Latvian is a Baltic language related to Lithuanian and Old Prussian with
about 1.4 million speakers in Latvia. There are also Latvian speakers
in the USA, Russia, Australia, Canada, Germany, the UK, Sweden, Lithuania,
Ukraine, Estonia, Brazil and Belarus.
Latvian at a glance
Native name: latviešu valoda [latviɛʃu valuɔda]
Linguistic affliation: Indo-European, Balto-Slavic, Baltic, Eastern Baltic
Number of speakers: 1.75 million
Spoken in: Latvia
First written: 1530
Writing system: Latin script
Status: official language in Latvia and the European Union
The first known example of written Latvian dates from 1530 and
was a translation of a hymn by Nikolaus Ramm, a German pastor. The first publication to be printed in Latvian was a catechism which
appeared in 1585. The first Latvian dictionary, Lettus, was compiled
by Georg Mancelius in 1638. The German monks who wrote these texts
used a version of the the Fractur alphabet adapted from German which
was ill suited to the Latvian language.
A modified version of the Latin alphabet devised by the linguists
Kārlis Mīlenbahs and Jānis Endzelīns in
1908, and gradually replaced the old version.
Latvian alphabet (latviešu alfabēts) & pronunciation
Sample text in Latvian
Visi cilvēki piedzimst brīvi un vienlīdzīgi savā
pašcieņā un tiesībās. Viņi ir apveltīti
ar saprātu un sirdsapziņu, un viņiem jāizturas citam pret
citu brālības garā.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are
endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a
spirit of brotherhood. (Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)