Wordy Wednesday: Modes of Transportation I

Lots of driving today for us as Spring is finally here! We had fun going to various markets and picking up fresh, seasonal veggies to enjoy all week. What we do with those veggies is a topic for the other blog, so instead let’s talk about different ways you can get around Latvia.

Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly, there are more options in Liepāja alone than there in many American cities! Salt Lake, for example, really only has buses and light-rail. Of course, we’re rather behind when it comes to mass transit.

A little late today, but hey, it’s still Wednesday somewhere, right? Let’s get to it.

  • dzelzceļš : railroad [slider title=”decline me”]dzelzceļš, m, 1. dekl.
    vsk.: dzelzceļš, dzelzceļa, dzelzceļam, dzelzceļu, ar dzelzceļu, dzelzceļā
    dsk.: dzelzceļi, dzelzceļu, dzelzceļiem, dzelzceļus, ar dzelzceļiem, dzelzceļos [/slider]

    This is neat. Dzelzs means iron and ceļš means road, so a railroad means literally, iron road, which makes a ton of sense. Unfortunately, the word for locomotive is simply lokomotīve instead of our more fun colloquialism of “iron horse” which would have suited beautifully.

    A railroad station is a dzelceļa stacija.

  • tramvajs : tram, streetcar [slider title=”decline me”]tramvajs, m, 1. dekl.
    vsk.: tramvajs, tramvaja, tramvajam, tramvaju, ar tramvaju, tramvajā
    dsk.: tramvaji, tramvaju, tramvajiem, tramvajus, ar tramvajiem, tramvajos [/slider]

    If you want to take the tram in Liepāja, you can usually pick up tickets at a discount at Narvesen kiosks, or you can buy tickets from the driver. Another word for trams, at least in our area here, is light-rail.

    A tram stop is a tramvaja pietura.

  • autobuss : bus [slider title=”decline me”]autobuss, m, 1. dekl.
    vsk.: autobuss, autobusa, autobusam, autobusu, ar autobusu, autobusā
    dsk.: autobusi, autobusu, autobusiem, autobusus, ar autobusiem, autobusos [/slider]

    When getting on a Latvian bus, look around for the conductor to buy a ticket. You can spot them by the rolls of tickets crossing their chests on bandoliers. If there isn’t a conductor, buy a ticket from the driver.

    If you hear the phrases, “galapunkts” or “lūdzu izkāpiet” – it’s time to get off! You’ve reached the end of the line.

    A bus stop is an autobusa pietura while a bus terminal is an autoosta.

  • trolejbuss : trolley [slider title=”decline me”]trolejbuss, m, 1. dekl.
    vsk.: trolejbuss, trolejbusa, trolejbusam, trolejbusu, ar trolejbusu, trolejbusā
    dsk.: trolejbusi, trolejbusu, trolejbusiem, trolejbusus, ar trolejbusiem, trolejbusos [/slider]

    The difference between a bus and a trolley is that a trolley runs on overhead electric wires.

    A trolley stop is a trolejbusa pietura.

  • mikroautobuss : minibus, shuttle, microbus [slider title=”decline me”]mikroautobuss, m, 1. dekl.
    vsk.: mikroautobuss, mikroautobusa, mikoautobusam, mikroautobusu, ar mikroautobusu, mikroautobusā
    dsk.: mikroautobusi, mikroautobusu, mikroautobusiem, mikroautobusus, ar mikroautobusiem, mikroautobusos [/slider]

    You can also shorten it to mikriņš. We don’t have very many shuttle routes that are open to public use here in Western America (shuttles are primarily for corporate use), but they are commonly used all over Latvia to service various routes. The claustrophobic or the socially anxious would be well advised to steer clear of these. You’ll talk with the driver who will charge you for your ticket based on how far you need to go unless you’re on a route that has a flat fee (which he will tell you).

    A mikriņš stops at a mikroautobusa pietura. However, unlike traditional buses, these do not stop unless you flag them or request to exit. On rural routes, they are often willing to stop at any given point requested along the route. To request a stop, say “Lūdzu pieturiet šeit” or “Please stop here”. In this way, they are more like cabs.

  • braukt : to drive [slider title=”conjugate me”]braukt, 1. konj. (short)
    tag. braucu, brauc, brauc, braucam, braucat
    pag. braucu, brauci, brauca, braucām, braucāt
    nak. braukšu, brauksi, brauks, brauksim, brauksiet / brauksit
    pav. brauc, brauciet [/slider]

    One of the essential Latvian verbs to know, braukt is used to refer to traveling via any means of wheeled ground transportation regardless of whether or not you are the driver. This can make it difficult to translate well as English assumes that if you are driving, you are the driver. Latvian makes no such assumption and applies the verb equally to both drivers and passengers.

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Wordy Wednesday: Points on a Map

If you’ve traveled anywhere, you know that a good map is a boon companion. It may point out areas of interest, show you where the good museums are and direct you to the nearest hospital if you are unlucky. All of this, however, depends on your understanding it.

  • karte : map [slider title=”decline me”]karte, f, 5. dekl.
    vsk.: karte, kartes, kartei, karti, ar karti, kartē
    dsk.: kartes, karšu, kartēm, kartes, ar kartēm, kartēs[/slider]

    I usually remember this one by its similarity to cartography and bet that it was also borrowed somewhere back in history. It is a false friend to “cart” as in shopping cart, so be wary of that.

  • muzejs : museum [slider title=”decline me”]muzejs, m., 1. dekl.
    vsk.: muzejs, muzeja, muzejam, muzeju, ar muzeju, muzejā
    dsk.: muzeji, muzeju, muzejiem, muzejus, ar muzejiem, muzejos[/slider]

    There are a lot of very interesting museums in Latvia, particularly in Vecrīga. Don’t miss the Latvian War Museum (Latvijas Kara muzejs) in the old Powder Tower (Pulvertornis) which has all sorts of neat stories, including lots about the badass Latvian Riflemen.

  • slimnīca : hospital [slider title=”decline me”]slimnīca, f, 4. dekl.
    vsk.: slimnīca, slimnīcas, slimnīcai, slimnīcu, ar slimnīcu, slimnīcā
    dsk.: slimnīcas, slimnīcu, slimnīcām, slimnīcas, ar slimnīcām, slimnīcās [/slider]

    Expect to see this one again on a future Wordy Wednesday because slims is a fun word-building word. In this case, slims or sick is combined with -nīca, the suffix which seems to indicate a basic establishment or place, to produce “a place for the sick” or a hospital.

  • viesnīca : hotel [slider title=”decline me”]viesnīca, f, 4. dekl.
    vsk.: viesnīca, viesnīcas, viesnīcai, viesnīcu, ar viesnīcu, viesnīcā
    dsk.: viesnīcas, viesnīcu, viesnīcām, viesnīcas, ar viesnīcām, viesnīcās[/slider]

    This is built from viesi, which means guests, plus -nīca to create “a place for guests.”

  • kafejnīca : cafe, bistro [slider title=”decline me”]kafejnīca, f, 4. dekl.
    vsk.: kafejnīca, kafejnīcas, kafejnīcai, kafejnīcu, ar kafejnīcu, kafejnīcā
    dsk.: kafejnīcas, kafejnīcu, kafejnīcām, kafejnīcas, ar kafejnīcām, kafejnīcās[/slider]

    Similar to viesnīca and slimnīca, kafejnīca is built from kafija or coffee plus -nīca to create “a place for coffee.” Kafejnīcas are similar to coffeehouses, a place where you can get a quick bite to eat, a cup of coffee or tea, light meal, that type of thing. It’s different from a restaurant, however.

  • restorāns : restaurant [slider title=”decline me”]restorāns, m., 1. dekl.
    vsk.: restorāns, restorāna, restorānam, restorānu, ar restorānu, restorānā
    dsk.: restorāni, restorānu, restorāniem, restorānus, ar restorāniem, restorānos[/slider]

    Latvians distinguish restorāns from other types of eateries and it’s a distinction to be aware of. A restorāns is generally going to have waitstaff and a full menu. It’s more formal. You wouldn’t probably stop here to just get a bite, you’d stop to get a full meal. For example: the little eatery you pick up a sandwich or a pastry at during the day is a kafejnīca, while the nice restaurant you take your Friday night date to is a restorāns.

    It’s hard to describe, but a lot of the distinction is really in the atmosphere. You’d probably pay more in a restorāns for a hopefully better (or higher-class) dining experience. You may also be expected to tip more in a restorāns because of the quality of service. It depends on the place.

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Verbs: Reflexive

Eric requested this one today, so if you were curious about how reflexive verbs worked and were wondering when I’d get around to posting about it, you can thank him for requesting it! :)

Up until now, I’ve only talked about four classes of verbs in Latvian: the three conjugations (short, long and mixed) and the irregular verbs. There is another “class” called the reflexive that is sort of an “add-on” to the regular classes of verbs. (Well, I think of it as a class. This is not grammatically correct, but it works for me because it is another set of endings for me to remember.)

What are Reflexive Verbs

Reflexive verbs are verbs that reflect their action back onto the doer. Generally speaking, anyway. This can be specific to the definition and I’ve found that some of them don’t really “fit” that “reflective” action in my mind.

To create a reflexive verb (or identify one), you add -ies to the infinitive of the regular verb.

Here’s a very common one: mācīt –> mācīties

How does it work? Adding the reflexive ending does not change the conjugation the verb falls in. It only causes the action the verb would take to reflect back onto the subject.

So, we have mācīt, a third (or mixed) conjugation verb, which means to teach. If we add -ies to the end of it, we get mācīties, still a third (or mixed) conjugation verb. Mācīties still indicates the concept of teaching, but since we have to reflect the action back to the subject, it means to teach oneself. If you teach yourself, that would mean you are learning. Thus mācīties means to learn.

Let’s see them in action:

Es mācu latviešu valodu. –> I am teaching Latvian.
Es mācos latviešu valodu. –> I am learning Latvian.

The reflexive verb changed the entire meaning of the sentence, yet it is not used any differently. This is because a reflexive is just a verb with a different jacket on.

Not all verbs have reflexive forms and not all reflexive verbs have standard forms.

Domāt, for example, means to think. Domāties, which I think makes perfect sense as “to think about oneself”, is not a word. Apparently, because you can use domāt to think about yourself, domāties is considered unnecessary.

Viņš domā par futbolu. –> He thinks about soccer.

Iedomāties, which means to imagine, can be parsed from ie + domāt + ies = into + to think + reflexive. Iedomāt, on the other hand, is not a real word because imagining something externally to yourself is basically impossible outside of fiction.

Viņš iedomājās futbola maču. –> He imagined a soccer match.

Reflexive verbs don’t always correspond to their non-reflexive counterparts’ definition.

Let’s look at atminēt, a second conjugation verb, which means to guess or to solve a riddle. Add -ies to the end and you get atminēties.

Now, does it make sense if we look at it from the perspective of reflecting it back to the subject to say “to guess about oneself”? Not really. This is where the “reflecting” part of reflexives tends to break down.

What atminēties actually means is to remember or to recall. There is a very tenuous connection there, but frankly, I wouldn’t have guessed from just the ending!

Reflexives should always reflect back to a person or thing capable of performing the action.

You may already know pārdot or to sell, an essential verb to know (along with my essential shopping noun: izpārdošana – clearance sale)

Applying pārdoties (to sell itself/oneself) to an item being sold instead of the seller is considered a classic mistake because reflexives should refer to a person or object capable of performing the action. Items being sold are not generally considered capable as they are sold by someone rather than themselves.

Now, in English, we think of this as a great thing – if an object “sells itself”, the money should be rolling in! However, in Latvian, someone should be selling that thing because pārdot/pārdoties discuss the act of receiving money for an item. An object can’t take money for itself. (Colloquially, a vending machine could be used as the subject but the can of Coke could not be.)


So, I’ve talked a lot about what reflexives are and aren’t. Now, how do you use them?

Very simple: exactly like every other verb. There is no difference in usage. You can still drop the pronoun, you can still find the verb anywhere in a line of poetry, it still must agree with its subject, it still has tense, voice and number. The 3rd person forms are still identical. It still follows the same rules for conjugation and identification. In short, it is a verb.

Reflexives do, however, have their very own special set of endings to add onto the verb.

Interestingly, they don’t change much. I think this is why you don’t see very much in-depth discussion in the books about them. Just because the definition of a reflexive might indicate that the action reflects back does not make the verb itself function differently.

Generally speaking, the endings are added on to the standard verb’s plural endings and replace the singular endings. If doing so would result in a doubled vowel, a -j- is inserted to prevent it.

The reflexive’s endings are the same across past, present and future tenses. The reflexive ending just shows you that it is reflexive. It doesn’t show you what the verb is doing as far as tense goes and offers little in the way of person or number information. You will likely rely on the underlying verbal structure for tense, person, and number information.

The endings are as follows:

Pronoun Ending Example
Es -os Es ceļos
Tu -ies Tu atminies
Viņš/Viņa -ās Viņš mostās
Mēs -ies Mēs iedomājamies
Jūs -ies Jūs mācāties
Viņi/Viņas -ās Viņas rotājās

Unsurprisingly, I find that these can be somewhat difficult to tell apart from nouns on vocabulary I don’t know yet.

How to Conjugate

Here’s how to conjugate a reflexive in comparison to its non-reflexive counterpart in present, past and future. You can also find this on the conjugation chart.

Example shown: mācīt vs. mācīties

mācīt || mācīties
tagadne pagātne nākotne || tagadne pagātne nākotne

mācu mācīju mācīšu || mācos mācījos mācīšos

māci mācīji mācīsi || mācies mācījies mācīsies

māca mācīja mācīs || mācās mācījās mācīsies

mācām mācījām mācīsim || mācāmies mācījāmies mācīsimies

mācāt mācījāt mācīsiet
|| mācāties mācījāties mācīsieties

māca mācīja mācīs || mācās mācījās mācīsies
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Wordy Wednesday: Knit One, Purl Two

While listening to Greizie Rati, one of the riddles was as follows:

Krustām, šķērsām taisīts koka aploks — ganiņš gana tūkstošiem aitiņu.
A corral made of criss-crossed wood, a shepherd shepherds thousands of little sheep.

The answer? Knitting! More precisely, knitting on double-pointed needles.

I’ve recently taken up knitting myself and I thought the riddle was an amazingly cute way to refer to it. Latvians have a culture rich in textiles of all sorts, but particularly in linen and wool. Their patterns are complex and colorful, with Latvian mittens in particular being very popular among knitters around the world.

If you’re lucky enough to be in Latvia during Christmas, you should go to one of the Christmas Markets. If you’re too early, don’t despair! All throughout Vecrīga, little stands will be set up with all sorts of holiday items, including lots and lots of cimdi and zeķes. (Of course, many such stands are up all the time, but more show up around Christmas.) You can even find such stands in malls like Ostmala and Kurzeme in Liepāja. You can’t pass up a good pair of mittens or socks, knitted by hand and super-warm.

  • vilna : wool [slider title=”decline me”]vilna, f, 4. dekl.
    vsk.: vilna, vilnas, vilnai, vilnu, ar vilnu, vilnā
    dsk.: vilnas, vilnu, vilnām, vilnas, ar vilnām, vilnās[/slider]

    Wool, much as in English, is primarily used in the singular. It’s considered basically uncountable. (Ever try to count a sheep’s hairs? Yeah, good luck.) A sheepskin would be an aitāda, a fleece would be a cirpums no vienas aitas which translates to “the shearing from a single sheep”, and vilna refers to the fluff that makes up yarn and textiles or is processed into such.

  • aita : sheep, mutton [slider title=”decline me”]aita, f, 4. dekl.
    vsk.: aita, aitas, aitai, aitu, ar aitu, aitā
    dsk.: aitas, aitu, aitām, aitas, ar aitām, aitās[/slider]

    Interestingly, Latvians do not have separate words for the animal and the meat. Some, like pork, might get gaļa (meat) added on. Aita does not.

  • cimdi : mittens [slider title=”decline me”]cimdi, m, 1. dekl.
    vsk.: cimds, cimda, cimdam, cimdu, ar cimdu, cimdā
    dsk.: cimdi, cimdu, cimdiem, cimdus, ar cimdiem, cimdos[/slider]

    Latvian maidens used to knit many, many pairs of mittens for their dowries. Usually this would be between 50 and 80 pairs, according to some historical references I’ve found, but some maidens (who apparently really got on a roll) would produce several hundred pairs of mittens! (One reportedly had a stash of 800 pairs. Now that’s a knitter!) As with other elements of the traditional dress in Latvia, every area has its own individual patterns and colors.

    A great reference (and one I still need to buy for myself) is Latvian Mittens/Latviešu Cimdi: Traditional Designs & Techniques by Lizbeth Upitis. This book not only has patterns and color reference pictures of mittens from all over Latvia, but it is dual-language!

  • adata : needle [slider title=”decline me”]adata, f, 4. dekl.
    vsk.: adata, adatas, adatai, adatu, ar adatu, adatā
    dsk.: adatas, adatu, adatām, adatas, ar adatām, adatās[/slider]

    No Wednesday on knitting would be complete without the trademark of a knitter: the needles. In fact, that’s even where the verb comes from, which we’ll see below.

  • adīt : to knit [slider title=”conjugate me”]adīt, 3. konj. (mixed)
    tag. adu, adi, ada, adām, adāt
    pag. adīju, adīji, adīja, adījām, adījāt
    nak. adīšu, adīsi, adīs, adīsim, adīsiet / adīsit
    pav. adi, adiet [/slider]

    Added bonus: Any knitter who reads this will immediately think, “Yes, but how do I purl?” Unlike in English, it actually makes sense in Latvian. After all, a knit is a purl, only backwards.

    adīt kreiliski : to knit left-handedly : to purl

  • zeķe : sock [slider title=”decline me”]zeķe, f, 5. dekl.
    vsk.: zeķe, zeķes, zeķei, zeķi, ar zeķi, zeķē
    dsk.: zeķes, zeķu, zeķēm, zeķes, ar zeķēm, zeķēs [/slider]

    Hand-knit socks are marvelous things. I have two pairs: a cream lace pair and a grey kitty pair. Totally worth it. My mother-in-law gave me the cream pair to keep me warm in the hospital (and I have thanked her ever since).

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Wordy Wednesday: Pet Edition

I love the way Latvian creates the word for pet. Since my little furballs are an important part of my life, today’s Wordy Wednesday is all about our furry, four-footed friends.

  • dzīvot : to live [slider title=”conjugate me”]
    dzīvot, 2. konj. (long)
    tag. dzīvoju, dzīvo, dzīvo, dzīvojam, dzīvojat
    pag. dzīvoju, dzīvoji, dzīvoja, dzīvojām, dzīvojāt
    nak. dzīvošu, dzīvosi, dzīvos, dzīvosim, dzīvosit / dzīvosiet
    pav. dzīvo, dzīvojiet [/slider]

    The root seen here in dzīvot is commonly used in word-building. It’s used in several compounds, including dzīvnieks below and dzīvoklis (an apartment or flat).

  • dzīvnieks : animal  [slider title=”decline me”]
    dzīvnieks, m, 1. dekl.
    vsk.: dzīvnieks, dzīvnieka, dzīvniekam, dzīvnieku, ar dzīvnieku, dzīvniekā
    dsk.: dzīvnieki, dzīvnieku, dzīvniekiem, dzīvniekus, ar dzīvniekiem, dzīvniekos[/slider]

    Literally a “living thing”, this refers to any type of living animal, including insects.

  • mājdzīvnieks : pet, housepet  [slider title=”decline me”]
    mājdzīvnieks, m, 1. dekl.
    vsk.: mājdzīvnieks, mājdzīvnieka, mājdzīniekam, mājdzīvnieku, ar mājdzīvnieku, mājdzīvniekā
    dsk.: mājdzīvnieki, mājdzīvnieku, mājdzīvniekiem, mājdzīvniekus, ar mājdzīvniekiem, mājdzīvniekos[/slider]

    This compound is created from māja + dvīvnieks = a house animal = housepet = pet. I just think this is such a neat way to refer to a pet.

  • kaķis : male (or unknown) cat  [slider title=”decline me”]
    kaķis, m, 2. dekl.
    vsk.: kaķis, kaķa, kaķim, kaķi, ar kaķi, kaķī
    dsk.: kaķi, kaķu, kaķiem, kaķus, ar kaķiem, kaķos [/slider]

    kaķene : female cat  [slider title=”decline me”]
    kaķene, f, 5. dekl.
    vsk.: kaķene, kaķenes, kaķenei, kaķeni, ar kaķeni, kaķenē
    dsk.: kaķenes, kaķeņu, kaķenēm, kaķenes, ar kaķenēm, kaķenēs[/slider]

    Gender differences matter, even with pets. Unlike with English, where it can be impossible to tell if little Midnight is a boy or girl, Latvian always makes gender differences clear in names. Therefore, if you know that Grācija is the name of my cat, you’d then need to refer to her as my kaķene instead of my kaķis. If you don’t know, however, a cat of any sort is a kaķis.

  • runcis : tomcat  [slider title=”decline me”]
    runcis, m., 2. dekl.
    vsk.: runcis, runča, runcim, runci, ar runci, runcī
    dsk.: runči, runču, runčiem, runčus, ar runčiem, runčos[/slider]

    As with our word for tomcat, a runcis can refer to a male cat or a big bruiser of a cat. Puss in Boots is called Runcis Zābakos, for example.

  • suns : dog  [slider title=”decline me”]
    suns, m, 2. dekl. exc.
    vsk.: suns, suns/suņa, sunim, suni, ar suni, sunī
    dsk.: suņi, suņu, suņiem, suņus, ar suņiem, suņos[/slider]
    This is one of the 2nd declension exception nouns. According to my references, the 2nd singular genitive should be suns. According to my husband, the 2nd singular genitive should be suņa. Personally, I think that I will go with how he says it because I’d rather speak how a native does than perfectly by the book. Go with what you prefer.
  • kuce : female dog, bitch  [slider title=”decline me”]
    kuce, f, 5. dekl.
    vsk.: kuce, kuces, kucei, kuci, ar kuci, kucē
    dsk.: kuces, kuču, kucēm, kuces, ar kucēm, kucēs[/slider]

    As with cats, so with dogs. Also, when kuce is applied to people, it means exactly the same thing as it does in English.

Posted in Vocabulary | Tagged , | 2 Comments

It’s Time for Some Time

Did you know that Latvians don’t exclusively use a 12 hour clock like we Americans do? They often use a 24 hour clock instead! When translating times for 24 hour clocks, remember to add 12 to PM times – 2:00 pm is equal to 14:00.

Formally, times are posted using a 24 hour clock but informally, Latvians often use the 12 hour clock and specify when needed for uncommon or ambiguous times. It depends on the speaker which they will use in any given situation. As with English, context will take care of most of the ambiguity.

How to express AM and PM

There isn’t a direct equivalent of AM and PM, instead phrases equivalent to “in the morning” or “in the afternoon” are used, which makes rather more sense than our AM/PM conventions. (I mean really, ante-meridian and post-meridian? When’s the last time you actually thought about what AM or PM means?)

AM would be expressed as:

  • no rīta – in the morning
  • pa nakti – during the night, at night
  • naktī – in the night

PM is a bit more difficult. Potential translations include:

  • pa dienu – during the day
  • dienā – in the day, during the day (this doesn’t translate well)
  • pēcpusdienā – in the afternoon, after midday
  • vakarā – in the evening

What about midnight?

To avoid confusion, the start of the day on a 24 hour clock is 00, the end is 24.  Thus, a 24-hour shop is open from 00 to 24.

If you wanted to meet someone later that night at midnight, you would meet them at 24, but if you needed to wake up at midnight to make it to work for a graveyard shift, you would be up at 00.

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Wordy Wednesday: Mmmm!

Lately, my husband has really gotten into baking. He loves it! So in honor of all the wonderful bread he’s been providing us, today’s Wordy Wednesday is all about baking.

  • maize : bread [slider title=”decline me”]maize, f., 5. dekl.
    vsk.: maize, maizes, maizei, maizi, ar maizi, maizē
    dsk.: maizes, maižu, maizēm, maizes, ar maizēm, maizēs [/slider]

    The most important facet of Latvian cuisine – bread. A Latvian dark rye bread is 100% rye flour with yeast and water plus maybe some salt, honey or caraway. There is no wheat. It’s dense, chewy, intense and filling. But, since this isn’t my food blog, I’ll stop there. :)

  • maiznīca : bakery [slider title=”decline me”]maiznīca, f., 4. dekl.
    vsk.: maiznīca, maiznīcas, maiznīcai, maiznīcu, ar maiznīcu, maiznīcā
    dsk.: maiznīcas, maiznīcu, maiznīcām, maiznīcas, ar maiznīcām, maiznīcās[/slider]

    -Nīca is basically a suffix that means “thing-place”. So a maiznīca is a “bread-place” – a bakery.

  • maiznieks : a baker (masc.) [slider title=”decline me”]maiznieks, m., 1. dekl.
    vsk.: maiznieks, maiznieka, maizniekam, maiznieku, ar maiznieku, maizniekā
    dsk.: maiznieki, maiznieku, maizniekiem, maizniekus, ar maizniekiem, maizniekos[/slider]
    maizniece : a baker (fem.) [slider title=”decline me”]maizniece, f., 5. dekl.
    vsk.: maizniece, maiznieces, maizniecei, maiznieci, ar maiznieci, maizniecē
    dsk.: maizneices, maiznieču, maizniecēm, maiznieces, ar maizniecēm, maizniecēs[/slider]

    Like -nīca, -nieks and -niece are common suffixes that indicates a person of either male or female gender respectively. So, we combine bread + appropriate person suffix = baker.

  • mīcīt : to knead [slider title=”conjugate me”]mīcīt, 3. konj.
    tag. mīcu, mīci, mīca, mīcam, mīcat
    pag.mīcīju, mīcīji, mīcīja, mīcījām, mīcījāt
    nak.mīcīšu, mīcīsi, mīcīs, mīcīsim, mīcīsiet / mīcīsit
    pav. mīci, mīciet [/slider]

  • mīkla : 1. dough; 2. riddle [slider title=”decline me”]mīkla, f., 4. dekl.
    vsk.: mīkla, mīklas, mīklai, mīklu, ar mīklu, mīklā
    dsk.: mīklas, mīklu, mīklām, mīklas, ar mīklām, mīklās [/slider]

    Like tautasdziesmas, riddles are part of Latvia’s cultural heritage and are still alive and well today. There’s even a radio show where a family guesses answers to listener-submitted riddles and sing! You can listen to “Greizie rati” on LR-1 at 10:25 EET on Saturdays, rebroadcast on Sundays at 04:02.(Listen to it via live streaming or find it in the archives.)

  • milti : flour [slider title=”decline me”]milti, m., 1. dekl.
    vsk.: milts, milta, miltam, miltu, ar miltu, miltā
    dsk.: milti, miltu, miltiem, miltus, ar miltiem, miltos[/slider]

    This is one of Latvian’s “uncountable” nouns. It is possible to decline it for singular, but in practice it is not really used. In English, we would have to say “a grain of flour” as flour is considered to be made up of thousands upon thousands of tiny grains.

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No New Post This Week

To hell with it. Between work, school and life, I cannot seem to get my post finished for this week.

I’m going to work on it this week and see if I can get a post or two ahead. Expect a Wordy Wednesday as usual tomorrow morning, but otherwise? No new post unless a miracle of writing occurs before Sunday.

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Wordy Wednesday: Wordbuilding with Sētas

Today, let’s take a look at some light wordbuilding with compound nouns.


  • galva : head (fem.) [slider title=”decline me”]galva, f., 4. dekl.
    vsk.: galva, galvas, galvai, galvu, ar galvu, galvā
    dsk.: galvas, galvu, galvām, galvas, ar galvām, galvās[/slider]
    As with English, head can refer to the head on your shoulders or the head of a company, city or group.
  • pils : castle (fem.) [slider title=”decline me”]pils, f., 6. dekl.
    vsk.: pils, pils, pilij, pili, ar pili, pilī
    dsk.: pilis, piļu, pilīm, pilis, ar pilīm, pilīs[/slider]
    There are many pilis scattered around the Latvian countryside. There’s even one named “Jaunpils pils”! It’s so neat to be able to walk through history. We Americans are so short-changed — Artis’ hometown is older than my entire country, and it is considered “young” at only 386 years old, and that’s just when it obtained its town rights! People have been settled in the region for much, much longer, but then again, you could make that case for America too, but that’s a history lesson for another day.
  • sēta : yard, courtyard (fem.) [slider title=”decline me”]sēta, f., 4. dekl.
    vsk.: sēta, sētas, sētai, sētu, ar sētu, sētā
    dsk.: sētas, sētu, sētām, sētas, ar sētām, sētās[/slider]
    A sēta can also be used to refer to a collection of little buildings enclosed by a yard or fence forming a self-sufficient homestead, however, the more precise term for this is viensēta.
  • pilsēta : city (fem.) [slider title=”decline me”]pilsēta, f., 4. dekl.
    vsk.: pilsēta, pilsētas, pilsētai, pilsētu, ar pilsētu, pilsētā
    dsk.: pilsētas, pilsētu, pilsētām, pilsētas, ar pilsētām, pilsētās[/slider]
    This makes a lot of sense, if you think about it in historical terms. When a castle was built, the area inside its walls would fill up with townspeople. The town would grow into a city, with new walls being built as the city expanded (hopefully, but not always). The concept of the sēta or courtyard was well-suited to this, and since it was centered on a castle, a city being called a pilsēta made a lot of sense (and still does)!

    If you visit Vecrīga, you can still pass through some of the old city gates and walk along or under portions of the original city walls.

  • galvaspilsēta : capital city (fem.) [slider title=”decline me”]galvaspilsēta, f., 4. dekl.
    vsk.: galvaspilsēta, galvaspilsētas, galvaspilsētai, galvaspilsētu, ar galvaspilsētu, galvaspilsētā
    dsk.: galvaspilsētas, galvaspilsētu, galvaspilsētām, galvaspilsētas, ar galvaspilsētām, galvaspilsētās[/slider]
    Yep, a triple compound. It’s pretty easy to see how it worked out – the head or leading + castle + courtyard -> capital city.
  • viensēta : homestead, farm or ranch (fem.) [slider title=”decline me”]viensēta, f., 4. dekl.
    vsk.: viensēta, viensētas, viensētai, viensētu, ar viensētu, viensētā
    dsk.: viensētas, viensētu, viensētām, viensētas, ar viensētām, viensētās[/slider]

    Viens + sēta -> single or alone (independent) + yard = independent homestead

    Viensēta Latvijā
    Image of a Latvian viensēta courtesy of Modris Frikmanis, under Creative Commons

    Viensētas were common throughout most of Latvia, and consisted of self-sufficient little homesteads generally run by a single extended family.   Typically, a homestead would be on a fairly large piece of unfenced land and include both living quarters and purpose-built buildings for running the farm, such as threshing barns, silos, granaries, mills, etc., or any combination thereof as the family saw fit. Interestingly, the yard here implied by sēta may not be fenced but rather enclosed by the buildings themselves.

    Unlike the villages common to western Europe, viensētas were independent of each other. The Open-Air Ethnographic Museum (Latvijas Etnografiskais Brīvdabas Muzejs) has a huge collection set up for viewing and touring. They also participated in a Virtual Museum project! You can go on a virtual walkthrough (though nothing beats the real thing) at Virtuālais brīvdabas muzejs.

    The concept of a separate, independent homestead is still alive and well in Latvia today, however, viensēta is generally used to refer to historical homesteads rather than contemporary versions.

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Nouns in Vocative

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.
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