A small introduction to Latvian language.
Latvian language belongs to the group of Baltic languages which developed directly from an old Indo-European language, thus it does not belong to Slavic or any other European language group. There are only two live languages nowadays – Latvian and Lithuanian, the rest of them have gone extinct. The first notable evidence is from the time around 10th century, however first known official source dates to 1530. The alphabet is Latin, with several specific letters which may remind of Western Slavic group (Czech, Slovak, Slovenian etc).
Recently the number of people having Latvian as mother tongue has reached 1,5 million in Latvia and 0,5 million abroad, some 0,5 million more have Latvian as second language – these people are of (mostly) Russian or other origin living in Latvia. Several primary school for minorities have been established, because from 1999 Latvian is the only official language in the country and students may study for free in public universities if only the education is given in Latvian. Ministry of Justice is running even a State Language Centre which supervises the use of the language in public areas or institutions.
Due to influence of German (from Prussian times, around 18th century) and Russian (after World War II) there is a visible reminiscence of these language in current Latvian, however there is a strong feeling for language purism. In 19th and 20th century several “updates” and “upgrades” for the language have been set and accepted, namely ortographic and grammar part. During the times under Russian rule (first the tsar, then Soviets) some groups proposed usage of Cyrilic alphabet, but this movement was not received positively.
Here are some examples:
Good evening! – Labvakar!
See you later! – Uz redzēšanos!
railway – dzelzceļš
4, 5, 6 – četri, pieci, seši
cafeteria – kafetērija or kafejnica
library – bibliotēka
office – birojs
swimming pool – baseins
bread – maize
chicken – vista 🙂
Links to read if you want to know more: Latvian language, Baltic languages, EN-LV dictionary.