It’s hard to learn a language.
Especially when you try to look up a new word in a dictionary and nothing comes up.
In Latvian, words can have different endings. Sometimes the main part of a word also changes.
How do you know what’s the ending and what’s the true main part so that you can look it up?
This guide will answer that question.
Step 1: go to letonika.lv
Letonika.lv is an online encyclopedia and a dictionary among other things. One of those other things is an automatic analysis of a word.
That text warns that Latvian is a complex and ever changing language and that it is possible that the automatic word analysis may make mistakes.
Step 2: search for the word
Enter the word that you want to look up.
I am going to use the word ceļu as an example.
This screen tells me that three possible matches were found.
celis – lietvārds
ceļš – lietvārds
celt – darbības vārds
These three are the dictionary forms or main forms or lemmas or headwords or whatever you want to call them. The Latvian word for dictionary form is pamatforma or lemma.
The extra information next to the word is the word class or part-of-speech (vārdšķira in Latvian):
- lietvārds – noun
- darbības vārds – verb
- īpašības vārds – adjective
- apstākļa vārds – adverb
- divdabis – participle (verb used as an adjective)
If you click on any of the words in the search results it will take you to the details view with all inflected forms.
Another posibility is that there is just one match and then you will see this screen right away.
So here you can see all inflected forms of the noun ceļš.
You can see the dictionary form after the word pamatforma.
Or you can just look at the table. For nouns, adjectives and participles the nominative singular (vienskaitlis/nominatīvs) form is the dictionary form. For verbs, the infinitive (ends in -t or -ties) is the dictionary form.
Step 3: look up the translation in a dictionary
Now that you’ve got possible dictionary forms it’s time to look up the translations.
There’s a list of online Latvian dictionaries here on Latvian.rocks that you can use.
But if you’re on Letonika.lv, you can head over to the Vārdnīcas (dictionaries) tab and click on Latviešu-angļu (Latvian-English) on the left.
If it’s hard to see the correct translation, try another online dictionary.