Latvian for foreigners

The Latvian language is an old Indoeuropean language. History has
been ruthless to the bearers of the language and the language itself.
During the last 800 years the ruling nations - the Germans, the Swedes and
the Russians have tried to hinder the development of the Latvian language.
Many German and Russian words were introduced into it. The 1990'es have
encouraged the usage of many international and English words.
Nevertheless, the Latvian language is still the Latvian language / though
richer of course / and still has the same peculiarities that time has not

a) it has no article;

b) there are special markings, called diacritical marks that indicate
changes in pronunciation -
an additional mark over the letters to show the lengthening of the vowel
ā ē ī ū;
an additional mark over or under the consonants to show palatalization
ģ, ķ, ļ, ņ and for ch, sh - č š, ž;

c) Latvian is a highly inflected language. That means that the endings of
nouns, pronouns, adjectives, numerals change, depending on
whether they are masculine or feminine or on how they are used in a

d) The Latvian alphabet is a phonetic one. Each letter (with an exception
of <<ē>> and <<e>> that have 2 different pronunciations and <<o>> that has 3.
corresponds to one sound only. But there are differences in intonation
or pitch that sometimes indicate different meanings e. g. zāle - a hall,
zāle - grass;

e) Latvian words are generally pronounced with the stress on the first
syllable. There are some, exceptions, though:
labdien (good afternoon), ardievu (good-bye);
The sentence pitch is usually descending and there is a light stress at
the beginning of the sentence and a heavier one at the end.
e. g. Mēs esam no Dānijas
We are from Denmark

f) There is no strict word - order in Latvian.

G. Pujāte, M. Sosāre, Latvian for Foreigners, 1995