We’ve reached the last post in the Nouns series for now. There will be more posts in the series on topics like Diminutives in the future. I haven’t decided yet whether or not to start a new series, so for the time being, expect to see standalone grammatical posts on Mondays instead. I’m thinking Adjectives and Adverbs will be featured in February at least.
Understanding the Vocative
This is the easiest case of all. It is used for one purpose – to address another person, living thing or anthropomorphized thing. Examples of the last would be concepts such as Ziemassvētki (“Christmas”), which you will see referred to as a person in dainas, or Vēja Māte (“Mother Wind”). Of course, as we people like to talk to inanimate objects on occasion, like our computers, the vocative is also used then when exclaiming at the computer who just ate your document.
There is no question word associated with the vocative. It’s pretty clear what its role is. It generally is not listed in spelling dictionaries because the form is so simple.
It’s very easy to use. It’s basically the same as the nominative except that there is some fiddling about you can do with the 1st and 2nd declension vocative singular if you want.
The thing is, there’s formal Latvian and then there’s how people actually speak. Sometimes people will drop the ending anyway even if technically (and grammatically) the rules say you shouldn’t. Sometimes it will simply be for one particular word and that’s an exception, either by the word or the speaker. Below are the formal Latvian rules, but sometimes you can be better off with what sounds right instead.
1st & 2nd Declension (Singular)
For 1st declension, you have the option of using the same forms as the nominative or dropping the final -s or -š.
Tēvs! Tēv! Vējš! Vēj!
If it is a 2nd declension (ends in -is) regular noun, retain the vowel when dropping the -s or drop the ending entirely, your choice. It is easier to call out if the name ends with a vowel sound, so I personally think it is better to just drop the -s rather than the whole ending.
Arti! Brāli! Brāl!
If it is a 2nd declension exception word (there are only a few), you can retain the -s as with the 1st declension or drop the -s, as you choose. Artis notes that he would actually add the original -i back in because it sounds better, resulting in, “Zibeni!” instead.
Akmens! Akmen! Zibens! Ziben!
For everything else…
This is easy. Vocative is the same as nominative. 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th declension? Same as the nominative. Plural? Same as the nominative.
Saldus! Kora! Līze! Acs!
Plural: Brāļi! Akmeņi! Liepas! Bites! etc.
How to Decline
Where -! is noted, drop the ending and use only the root, i.e., tēvs -> tēv!
Remember there is no associated question word. The endings are as follows:
vsk. 1. dekl. | 2. dekl. | 2. dekl. exc. | 3. dekl. -s!/-š!/-! | -i!/-! | -s!/-! | -us! vsk. 4. dekl. | 5. dekl. | 6. dekl. -a! | -e! | -s! dsk. 1. dekl. | 2. dekl. | 2. dekl. exc. | 3. dekl. -i! | -i! | -i! | -i! dsk. 4. dekl. | 5. dekl. | 6. dekl -as! | -es! | -is! Red indicates potential palatalization changes.