In the columns below, the written Livonian letter is given as it appears in Livonian writing in the first or leftmost column, the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) equivalent is given in the second or middle column, and finally an English approximation is given in the third or rightmost column.  The information given on this page is not meant to be authoritative, but instead is to be viewed as a work in progress.  The phonetic value given for each letter is based on my own experience with spoken Livonian.  The information given on this page should be fairly accurate, but there may be some other facts that I am not aware of and so have not been able to include in the table below.

The Modern Livonian Alphabet
 

Aa [] similar to /u/ in "cut"
[:] a longer version of the previous sound
[]
like the /a/ in "cat"
[:] a longer version of the previous sound
Bb [b] like the /b/ in "bus"
Dd [] similar to Spanish /d/, more dental than English /d/
[] palatalized d, similar to /dy/ in "goodyear"
Ee [] like /e/ in "bed"
[:] a longer version of the previous sound
Ff [f] like /f/ in "fun"
Gg [] like /g/ in "get," never as in "George"
Hh [h] like /h/ in "hello"
Ii [i] similar to /i/ in "hit"
[i:] like /ee/ in "feet"
Jj [j] like /y/ in "year"
Kk [k] similar to /k/ in "skip"
Ll [l] similar to /l/ in "lawn"
[] palatalized l, similar to the pronunciation of /lli/ in "million" in certain English dialects
Mm [m] like /m/ in "mom"
Nn [n]
[]
like /n/ in "no"
preceding /k/ or /g/ as /ng/ in "gong"
[] palatalized n, similar to Spanish //, also similar to the pronunciation of /n/ in "news" in certain English dialects
Oo [o] a pure "o" sound, like in Spanish "no"
[o:] a longer version of the previous sound
no English equivalent; a sound described as being intermediate between Livonian /o/ and //

to approximately pronounce this sound, say the sound of /u/ in American English "up", but form your lips as if you were saying the /oo/ in American English "foot"

a longer version of the previous sound
[]
[]
in stressed syllables, like Estonian //, also similar to Russian //

in unstressed syllables, like /u/ in "up"

[:] a longer version of the previous sound
Pp [p] like /p/ in "speed"
Rr [r] a rolled "r" sound, as in Spanish, and other European languages, never as in English
[rj] a palatalized or soft "r" sound
Ss [s] like /s/ in "suit"
[] like /sh/ in "ship"
Tt [] like /t/ in "steady", more dental than English /t/
[c] palatalized t, similar to /ty/ in "hit you"
Uu [u] similar to /u/ in "put"
[u:] similar to /oo/ in "boot"
Vv [v] like /v/ in "very"
Zz [z] like /z/ in /zany/
[] like /s/ in "pleasure"

Letters no longer used in Livonian

The 1920s and 1930s saw the rise of the first real movement to publish books in Livonian. The first popularly used orthography, used during this time was quite similar to that used today. Some spelling differences have been instituted over the years leading up to the 1990s. However, the only letters not appearing in the modern orthography are those given in the table below. 

[] like // in German "Köche,"
in contemporary Livonian, this sound
has become "e"
[:] a longer version of the previous sound,
like // in German "böse," in 
contemporary Livonian, this sound has
become ""
Yy [y] like // in German "Küste", in 
contemporary Livonian, this sound has
become "i"
[y:] a longer version of the previous sound,
like // in German "über", in 
contemporary Livonian, this sound has
become ""

Sjögren-Wiedemann Orthography

In the first grammar and linguistic study of Livonian, published in 1861 by Andreas Johan Sjögren and Ferdinand Johann Wiedemann, an orthography other than the modern system is utilized. This writing system explicitly marks some features not marked in the modern orthography. Equivalents between the Sjögren-Wiedemann orthography (left column) and the modern orthography (middle column) are given in the table below. All other letters can be assumed to have the same value as in the modern orthography. If further explanations are necessary, these are given in the right column. The current summary does not endeavor to explain the differences between two or more letters in the S-W orthography that are written with the same letter in the modern orthography (e.g. the /a/ with a macron above and the /a/ with macron below, written simply as /a/ with macron above).


The sound [y], represented by the letter /y/ in the orthography used earlier in the 20th Century (see above).


Due to sound changes which have occurred in Livonian over the course of the 20th Century, this sound no longer exists in the modern language, and has become [i]. In the modern orthography this is written with /i/.

The sound [y:], represented by the letter // in the orthography used earlier in the 20th Century (see above).

This sound has shifted to [i:] in the modern language, written with the letter //

In the S-W orthography, palatalization is marked with a mark resembling an acute accent, following or above the palatalized consonant
k
ki
Preceding /i/ in the S-W texts, this palatalized /k/ is written as /k/ in the modern orthography.


Preceding /e/ in the S-W orthography, the palatalized /k/ becomes /ki/ in the modern orthography.

pi
Preceding /e/ in the S-W orthography, the palatalized /p/ becomes /pi/ in the modern orthography.
si
Preceding /e/ in the S-W orthography, the palatalized /s/ becomes /si/ in the modern orthography.
n
ng
Preceding /k/ or /g/ in the S-W texts, this letter becomes /n/ in the modern orthography.

In most other positions it becomes /ng/, in the modern orthography.

Other Symbols
 

  ,    in linguistic texts, an apostrophe is used
to mark syllables pronounced with the
broken intonation
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