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 [slider title="decline me"] burts , m, 1. dekl.
    vsk.: burts, burta, burtam, burtu, ar burtu, burtā
    dsk.: burti, burtu, burtiem, burtus, ar burtiem, burtos [/slider]

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 [slider title="decline me"] burvis , m, 2. dekl.
    vsk.: burvis, burvja, burvim, burvi, ar burvi, burvī
    dsk.: burvji, burvju, burvjiem, burvjus, ar burvjiem, burvjos [/slider]

burve : spellcaster (fem.), witch [slider title="decline me"] burve , f, 5. dekl.
vsk.: burve, burves, burvei, burvi, ar burvi, burvē
dsk.: burves, burvju, burvēm, burves, ar burvēm, burvēs [/slider]

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 [slider title="conjugate me"] 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 [/slider]

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 [slider title="conjugate me"] 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 [/slider]

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 [slider title="decline me"] burvestība , f, 4. dekl.
    vsk.: burvestība, burvestības, burvestībai, burvestību, ar burvestību, burvestībā
    dsk.: burvestības, burvestību, buvestībām, burvestības, ar burvestībām, burvestībās [/slider]

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.

Wordy Wednesday - Moro

I hope you had fun with the audio and text of Moro! As you can see from the text, even though Moro is intended for elementary school kids, there's a lot of complicated grammar and vocabulary. Poetry makes everything more complicated, but I hope that you were able to hear some of the rhythm and how the different sounds worked, like the macrons. We had a lot of fun with it, so we'll be doing some different audio posts in the future too. (For one, audio will let me write about ēst!)

I thought I'd write about some of the vocabulary used in Moro for this week's Wordy Wednesday.

  • godāt : to honor, respect or revere [slider title="conjugate me"] godāt , 2. konj.
    tag. godāju, godā, godā, godājam, godājat
    pag. godāju, godāji, godāja, godājām, godājāt
    nak. godāšu, godāsi, godās, godāsim, godāsiet / godāsit
    pav. godā, godājiet [/slider]

This is probably one of the more challenging parts of Moro (at least for beginners) and it shows up in the first two lines! Godā can look like either a verb or a noun! It's hardly fair. In Moro's case, the verb is on line 1 and the noun is on line 2.

  • gods : honor [slider title="decline me"] gods , m, 1. dekl.
    vsk.: gods, goda, godam, godu, ar godu, godā
    dsk.: godi, godu, godiem, godus, ar godiem, godos [/slider]

This is an extremely flexible word, easily as flexible as honor is in English with all sorts of little phrases and idiomatic expressions used with it.

  • cinis : mound, hillock or knoll [slider title="decline me"] cinis , m, 2. dekl.
    vsk.: cinis, ciņa, cinim, cini, ar cini, cinī
    dsk.: ciņi, ciņu, ciņiem, ciņus, ar ciņiem, ciņos [/slider]

This word is a bit archaic, both in Latvian and in English. However, if you study Latvian folktales or stories at all, you'll come across this one pretty frequently.

There is a little proverb with the diminutive form of this word too: "Mazs cinītis gāž lielu vezumu." This means roughly: "A tiny mound fells the great cartload." However, my dictionary translates it as a different proverb: "Little strokes fell great oaks" which doesn't quite have the same feel as the original. Ahhh, translation.

  • valsts : country [slider title="decline me"] valsts , f, 6. dekl.
    vsk.: valsts, valsts, valstij, valsti, ar valsti, valstī
    dsk.: valstis, valstu, valstīm, valstis, ar valstīm, valstīs [/slider]

This is a bit confusing. Even though valsts looks like a 1st declension masculine noun, it is actually a feminine 6th declension noun. All countries are considered feminine, just like all rivers are feminine and all lakes are masculine. It simply is. This also applies to names of countries - Latvija, with its -a ending, is obviously feminine, as is Nīderlande.

Also note that the plural genitive here does not get palatalized. If you palatalized the -t, you would then get a -š next to a -s and that would be very, very strange! Not to mention difficult to pronounce. So, it doesn't change.

  • pavalstnieks : subject, citizen [slider title="decline me"] pavalstnieks , m, 1. dekl.
    vsk.: pavalstnieks, pavalstnieka, pavalstniekam, pavalstnieku, ar pavalstnieku, pavalstniekā
    dsk.: pavalstnieki, pavalstnieku, pavalstniekiem, pavalstniekus, ar pavalstniekiem, pavalstniekos [/slider]

To create this word, we combine three different things together: the prefix pa- for "sub" + valsts for "country" + the suffix -nieks for "person" to create a "subject" under a ruler, in this case, a prince.

Pa- can be used for "sub" or "under", which is kinda different from the "under" given by zem-. There's a few words that deal with being figuratively "under" someone else in a hierarchy and they all start with pa-, like padotais (an underling) or pavaldonis (a regent).

As shown in previous Wordy Wednesdays, the suffix -nieks changes to -niece for women, so a female citizen is a pavalstniece.

  • apkrākāt : to crow, to caw [slider title="conjugate me"] apkrākāt , 2. konj.
    tag. apkrākāju, apkrākā, apkrākā, apkrākājam, apkrākājat
    pag. apkrākāju, apkrākāji, apkrākāja, apkrākājām, apkrākājāt
    nak. apkrākāšu, apkrākāsi, apkrākās, apkrākāsim, apkrākāsiet / apkrākāsit
    pav. apkrākā, apkrākājiet [/slider]

This is fun. This is not a real word! (At least, it isn't a word given in ANY of my dictionaries, online or offline.) It's a created word for the passage and is onomatopoeic of a crow's caw. As with English, Latvian allows you to play around and create words -- provided you play by the rules and conjugate (or decline) it properly. Now, which set of rules?

It's pretty clear that apkrākāt has to be either 2nd or 3rd (long or mixed) and cannot be 1st which would require it to be one syllable after the ap-. Artis looked at it and said that obviously it is long. Why? Because it sounds better. It just doesn't sound good in mixed, doesn't work and probably because it doesn't sound like a crow as much in the mixed, he says. If it were in mixed, you'd lose the final -ā-, and you'd lose a lot of the sound of a crow.

Me, I clearly have a ways to go on training my "ear" for what sounds "right" in the language but I have to agree that it sounds more like a crow in the long than the mixed.

Text - A Reading from Moro

As promised, here is the text of the passage. I've also linked the audio again so that you can listen and read along if you choose.

Suņu karaļa Moro piedzīvojumi
Žanis Grīva

Es esmu Moro -- spaniels, tā visi mani godā,
Un apburts Melnā prinča dēls, celts karaliskā godā.
Man valsts nav liela, jāatzīst -- tik viena sēta dota,
No visām pusēm arī tā ir stingri iežogota.

Man pavalstnieku nav tik daudz, ir kāda vārna Grieta,
Tai dižas priedes galotnē ir lepna ligzda slieta.
Tā mani nikni apkrākā, pat dažkārt uzbrukt tīko --
Mans karaliskais mundieris nemaz tai nepatīkot.

Kas vainas manam mundierim? Tas saulē spīd un laistās,
Ap kaklu balta kravate un svārki melni, skaisti.
Es samta biksēs staigāju un baltos zābaciņos,
Tie mani nes un neķeras nedz krūmājos, nedz ciņos.

Download: Ogg/Vorbis or MP3

Audio - A Reading from Moro

Artis has kindly agreed to record a page from a children's poetry book so that those of you who are not in Latvia and don't have much exposure to native speech patterns can listen to a slower, relatively low-key reading.

If you feel up to it, you can treat this as a basic diktāts. A diktāts can be roughly translated as a dictation. In Latvian schools, the teacher will read a passage and the students are expected to write as she speaks. It basically helps train their ears, spelling and grammar abilities. (This isn't a beginning diktāts though, if it were, Artis would also repeat the lines slower and provide the punctuation marks.)

We chose a page from "Suņu karaļa Moro piedzīvojumi" by Žanis Grīva, a children's book of poetry about the adventures of a little dog named Moro. There are three stanzas and each are four lines long. Your job is to listen and, if you are up to it, write or translate what you hear. Do the best you can and pause or replay the audio as you need to.

I will post the text of the passage on Monday. Feedback's appreciated - if this helps you, if you hate it and wish I'd never brought it up, or if you want this to be a regular feature, please let us know in the comments.

Download: Ogg/Vorbis or MP3

Wordy Wednesday: All About Slims

I don't know about you, but something is going around in our area. Both Artis and I were sick and miserable for days and the crud is lingering on. At least it's not keeping us up at night or keeping me from working!

So, let's have some fun with being sick and do some words based on slims!

  • slims : adj. sick [slider title="decline me"] slims , m, adj.
    vsk.: slims, slima, slimam, slimu, ar slimu, slimā
    dsk.: slimi, slimu, slimiem, slimus, ar slimiem, slimos [/slider]

slima : adj. sick [slider title="decline me"] slima , f, adj.
vsk.: slima, slimas, slimai, slimu, ar slimu, slimā
dsk.: slimas, slimu, slimām, slimas, ar slimām, slimās [/slider]

This is an adjective, which means it modifies nouns. Because of this, it can take either gender and has gender-appropriate endings. Yes, I still need to write about both adverbs and adjectives.

  • slimot : to be sick, to ail [slider title="conjugate me"] slimot , 2. konj.
    tag. slimoju, slimo, slimo, slimojam, slimojat
    pag. slimoju, slimoji, slimoja, slimojām, slimojāt
    nak. slimošu, slimosi, slimos, slimosim, slimosiet / slimosit
    pav. slimo, slimojiet [/slider]

Unlike sāpēt, slimot is just a normal verb, so don't get the two mixed up. Sāpēt needs a dative construction, such as man sāp galva, slimot doesn't.

  • slimība : disease [slider title="decline me"] slimība , f, 4. dekl.
    vsk.: slimība, slimības, slimībai, slimību, ar slimību, slimībā
    dsk.: slimības, slimību, slimībām, slimības, ar slimībām, slimībās [/slider]

You could think of this as a "thing that makes one sick". Pretty neat, huh?

  • slimnieks : (male) patient [slider title="decline me"] slimnieks , m, 1. dekl.
    vsk.: slimnieks, slimnieka, slimniekam, slimnieku, ar slimnieku, slimniekā
    dsk.: slimnieki, slimnieku, slimniekiem, slimniekus, ar slimniekiem, slimniekos [/slider]

slimniece : (female) patient [slider title="decline me"] slimniece , f, 5. dekl.
vsk.: slimniece, slimnieces, slimniecei, slimnieci, ar slimnieci, slimniecē
dsk.: slimnieces, slimnieču, slimniecēm, slimnieces, ar slimniecēm, slimniecēs [/slider]

-nieks is the suffix for person, so a slimnieks is a sick-person or patient! * slimīgs : adj. sickly [slider title="decline me"] slimīgs , m, adj.
vsk.: slimīgs, slimīga, slimīgam, slimīgu, ar slimīgu, slimīgā
dsk.: slimīgi, slimīgu, slimīgiem, slimīgus, ar slimīgiem, slimīgos [/slider]

slimīga : adj. sickly [slider title="decline me"] slimīga , f, adj.
vsk.: slimīga, slimīgas, slimīgai, slimīgu, ar slimīgu, slimīgā
dsk.: slimīgas, slimīgu, slimīgām, slimīgas, ar slimīgām, slimīgās [/slider]

Another adjective. Notice that both sets of adjectives here conform to the 1st and 4th declensions, as is typical for adjectives. The declension of the noun is irrelevant, only the gender, number and case. The adjective must match all three.

If you are wondering why I left out slimnīca, it's because I featured it on March 2nd's Wordy Wednesday.

I hate being sick.

I know, I missed Wordy Wednesday. I slept for most of Wednesday, blearily looked at the blog and decided I probably wasn't competent enough to look at a draft and figure out what needed to be rewritten or doublechecked before posting.

It's a doozy of a cold. My graduate term paper is due next week and I'd planned to get stuff up for the blog before this came up. Sheesh. Time flies. I'd better get busy once my head isn't so stuffed with cotton!

Wordy Wednesday: Modes of Transportation II

Let's finish last week's Wordy Wednesday topic off today!

  • lidot : to fly [slider title="conjugate me"] lidot , 2. konj. (long)
    tag. lidoju, lido, lido, lidojam, lidojat
    pag. lidoju, lidoji, lidoja, lidojām, lidojāt
    nak. lidošu, lidosi, lidos, lidosim, lidosiet / lidosit
    pav. lido, lidojiet[/slider]

Interestingly, one of the most popular restaurant chains in Latvia is named Lido. I'm told there's no relation, however.

  • lidosta : airport [slider title="decline me"] lidosta , f, 4. dekl.
    vsk.: lidosta, lidostas, lidostai, lidostu, ar lidostu, lidostā
    dsk.: lidostas, lidostu, lidostām, lidostas, ar lidostām, lidostās[/slider]

Yep, built from lidot, a lidosta is a place for flying. There is a Lido in Rīgas lidosta!

  • taksometrs : taxi, cab [slider title="decline me"] taksometrs , m, 1. dekl.
    vsk.: taksometrs, taksometra, taksometram, taksometru, ar taksometru, taksometrā
    dsk.: taksometri, taksometru, taksometriem, taksometrus, ar taksometriem, taksometros [/slider]

From how this one is built, I wonder if the word "taxi" was brought over and combined with the "meter" that runs inside of it to illustrate that this form of travel is metered by time and distance rather than how everything else works.

  • zebra : zebra, coll. crosswalk [slider title="decline me"] zebra , f, 4. dekl.
    vsk.: zebra, zebras, zebrai, zebru, ar zebru, zebrā
    dsk.: zebras, zebru, zebrām, zebras, ar zebrām, zebrās[/slider]

How cute is that? I think this is probably from British slang, since we don't use it here in America. We ought to, it's a fun way to refer to crosswalks. The crosswalks do somewhat look like zebra stripes, after all.

  • ietve : sidewalk [slider title="decline me"] ietve , f, 5. dekl.
    vsk.: ietve, ietves, ietvei, ietvi, ar ietvi, ietvē
    dsk.: ietves, ietvju, ietvēm, ietves, ar ietvēm, ietvēs[/slider]

The iet you see is the infinitive for "to go" and the word is structured around it. Essentially a sidewalk is a place you go or walk.

  • gājējs : pedestrian [slider title="decline me"] gājējs , m, 1. dekl.
    vsk.: gājējs, gājēja, gājējam, gājēju, ar gājēju, gājējā
    dsk.: gājēji, gājēju, gājējiem, gājējus, ar gājējiem, gājējos[/slider]

All the js make this one a pain to type. A pedestrian is a "going person" - there isn't a specific verb for "to walk", instead it's classed as "to go" as you can see in the related word for sidewalk. My husband tells me that he thinks the past tense of iet is used because the present would make it sound terrible. Iejējs? Ugh, talk about hard to say.

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.

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.

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, some one 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
Es | mācu | mācīju | mācīšu | || | mācos | mācījos | mācīšos
Tu | māci | mācīji | mācīsi | || | mācies | mācījies | mācīsies
Viņš/Viņa | māca | mācīja | mācīs | || | mācās | mācījās | mācīsies
Mēs | mācām | mācījām | mācīsim | || | mācāmies | mācījāmies | mācīsimies
Jūs | mācāt | mācījāt | mācīsiet
mācīsit | || | mācāties | mācījāties | mācīsieties
Viņi/Viņas | māca | mācīja | mācīs | || | mācās | mācījās | mācīsies