Note that each vowel has two quantities-short and long.
The length is marked by a bar over the vowel (ā, ē, ī, ū).
There are four kinds of 'e' sound: short and long open 'e'
(which is rendered in special grammars as 'e, ē' or 'ae, ae:')
and short and long closed 'e'.
The letter 'o' is a diphthong in words of Latvian origin
(spelled `uo' in special grammars), but monophthong in
words of foreign origin.
The stress of the word which is generally on the first
syllable does not change the quality of the vowel as in
Russian: e.g. maijā (the first stressed long `a' is the same as
the unstressed vowel at the end).
There are voiced (produced with the help of the vibra-
tions of the vocal cords) and unvoiced consonants.
Voiced: b, d, g, ģ, z, ž, dz, j.
Unvoiced: p, t, k, ķ, s, š, c, ch.
Note that the voiced consonant becomes unvoiced before
an unvoiced consonant and an unvoiced consonant becomes
voiced before a voiced one only in pronunciation but not in
galds is pronounced *galts (table)
atdot ,, ,, *addot (to give back)
Several consonants can be soft or palatalized (ļ,
ķ, ņ, ģ).
To soften the consonant the middle of the tongue should
approach the roof of the mouth. The `j' usually palatalizes
the preceding consonant:
n + j = ņ
1 + j = ļ
e.g. brāļa (brother's) < *brālja
`f, h, ch', monophthong `o' and diphthong `oi' are not
Latvian sounds and occur only in loanwords.
e.g.: firma (firm), himna (hymn), chaoss (chaos), opera
In the last decades the letter `ch' has been eliminated
from the alphabet in Soviet Latvia but still occurs in
books published outside Latvia.
Latvian is one of the few Indo-European languages
which has preserved the pitch or vowel intonations. The
Central dialect (on which the literary language is based)
has three vowel intonations, but these are not indicated in
the ordinary print.
Word stress is not indicated either as it is usually on the
first syllable of the word. For the benefit of the student in
this grammar a stress mark (') is put on syllables other than
Latvian, Terēza Budiņa Lazdiņa,1966