, informal (i.e. familiar) plural second person pronouns (as in jums, jūsu, jūs, etc.) are NOT capitalised.
2. Plural: there is no easy way of identifying it (see above!).
3. Spelling: International words which in English would be written with a letter c, but are pronounced using a hard 'k' sound are written k in Latvian, e.g. klasika (classic), ikona (icon). Similarly, the letter y in English words containing a hard 'ch' in English are written simply with an h in Latvian, e.g. anarhists (anarchist), arhitekts (architect), holera (cholera).
The Latvian equivalent of the soft English 'ch' (as in 'church') is č, and 'sh' (as in 'shower') is written š.
4. Articles: There are no definite and/or indefinite articles in Latvian.
Only by considering the word ending is it possible to find out whether the term is definite or indefinite i.e. balta siena (a white wall) and balta siena (the white wall).
5. Names: All proper names, when written in Latvian, must be 'latvianised' i.e. James Wright must (according to law!) be written as D.eimss Raits. This is sometimes followed by the original spelling in brackets.
6. One-letter words: There are very few one-letter words in Latvian, and these are generally used only in colloquial or literary language. The repetition of vowels in Latvian words is also rare (i.e. there are no cases of aa or ii in standard Latvian).
- "Proper" people's names are always capitalised.
Section Two - Punctuation
1. Speech marks: Sometimes quotation marks open below the line („) and close above (”), although this is becoming rarer since word processors generally do not allow for this to be done.
Any phrases that are considered to be slang must be put in quotation marks.
Speech marks in Latvian are used similar to English. The following sentences serve as examples:
1. "Give me more work!", shouted Chloe.
2. "Would anyone like some tea?" asked George.
3. "I'm bored - can I go home now?", Michala said.
2. Hyphens: The punctuation mark '-' is used more frequently in Latvian to separate parts of sentences than in English. It is often used in places where a comma would be used in English.
3. Full stops: No full stops are used after titles and headings (this used to be done, but is now archaic).
4. Language combining: The rules of Latvian grammar envisage that words of different languages, i.e. Latvian and, for example, English, should not be joined in one sentence. Such a mixture is only possible if the English word(s) is/are used in inverted commas.
5. Apostrophe: In Latvian normally no apostrophes are used.
6. Colons, semi-colons and the ellipsis: These are used similarly to English.
7. Brackets: Brackets are used to put some additional information within the same sentence. Text within the brackets usually is not capitalised unless the first word should be capitalised by grammar rules i.e. proper names etc. (see above the section on Capitalisation). There are no exceptions regarding punctuation for the text in brackets.
Section Three - Measurements and Abbreviations
1. Measurement: Officially only metric is used and imperial is generally not understood.
Time: 10:00, 15:00, sometimes preceded by the abbreviation .plkst.., which is the equivalent of the English 'o'clock'.
Date: 25.08.99 (this is often a question of personal style). The standard way of writing the date is: 1999. gada 14.oktobris (The date is.) or 1999. gada 14. oktobrī (On the date of.). The word gads, meaning 'year' is frequently bbreviated to g.i.e. 2004.g. 20. februārī
In Latvian the decimal comma is used.
Numbers over 4 digits are separated with a space, although some Latvians use a dot (this is a disputed matter).
The equivalent of 1st, 2nd, etc. in Latvian is to put a dot after the number: 1., 2., etc.
The letters .kv. are sometimes used to denote a square measurement, as in square metres = kvm (sqm in English).
Currency: can be written: Ls 3,50 / Ls 3,- / Ls 0,50 (in Latvian), and LVL 3,50 (internationally).
N/a = n/p (not a commonly used abbreviation)
m (for metre) = m
EMEA (Europe, Middle-East & Asia) = not used commonly
Days of the week: Mon, Tues, Wed, Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun = Pi, Otr, Tr, Cet, Pt,
Sest, Sv (but these abbreviations are not so common - usually days of the week are left in full without capitalisation).
Months: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec = not common for Latvian
Seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter (not normally abbreviated in English) = no abbreviations exist in Latvian either. "pavasaris", "vasara", "rudens" and "ziema" should be used.
Section Four - Hyphenation
Within words: generally there is no hyphenation within words, except in very rare situations, where a common second compound for two compound words is being used (as in Centrāl- un Austrumeiropa = Central and Eastern Europe).
No long and/or short dashes are used in Latvian.
End-of-line hyphenation: there is a definite set of rules for splitting words over a line, but a non-speaker will not necessarily be able to distinguish correct and incorrect usage. The general rules for English also apply to Latvian. However, the rules are based to a large extent on the roots and separate elements of the word, so caution is required when splitting words.
Section Five - Miscellaneous Peculiarities
Direct product comparisons are illegal. (e.g. you couldn't publish a table that compares the features of your product with those of other manufacturers).
Very long sentences (that would be considered 'run-on' in English) are not uncommon in Latvian.
Comma usage in Latvian adheres to very strict rules (and thus commas should not be arbitrarily changed).
Surnames usually follow after the first name. However, there might be cases when the surname has to be put before the name (this feature was common during the Soviet times). Usually, only the first letter in the surname is written in upper case.
There are no certain rules for using bold and italic.
Section Six - Geographic Distribution
Latvian, also known as Lettish, is spoken by about 1½ million people, most of them in the Republic of Latvia. Latvian employs the Roman script with a number of diacritical marks to indicate special sounds. As Latvia is a comparatively small country with only 2.5 million inhabitants, only half of them being native Latvians, the language situation has always been a subject of serious discussion. Due to the historical circumstances, the Latvian language was substituted by Russian for a long period of time. A law giving Latvian the status of the official state language was passed in 1989, two years prior to the country's independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991.
This means that Latvian, as yet, has a rather underdeveloped vocabulary in areas such as computer science but also in other fields. It must be admitted that in this sphere the Russian language provides broader and much better developed terminology and, due to its superiority, translations are often done with the help of the sources offered by the Russian language. Latvian does, however, have set legislative language standards, but it remains a language undergoing development. Besides being spoken and used in Latvia, a significant number of Latvian speakers live in the U.S., Russia, Australia, and Canada. There are also small communities of Latvian speakers scattered throughout Europe.
Source: http://www.worldlanguage.com/Languages/Latvian - Copyright © Kenneth Katzner, The Languages of the World, Published by Routledge.
Source: http://www.nvtc.gov/lotw/months/december/Latvian.html (accessed 17/12/04)
Section Seven – Character Set
[ ] = Alt key codes
Please note that characters ō and Ō are used in one of the Latvian dialects but characters ŗ and Ŗ are not used any more in modern Latvian.
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