Introduction to Adjectives

This entry is part of a series, Adjectives»

Oof, okay, I’m getting back into the swing of things. Been scrambling after coming back from vacation because of work, grad school and immigration, but hopefully things are going to calm down a little now. Honestly, I haven’t even looked at my studies in the past two weeks! I’ve been doing little translations every day but serious language studying? Not so much. The other life priorities took, well, priority. At least I didn’t catch a cold from all the traveling!

I really meant to write a long, involved grammatical post yesterday morning, but then walked outside to find yet another problem I needed to deal with that came up from the day before. It’s mostly worked out, I guess, but there’s still some lingering effects. So, this will be short though there are more posts to write in the series.

What is an Adjective?

An adjective modifies a noun. It describes it, explains it and defines it. An adjective can be definite, referring to only one specific instance of the object, or indefinite, referring to a general quality.

An adjective is called an īpašības vārds. Indefinite adjectives are referred to as nenoteiktie while definite adjectives are referred to as noteiktie.

Adjectives usually answer kāds / kāda (what kind of?) and kurš / kura (which one?) when doing sentence analysis.

Questions about colors, which are generally asked in the locative, can sometimes be answered in nominative as well as in the expected locative.

For example:  Kādā krāsā ir viņas nagi? Zili.  –> What color are her nails? Blue.

We have our suspicions as to why this is, but generally, it’s unimportant why as long as you don’t get too mixed up.

Adjectives Always Agree

This is a great, easy rule to remember: Adjectives always agree in gender, case and number with their noun. This does not imply that the endings of both the noun and adjective will be identical!

Every declinable adjective can take either masculine or feminine form. There’s a set of endings for both indefinite and definite use.

The indefinite adjectival endings are almost identical to the 1st and 4th declensions. There is no adjectival ending for the vocative case, which is where it differs from the noun endings. They can be used with any of the six declensions, as long as the gender, number and case match.

There are some adjectives that don’t decline, like rozā.  While it may look like a feminine definite adjective, it’s not considered to have a standard ending, so it doesn’t decline at all. This and other loanwords like it get treated like the indeclinable nouns, they just don’t change.

How to Decline Adjectives

Even though the indefinites are easy if you already know your nouns, I’ve filled in the chart here with them as a reference.

Masculine  | indef. |  def.  | dsk: | indef.  |  def.
Nom.  Kas? | -s, -š |  -ais  |      |   -i    |  -ie
Gen.   Kā? |   -a   |   -ā   |      |   -u    |  -o
Dat.  Kam? |   -am  |  -ajam |      |  -iem   | -ajiem
Acc.   Ko? |   -u   |   -o   |      |   -us   |  -os
Ins. Ar ko?|  ar -u |  ar -o |      | ar -iem | ar -ajiem
Loc.  Kur? |   -ā   |  -ajā  |      |   -os   |  -ajos
Voc.   --  |   --   |-ais, -o|      |   --    |  -ie

Feminine   | indef. |  def.  | dsk: | indef.  |  def.
Nom.  Kas? |   -a   |   -ā   |      |  -as    |  -ās
Gen.   Kā? |   -as  |   -ās  |      |  -u     |  -o
Dat.  Kam? |   -ai  |  -ajai |      |  -ām    |  -ajām
Acc.   Ko? |   -u   |   -o   |      |  -as    |  -ās
Ins. Ar ko?|  ar -u |  ar -o |      | ar -ām  | ar -ajām
Loc.  Kur? |   -ā   |  -ajā  |      |  -ās    |  -ajās
Voc.   --  |   --   | -ā, -o |      |   --    |  -ās
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Wordy Wednesday: Words from this Week

Work’s picked up steam again and we’re going to be off enjoying ourselves away from the computer next week, so no real updates for next week are planned. I’ve got too much to do at work and to get us ready to go! (This doesn’t mean an update won’t happen, as it still might if I have time.)

For today’s Wordy Wednesday, I figured I’d note down some of the words I had to look up this week so that I can work on remembering them better.

  • esošs : indef. adj. existing, current decline me»

    esoša : indef. adj. existing, current decline me»

    The definite forms of this adjective are esošais and esošā.

  • papildinājums : addition, supplement decline me»

    This seems to derive from pile, a droplet, though we might be completely off. It then seems to go to pildīt or to fill, then on to papildināt or to add to, to top off then finally finishing off as a noun, papildinājums.

  • labklājība : welfare, well-being, prosperity decline me»

    As you can see, labs is used as a stem here. I believe this is a compound of labs and klāties. Klāties is difficult to define (my dictionary doesn’t define it except with idioms) but basically means doing or faring as in “how are you doing?”. So it is sort of like welfare.

    The plural is included for completeness though it is not commonly used.

  • īpašnieks : owner or proprietor (male or unknown) decline me»

    īpašniece : owner or proprietor (female) decline me»

    What’s interesting here is the īpaš- stem. There are two related words: īpašs, which means special or particular; and, īpašums, which means property, assets or effects. Most likely all three words are directly related, but it’s hard to know for sure.

  • smeldze : smarting or stinging pain, ache decline me»

    The superlative form of the adjectival version of this noun, smeldzīgākais, is really clumsy to translate into English.

  • vienlīdzīgs : adj. equal (to) decline me»

    vienlīdzīga : adj. equal (to) decline me»

    This is used as in “equal rights” – vienlīdzīgas tiesības.

  • esošs, m.
    vsk.: esošs, esoša, esošam, esošu, ar esošu, esošā
    dsk.: esoši, esošu, esošiem, esošus, ar esošiem, esošos Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
    esoša, f.
    vsk.: esoša, esošas, esošai, esošu, ar esošu, esošā
    dsk.: esošas, esošu, esošām, esošas, ar esošām, esošās Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
    papildinājums, m, 1. dekl.
    vsk.: papildinājums, papildinājuma, papildinājumam, papildinājumu, ar papildinājumu, papildinājumā
    dsk.: papildinājumi, papildinājumu, papildinājumiem, papildinājumus, ar papildinājumiem, papildinājumos Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
    labklājība, f, 4. dekl.
    vsk.: labklājība, labklājības, labklājībai, labklājību, ar labklājību, labklājībā
    dsk.: labklājības, labklājību, labklājībām, labklājības, ar labklājībām, labklājībās Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
    īpašnieks, m, 1. dekl.
    vsk.: īpašnieks, īpašnieka, īpašniekam, īpašnieku, ar īpašnieku, īpašniekā
    dsk.: īpašnieki, īpašnieku, īpašniekiem, īpašniekus, ar īpašniekiem, īpašniekos Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
    īpašnieks, f, 5. dekl.
    vsk.: īpašniece, īpašnieces, īpašniecei, īpašnieci, ar īpašnieci, īpašniecē
    dsk.: īpašnices, īpašnieču, īpašniecēm, īpašnices, ar īpašniecēm, īpašniecēs Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
    smeldze, f, 5. dekl.
    vsk.: smeldze, smeldzes, smeldzei, smeldzi, ar smeldzi, smeldzē
    dsk.: smeldzes, smeldžu, smeldzēm, smeldzes, ar smeldzēm, smeldzēsPowered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
    vienlīdzīgs, m
    vsk.: vienlīdzīgs, vienlīdzīga, vienlīdzīgam, vienlīdzīgu, ar vienlīdzīgu, vienlīdzīgā
    dsk.: vienlīdzīgi, vienlīdzīgu, vienlīdzīgiem, vienlīdzīgus, ar vienlīdzīgiem, vienlīdzīgos Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
    vienlīdzīga, f
    vsk.: vienlīdzīga, vienlīdzīgas, vienlīdzīgai, vienlīdzīgu, ar vienlīdzīgu, vienlīdzīgā
    dsk.: vienlīdzīgas, vienlīdzīgu, vienlīdzīgām, vienlīdzīgas, ar vienlīdzīgām, vienlīdzīgās Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
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Wordy Wednesday: Some Fun with Pasaka

I took a bit of a break the past couple of weeks from Wordy Wednesdays so I could focus on some longer, more involved posts. Today, I thought I’d explore pasaka – which, as it turns out, makes new words every time you remove a letter from the start of it. The ending letter, a, isn’t really a word (though I guess you could make the case that it can be used as an onomatopoeic exclamation).

  • pasaka : fairy tale decline me»

    Unlike the way fairy tale is often used in English, pasaka refers to most types of folktales and folk-stories that are fictional. It’s not a specific genre or sub-group as you sometimes find in English, where I would never find American Indian folk-stories referred to as “fairy tales”, for example. In non-folkloric usage, it generally refers to stories that are similar to traditional folk-stories. Pasakas are not myths, however, as they do not purport to be historical.

  • asaka : fish-bone decline me»

    Don’t try to refer to the bones of a fish as kauli. They’re asakas. All other types of critters have kauli for bones.

  • saka, from sacīt : he/she tells from to tell, to say conjugate me»

    This is a synonym for teikt. You’ll come across these two verbs a lot in books! Also, pasaka is derived from sacīt. It’s sort of a telling, you might say, or even a re-telling, which both make sense for a story.

  • aka : well decline me»

    There’s not much that I can think of to say about wells. They’re important because this is where viensētas would obtain water from if they were not near a stream, spring or other water-source. It’s a fun word to say too.

  • ka : that (non-demonstrative)

    This is not the same kind of “that” as tas. This is the kind of “that” to pair with tāpēc to make “because of that”, saka or teica for “says that”, or with to make “so that”. It’s also used by itself to start subordinate clauses such as in this example given in my dictionary: man bija žēl, ka tevis tur nebija – “I was sorry that you weren’t there”.

  • stāstīt : to tell a story conjugate me»

    Of course, it wouldn’t be complete without the relevant verb for telling a story!

pasaka, f, 4. dekl.
vsk.: pasaka, pasakas, pasakai, pasaku, ar pasaku, pasakā
dsk.: pasakas, pasaku, pasakām, pasakas, ar pasakām, pasakās Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
asaka, f, 4. dekl.
vsk.: asaka, asakas, asakai, asaku, ar asaku, asakā
dsk.: asakas, asaku, asakām, asakas, ar asakām, asakās Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
sacīt, 3. konj. (mixed)
tag. saku, saki, saka, sakām, sakāt
pag. sacīju, sacīji, sacīja, sacījām, sacījāt
nak. sacīšu, sacīsi, sacīs, sacīsim, sacīsiet / sacīsit
pav. saki, sakiet Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
aka, f, 4. dekl.
vsk.: aka, akas, akai, aku, ar aku, akā
dsk.: akas, aku, akām, akas, ar akām, akās Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
stāstīt, 3. konj. (mixed)
tag. stāstu, stāsti, stāsta, stāstām, stāstāt
pag. stāstīju, stāstīji, stāstīja, stāstījām, stāstījāt
nak. stāstīšu, stāstīsi, stāstīs, stāstīsim, stāstīsiet / stāstīsit
pav. stāsti, stāstiet Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
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A Little About Conjunctions

This entry is part of a series, Saikļi»

Conjunctions are the little words that make sentences go around. If you’re American, you might even be humming in your head the old kids’ show song from Schoolhouse Rock, “Conjunction Junction (What’s Your Function)”.

Conjunctions are words that help connect phrases and clauses together. They also connect words in pairs and lists. The most familiar of the English conjunctions are: and, but and or. In Latvian, these are called: saikļi.

Latvian has quite a few saikļi, which are classed into different groups by function. In the future, I’ll be writing more about saikļi but for today, I’m just going to talk about the basics.

Saikļi – The Basics

Saikļi are classed as palīgvārdi, or helping words. They cannot be declined nor conjugated. Because they help other words, they don’t answer questions. They are simply there to help the sentence along.

Un

Un means and. Quite simple! You use un anywhere and everywhere you would use and.

Un belongs to the vienojuma group of saikļi. Vienojuma means “of joining” or “of union” and refers to saikļi which bind things together in a list. This can include words, clauses and other grammatical constructs.

As far as comma usage goes, un has some intricacies. Frankly, comma usage gets really complicated in Latvian so I’m not going to get into it right now. There’ll be posts on that in the future when I feel up to digging into it. For now, here’s the easiest rule to remember with using commas and un.

When using un in a list of words, never use a comma immediately before it.

Write lists this way: olas, piens, zemenes un āboli
But not this way: olas, piens, zemenes, un āboli

Artis’ mnemonic for this is to think of un as the last comma in the list. It doesn’t get a comma before it because it acts like a comma itself.

You can also have repeated usage of un in a list too! However, if you do this, you must put a comma before every repeated un in the list. Completely opposite of normal list behavior. Weird, huh? Here’s what it looks like:

olas un milti, un sviests, un eļļa… — eggs and flour, and butter, and oil…

Note here that the very first un does not have a comma. This is correct. The comma goes before each repeated un. (Luckily, it’s also not that common.) It mimics speech.

Bet

Bet means but. Another easy one. It’s just like in English – you can use bet everywhere you use but.

Bet belongs to the pretstatījuma group of saikļi. Prestatījuma means “of contrast” or “of juxtaposition” and refers to saikļi which set up contrasts between phrases and clauses.

Zibeņos patīk skatīties, pērkonā klausīties, bet arī gan tikai tad, kad tie nestāv virs pašu galvām. –Reinis Kaudzīte

As you can see, bet contrasts the first part of the saying to the second, pretty much how we would expect to do it in English. (I will leave the translation of this saying as an exercise to the reader. Feel free to comment with yours or ask for help!)

Vai

Vai (as or) is part of the šķīruma, or separation class of saikļi. This group is made up of variations on vai and jeb and separates words, sentence parts, and sub-clauses.

Vai is extremely flexible. As such, it can be part of multiple groups depending on its usage. It can mean or but it can also turn a statement into a question! It can also function like “whether” or a non-conditional “if”. Let’s take a look.

Or

There are two ways to say or in Latvian, depending on whether the items you are referencing are identical or not. The vast majority of the time, the items will not be identical, so you’ll mostly be using vai. When they are synonyms, you’ll use jeb.

You use vai for all pairs of words, clauses, phrases and sentences where the objects being compared are not identical synonyms.

Kaķi vai suņi — Cats or dogs
Āboli vai vīnogas — Apples or grapes

When it comes to commas, you can apply the same basic rule with vai when using it in a list as you can with un.

Questions

To turn any statement into a question, add vai to the beginning. To make it sound good, sometimes you need to rearrange the words a little, but that’s a topic for another post.

Where the k-words ask specific questions that are answered in a specific case, vai asks for a yes or no response. It is often translated most capably as “Do…”, “Is…” or “Are…”. This is a case where you’re not translating word-for-word but rather for how things are said in each language.

As such, there can be several ways to translate a question beginning with vai; the most important consideration is that the question be answerable via yes or no.

Kaķis ēd peli. –> The cat eats (is eating) the mouse.
Vai kaķis ēd peli? –> Does the cat eat the mouse? Is the cat eating the mouse?

However, it usually doesn’t get translated as “Can…” unless varētto be able to or an equivalent verb is in the sentence in the appropriate position.

Es varu izlasīt šo grāmatu. — I can (am able to) read this book.
Vai es varu izlasīt šo grāmatu? — Can I read this book? Am I able to read this book?

As you can see from all of the examples, English largely ignores vai as a word and swaps the position of the noun and verb to produce “Can..?” but translates vai for “Do/Does…?” and “Is…?” Vai doesn’t necessarily have meaning beyond “I make this a question that is answerable by yes or no.” How you translate and understand it is up to you.

Whether and If

This is something I just learned the other day while translating when I had an if to translate. Now, I knew that if is generally ja, but ja is used for if…then statements and I had the type of if that means whether.

Enter vai. You use vai to mean whether or if when it begins a subordinate clause, as so:

Es nezinu, vai es varēšu iegriezties. — I don’t know whether (if) I would be able to drop in.

The key here is the subordinate clause. “Vai es varēšu iegriezties” is subordinate, it can’t stand on its own without becoming a question. It answers the question, “Ko es nezinu?” with “Vai es varēšu iegriezties.” (What don’t I know? Whether I am able to drop in.)

Again, this is because if vai starts a statement, it becomes a question, but if it starts a subordinate clause as part of a statement, it means whether.

Jeb

Jeb is the form of or that functions as the Latvian version of i.e., the abbreviation for the Latin phrase “id est” or, in English, that is. Jeb can only be used with synonyms when the two words are exactly equal.

Telefons jeb tālrunis
Telefons is the foreign loan-word while tālrunis, lit. far-speaker is the Latvian word for telephone. The two are synonyms for the same object, so we use jeb.

Glāzi jeb krūzi –> Glāzi vai krūzi.
However, because a glass is generally used for the same purpose as a mug but isn’t the same object, you would use vai as the two nouns are not synonyms. They’re alternative choices instead of alternative names.

For the example given, you’d be less likely to hear the nominative forms, so the accusative was given instead for a more real-world feel (think your host asking which you want your kefīrs in). Plus they make immediate sense as a question where the nominative does not if you add a question mark!

Jeb is the only saikļis in its group, paskaidrojuma or explanatory words. It explains things or concepts, which is pretty much what we would expect from something that can only be used with synonyms.

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Šis un Tas: Demonstrating Demonstratives

For fast reference, you can also go to Charts to look at just the Demonstratives chart or grab the easy printable / downloadable PDF.

Today’s post is a Reader Request! Do you want me to cover a topic or answer a question? Just comment or send me an email with the Contact Form. :)

What are Demonstratives?

Demonstratives are a type of word which refer to an object that is near or far in relation to the speaker.  The distance can be literal or figurative.

I find it’s pretty easy to work with demonstratives in Latvian. Generally, the rules for Latvian demonstratives are the same as in English. I’ll talk a bit about demonstratives and how they’re used because if you’ve never really thought about them before, well, it can be a little confusing to get started.

We use demonstratives all the time. When you refer to this book or these darn cats on your desk, you’re talking about objects (or animals) that are very close to you. Similarly, when referring to that tree or those buildings, you’re discussing objects that are far from you.

Demonstratives also can reference items being spoken about, which is how we use “this” or “these” in sentences to reference previous statements or clauses. These are called “entities of discourse” and the use of “these” and “this” in this very sentence are examples of its usage.

Latvian demonstratives work generally the same way but with the added complexity of the case and gender system. Šis/šī and tas/tā are declined a little differently from the standard, but when you read the chart, you’ll see similarities to the normal endings that will help you figure out what is what.

A demonstrative can function like an adjective or a pronoun.

A demonstrative adjective modifies a noun and must agree in number, gender and case. This can also be called a determiner because it determines which object you are referencing specifically.

Šis kaķis sēž uz galda. — This cat sits (is sitting) on the table.

Man garšo tās zemenes. — I like those strawberries.

A demonstrative pronoun replaces a noun and must fulfill the same number, gender and case. This is also called a spatial adjective because it can help determine where the object is that you are referencing.

Interestingly, when translating into English, it often makes sense to translate tas/tā as it instead of that. This is due to English’s little idiosyncrasies with “it” usage so be aware that’s a potential translation path. Since Latvian doesn’t have a neuter gender or “it”, it can make sense to do the opposite as well — translate an “it” as a “that” when translating from English. It depends on context.

When there is no noun for the demonstratives to agree with, they need to stand on their own and act like pronouns. Let’s take a look:

Kaķis to atrada zem galda. — The cat found that under the table.

This is an example where, “The cat found it under the table” is also a valid translation. It is equivalent to that in this case, so it works either way.

Types of Demonstratives

Šis un šī

For any type of noun that is literally or figuratively close to the speaker, we use šis for masculine nouns and šī for feminine nouns.

Šis and šī seem to be generally reserved for things being held or possessed by the speaker or, in the case of large things like cars, that are immediately next to the speaker. Often the nearest thing being referenced will be referred to with šis/šī, while everything else gets tas/tā. It is not as flexible as tas and tā and the distance it refers to is very small. Anything within arm’s length works well with šis/šī. Don’t be surprised if the object gets touched while you’re talking about it!

Always keep in mind with šis and šī is that the singular genitive has two possible options.

Šis un Šī – This
vsk. dsk.
masc. fem. masc. fem.
Kas? šis šī šie šīs
Kā? šā, šī šās, šīs šo šo
Kam? šim šai šiem šīm
Ko? šo šo šos šīs
Ar ko? ar šo ar šo ar šiem ar šīm
Kur? šājā šājā šajos šajās
šai šai šais šais
šinī šinī šinīs šinīs

Tas un Tā

Tas and tā are used for nouns that are literally or figuratively far away from the speaker. Use tas for masculine and for feminine nouns.

Tas and tā tend to be very flexible, at least in my experience. They can be used for anything nearby or somewhat far away, so the distance is more ambiguous. Unlike with šis, many objects can be considered “tas” and often something I would consider a “this” in English is a “that” in Latvian. A book sitting on the corner of my desk? Tā. The apple tree in my front yard? Tas. Figure if you can point at it, it’s probably far enough away to be a tas or a tā.

Of course, this is also dependent on the speaker’s preferences and biases. Still, it’s safe to use tas or tā for any object not in your hands or right next to you, so if you’re unsure, err on the side of tas/tā.

Tas un Tā – That
vsk. dsk.
masc. fem. masc. fem.
Kas? tas tie tās
Kā? tās to to
Kam? tam tai tiem tām
Ko? to to tos tās
Ar ko? ar to ar to ar tiem ar tām
Kur? tajā tajā tajos tajās
tai tai tais tais
tanī tanī tanīs tanīs

Viņš un Viņa

Now, here is an odd type. I know, I know. Viņš and viņa are already pronouns you’re familiar with! Latvian has a provision for referencing things that are very far away from the speaker and borrows viņš and viņa to do it.

English actually has an archaic form that handles this provision as well – yon and yonder. I still hear yonder in colloquial speech where I live and use it myself, for that matter! It’s quite popular in the Southern dialects and colloquially used in rural Western dialects here in America. Whether it’s used outside the US at all, I don’t really know. Wikipedia implies that it’s become idiosyncratic to dialects of American English. Anyway…

Imagine for a moment that you’re on the banks of the Daugava. (If you’ve never been there, just check out my header image, taken from one coast.) You can point to Vecrīga on the other coast, sure, but if I were to tell you that Vecrīga is “on that side” without you seeing the image, you may not realize just how far I mean. “That” is too ambiguous in distance.

Enter viņš and viņa. I can say “Vecrīga ir viņā krastā” which means, “Vecrīga is on the far coast” or “Vecrīga is on yonder coast” without being ambiguous about it being really far.

Viņš and viņa are also used for time in a general fashion when referring to distant times far from your current time, whether literally or figuratively. If it feels like summer was forever ago, you could use “viņā vasarā”. “A long time ago” is a perfect opportunity to use viņš.

There’s also a caveat with the viņš/viņa construction. This always takes the locative, so it cannot be used to directly reference the object itself, only its location.

Viņš and viņa are included on the full chart for completeness and are declined normally.

Šāds un Šāda, Tāds un Tāda

Similar to the related question words, kāds and kāda, which ask “What kind of?“, these demonstratives identify the answer as “this kind of” or “that kind of“. The traditional reply to kāds is tāds, but it’s not required that you use it.

Unlike šis, šī, tas and tā, which are irregularly declined, both šāds/šāda and tāds/tāda are declined as regular, indefinite adjectives. I have included them on the full chart for completeness.

Locative Tricks

The locative is where it can get a little tricky. There are three ways you can decline both šis/šī and tas/tā in the locative! Each of them is correct.

How do you know which one to use? Use the one that sounds good or fits the best.

All three can be used interchangeably, which offers Latvians a lot of flexibility and they definitely take advantage of this in poetry and song. So, don’t just memorize one of each and forget the other two — you don’t want to miss out!

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Wordy Wednesday – Whither Weather

Man, am I tired. On the upside, finals are finally done this week so I can actually devote some time to the blog before my next semester begins in a month. Of course, next semester is going to be considerably harder, plus work may pick up the pace about a week into the semester too. However, I’ve got some time right now since work is slow too, so I’m going to take the opportunity to work up some of the ideas I have floating around.

For now, however, let’s talk about the weather today for the Wordy Wednesday. If you’re in America, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the massive storms tearing up the Deep South and East Coast, with more tornadoes in the past few days in North Carolina than normally happen all season. Even though we’re very, very far West, we’re not unaffected and have had our own set of nasty spring storms. At this rate, we might go from a 10-year drought to a 7-year! My state’s reservoirs are full and we haven’t even hit snow melt. It’s shaping up to be an interesting year, that’s for sure.

It’s hard to talk about the weather without also talking about some of Latvia’s interesting mythology. I won’t go into much detail right now but you might see this crop up again in future Wordy Wednesdays.

  • līt : to rain conjugate me»

    My spelling dictionary thinks this is the most boring verb in the world and as such is undeserving of a real entry. I think it’s a pain to conjugate, but apparently that means I need to pick out more 1st conjugate for Wordy Wednesdays. Clearly I’m getting plenty of practice on the other two and not enough on 1st.

  • pērkons : thunder decline me»

    Pērkons is also one of the old gods of the Baltic pantheon. I confess that I know very little about Baltic pagan mythology, but Wikipedia notes that Pērkons is the god of thunder, mountains, rain, the sky and oak trees. There are quite a few interesting little tidbits, so take a look at the article if you’re interested.

  • saule : sun decline me»

    Saule is another important Baltic goddess. She is the goddess of the sun, fertility, and the unfortunate, according to Wikipedia. However, she is not the most powerful, though she is one of the more powerful deities.

  • sniegs : snow decline me»

    Generally, sniegs is used in the singular since this is an uncountable noun. Still, it can be and is used in the plural too.

    Our family back in Latvia tells us that this past winter was very hard, with an incredible amount of snow. Some of the pictures we received were astonishing: some of their storms resulted in more snow than we received all the way up here in the mountains!

  • vējš : wind decline me»

    Interestingly, Latvian mythology anthropomorphizes the wind as one of the many female “mother” deities. Vēja māte is the goddess of wind, patron of sailors and also oversees forests and birds. There are several dozen goddesses like this that cover many aspects of natural life.

  • zibens : lightning decline me»

    Don’t be fooled by the lonely -s on the end of this noun. This is one of the 7 exception words for the 2nd declension. It’s also one of the things I adore about Latvian – the irregulars, by and large, are so few that you can easily memorize them in a sitting.

Bit late tonight, but better late than never. :)

līt, 1. konj.
tag. līstu, līsti, līst, līstam, līstat
pag. liju, liji, lija, lijām, lijāt
nak. līšu, līsi, līs, līsim, līsiet / līsit
pav. lij, lijiet Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
pērkons, m, 1. dekl.
vsk.: pērkons, pērkona, pērkonam, pērkonu, ar pērkonu, pērkonā
dsk.: pērkoni, pērkonu, pērkoniem, pērkonus, ar pērkoniem, pērkonos Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
saule, f, 5. dekl.
vsk.: saule, saules, saulei, sauli, ar sauli, saulē
dsk.: saules, sauļu, saulēm, saules, ar saulēm, saulēs Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
sniegs, m, 1. dekl.
vsk.: sniegs, sniega, sniegam, sniegu, ar sniegu, sniegā
dsk.: sniegi, sniegu, sniegiem, sniegus, ar sniegiem, sniegos Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
vējš, m, 1. dekl.
vsk.: vējš, vēja, vējam, vēju, ar vēju, vējā
dsk.: vēji, vēju, vējiem, vējus, ar vējiem, vējos Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
zibens, m, 2. dekl.
vsk.: zibens, zibens, zibenim, zibeni, ar zibeni, zibenī
dsk.: zibeņi, zibeņu, zibeņiem, zibeņus, ar zibeņiem, zibeņos Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
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Wordy Wednesday: The Magic of a Single Letter

I’m feeling fairly random today. I’m in the middle of finals – just finished the major paper of the semester (it’s finally done!) but my final exam for my other class is still coming up on Monday. It feels like I’m being pulled in a thousand different directions, bouncing from one project to the next.

Still, I’ve been really productive the last week and my to-do list is slowly getting chipped away. I’m working on a post on Demonstratives for next week after the exam and trying to decide what I want to write about next. There’s so much! It’s hard to choose.

I learned something cool the other day. Did you know that the word for letter, I mean letter as in a or b or c, not the kind you write home to Mom (that’s vēstule, by the way), uses a similar root as the words for magic and magic-users? I wondered if they are related (and it turns out that they are!). I could see people thinking letters and those who could read them were magical, couldn’t you?

Today’s post is all about the magic of combining letters together into words and spells of sentences.

  • burts : letter of the alphabet decline me»

    The very simplest building block of a word is the letter. There are several words that do build for certain off of this – burtnīca, for example – and all relate to copying and printing in some way.

  • burvis : spellcaster (masc.), wizard decline me»

    burve : spellcaster (fem.), witch decline me»

    While I’ve given the basic translation here of “wizard” and “witch”, as well as “spell-caster”, the definitions are rather loose and refer generally to any type of magic-user.

  • burtot : to spell or sound out conjugate me»

    The dictionaries give this definition, however, it is a bit confusing. This is to spell out as in sounding out words when you read unfamiliar ones aloud. It’s generally associated with children learning to read.

  • burt : to conjure, to practice magic conjugate me»

    Here’s where it gets interesting. Burtot is to spell out, but burt is to cast spells. If you prefix burt with ap-, you get apburt, to bewitch.

    Are they *really* related? I don’t know. There’s certainly enough cognates that operate this way in English and while I am a language geek, I’m not a lexicography geek. They are similar enough to make me smile – and just as importantly, it’s an interesting little tidbit to ensure they stick in my memory.

    Edited to Add: Thanks to Dace, we have confirmation! They are definitely related! See the comments for her great story. :)

  • burvestība : magic, spell decline me»

    Finally, we end with magic itself. It’s a flexible word. In the singular, it could be talking about magic as a large overall concept or a small magic, as in a single spell or working. When this is used in the plural, it is definitely talking about several spells. It can be countable or uncountable, depending on context.

burts, m, 1. dekl.
vsk.: burts, burta, burtam, burtu, ar burtu, burtā
dsk.: burti, burtu, burtiem, burtus, ar burtiem, burtos Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
burvis, m, 2. dekl.
vsk.: burvis, burvja, burvim, burvi, ar burvi, burvī
dsk.: burvji, burvju, burvjiem, burvjus, ar burvjiem, burvjos Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
burve, f, 5. dekl.
vsk.: burve, burves, burvei, burvi, ar burvi, burvē
dsk.: burves, burvju, burvēm, burves, ar burvēm, burvēs Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
burtot, 2. konj. (long)
tag. burtoju, burto, burto, burtojam, burtojat
pag. burtoju, burtoji, burtoja, burtojām, burtojāt
nak. burtošu, burtosi, burtos, burtosim, burtosiet / burtosit
pav. burto, burtojiet Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
burt, 1. konj.
tag. buru, bur, bur, buram, burat
pag. būru, būri, būra, būrām, būrāt
nak. buršu, bursi, burs, bursim, bursiet / bursit
pav. bur, buriet Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
burvestība, f, 4. dekl.
vsk.: burvestība, burvestības, burvestībai, burvestību, ar burvestību, burvestībā
dsk.: burvestības, burvestību, buvestībām, burvestības, ar burvestībām, burvestībās Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
Posted in Vocabulary | Tagged | 5 Comments