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Latvian Language and Culture through the Ages Dace Prauliņš

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Presentation on theme: "Latvian Language and Culture through the Ages Dace Prauliņš"— Presentation transcript:

1 Latvian Language and Culture through the Ages Dace Prauliņš

2 Outline  Brief introduction  Origins of Baltic languages and history of Latvian language to the present day  Features of Latvian language  Cultural heritage – folk songs, folk tales, beliefs, etc.

3 Number of Latvian speakers  About 1.4 million native speakers in Latvia  About 150 000 native speakers abroad either exiled in 1944 or emigrated from Latvia more recently to find work  Total number of Latvian speakers slightly exceeds 2 million – includes all for whom Latvian is a second language  Only about 250 languages which are spoken by more than 1 million people in the world

4 Ethnic composition of Latvia  Latvians58.6%  Russians28.8%  Belarussians3.9%  Ukrainians2.6%  Polish2.5%  Lithuanians1.4%  Others2.2%

5 Contact with other languages  Liv, Estonian, Lithuanian, Belorussian, Russian neighbouring languages  Russian, Polish, Swedish, German have been languages of cultural exchange and official transactions  Latin in Catholic religious ceremonies  From Middle Ages to the early 20 th century German was dominant in education, science and administration – about 3000 borrowings from German in Latvian

6 Indo-European languages

7 Early settlers and Baltic groups  Earliest hunter-gatherers arrived 10 – 12 thousand years ago – following reindeer  More than 4000 years ago Finno-Ugric groups settled – Livs and Estonians are descendants  Proto-Baltic groups arrived in early 2000 BC – first in south, then also central and eastern parts  First split into Eastern (Prussians, Couronians, etc.) and Western (Lettgallians, Lithuanians, etc.) Balts

8 Area of Baltic river names

9 Latvian and Lithuanian  Split between Latvian and Lithuanian happened between the 1 st - 5 th centuries and the 7 th century AD  Tribes in the north had more contact with Finno-Ugric tribes, those in the south had more contact with Slav tribes – these influences caused split  It is thought that Lithuanian remained more archaic than Latvian because Slav languages also Indo-European and therefore there were more similarities

10 Baltic tribes & provinces c. AD 1200

11 Regions in Latvia today

12 Beginnings of Latvian language  Latvian thought to be based mainly on languages spoken by Latgallians and Semigallians  Couronian and Selonian languages extinct before they could be documented but leave traces in place names and dialects  Descendants of Livs also retained features in dialect, also in place names, e.g. –aži, -iži; first syllable stress in Latvian may be of Liv origin

13 Early language standardisation  Latvian not written down until 16th century  Authors of first books were Baltic German clergy writing religious works in Latvian following Reformation  First printed text in Latvian appeared in 1525  Among first books preserved until today are a Catholic Catechism (1585) and an Evangelical Catechism (1586)  First dictionary – 1638; first grammar – 1644: German clergymen G. Manzelius and J.G. Rehehusen

14 Luther’s small catechism - 1586

15 First bible translated by J. E. Glück, published in Rīga in 1689

16 National awakening  Early 19 th century - powerful “awakening” of national identity – first newspapers printed and active cultural development  Status of Baltic languages also changed – Baltic German nobility had regarded them as “rural languages”  End of 19 th century – Jaunlatvieši (new Latvians) demanded same rights enjoyed by other nations - Latvians took over research and standardisation of language – many press publications and books

17 First newspaper – January 1822

18 Latvian Newspaper 1824; St. Petersburg Newspaper 1862

19 Atis Kronvalds ( 1837 – 1875)  Instrumental in changing script from Gothic to Latin and spelling which was originally based on Middle Low German  Introduced new words into language based on existing rules – about 100 still used  Also suggested preferred words where several existed

20 Krišjānis Barons (1835–1923)  Promoter of Latvian national awakening  Collector, compiler and researcher of Latvian folk songs (dainas)  An editor of the Pēterburgas avīzes - a newspaper which was very prominent in the national awakening

21 After World War II  In Latvia: Latvian and Russian bilingualism - language of state and its structures was Russian  Percentage of Latvian language users decreased because of immigration  Many studies of Latvian carried out by Commission of Terminology of the Latvian Academy of Sciences – grammar and dictionaries compiled  In exile: many Latvian schools which kept language and culture alive; also secondary school (ğimnāzija) in Münster, West Germany

22 Language integration today  Main goal of language policy is integration of all citizens in context of Latvian as official language while protecting and developing minority languages  Many minorities have bilingual education with Latvian taught as a second language but Latvian being used more and more to teach core subjects; higher education only in Latvian  Now about 50% of non-Latvians have good – excellent language skills; only 10% – 12% have no Latvian (mainly elderly)

23 Latvian alphabet and spelling  a, ā, b, c, č, d, e, ē, f, g, ģ, h, i, ī, j, k, ķ, l, ļ, m, n, ņ, o, p, r, s, š, t, u, ū, v, z, ž  One of the most perfect Latin script-based spelling systems – based on Czech  First books printed in the second half of 16 th century used Gothic letters and based on spelling of Middle Low German  Gothic letters & German spelling principles used up to beginning of 20 th century  1908 – new orthography introduced but not fully used until 1920s

24 Structural features of Latvian  Nouns have 6 cases: nominative, genitive, accusative, dative, locative, vocative  Verbs inflected for tense, mood, voice and person  System of derivational affixes, e.g. dot (give): atdot (give back), iedot (give with perfective meaning), padot (pass), pārdot (sell), izdot (spend)  Word order within clause relatively fluid  Stress generally on first syllable of each word – long vowel may occur in an unstressed syllable

25 Oral traditions  Very rich collection - some 3 m - of folksongs (dainas), folk tales (pasakas), riddles (mīklas), proverbs and sayings (sakāmvārdi), beliefs (ticējumi)  Folk song:

26 Dainas – folk songs  Not known how old they are – saved through oral tradition – probably sung  Censored at beginning of 13 th century by Teutonic knights  Krišjānis Barons collected 218 000 in 8 volumes (1894 – 1915) – 35 000 primary + variations – his original notes and drawers shown in next slide  Folklore Archive now has about 1 m – “one daina for every Latvian”  Ecological, anti-war, matriarchal – talk about daily life, nature, courtship, etc.

27 Dainu skapis (cupboard)

28 Emilis Melngailis (1874 – 1954)  Musician, composer and choir conductor  Collected folk song texts and melodies on expeditions through countryside




32 Prof. Pēteris Šmits (1869 – 1938)  Collected folk tales in 15 volumes, first published 1925 – 1937; categorised according to subject: animals, magic, jokes, tales with a moral, etc.  Also collected 36 790 beliefs, first published in 1940 - 1941

33 Folk beliefs  Katru lielāku darbu iesāk jaunā mēnesī un laimīgās dienās; vai nu otrdienā, ceturtdienā jeb sestdienā. Every big task should be started when there is a new moon and on lucky days; either on a Tuesday, a Thursday or a Saturday.  Ja kaķis pārskrien no labās uz kreiso pusi pār ceļu, tad ir laime, bet ja no kreisās uz labo, tad ir nelaime. If a cat crosses your path from right to left, you will have good luck, bet if it’s from left to right, then you will have bad luck.

34 Proverbs and sayings  Ja upei dibena neredzi, tad nebrien iekšā. If you can’t see the bottom of the river, don’t wade in. Look before you leap.  Ciemos labi, bet mājās vēl labāk. It’s good to go visiting, but it’s even better to be at home. There’s no place like home.

35 Riddles  Liela, zila pļava, pilna zelta aitiņu un ganiņš vidū. A large blue field full of small golden sheep and a young shepherd in the middle. (Sky)  Liels kalns; caur to kalnu divi tuneli, caur tiem, tuneļiem skrien vējš aurodams. A large hill with two tunnels running through; the wind roars through these tunnels. (Nose)

36 References - books  Dini, P. U. (2000) Baltu Valodas (Baltic languages). Roze  Gimbutas, M. (1963) The Balts. Thames and Hudson  Ķēniņš, I. (2005) Latvija Gadsimtu Lokos. I. Aizvēsture un Senvēsture (Latvia through the centuries. I. Pre-history and ancient history). Raka  Ķēniņš, I. (2005) Latvija Gadsimtu Lokos. II. Viduslaiki 13. -15. Gadsimts (Latvia through the centuries. II Middle ages 13 th – 15 th centuries). Raka  Plakans, A. (1995) The Latvians. A Short History. Hoover  Vīķe-Freiberga, V. (2005) Saules Balsi. Latvian Sun Song Melodies. Karogs (The three folksongs with music taken from this book)

37 References - websites  (culture)  (folk tales)  (beliefs)  (folksongs)  (Latvian Institute)  (riddles)  (M. Gimbutas’ book The Balts download)

38 References - illustrations  Indo-European language family tree:  Baltic tribes + provinces; area of Baltic river names:  Luther’s small catechism, first Bible and its translator, Latvian newspapers:  Atis Kronvalds:  Krišjānis Barons:  Emilis Melngailis:  Šmits:  Dainu skapis:  Latvian regions:

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