Latvian is the official language of the Republic of Latvia, where about 1.4 million people speak it as a native language, and an increasing number of mainly Russian speaking persons use it as a second language. This sketch concentrates on morphology and syntax, with a short introduction to Latvian phonology. The sample text, as well as most of the examples that illustrate grammatical points, are taken from autobiographical narratives collected by the Latvian Archive for Oral History.
Compared to Lithuanian, the only other living Baltic language, Latvian has further diverged from its Indo-European heritage in that it has abandoned certain inflectional forms and categories and developed new ones. The fact that, for centuries, speakers of Latvian have been in close contact with speakers of Baltofinnic, Germanic and Slavic languages has certainly been an important factor for innovations in all parts of the grammar. However,
Latvian still resembles the well known old Indo-European languages in certain respects more closely than Standard Average European languages do.
Latvian is a fusional language with some traits of agglutination. The morphology is strikingly regular, especially with nominals. Nominal inflectional categories are gender, number, case, and definiteness, which is marked on adjectives. The five morphological cases have clear syntactic and/or semantic functions. Particularly noteworthy in the verbal inflectional paradimg are evidentiality and the debitive mood, a Latvian innovation. Characteristic features of the syntax are non-verbal predicates and converb constructions.