Latgalian (latgalīšu volūda)

Latgalian is a Baltic language spoken by 150,000-200,000 people mainly in eastern Latvia, particularly in Latgale, and also in Selonia and Vidzeme. There are also Latgalian speakers in Siberia and Bashkiriya in the Russian Federation.

Latgalian at a glance

  • Native name: latgalīšu volūda [lɑtgɑliːʃu voluːdɑ]
  • Language family: Indo-European, Balto-Slavic, Baltic, Eastern Baltic, Latvian
  • Number of speakers: 150,000-200,000
  • Spoken in: Latvia, Russia
  • First written: 1753
  • Writing system: Latin script
  • Status: protected by law as "[...] a historical variant of the Latvian language"

Latgalian is officially considered a variant of Latvian and is protected by the Latvian Language Law, which states that "The Latvian State ensures the preservation, protection and development of the Latgalian literary language as a historical variant of the Latvian language". There is much debate about the status of Latgalian with some linguists, such as Antons Breidaks and Lidija Leikuma, arguing that it could be considered a separate language.

The oldest surviving book in Latgalian, Evangelia toto anno (Gospels for the whole year) dates from 1753. Literature in Latgalian was published during the 18th and early 19th centuries, including many religious works by Jesuit priests, using orthographies based on Polish.

Publication of Latgalian books was banned between 1865 and 1904, after which Latgalian publications began to emerge once again, including the first newspapers, textbooks and grammars. Latgale became part of Latvia in 1918, and both Latgalian and Latvian were used in literature, though Latgalian was no longer taught in schools and was not used in state institutions after 1934. During the Soviet period (1940-1991) Latgalian continued to be spoken, though rarely appeared in print between 1959 and 1989.

Since 1991 there has been renewed interest in Latgalian. It is taught in some universities and books are being published in the language. It is also sometimes heard on television and a number of rockgroups sing in Latgalian.

Latgalian alphabet & pronunciation

Latgalian alphabet & pronunciation

Download a Latgalian alphabet chart (Excel)

Sample text (Poem of Armands Kūceņš)

Tik skrytuļam ruodīs: iz vītys jis grīžās,
A brauciejam breinums, kai tuoli ceļš aizvess,

Pruots naguorbej ramu, juos lepneibu grūžoj,
Vys jamās pa sovam ļauds pasauli puormeit,
Bet nak jau sevkuram vīns kuorsynoj myužu
I ramaņu jumtus līk īguodu kuormim.

Na vysim tai sadar kai kuošam ar speini,


Sample of spoken Latgalian

Rūžeņa - Latgalian folk song

Information about Latgalian | Numbers in Latgalian


Information about the Latgalian language

Online Latgalian dictionary

Baltic languages

Latgalian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Samogitian

Languages written with the Latin alphabet

Page last modified: 26.09.21


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