Sketch of Livonian Sounds and Grammar


This sur­vey is intend­ed to give the read­er a basic idea of the nature of Livo­ni­an gram­mar. Unless oth­er­wise not­ed, exam­ples are tak­en from Līvõ kēļ (Boiko 2000) and the Livo­ni­an-Esto­ni­an-Lat­vian dic­tio­nary (Viit­so & Ernštre­its 2012). The basic text is tak­en from Pētõr Damberg’s Jemakīel lugdõbrān­tõz skūol ja kuod pierast (Moth­er Tongue Read­ing Book for School and Home), how­ev­er, the trans­la­tion is my own. The expres­sions at the end of this sec­tion are tak­en from the Lat­vian-Livo­ni­an-Eng­lish Phrase Book by Val­da Šuvcāne. The sec­tion on stød is tak­en direct­ly, with some small changes, from Balodis 2008:12–14.

Gen­er­al Com­ments

As stat­ed else­where on this site, Livo­ni­an is a Finnic lan­guage. Livo­ni­an shares a num­ber of fea­tures with its clos­est rel­a­tives. Like oth­er Finnic lan­guages, pri­ma­ry stress in Livo­ni­an gen­er­al­ly occurs on the first syl­la­ble of each word. Length is dis­tin­guished in Livo­ni­an for vow­els, con­so­nants, and some diph­thongs and triph­thongs. Though vow­el har­mony is a fea­ture of many Finnic lan­guages (Finnish, Vote, South Esto­ni­an, etc.), it is absent in Livo­ni­an. Like its Finnic rel­a­tives, Livo­ni­an has an exten­sive sys­tem of noun cas­es (dis­cussed fur­ther below). How­ev­er, the use of the exter­nal loca­tive cas­es (abla­tive, adessive, alla­tive) is some­what more lim­it­ed in Livo­ni­an com­pared to their use in oth­er Finnic lan­guages. Livo­ni­an also shows some inter­est­ing inno­va­tions, includ­ing a dative case. Like oth­er Finnic lan­guages his­tor­i­cal­ly in con­tact with Lat­vian, includ­ing Krevin Vote (his­tor­i­cal­ly spo­ken near Bauska) and the Leivu and Lut­si South Esto­ni­an lan­guage islands of east­ern Latvia, Livo­ni­an has a prosod­ic fea­ture called “stød” or the “bro­ken tone” (dis­cussed below). Of the­se lan­guage, this sys­tem of tonal oppo­si­tion was the most exten­sive in Livo­ni­an where stød devel­oped into a lex­i­cal con­trast, while in lan­guages like Lut­si South Esto­ni­an, stød remained an occa­sion­al phe­nom­e­non result­ing from the eli­sion of inter­vo­cal­ic glot­tal con­so­nants. For a detailed dis­cus­sion and more infor­ma­tion on the sound sys­tems of the dialects of Livo­ni­an, see Tuisk 2016. For infor­ma­tion on stød in Lut­si and Leivu, see Balodis et al. 2016.

Kurze­me (Cour­land) Livo­ni­an has a West­ern and East­ern dialect with a tran­si­tion­al dialect hav­ing been spo­ken in the vil­lage of Īra (Lielir­be). This dialect divi­sion is said to have arisen from a his­tor­i­cal divi­sion of the Livo­ni­an Coast between two dif­fer­ent manor ter­ri­to­ries. The mod­ern Livo­ni­an lit­er­ary lan­guage is based on the East­ern Livo­ni­an dialect. The map below shows the Livo­ni­an dialect divi­sion.

The West­ern (red), East­ern (blue), and tran­si­tion­al (in Īra vil­lage) dialects of Kurze­me (Cour­land) Livo­ni­an (Image by Uld­is Balodis.)

Tone (Stød)

Stød is the term used to refer to the lex­i­cal pitch accent fea­ture in Livo­ni­an. Sound­ing much like the Lat­vian bro­ken into­na­tion and Dan­ish stød, from where the name derives in Livo­ni­an lin­guis­tic schol­ar­ship (Thom­sen 1890:59), stød is a con­trastive fea­ture in Livo­ni­an and the only exam­ple of lex­i­cal pitch accent to be found in any cur­rent­ly spo­ken Bal­to-Finnic lan­guage.

The extinct Krevin dialect of Votic, also a Finnic lan­guage, may have had a prosod­ic fea­ture sim­i­lar to stød. Krevin was spo­ken near the south­ern Lat­vian city of Bauska and became extinct in the lat­ter half of the nine­teen­th cen­tu­ry. As no sound record­ings of Krevin exist, it is impos­si­ble to be cer­tain that it indeed pos­sessed pitch accent, though Win­kler (1997:225–237) posits that Krevin had a sys­tem mak­ing a two-way or three-way pitch accent dis­tinc­tion.

Stud­ies have also been car­ried out exam­in­ing the per­cep­tion that the three vow­el quan­ti­ties of Esto­ni­an are asso­ci­at­ed with unique pitch con­tours, as it has been claimed in the past that pitch rather than quan­ti­ty is the pri­ma­ry fac­tor in dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing among the three vow­el lengths. How­ev­er, it was shown by Lehis­te (1960:60–62) that the­se pitch con­tours were asso­ci­at­ed with com­plete utter­ances rather than par­tic­u­lar words and that in Esto­ni­an “pitch does not con­tribute an indis­pens­able clue for assign­ment of a word into a quan­ti­ty cat­e­go­ry.“

Kiparsky (2006:4) gives the fol­low­ing sum­ma­ry of the the­o­ries con­cern­ing the orig­in of stød: “Ket­tunen and Vih­man sug­gest that stød first arose as a reflex of h in words like raha > ro’o ‘mon­ey’. And, in line with a pop­u­lar account of Dan­ish stød, Posti sug­gests that it devel­oped as a glot­tal stop from ris­ing pitch which arose when the fol­low­ing syl­la­ble was lost. On Wiik’s (1989) account, stød arose by phonol­o­giza­tion of syl­la­ble bound­aries, though he is non-com­mit­tal about exact­ly what phono­log­i­cal enti­tites the syl­la­ble bound­aries were phonol­o­gized as.”

Kiparsky (2006:1) describes the dis­tri­b­u­tion of Livo­ni­an stød as fol­lows: “The Livo­ni­an stød appears on stressed VV or VC syl­la­bles, where C is a voiced con­so­nant (the same con­fig­u­ra­tion as the “stød base” of Dan­ish)… Stød is con­strastive on stressed CVV and CVVC syl­la­bles, in mono­syl­lab­ic as well as poly­syl­lab­ic words. It is also con­strastive on stressed non­fi­nal CVC syl­la­bles.” As stød can only occur in heavy syl­la­bles, syl­la­bles with stød are not treat­ed sep­a­rate­ly in the cur­rent study. In the East­ern Livo­ni­an dialect a stød-like pitch con­tour can also occur on half-long vow­els in even-num­bered syl­la­bles. (Ket­tunen 1925:5–6, Posti 1942:XIX) This pitch con­tour, how­ev­er, is not con­trastive.

A short series of stød/non-stød min­i­mal pairs given by Kiparsky (2006:2) is repro­duced below. (Note: The tran­scrip­tion used by Kiparsky has been mod­i­fied to match the stan­dard Livo­ni­an orthog­ra­phy. As is cus­tom­ary in Livo­ni­an lin­guis­tic schol­ar­ship, stød is marked with an apos­tro­phe in the syl­la­ble where it occurs.) For more in depth infor­ma­tion on and exper­i­men­ta­tion relat­ing to stød, see the Lehis­te et al. 2008 monog­ra­phy “Livo­ni­an prosody” and Vihman’s 1971 exper­i­men­tal study of stød in Dan­ish and Livo­ni­an.

Stød minimal pairs (Kiparsky 2006:2)

lēḑ ‘sphere’lē’ḑ ‘leaf’
nīņ ‘bark strip’nī’ņ ‘wide belt’
mō ‘earth’mō’ ‘down; earth­wards’
ūdõ ‘to fry’ū’dõ ‘to strain’
pūstõ ‘tree (elat. sg.)’pū’stõ ‘to clean’
pūgõ ‘to hang (exe­cute)’pū’gõ ‘to blow’
jūodõ ‘to drink’jū’odõ ‘to lead’
kallõ ‘island (part. sg.)’ka’llõ ‘fish (part. sg.)’
kuon­nõ ‘frog (part. sg.)’kuo’nnõ ‘at home’
van­nõ ‘to swear’va’nnõ ‘old (part. sg.)’
pal­lõ ‘to pray’pa’llõ ‘piece (part. sg.)’


Livo­ni­an, just as its Finnic rel­a­tives, does not dis­tin­guish gram­mat­i­cal gen­der for nouns or pro­nouns. This means that unlike in many Indo-Euro­pean lan­guages, there are no affix­es or oth­er spe­cial words (such as arti­cles) asso­ci­at­ed with Livo­ni­an nouns, which specif­i­cal­ly indi­cate the gen­der of the ref­er­ent. There­fore, words like stu­dent ‘stu­dent’, līvli ‘a Livo­ni­an per­son’, and lețli ‘a Lat­vian per­son’ can refer to either a male or female indi­vid­u­al. How­ev­er, there are, of course, plen­ty of nouns in Livo­ni­an, which inher­ent­ly dis­tin­guish gen­der just by the virtue of the infor­ma­tion with­in the word itself, for exam­ple, nai ‘wom­an; wife’ vs. mīez ‘man; hus­band’, kēņig ‘king’ vs. kēņig­jemānd ‘queen’; kanā ‘hen’ vs. kik ‘roost­er’; etc.

Livo­ni­an is typ­i­cal of oth­er Finnic lan­guages in that it has a large num­ber of noun cas­es. Com­pared to the case sys­tems of its close rel­a­tives among the Finnic lan­guages, the Livo­ni­an case sys­tem appears some­what reduced. In her arti­cle, “Latviešu un lībiešu val­o­das savs­tarpējā ietek­me” (Mutu­al Influ­ence between Lat­vian and Livo­ni­an), lin­guist Mar­ta Rudzīte (1994) large­ly attrib­ut­es this sim­pli­fi­ca­tion to the influ­ence of Lat­vian on Livo­ni­an. This is espe­cial­ly notice­able in the sim­pli­fi­ca­tion of loca­tive expres­sions, as well as, the com­bi­na­tion of the once inde­pen­dent transla­tive and comi­ta­tive cas­es into a sin­gle case, the instru­men­tal.

Viit­so & Ernštre­its (2012:393–4) give as many as 17 noun cas­es for Livo­ni­an. 8–9 of the­se cas­es can be formed con­sis­tent­ly for most nouns (nom­i­na­tive, gen­i­tive, par­ti­tive, dative, instru­men­tal, transla­tive (often grouped togeth­er with the instru­men­tal as a sin­gle case), illa­tive, ines­sive, ela­tive) and 3 fur­ther cas­es (abla­tive, adessive, alla­tive) are formed for some place names (e.g., (adessive) Lețmōl ‘in Latvia’, (alla­tive) Ēstimōld ‘from Esto­nia’) or found in oth­er loca­tive expres­sions. The remain­ing cas­es (instruc­tive, abessive, lative, essive, exes­sive) are not formed for nouns in gen­er­al and exist in a lim­it­ed range of words and frozen expres­sions. Instruc­tive, lative, essive, and exes­sive forms func­tion as adverbs. A com­mon­ly cit­ed exam­ple of the instruc­tive case is jāl­giņ ‘by foot’ (< jāl­ga ‘foot; leg’). Tak­ing all of this into account, one can there­fore say that typ­i­cal­ly there are 8–9 or occa­sion­al­ly as many as 11–12 cas­es for nouns in Livo­ni­an. The tables below shows two exam­ples of declined nouns.

līvli ‘a Livonian person’


ve’ž ‘water’


Sin­gu­lar case forms (with the excep­tion of the par­ti­tive and illa­tive sin­gu­lars) and the nom­i­na­tive and gen­i­tive plu­ral forms (which are iden­ti­cal to each oth­er) are formed by attach­ing a case end­ing to the gen­i­tive sin­gu­lar case form. The par­ti­tive and illa­tive sin­gu­lar, while show­ing a mul­ti­tude of dif­fer­ent pat­terns with­in each case itself, are not reg­u­lar in the sense that they are not formed by attach­ing an end­ing to a par­tic­u­lar noun root. The end­ings given for the­se two cas­es in the table below are those typ­i­cal­ly seen at the end of par­ti­tive and illa­tive sin­gu­lar nouns, but are not to be under­stood as end­ings attached to the same gen­i­tive root as is done for oth­er sin­gu­lar noun cas­es. The table below is repro­duced from Viit­so & Ernštre­its 2012:393–4 with the table labels trans­lat­ed by me from Lat­vian. Viit­so & Ernštre­its note that the sounds given in paren­the­ses (e.g., õ in forms such as ines­sive -s(õ), z in illa­tive -õ(z)) were pro­nounced based on a vari­ety of cri­te­ria includ­ing sen­tence posi­tion and pre­ced­ing sound, but were more like­ly to be pro­nounced in the east­ern Livo­ni­an dialect area in the region between Kuoštrõg (Košrags) and Vaid (Vaide), which was char­ac­ter­ized by more con­ser­vatism in its mor­phol­o­gy.

Livonian Noun Case Endings (Viitso & Ernštreits 2012:393–4)

Nom­i­na­tive-t -d -õd
Gen­i­tive-t -d -õd
Par­ti­tive-tā -dā -ța -ta -da -tõ -dõ -õ —-ți -ḑi -ti -di -i
Dative-n -õn-ddõn -dõn -tõn -õdõn
Instru­men­tal-kõks -ks -õks-dkõks -tkõks -dõks -tõks
Illa­tive-zõ -(õ)z-ži -īž -iž -ž -īz -iz
Ines­sive-š(õ) -s(õ) -õs(õ)-ši -īs -is
Ela­tive-št(õ) -st(õ) -õst(õ)-šti -īst -ist
Instruc­tive-īņ -iņ
Alla­tive-l(õ) -õl
Adessive-l(õ) -õl
Abla­tive-ld(õ(st)) -õld
Lative-j -jõ
Essive-nõ -n

Due to the large vari­a­tion in case end­ings and also vari­a­tion with­in par­tic­u­lar cas­es, such as the afore­men­tioned par­ti­tive, Livo­ni­an nouns are grouped into sev­er­al hun­dred declen­sion types. Each type describes the exact way in which nouns in that group are declined for all cas­es and each group is assigned a unique numer­i­cal index, which appears in dic­tio­nar­ies alongside each noun. The same method is used for describ­ing the sim­i­lar­ly com­plex declen­sion sys­tems of Esto­ni­an (e.g., Saag­pakk 2000) and Võro (South Esto­ni­an) (e.g., Faster 2014). The most com­pre­hen­sive and exten­sive descrip­tion of Livo­ni­an declen­sion types can be found Viit­so & Ernštre­its 2012 as well as in the dictionary’s online ver­sion.

Livonian Noun Case Functions

Noun CaseFunc­tion and/or Mean­ingAsso­ci­at­ed ques­tions
Nom­i­na­tiveThe sub­ject of a sen­tence will gen­er­al­ly appear in this case.what? who?
Gen­i­tiveThis case express­es pos­ses­sion and is also used with a num­ber of adpo­si­tions. The gen­i­tive can be used as a direct object case (as a “total object”). In that func­tion, a gen­i­tive object can indi­cate that the action of the verb is per­fec­tive. For many, but not all, nouns, the nom­i­na­tive and gen­i­tive forms are the same.whose? (pos­ses­sion)

what? whom? (direct object)
Par­ti­tiveThis case is used as the direct object case in Livo­ni­an as well as with a num­ber of adpo­si­tions. In its func­tion as a direct object case, the par­ti­tive is used in gen­er­al with negat­ed verbs and with verbs indi­cat­ing emo­tion­al or men­tal states. In oth­er sit­u­a­tions, a par­ti­tive object (as a “par­tial object”) can indi­cate that the action described by the verb is imper­fec­tive.what? whom?
DativeThis case is used as the indi­rect object case. Livo­ni­an lacks a verb mean­ing ‘to have’ and the dative is used to indi­cate the pos­ses­sor in the cor­re­spond­ing con­struc­tion. For exam­ple:

Mi’nnõn u’m rǭn­tõz.
1SG.DAT be.3 book
‘I have a book’ (lit. to me is a book)
(to/for) what?

(to/for) whom?
Instru­men­talIn its comi­ta­tive func­tion, used in the places where Eng­lish would use the prepo­si­tion ‘with’. In old­er works, the instru­men­tal is referred to as the transla­tive-comi­ta­tive.with what?

with whom?
Transla­tiveWhen ana­lyzed as a sep­a­rate case in Livo­ni­an, the transla­tive indi­cates a change of state. For exam­ple:

Ȭ’dõg ētab pi’mdõks.
evening become.3SG dark.TRANSL
‘The evening is becom­ing dark.’

(exam­ple from Viit­so & Ernštre­its 2012 online ver­sion)
Illa­tiveThe illa­tive refers to move­ment to or into some­thing or some­ where? into what?
Ines­siveThe ines­sive refers to the state of being inside of some­thing or some­where.Where?
Ela­tiveThe ela­tive refers to move­ment from or out of some­thing or some­where.from where? out of what?
Instruc­tiveThis case can only be formed for a lim­it­ed amount of words and results in adverbs indi­cat­ing the man­ner in which some­thing is done. (e.g., jāl­giņ ‘by foot’)how? in what man­ner?
Alla­tive, Adessive, Abla­tiveThe three exter­nal loca­tive cas­es, answer the ques­tions, “to where?”, “where?”, and “from where?”, respec­tive­ly. Nowa­days the­se three cas­es only appear in a lim­it­ed num­ber of forms, large­ly place names. In my own expe­ri­ence of hear­ing spo­ken Livo­ni­an, I found that some­times the inter­nal loca­tive cas­es (illa­tive, ines­sive, ela­tive) would be used instead of the exter­nal loca­tives, even for place names and oth­er sit­u­a­tions that would seem to sug­gest the use of an exter­nal loca­tive. Lin­guist Mar­ta Rudzīte (1994:307) char­ac­ter­izes the­se changes as part of a larg­er col­lapse of this intri­cate sys­tem of loca­tives. This is attrib­ut­ed by her large­ly to the influ­ence of Lat­vian, which, unlike Livo­ni­an, has only one pro­duc­tive loca­tive where? onto what? (alla­tive)

where? at/on what? (adessive)

from where? off of what? (abla­tive)
AbessiveViit­so & Ernštre­its (2012:394) state that the abessive is used in mono­syl­la­bles with vow­el stems and in con­junc­tion with either the prepo­si­tion ilmõ or bäs, both of which mean ‘with­out’. They note that the par­ti­tive is usu­al­ly used instead of the abessive.with­out what?

with­out whom?
(Transla­tive), Essive, Exes­siveAccord­ing to Viit­so & Ernštre­its (2012:394), the end­ings for the rare essive and exes­sive cas­es are found in cer­tain adverbs in Livo­ni­an refer­ring to place and time.

The essive and exes­sive form a “to/in/from” case triplet with the transla­tive in a way, which is anal­o­gous to the triplets formed by the illa­tive, ines­sive, ela­tive and alla­tive, adessive, abla­tive.

The transla­tive indi­cates a tran­si­tion to a state, the essive indi­cates exis­tence with­in a cer­tain state of being (e.g., this can be seen in the Finnish essive form lapse­na ‘as a child’), and the exes­sive indi­cates tran­si­tion away from a state. As stat­ed pre­vi­ous­ly, of the­se, only the transla­tive can be con­sid­ered a pro­duc­tive case in Livo­ni­an.
LativeAs with the essive and exes­sive, the lative is only found in adverbs relat­ing to time and loca­tion. The lative is not pro­duc­tive, but is asso­ci­at­ed with loca­tive mean­ings.

Pro­nouns and Ques­tion Words

Livo­ni­an pro­nouns are declined accord­ing to case. The table below shows the declined forms of the Livo­ni­an per­son­al pro­nouns. Note that the nom­i­na­tive sin­gu­lar pro­nouns have a long form (minā, sinā, tämā) and a short form (ma, sa, ta). The plu­ral form of the pronoun/determiner se ‘it, this, that’ (and its declined forms) is ne (and its declined forms). No gen­der dis­tinc­tion exists for third per­son pro­nouns. There­fore, the sin­gu­lar forms (tämā, ta) are equiv­a­lent to either ‘she’ or ‘he’ in Livo­ni­an. Sim­i­lar­ly, the plu­ral form (ne) is also equal­ly applic­a­ble to groups of third per­son ref­er­ents regard­less of their gen­der. The infor­ma­tion in the table is drawn from Viit­so & Ernštre­its 2012, Boiko 2000, and Ket­tunen 1938 (to check the ines­sive forms).

Livonian Pronouns

 Sin­gu­lar   Plu­ral  
First Per­sonSec­ond Per­sonThird Per­sonFirst Per­sonSec­ond Per­sonThird Per­son
Nom­i­na­tivema ~ minā ‘I’sa ~ sinā ‘you’ta ~ tämā ‘s/he’se ‘it, this, that’mēg ‘we’tēg ‘you (pl.)’ne ‘they’

Ques­tion words are also declined accord­ing to case. In Livo­ni­an, as in oth­er Finnic lan­guages, there are two series of ques­tion words dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed by ani­ma­cy. Ques­tion words derived from kis are used for liv­ing beings and those derived from mis are used for inan­i­mate objects. This is rough­ly the same as the dis­tinc­tion in Eng­lish between who and what. The forms in the table below are tak­en from Viit­so & Ernštre­its 2012 and Vääri 1994:274 (the forms kīngazõ, mis­sõz). The ines­sive plu­ral form kīenši was not explic­it­ly given in either source and just inter­pret­ed by me to be the cor­rect form based on the forms in the declen­sion type table in Viit­so & Ernštre­its 2012. There are no plu­ral forms for mis.

Livonian Question Words

 Ani­mate Inan­i­mate 
Nom­i­na­tivekis ‘who’mis ‘what’
Gen­i­tivekīen ~ kīn­gakīendmis
Par­ti­tivekīen­ta ~ kīen­dakīendimidā ~ mis
Dativekīen ~ kīn­gankīendõnmis­sõn
Instru­men­talkīenkõks ~ kīn­gakskīendõksmis­sõks
Illa­tivekīenõ ~ kīngazõkīenižmis­sõ


Livo­ni­an has two tens­es (past, present) and five moods (indica­tive, con­di­tion­al, imper­a­tive, quo­ta­tive, jus­sive). In addi­tion, there also exist a num­ber of com­pound tens­es. Livo­ni­an lacks a mor­pho­log­i­cal future tense. Instead, the present tense and the future tense verb līdõ ‘to be (in the future)’ are used when speak­ing about future events. The table below sum­ma­rizes the end­ings of Livo­ni­an verbs across mood, tense, and per­son and is repro­duced from Viit­so & Ernštre­its 2012:396 (with its labels trans­lat­ed from Lat­vian into Eng­lish by me). Much as nouns are grouped into declen­sion types, which iden­ti­fy the exact way in which a par­tic­u­lar group of nouns is declined, verbs are grouped into con­ju­ga­tion types iden­ti­fy­ing the exact way in which par­tic­u­lar groups of verbs are con­ju­gat­ed. In Livo­ni­an dic­tio­nar­ies, con­ju­ga­tion types are given as a numer­i­cal index with each verb entry.

Livonian Verb Endings by Mood, Tense, and Person (Viitso & Ernštreits 2012:396)

Mood and TensePer­sonSin­gu­larPlu­ral
Indica­tive (present tense)1-b -õb —-mõ -m -õm
2-d -õd-tõ -t -õt
3-b -õb —-bõd -õbõd -āt(õ)
Indica­tive (past tense)1-, (com­ma indi­cates palatal­iza­tion of final con­so­nant) -i -īz -iz -ž -kš-,mõ -imõ -īzmõ -izmõ -žmõ -kšmõ
2-,d -id -īzt -izt -žt -št-,t(õ) -it(õ) -īzt(õ) -izt(õ) -žt(õ) -kšt(õ)
3-, -id -īz -iz -ž -kš-,t(õ) -it(õ) -īzt(õ) -izt(õ) -žt(õ) -kšt(õ)
Con­di­tion­al1-ks -õks-ksmõ -õksmõ
2-kst -õkst-kstõ -õkstõ
3-ks -õks-kstõ -õkstõ
Imper­a­tive1-gõm -õgõm -kkõm -kõm
2-gīd -gid -õgid -kkõd -kõd
Quo­ta­tive1–3-i -ji -iji-id -jid -ijid
Jus­sive1–3-gõ -g |-õg -kkõ -kõ-gõd -õgõd -kkõd -kõd

As in the oth­er Finnic lan­guages, verbs in Livo­ni­an are negat­ed using a spe­cial neg­a­tive verb used in con­junc­tion with a root form of the lex­i­cal verb. The Livo­ni­an neg­a­tive verb is con­ju­gat­ed for tense and per­son. The tables below shows the affir­ma­tive and neg­a­tive forms of lǟ’dõ ‘to go’ and lu’ggõ ‘to read’ in the present and past tense.

lǟ’dõ ‘to go’

  Affir­ma­tive Neg­a­tive 
Present tenseFirst per­sonma lǟ’b ‘I go’mēg lǟ’mõ ‘we go’ma ä’b lǟ’ ‘I don’t go’mēg ä’b lǟ’mõ ‘we don’t go’
Sec­ond per­sonsa lǟ’d ‘you go’tēg lǟ’tõ ‘you (pl.) go’sa ä’d lǟ’ ‘you don’t go’tēg ät lǟ’tõ ‘you (pl.) don’t go’
Third per­sonta lǟ’b ‘s/he goes’ne lǟ’bõd ‘they go’ta ä’b lǟ’ ‘s/he doesn’t go’ne ä’b lǟ’tõ ‘they don’t go’
Past tenseFirst per­sonma lekš ‘I went’mēg lekšmõ ‘we went’ma i’z lǟ’ ‘I didn’t go’mēg i’z lǟ’mõ ‘we didn’t go’
Sec­ond per­sonsa lekšt ‘you went’tēg lekštõ ‘you (pl.) went’sa i’zt lǟ’ ‘you didn’t go’tēg i’zt lǟ’tõ ‘you (pl.) didn’t go’
Third per­sonta lekš ‘s/he went’ne lekštõ ‘they went’ta i’z lǟ’ ‘s/he didn’t go’ne i’zt lǟ’tõ ‘they didn’t go’

lu’ggõ ‘to read’

  Affir­ma­tive Neg­a­tive 
Present tenseFirst per­sonma lugūb ‘I read’mēg lu’ggõm ‘we read’ma ä’b lu’g ‘I don’t read’mēg ä’b lu’ggõm ‘we don’t read’
Sec­ond per­sonsa lugūd ‘you read’tēg lu’ggõt ‘you (pl.) read’sa ä’d lu’g ‘you don’t read’tēg ät lu’ggõt ‘you (pl.) don’t read’
Third per­sonta lugūb ‘s/he reads’ne lu’ggõbõd ‘they read’ta ä’b lu’g ‘s/he doesn’t read’ne ä’b lu’ggõt ‘they don’t read’
Past tenseFirst per­sonma lugīz ‘I read’mēg lugīzmõ ‘we read’ma i’z lu’g ‘I didn’t read’mēg i’z lu’ggõm ‘we didn’t read’
Sec­ond per­sonsa lugīzt ‘you readtēg lugīzt(õ) ‘you (pl.) read’sa i’zt lu’g ‘you didn’t read’tēg i’zt lu’ggõt ‘you (pl.) didn’t read’
Third per­sonta lugīz ‘s/he read’ne lugīzt(õ) ‘they read’ta i’z lu’g ‘s/he didn’t read’ne i’zt lu’ggõt ‘they didn’t read’

In addi­tion, the fol­low­ing table shows the affir­ma­tive and neg­a­tive forms of the verb vȱl­da ‘to be’ in the present and past tense as well as the present per­fect tense. This is not an exhaus­tive list of forms for vȱl­da (or for lǟ’dõ or lu’ggõ shown above). The present tense affir­ma­tive and neg­a­tive forms of līdõ ‘to be (in the future)’ are also shown below.

vȱlda ‘to be’

 Sin­gu­lar  Plu­ral  
First Per­sonSec­ond Per­sonThird Per­sonFirst Per­sonSec­ond Per­sonThird Per­son
ma u’m ‘I am’sa ūod ‘you are’ta u’m ‘s/he is’mēg ūomõ ‘we are’tēg ūotõ ‘you (pl.) are’ne attõ ‘they are’
ma ä’b ūo ‘I am not’sa ä’d ūo ‘you are not’ta ä’b ūo ‘s/he is not’mēg ä’b ūomõ ‘we are not’tēg ä’d ūotõ ‘you (pl.) are not’ne ä’b ūotõ ‘they are not’
ma vȯ’ļ ‘I was’sa vȯ’ļd ‘you were’ta vȯ’ļ ‘s/he was’mēg vȯ’ļmõ ‘we were’tēg vȯ’ļtõ ‘you (pl.) were’ne vȯ’ļtõ ‘they were’
ma i’z ūo ‘I was not’sa i’zt ūo ‘you were not’ta i’z ūo ‘s/he was not’mēg i’z ūomõ ‘we were not’tēg i’zt ūotõ ‘you (pl.) were not’ne i’zt ūotõ ‘they were not’
Present Per­fect
ma u’m vȯnd ‘I have been’sa ūod vȯnd ‘you have been’ta u’m vȯnd ‘s/he has been’mēg ūomõ vȯn­nõd ‘we have been’tēg ūotõ vȯn­nõd ‘you (pl.) have been)ne attõ vȯn­nõd ‘they have been’
Present Per­fect
ma ä’b ūo vȯnd ‘I have not been’sa ä’d ūo vȯnd ‘you have not been’ta ä’b ūo vȯnd ‘s/he has not been’mēg ä’b ūomõ vȯn­nõd ‘we have not been’tēg ä’d ūotõ vȯn­nõd ‘you (pl.) have not been’ne ä’b ūotõ vȯn­nõd ‘they have not been’

līdõ ‘to be (in the future)’

 Affir­ma­tive Neg­a­tive 
First per­sonma līb ‘I will be’mēg līmõ ‘we will be’ma ä’b lī ‘I will not be’mēg ä’b līmõ ‘we will not be’
Sec­ond per­sonsa līd ‘you will be’tēg lītõ ‘you (pl.) will be’sa ä’d lī ‘you will not be’tēg ät lītõ ‘you (pl.) will not be’
Third per­sonta līb ‘s/he will be’ne lībõd ‘they will be’ta ä’b lī ‘s/he will not be’ne ä’b lītõ ‘they will not be’

The table below (repro­duced from Viit­so & Ernštre­its 2012:396–7 with the orig­i­nal Lat­vian labels trans­lat­ed by me) sum­ma­rizes the end­ings of non-finite verb forms in Livo­ni­an.

Livonian Non-Finite Verb Forms (Viitso & Ernštreits 2012:396–7)

Par­tici­pleActivePresent-bõ -b -õb-bõd -õbõd
Past-nd -n -õn-nõd -nd -õnd
Pas­sivePresent-dõb -tõb -õb-dõbõd -tõbõd -õdõbõd
Past-dõd -tõd -õd
Infini­tive-da -dõ -õ
GerundInes­sive-dsõ -õs
Instruc­tive-dõ -õ
SupineIlla­tive-mõ -m -õm
Ines­sive-mõs -õmõs
Ela­tive-mõst -õmõst
Transla­tive-mõks -õmõks
Abessive-mõt -õmõt
Deb­i­tive-mõst -õmõst


There are both post­po­si­tions and prepo­si­tions in Livo­ni­an. Many loca­tive post­po­si­tions have three forms cor­re­spond­ing to the three-way dis­tinc­tion (towards/in/from) present in the loca­tive noun cas­es. For exam­ple, alā ‘down­ward’, allõ ‘under’, aldõst ‘from under­neath’. Post­po­si­tions such as the­se can also func­tion as adverbs lend­ing a per­fec­tive mean­ing to the verbs they occur with and also col­or­ing their mean­ing. (e.g., pān­da ‘to put’ vs. alā pān­da ‘to put under­neath’; kēratõ ‘to write’ vs. alā kēratõ ‘to sign’; etc.) Some exam­ples of post­po­si­tions include allõ ‘under’ (tam allõ ‘under the oak tree’), jūs ‘by at’ (umbli­jiz jūs ‘by/at the seam­stress’), pǟl ‘on’ (vie’d pǟl ‘on the water’), sizāl ‘inside’ (kougõl sizāl ‘inside the bread mix­ing bowl’), sōņõ ‘until, up to’ (mie’r sōņõ ‘up to the sea’). An exam­ple of a prepo­si­tion is i’ļ ‘about’ (i’ļ sīe ‘about it’). All of the post­po­si­tions and the prepo­si­tion in the­se exam­ples take nouns in the gen­i­tive case. How­ev­er, there are oth­er adpo­si­tions, which take nouns in oth­er cas­es.


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