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About the story
What’s with this “Wren” thing?
   The oldest extant version of the fable we are presenting here appeared in 1913 in the first volume of a two-volume anthology of Low Saxon folktales (Plattdeutsche Volksmärchen “Low German Folktales”) collected by Wilhelm Wisser (1843–1935). Read more ...

Līvõ kēļ

A Livonian couple at the end of the 19th century

Language Information: Livonian is one of the nowadays lesser known Finnic languages. The Livonian names for itself are līvõ kēļ (“Līvõ language”) and rāndakēļ (“coast language”). In Latvian, the now dominant language of Livonia, it is known as lībiešu valoda and līvu valoda, in neighboring Estonian as liivi keel.
     Nowadays, Livonia is a part of Latvia. Under Latvian language domination and Soviet hegemony, the number of Livonian speakers was reduced to a point where apparently no more native speakers were left even on the Livonian coast, which used to be the last stronghold of the language. However, some interest in the language still exists, and there are even some preservation and revival efforts, especially among mostly younger Latvians (ethnic Livonians and otherwise), with considerable support on the part of the Livonian Cultural Center (Līvõ Kultūr Sidām).
     Livonian is a Finnic language und thus belongs to the Finno-Ugric branch of the Uralic language family. As such it is most closely related to Estonian, Finnish, Karelian, Ingrian, Veps and Votic, more distantly to Sámi and even more distantly to Hungarian and its Ugrian sister languages. Dominant Latvian, on the other hand, belongs to the Baltic branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Although its structure is very different, Livonian absorbed much influence from dominant Latvian, also some Low Saxon, German, Danish and Russian influences in the course of various colonization periods. Latvian independence in 1918 resulted in considerable reassertion and revitilization of Livonian language and culture. But this trend came to be reversed, and Livonian in fact came to be drastically marginalized, when Latvia became a state within the Soviet Union in 1940. The mentioned most recent resurgence of interest in Livonian began in earnest after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and consequently regained independence of Latvia and the other Baltic States. However, at that time there was only a handful of native speakers of Livonian left.
     Although Livonian is fairly closely related to Estonian, at least to Estonian dialects used in close proximity of Livonia, mutual intelligibility with Estonian, and also with Finnish etc., can be difficult for the average speaker. For one thing, Livonian has absorbed a lot of Latvian influences, especially vocabulary, with which speakers of other Finnic languages are not familiar. On the written level, Livonian stands apart from other Finnic languages in that its spelling is primarily based on Latvian spelling, although some Estonian letters are used for sounds that do not exist in Latvian. (Please click here to see what the Livonian text might look like if it were written more consistently with Estonian and other Finnic orthographies.) On top of all this, Livonian has undergone some sound changes that may make it difficult for speakers of other Finnic languages to understand it (especially unrounding of certain vowels: /ü/ > i, /üü/ > ī, /ö/ > e, /öö/ > ē).

Genealogy: Genealogy: Uralic > Finno-Ugric > Finno-Cheremisic > Finno-Mordvinic > Finno-Sápme > Balto-Finnic

Historical Lowlands language contacts: Low Saxon

    Click to open the translation: [Click]Click here for different versions. >

Author: Reinhard F. Hahn

© 2011, Lowlands-L · ISSN 189-5582 · LCSN 96-4226 · All international rights reserved.
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