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Livonian ( or ) belongs to the Baltic Finnic branch of the Uralic languages. It is a moribund language until recently spoken by some 35 people, of whom only 10 were fluent. It is closely related to Estonian. The native land of the Livonian people is Livonia, located in Latviamarker, in the north of the Kurzeme peninsula.

Some ethnic Livonians are learning or have learnt the language in an attempt to revive it, but, as ethnic Livonians are a small minority, opportunities to use Livonian are limited. The Estonian newspaper Eesti Päevaleht announced that Viktor Berthold, the last native speaker who started the Latvian-language school as a monolingual, died on 28 February 2009. Some other Livonians recently argued, though, that there are some native speakers left. An article published by the Foundation for Endangered Languages in 2007 stated that there were only 182 registered Livonians and a mere six native speakers.

The promotion of the Livonian language as a living language has been advanced mostly by Livonian Cultural Centre (Līvõ Kultūr Sidām), an organisation of mostly young Livonians. Livonian as a lesser used language in Latvia – along with Latgalian – is represented by the Latvian Bureau of Lesser Used Languages (LatBLUL), a national branch of the European Bureau of Lesser Used Languages (EBLUL).

As a second language, Livonian has about 20 speakers in Latvia. However, the language is taught in universities in Latvia, Estonia and Finland, which constantly increases the pool of second-language speakers who do not constantly reside in Latvia.

Phonology

Vowels

Livonian has 8 vowels:

Front Central Back
Close i õ u
Near-close
Mid e 1 o
Open ä a


  1. Unstressed is realized as .


All vowels can be long or short. Short vowels are written as indicated in the table; long vowels are written with an additional macron ("¯") over the letter, so, for example, = . The Livonian vowel system is notable for having a stød similar to Danish. As in other languages with this feature, it is thought to be a vestige of an earlier pitch accent.

Consonants

Livonian has 23 consonants:

Labial Dental Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ņ 1
Plosive voiceless p t k
voiced b d g
Fricative voiceless f s š h
voiced v z ž
Trill r ŗ
Approximant Central j
Lateral l ļ


 becomes   preceding   or  .


Alphabet

The Livonian alphabet is a hybrid which mixes Latvian and Estonian orthography.

A/a, Ā/ā, Ä/ä, , B/b, D/d, , E/e, Ē/ē, F/f, G/g, H/h, I/i, Ī/ī, J/j, K/k, L/l, Ļ/ļ, M/m, N/n, Ņ/ņ, O/o, Ō/ō, , , Õ/õ, , P/p, R/r, Ŗ/ŗ, S/s, Š/š, T/t, , U/u, Ū/ū, V/v, Z/z, Ž/ž

Grammar

History

In the 19th century, about 2,000 people still spoke Livonian; in 1852, the number of Livonians was 2394 (Ariste 1981: 78). Various historical events have led to the near total language death of Livonian:

Language contacts with Latvians and Estonians

Livonian has been - for centuries - thoroughly influenced by Latvian in terms of grammar, phonology and word derivation etc. It is worthy of mention, that especially from the end of the 19th century on there were also many contacts with Estonians, namely, between (Kurzeme) Livonian fishers or mariners and the Estonians from Saaremaamarker or other islands. Many inhabitants of the islands of Western Estonia went to work in summer to the villages of the Kurzeme Livonians. As a result, the knowledge of Estonian spread among those Livonians and words of Estonian origin also came into Livonian. (Ariste 1981: 79)

Common phrases

  • Hello! – Tēriņtš!
  • Bon Appetit - Jõvvõ sīemnaigõ!
  • Good morning! - Jõvā ūomõg! / Jõvvõ ūomõgt!
  • Good day! - Jõvā p va! / Jõvvõ päuvõ!
  • Thank you! - Tienū!
  • Happy new year! - V ndzist Ūdāigastõ!
  • die - k lmä
  • one – ikš
  • two – kakš
  • three – kuolm
  • four – nēļa
  • five – vīž
  • six – kūž
  • seven – seis
  • eight – kōdõks
  • nine – īdõks
  • ten – kim


Written language example

Mustā plagā valsõ

Kubbõ āt tuļ immõr satunnõd mingizt.
Mustā lupāt um v rd tutkām jūs.
N lgalizt nīelõb min m istõmõt rõkūd
Sigžtūļ käds ikš dadžā ja ūgõb.


Mitikš äb tō ku sa kēratõkst p giņ:
Um jõvīst, až sāina p l kēratõd "A".
Võid stalažod arrõ, až sainõ äb s ita -
Ma vāgiž set kītõb, ku jõvīst tīed sa


Ja tikkiž ja tegīž um lagtõd sin tōmi
Sīest, mis sinnõn tīemõst ja mis sinā võid.
Až suggõbõd suodād ja revolūtsijõd,
Siz nustām sīes pāikal. P dõ ka mēg.


Až nai ikškõrd vāldiž ka mäddõn tīeb sillõ.
Īezõ palābõd sīlmad, kus pīegiļtiz irm.
Siz grumā touvõd mäd' āndabõd villõ
Ja kõzzist pīkstõbõd pimdõd joud.


Ni īdskubs himnõ mēg lōlam īe pierrõ,
Sīest mē i ta kāitsõb ja sīnda ka tōks.
Sīest lōlam mēg: "Julgizt ni, veļīd, tīe jūrõ!"
Täuds sidāms oppõrmīel põrāndõks.


Leb Valst āigastsadā võilõb se kāngaz,
Mustā ku loptõmõt mōīlmarūim.
Kuņš īebõd pandõkst, kūo õd ja kuodād,
Täddõn nagrõs muidlõb kūolõn p lū.


Lyrics by Tõnu Trubetsky


References

  1. ed. György Nanovfszky: Nyelvrokonaink, Budapest, 2000.
  2. http://www.baltic-course.com/eng/baltic_news/?doc=3215


See also



Bibliography

  • Fanny de Sivers. 2001. Parlons live – Une langue de la Baltique. Paris: L'Harmattan. ISBN 2-7475-1337-8.
  • Paul Ariste 1981. Keelekontaktid. Tallinn: Valgus. [pt. 2.6. Kolme läänemere keele hääbumine lk. 76 - 82]
  • Lauri Kettunen. 1938. Livisches Wörterbuch : mit grammatischer Einleitung. Helsinki: Finno-Ugrian Society.


External links




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