Despite their small size, prepositions are really important to understand. For
one thing, without prepositions, you lose a lot of meaning and for another,
more important thing, some of them do double duty as verbal prefixes.
Of course, it would be really simple and easy if the prefixes changed the
meanings consistently in line with their definitions, but that's another post.
For now, let's just look at prepositions.
Don't remember what they are? I remember being taught prepositions in school
with the " bunny and the log" trick, as so: The bunny hops around
the log. Around is a preposition. Anything that describes how the bunny
hops in relation to the log is a preposition. Not perfect, but it helps.
The preposition plus the noun it references is called a prepositional
phrase. In this case, "around the log" is a prepositional phrase.
Latvian is a case-based language and prepositions are no exception. While
prepositions don't decline like nouns (thank god), they do require the noun
they relate with to be in a certain case. There are only three possible
cases for a singular noun in a prepositional phrase: genitive, accusative and
dative. Ar takes the instrumental case, but it's declined like the
accusative, so I tend to lump them together.
Almost all prepositions govern the dative when plural. Governing a case
means that their related noun must be in that case.
Like English, Latvian generally structures its prepositional phrases with
the preposition coming immediately before the noun it relates to. (According
to Wikipedia, this is indicative of a "head-first" language, where the
preposition is the "head" of the prepositional phrase. I am not an English
grammar expert, so read more about it at Wikipedia.)
However, because of the case system in Latvian, structure is not required.
Again, in poetry and song, all bets are off. I hate translating poetry for
that simple reason. Maybe later when I get better at the language I'll have
better luck but for now, I stick to prose for my sanity.
Luckily, there's only a small set of prepositions that are absolutely critical
to remember and they map pretty well to English. But, because prepositions
can be finicky little devils , they can have several different meanings
depending on context and usage. The more you come across them, the easier it
is to figure out what their alternate meanings are.
I'm only going to list the basic definition below - alternates can be found in
any good Latvian dictionary or understood via context. There are more
prepositions but these are the most common.
||Governed Case (Sing./Pl.)
||behind, due to
||for the sake of
||until, up to
||from, out of
||after, according to
||next to, at (the place of)
- Special case. The preposition goes after the noun.