Help:IPA for Latvian

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The table below shows the way in which the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) represents Latvian language pronunciations in Wikipedia articles.

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

IPA key

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] Tuesday (some dialects)
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] RP due
k kāpt [kaːpt], smags [smaks][3] scat
l lai [lai] lip
ʎ ļoti [ʎuɔti] million (some dialects)
m man [man], "un persona" [umˌpærsɔːna] (pronounced fast) 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
ʃtʃ šķirt [ʃt͡ʃirt], lietišķs [liɛtiʃt͡ʃs] Sebastian
IPA Examples English approximation
a dakša [dakʃa] duck
pār [paːr] father
æ (viņš) bed [bæd] bat
æː bēda [bæːda] bad
e bet [bet] bet
ēst [eːst] pay (some dialects)
i viss [visː] city
vīst [viːst] sheep
ɔ operācija [ˈɔpːeraːtsija][5] short version of [ɔː], see below
ɔː opera [ɔːpera][5] thought
u un [un] influence
būt [buːt] boot
ai tai [tai][7] tie
au tauta [tauta] thou
diena [diɛna] dear
ɛi vei [vɛi][7] whey
ui fui [fui][7] Spanish muy
iu pliukšķis [pliukʃt͡ʃis][8] eew (alternative pron. of "ew")
lolojot [luɔluɔjuɔt][5] somewhat like Italian scuola, but falling
oi ahoi [aˈhɔi][7][8] boycott
ɛu tev [tɛu], Eugēnija [ˈɛugeːnija][9] Portuguese seu
ɔu boulings [bɔuliŋks][8] bowling
. Separates vowel clusters that are not diphthongs – neilgs [ˈne.ilks], triumfs [ˈtri.umfs], neieiet [ˈne.iɛ.iɛt]
ˈ Stress (note: stress almost always falls
on the first syllable of a word and might be
omitted transcribing Latvian in IPA
ː Long vowel or doubled consonant (only used for sonorants)

Geminate consonants

At the time of its inception, a conscious decision was made that Latvian orthography does not need to show gemination/lengthening of consonants because there would be no practical benefit of doing so. Nevertheless, single obstruent consonants (as opposed to consonant clusters) between two short vowels are always long, e.g., Atis would be ⟨attis⟩ and aka would be ⟨akka⟩ or [ˈatːis] and [ˈakːa].[10] Transcribing Latvian in IPA, however, consonant length is usually not indicated. Sonorants are an exception and are indicated in orthography: mamma, panna, allaž, ķerra, the long sonorants as in these words should probably be indicated both in phonetic as well as phonemic (i.e., less precise) transcriptions: [mamːa], [panːa], [alːaʒ], [cærːa].[10]


Standard Latvian has three tones, by convention called, 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 do not take on different tones, neither do unstressed syllables.[12]

In Rīga Latvian the falling tone has been syncretized with the broken (meaning, 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, English Wiktionary for its Latvian entries, however, uses a notation of macron, circumflex or grave accent where necessary (note: tilde is already reserved for indicating nasal vowels in IPA, hence replacing it with a macron.)

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 An unvoiced consonant in a compound followed by a voiced consonant will become voiced, e.g., atdarīt[ˈadːariːt] or [ˈadˌdariːt].
  2. 2.0 2.1 The sounds [f] and [x] do not occur in native words.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Before the masculine ending -s, voiced consonants are devoiced, e.g. smags[smaks]. The -s is assimilated after a devoiced fricative, producing a long consonant, e.g., mazs[masː] and mežs[meʃː]. Devoicing also occurs in compounds, labprātīgs[ˈlapːraːtiːks] or alternatively [ˈlapˌpraːtiːks].
  4. Allophone of nasals before velars.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 The letter ⟨o⟩ in Latvian orthography usually represents the diphthong [uɔ], cf. Lithuanian nuoma and Latvian noma. [ɔ] and its long counterpart, [ɔː], are only encountered in loanwords.
  6. "DIVSKAŅI". Retrieved 19 September 2017. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 In closed syllables, [ai], [ɛi], [oi], and [ui] may be transcribed as vowel-glide sequences, e.g. tais [tajs], veikt [vɛjkt], boikots [bɔjkɔts], and muita [mujta].
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Only occurs in loanwords or onomatopoeiatic words.
  9. Only occurs in loanwords and onomatopoeiatic words or as the result of vocalization in open syllables of [v].
  10. 10.0 10.1 Kortmann, Bernd (2011). The Languages and Linguistics of Europe. Walter de Gruyter. p. 5. ISBN 3110220253. Retrieved 19 September 2017. 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") 
  12. Kortmann, Bernd (2011). The Languages and Linguistics of Europe. Walter de Gruyter. p. 6. ISBN 3110220253. Retrieved 19 September 2017. 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.