|has short o||meaning||has long o||meaning|
If you know the pronunciation of the "foreign" word in English, then the Latvian pronunciation is usually predictable. Thus, since the o in bronchitis is a short (i.e. pure) vowel, the Latvian loanword is to be pronounced with a short o. On the other hand, since the o in cobra is a long (i.e. diphthongized) vowel, the Latvian loanword is to be pronounced with a long o.
Note: this may not always work, but it's a good guideline to keep in mind.
However, in a word like die there is only one syllable. Nevertheless, two vowel sounds are involved: phonetically die is rendered as [ dai̯ ]. To create this diphthong, your lips and tongue form the shape of the vowel [ a ] (as in art) and then very quickly move towards the shape of the vowel [ i ] (as in bee).
Thus a diphthong can be defined as: a rapid, gliding (lip and tongue) movement from one vowel position to another.
|[ ai̯ ]||eye, I, my, rhyme|
|[ ɔi̯ ]||oil, boy, oyster|
|[ au̯ ]||owl, bough, towel, round|
|[ ei̯ ]||ail, day, rein, neigh|
In all of these English diphthongs the tongue moves from a lower position in the mouth towards a higher position.
(Note: these are often called closing diphthongs because the lips start out in a more open position and, as the jaw moves up, ends they end up in a more closed position)
However, the Latvian diphthong represented by o is rather different: the tongue starts off in a higher position and quickly moves towards a lower and more central position.
(Note: this is usually called a centering diphthong.)
As indicated above, the Latvian diphthong o is pronounced something like the standard British English pronunciation of the word poor. Since the r is not pronounced in this dialect, it is replaced by a quick vowel. This results in a diphthong which is phonetically represented as [ ʊʌ̯ ]. In other words, you start off by saying the vowel sound in book and very quickly move to saying the vowel sound in up.
Here are a number of examples of common Latvian words which contain this diphthong o:
ola 'egg', dot to give, govs 'cow', koks 'tree', logs 'window', zobs 'tooth', kost 'to bite', domāt 'to think', ozols 'oak tree', otrs 'other, second', slota 'broom', to 'that (acc.sg.)', elpot 'to breathe'