The table below shows the way in which the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) represents Latvian language pronunciations in Wikipedia articles. For a guide to adding IPA characters to Wikipedia articles, see Template:IPA and Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Pronunciation § Entering IPA characters.

See Latvian phonology for a more thorough look at the sounds of Latvian.

IPA key[edit]

Mostly based on Nau, Nicole (1998), Latvian, Lincom Europa, p. 66, ISBN 3-89586-228-2

IPA Examples English approximation
b bāka [baːka][1] boat
c ķēķis [ceːcis] between choose and skew
d diena [diɛna], atdarīt [ˈadːariːt][1] duck
dz dzimt [dzimt] adze
dai [dad͡ʒi] jug
f fosfors [ˈfosfɔːrs][2] fast
ɡ gūt [guːt], ikdiena [ˈigdiɛna][1] go
j jā [jaː] yes
ɟ ģērbt [ɟeːrpt] between June and argue
k kāpt [kaːpt], smags [smaks][3] scat
l lai [lai] lip
ʎ ļoti [ʎuɔti] million (some dialects)
m man [man] man
n nav [naʊ] nap
ɲ ņemt [ɲemt] canyon
ŋ bungas [buŋgas][4] bank
p pipari [ˈpipːari], skābs [skaːps][3] spun
r "re kur!" [reˌkur] rolled r
s suns [suns], mazs [masː][3] sun
ʃ seši [seʃi], mežs [meʃː][3] ship
t tas [tas] stone
ts celts [tsælts], sods [suɔts][3] cats
četri [t͡ʃetri] chop
v vai [vai] vat
x heterohromija [ˈxeteroxrɔːmija][2] loch (Scottish)
z zināt [zinaːt] zipper
ʒ daži [daʒi] rouge
IPA Examples English approximation
a dakša [dakʃa] duck
pār [paːr] father
æ (viņš) bed [bæd] bat
æː bēda [bæːda] bad
e bet [bet] roughly like face
ēst [eːst] roughly like pay
i viss [visː] sheep
vīst [viːst] she
ɔ operācija [ˈɔpːeraːtsija][5] off
ɔː opera [ɔːpera][5] awful
u un [un] boot
būt [buːt] too
ai tai [tai][7] tie
au tauta [tauta] thou
diena [diɛna] dear
ɛi vei [vɛi][7] whey
ui fui [fui][7] phooey!
iu pliukšķis [pliukʃt͡ʃis][8] free will
lolojot [luɔluɔjuɔt][5] somewhat like Italian scuola but falling
oi ahoi [aˈhɔi][7][8] boycott
ɛu tev [tɛu], Eugēnija [ˈɛugeːnija][9] Portuguese céu
ɔu boulings [bɔuliŋks][8] bowling
. Separates vowel clusters that are not diphthongs: neilgs [ˈne.ilks], triumfs [ˈtri.umfs], neieiet [ˈne.iɛ.iɛt]
ˈ Stress (stress almost always falls on the first syllable of a word and may be omitted transcribing Latvian in IPA)
ː Long vowel or doubled consonant (only for sonorants)

Geminate consonants[edit]

At the time of its inception, a conscious decision was made that Latvian orthography would not show gemination/lengthening of consonants because it was unnecessary to do so. Nevertheless, single obstruent consonants (as opposed to consonant clusters) between two short vowels are always long: Atis would be ⟨attis⟩ and aka would be ⟨akka⟩ or [ˈatːis] and [ˈakːa].[10] In transcribing Latvian in IPA, however, consonant length is usually not indicated. Sonorants, however, are indicated in orthography: in mamma, panna, allaž, ķerra the long sonorants should probably be indicated in both phonetic and phonemic [less precise] transcriptions: [mamːa], [panːa], [alːaʒ], [cærːa].[10]


Standard Latvian has three tones called, by convention, the level (stiepts), broken (lauzts) and falling (krītošs,) indicated by a tilde (~), circumflex (^) or grave (`) accents, respectively.[11] Different tones are distinguished if the stressed syllable (the first syllable, in most all cases) has either a long vowel or a diphthong. Short vowels and unstressed syllables do not take on different tones.[12]

In Riga, Latvian the falling tone has been syncretized with the broken: its users differentiate only between the level and broken tones and perceive the falling tone as broken.

Tone is usually omitted transcribing Latvian in IPA.[why?][citation needed] English Wiktionary's Latvian entries, however, uses a notation of macron, circumflex or grave accent if necessary (the tilde is already reserved for indicating nasal vowels in IPA so it is replaced it with a macron.)


  1. ^ a b c An unvoiced consonant, in a compound, followed by a voiced consonant becomes voiced: atdarīt[ˈadːariːt] or [ˈadˌdariːt].
  2. ^ a b [f] and [x] occur only in loanwords.
  3. ^ a b c d e Before the masculine ending -s, voiced consonants are devoiced: smags[smaks]. The -s is assimilated after a devoiced fricative, producing a long consonant: mazs[masː] and mežs[meʃː]. Devoicing also occurs in compounds: labprātīgs[ˈlapːraːtiːks] or [ˈlapˌpraːtiːks].
  4. ^ Allophone of nasals before velars.
  5. ^ a b c The letter ⟨o⟩ in Latvian orthography usually represents the diphthong [uɔ]): Lithuanian nuoma and Latvian noma. [ɔ] and its long counterpart, [ɔː], occur only in loanwords.
  6. ^ "DIVSKAŅI". Retrieved 5 April 2024.
  7. ^ a b c d In closed syllables, [ai], [ɛi], [oi], and [ui] may be transcribed as vowel-glide sequences: tais [tajs], veikt [vɛjkt], boikots [bɔjkɔts], and muita [mujta].
  8. ^ a b c Only in loanwords or onomatopoeiatic words.
  9. ^ Only in loanwords and onomatopoeiatic words or as the result of vocalization in open syllables of [v].
  10. ^ a b Kortmann, Bernd (2011). The Languages and Linguistics of Europe. Walter de Gruyter. p. 5. ISBN 3110220253. Retrieved 5 April 2024. Consonant quantity is well-developed in Latvian as a result of Fennic substratum influence. Sonorants show distinctive quantity mainly in loanwords, cf. manna [manːa] 'manna' vs. mana [mana] ( of 1st ps. sg possesive pronoun). Non-distinctive quantitative variation in obstruents occurs in native words: immediately post-tonic voicless obstruents are automatically lengthened between short vowels, cf. lapa [lapːa] 'leaf' vs. lāpa [laːpa] 'torch,' lapā [lapaː] 'leaf ('. In Lithuanian there is no consonantal quantity and on the morphemic boundary geminates are shortened.
  11. ^ Masļanska, Olga; Rubīna, Aina (1992). Valsts valoda - Курс лекций латышского языка. Rīga. p. 11. В латышском языке имеется слоговая интонация, которая может быть протяжной (~), прерывистой (^) и нисходящей (\). В некоторых случаях интонация имеет смыслоразличительное значение, например: за~ле ("зал"), за^ле ("трава"), za\les ("лекарство")((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  12. ^ Kortmann, Bernd (2011). The Languages and Linguistics of Europe. Walter de Gruyter. p. 6. ISBN 3110220253. Retrieved 5 April 2024. Both Latvian and Lithuanian are pitch languages. In Lithuanian, stressed long vocalic segments (long vowels, diphthongs, and sequences of vowel plus sonorant) show a distinctive opposition of rising and falling pitch, cf. kar̃tų '' vs. kártų 'hang:irr.3'. In standard Latvian (and some of the dialects), long vocalic sequences (of the same type as in Lithuanian) distinguish three varieties of pitch: 'even', 'falling', and 'broken' ('broken pitch' being a falling pitch with superadded glottalisation). They are fully differentiated in stressed syllables only: unstressed syllables have an opposition of glottalised and non-glottalised long vocalic segments. Segments with 'even' pitch are ultra long. Neither Lithuanian nor Latvian mark pitch in their standard orthography.

See also[edit]