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Latgalian language can mean one of the following:
  1. It was a language spoken by Latgalians in a great part of the area which is now Latviamarker. Latgalian was a member of the Baltic group of the Indo-European language family. Historically the Latvian language is derived from Latgalian (with additions from a few other languages, e.g. Old Curonian, Semigallian and Livonian).
  2. Nowadays it normally refers to a language spoken in the eastern part of Latviamarker known as Latgale. Sometimes it is referred to as a distinct separate language, while others consider it to be a dialect of Latvian. This modern Latgalian developed as a result of two main factors: Latgalians having preserved more features of the archaic (tribal) Latgalian language than the other Latvians and Latgale being separated for several centuries from other parts of Latviamarker.

Latgalian alphabet

A/a Ā/ā B/b C/c Č/č D/d E/e Ē/ē F/f G/g Ģ/ģ H/h I/i Y/y Ī/ī J/j K/k Ķ/ķ L/l Ļ/ļ M/m N/n Ņ/ņ O/o Ō/ō P/p R/r S/s Š/š T/t U/u Ū/ū V/v Z/z Ž/ž

A a [a] Ā ā [ā] B b [be] C c [ce] Č č [če] D d [de] E e [e]
Ē ē [ē] F f [ef] G g [ge] Ģ ģ [ģe] H h [he] I i [i] Y y [y]
Ī ī [ī] J j [je] K k [ka] Ķ ķ [ķe] L l [el] Ļ ļ [eļ] M m [em]
N n [en] Ņ ņ [eņ] O o [o] Ō ō [ō] P p [pe] R r [er] S s [es]
Š š [eš] T t [te] U u [u] Ū ū [ū] V v [ve] Z z [ze] Ž ž [že]

Language example

Tik skrytuļam ruodīs: iz vītys jis grīžās,

A brauciejam breinums, kai tuoli ceļš aizvess,

Tai vuorpsteite cīši pret sprāduoju paušās,

Jei naatteik - vacei gi dzejis gols zvaigznes.

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,

Sirds narymst i nabeidz par sātmalim tiemiet,

A pruots rauga skaitejs pa rokstaudža zeimem,

Kai riedeits, kod saulei vieļ vaiņuku jieme.

(Poem of Armands Kūceņš)

Latgalian phrases

Latgalian / Latvian
Latgalian Latvian Meaning
Vasals! Sveiks! Hi! (literally, "Hale and Hearty!", "Sveiks" is more common as "Hi" in Latvian but has a different meaning)
Loba dīna! Labdien! Hello, Good day!
Muns vuords Eugeņs. Mans vārds ir Eugeņs. My name is Eugene.
Šudiņ breineiga dīna! Šodien ir brīnišķīga diena! Today is wonderful/beautiful day!
Vīns, div, treis, niu tu breivs! Viens, divi, trīs, nu tu esi brīvs! One, two, three, now you are free! (Counting game for children)
Asu aizjimts itamā šaļtī! Šobrīd esmu aizņemts! I am busy at the moment!
As tevi mīļoju! Es tevi mīlu! I love you!
Asu nu Latgolys. Esmu no Latgales. I am from Latgalia. (In Latvian, "esu" is short for "es esmu.")
Es īšu da sātys. Es iešu mājās. I will go home. (Note, "sēta" in Latvian means the courtyard to a homestead, also homestead; so a more rural/agrarian sense of "home" in the Latgalian than in the Latvian "mājās", which is more evocative of a house.)
Maņ pateik vuiceitīs. Man patīk mācīties. I like to learn. (Note, this marked difference between Latgalian and Latvian is quite typical. The set of examples here are quite similar because they relate to basic concepts.)

Comparison between Latvian, Latgalian and Lithuanian

Note the impact of foreign influences on Latvian (Germanic in Kurzeme and Vidzeme while Latgale was less influenced by the Polonic).

in English Latvian Latgalian Lithuanian Comments
around apkārt apleik aplink
always vienmēr vysod visad(a) visādi in Latvian is "all ways"
to submit to interrogation, to ask taujāt, izjautāt klaust klausti, klausinėti klausīties in Latvian is "to listen"; klau! means "hey!"
girl, maid meita, meitene mārga mergina, merga meita in Latvian is used more often as "daughter" while meitene means "girl" exclusively
kerchief lakatiņš skareņa skarelė
dress, frock kleita sukne suknelė kleita in Latvian is adapted from the German das Kleid, any native term has been lost
to swim peldēties mauduotīs maudytis
top, apical virsa viersyune viršūnė
stake miets stulps stulpas stulpiņi (diminutive, plural for "stulps") in Latvian is preserved as "leggings"
to read lasīt skaiteit skaityti skaitīt in Latvian means to count, noskaitīt is to recite
to come nākt atīt ateiti atiet in Latvian means to depart (the root word "iet" means "to go")
row, range, line aile aiļa eilė
to sit apsēsties atsasēst atsisėsti
to answer atbildēt atsaceit atsakyti atsaukties in Latvian means to call back (as in after being hailed)
to blunge mīcīt maidzeit maigyti
to catch a cold saaukstēties puorsaļt peršalti saaukstēties in Latvian is a compound word meaning to fill one's self with cold
cold salts solts šalta auksts is more common in Latvian for "cold" than "salts" which is a chilling cold
mistake kļūda klaida klaida
page lappuse puslopa puslapis compound word, in Latvian the order is "leaf"+"side", reverse of the order in Latgalian and Lithuanian
down, downward lejup zamyn žemyn zemu in Latvian means "low"
and, also un i ir un and ari are common usage in Latvian, "i" is archaic
to settle in iekārtoties īsataiseit įsitaisyti iesaistīties in Latvian means to go into (as in become part of)
family saime saime šeima "ģimene" is used in Latvian for the core family, saime denotes extended family and household, for example, saimnieks, saimniece are master and mistress, resepctively, of the household
homeland ("fatherland") tēvija, tēvzeme tāvaine tėvynė
east rīti reiti rytai "to the morning" whereas austrumi in Latvian means toward the rising of the sun
west rietumi vokori vakarai "to the evening" whereas rietumi in Latvian means toward the setting of the sun
to stand stāties atsastuot atsistoti
other, another cits cyts kitas
to pain sāpēt pierkšēt perštėti
scissors šķēres zirklis žirklės šķēres in Latvian is adapted from the German eine Schere, any native term has been lost


The Latgalian language developed from the 18th century as a literary tradition based on vernaculars spoken by Latvians in the eastern part of Latviamarker. The first surviving book published in Latgalian is "Evangelia toto anno" (Gospels for the whole year) in 1753. The first systems of orthography were borrowed from Polish and used Antiqua letters. It was very different from the German-influenced orthography, usually written in Blackletter or Gothic script, used for the Latvian language in the rest of Latviamarker. Many Latgalian books in late 18th and early 19th century were authored by Jesuit priests, who came from various European countries to Latgale as the north-eastern outpost of the Roman Catholic religion; their writings included religious literature, calendars and poetry.

Publishing books in the Latgalian language along with the Lithuanian was forbidden from 1865 to 1904. The ban on using Latin letters in this part of the Russian Empiremarker followed immediately after the January Uprising, where Polish insurgents in Polandmarker, and also in Lithuaniamarker and Latgale, challenged the czarist rule. During the ban, only a limited number of smuggled Catholic religious texts and some hand-written literature was available, e.g. calendars written by the self-educated peasant Andryvs Jūrdžys.

After the repeal of the ban in 1904 there was a quick rebirth of the Latgalian literary tradition; first newspapers, textbooks and grammars appeared. In 1918 Latgale became part of the newly created Latvian state. From 1920 to 1934 the two literary traditions of Latvians developed in parallel. A notable achievement during this period was the original translation of the New Testament into Latgalian by the priest and scholar Aloizijs Broks, published in Aglonamarker in 1933. After the coup staged by Kārlis Ulmanis in 1934, the subject of the Latgalian dialect was removed from the school curriculum and was invalidated for use in state institutions; this was as part of an effort to standardize Latvian language usage. Latgalian survived as a spoken language during the Sovietmarker annexation of Latvia (1940-1991) while printed literature in Latgalian virtually ceased between 1959 and 1989. Some Latgalian intellectuals in emigration continued to publish books and studies of the Latgalian language, most notably Mikeļs Bukšs, see bibliography.

Since the restoration of Latvianmarker independence there has been a noticeable increase of interest about the Latgalian language and cultural heritage. It is taught as an optional subject in some universities; in Rēzeknemarker the "Latgales kultūras centra izdevniecība" (Publishing House of Latgalian Culture Centre) led by Jānis Elksnis, prints both old and new books in Latgalian.


Latgalian is a member of the Eastern Baltic branch of the Baltic group of languages included in the family of Indo-European languages. The branch also includes Latvian, Samogitian and Lithuanian). Latgalian is a moderately inflected language; the number of verb and noun forms is characteristic of many other Baltic and Slavic languages.

Geographic distribution

Latgalian is spoken by about 150,000 people, mainly in Latviamarker; there are small Latgalian-speaking communities in Russiamarker, Siberiamarker.

Official status

Between 1920 and 1934 Latgalian was used in local government and education in Latgale. Now Latgalian is not used as an official language anywhere in Latvia. It is formally protected by the Latvian Language Law stating that "The Latvian State ensures the preservation, protection and development of the Latgalian literary language as a historical variant of the Latvian language" (§3.4). There is a state-supported orthography commission of the Latgalian language. Whether the Latgalian language is a separate language or a dialect of Latvian has been a matter of heated debate throughout the 20th century. Proponents of Latgalian such as linguists Antons Breidaks and Lidija Leikuma have suggested Latgalian has the characteristics of an independent language; one should note that in Latvian, Latgalian itself is generally referred to as an izloksne (dialect) and not a valoda (language).


Latgalian speakers can be classified into three main groups - Northern, Central and Southern. These three groups of local accents are entirely mutually intelligible and characterized only by minor changes in vowels, diphthongs and some inflexion endings. The regional accents of central Latgale (such as those spoken in the towns and rural municipalities of Juosmuiža, Vuorkova, Vydsmuiža, Viļāni, Sakstygols, Ūzulaine, Makašāni, Drycāni, Gaigalova, Bierži, Tiļža and Nautrāni) form the phonetical basis of the modern standard Latgalian language. The literature of 18th century was more influenced by the Southern accents of Latgalian.


  1. Latgale Research Institute
  2. Tribes of Balts
  3. Inflection in Baltic Languages

External links

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