Latvian Sentences: Statements
Statements (sometimes called 'declarative sentences') are the most common and most basic types of sentences. Some useful (I hope!) information about Latvian statements is provided below:
Generally speaking, Latvian word order is quite free. By this, I mean that the order of the words can vary without changing the meaning of the sentence. Take a look at the following four sentences. All of them mean (something like) 'In the summertime, we swim in the lake':
All four of these sentences are completely clear and completely grammatical. The word order is variable because it is the suffixes (i.e. endings) on each word which mark that word's function. To be specific, the words that make up these four sentences are:
- Vasarā peldam ezerā.
- Peldam ezerā vasarā.
- Ezerā vasarā peldam.
- Peldam vasarā ezerā.
Each word's function/meaning is clearly marked. As a result, the word order doesn't really matter. Here is another set of sentences; each of the following sentences means (something like) 'Raymond doesn't want to mow the grass':
- vasar-ā 'summer (locative singular)' = 'in the summertime'
- peld-a-m 'swim (first person plural present tense)' = 'we swim'
- ezer-ā 'lake (locative singular)' = 'in the lake'
Once again, each sentence is completely comprehensible and grammatical. The meaning/function of each word is marked by the suffix attached to it (although sometimes the lack of a suffix is what tells us the meaning of a word &mdash in linguistics this is called a 'zero suffix'). In any case, here is what each word means:
- Raimonds negrib pļaut zāli.
- Raimonds zāli pļaut negrib.
- Zāli Raimonds pļaut negrib.
- Pļaut zāli Raimonds negrib.
For more information on how these 'inflectional' endings function, see → Latvian nouns and → Latvian verbs.
- Raimond-s 'Raymond (masculine nominative singular = subject of verb)'
- ne-grib 'not-want (third person present tense)' = 'doesn't want'
- pļau-t 'to mow (infinitive)'
- zāl-i 'grass (feminine accusative singular = direct object)'
Since the basic meaning of a sentence is not affected by these word order changes, what good are they? What function do they serve? Sometimes it's just a difference in style; sometimes, it is intended to focus attention on a different part of the sentence.
However, in general, the unmarked (i.e. most common) order of elements in a sentence is: Subject + Verb + Object. Here are a few more example sentences, which illustrate this basic word order:
- Anna nobučoja Mārtiņu. 'Anna kissed Martin'.
- Es rakstu grāmatas. 'I write books'.
- Hermanis uzbūvēs jaunu māju. 'Herman is going to build (a) new house.
Subject and predicate
Take a look at the following sentence: Māja ir brūna. '(The) house is brown.
This sentence contains a predicate adjective &mdash the adjective brūna. What's a predicate adjective, you ask? To answer this question, we have to take a little detour.
In many languages the most common sentence structure is: Subject + Predicate. Here is a chart illustrating the subjects and predicates of several sentences, in three different languages:
||Peter (is a) doctor.
|Pēters ir ārsts.
||Peter is (a) doctor.
|Peter is a doctor.
||is a doctor
||Peter is a doctor
||Ivan (is) sick.
|Jānis ir slims.
||John is sick.
|John is sick.
||John is sick.
||Anna eats/is eating.
||Anna eats/is eating.
|Anna is eating.
||Anna is eating.
In these languages the subject (noun or pronoun) typically comes first and provides the topic for the rest of the sentence. The rest of the sentence is the predicate &mdash this is the speaker's comment on the subject.
In some languages the predicate can be just a single noun or adjective (as in the first two Russian sentences: врач = 'doctor', and болен = 'sick'). However, in both Latvian and English some kind of 'linking' verb is needed (sometimes this is referred to as the copula). The most commonly used linking verb in Latvian is the verb būt 'to be'.
An adjective which appears in the predicate of a sentence is called a predicate adjective (or 'predicative adjective'). In both English and Latvian it will follow the copula (i.e. linking verb). This word order is required. Take a look at a few more example sentences:
Sentences containing predicate adjectives have a fixed word order: Subject + Copula + Adjective. Even though the predicate adjective does not immediately precede the noun (or pronoun) that it modifies, it still agrees with the noun it modifies in gender and number. Since the predicate adjective modifies the subject, it will always take the nominative case &mdash this case is the marker of the subject. Here are a few more example sentences, illustrating the agreement between the subject and the predicate adjective; the agreement endings on the predicate adjective are separated by a dash:
- Anita ir blonda. 'Anita is blonde'.
- *Anita blonda ir. [not grammatical]
- *Ir blonda Anita. [not grammatical]
- *Blonda ir Anita. [not grammatical]
- Roberts ir gudr-s. 'Robert is smart'.
- Rita ir gudr-a. 'Rita is smart'.
- Zēni ir gudr-i. '(The) boys are smart'.
- Meitenes ir gudr-as. '(The) girls are smart'.
To continue on with Latvian sentences, go to → Latvian Sentences: Questions.