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Lettic Language and Litera Ture

literary, lettish, riga, sprache, id, lithuanian and german

LETTIC LANGUAGE AND LITERA TURE, the speech and literary production of the Letts, who inhabit Courland, Livonia, Kovno, Pskov and Vitebsk, also in East Prus sia, Brazil and in the Lettish colonies in the United States. The language is spoken by 1,750,000 people. It forms with Lithuanian and the now extinct Old Prussian, the Baltic sub division of the Indo-Germanic linguistic family.

Lettic is distinguished from Lithuanian by a pho nology further removed from the Indo-Euro pean standard, and by its accent, which always falls on the first syllable. In a few points it is more archaic than Lithuanian. For instance, it retains the Indo-Germanic s and z which in the sister language has been modified to sz and if, and the original brief vowels, which in many cases have become long vowels in Lithuanian. It is divided into numerous dialects, the chief of which are the following: East Lettic, the Mitan dialect, which is the standard literary form, the North Lettic, spoken in north and northwestern Courland and in the Riga districts of Livonia. Lettic has only two genders and two numbers, although there remain traces of the dual number. It also retains seven of the eight cases of the Indo-Germanic family, has only the three tenses of the verb (past, present and future) and the indicative, conditional and imperative moods. A reflexive form is added to the verb by the addition of s. Periphrastic forms are numerous. The vocabulary contains a great number of German, Russian, Esthonian, Finnish and Scandinavian words, and the in fluence of these languages is discernible in much of the native vocabulary.

Until the last century the language was greatly neglected and a few German scholars were the first to describe and investigate it. Within recent decades the Letts themselves have gitren more attention to their language and the movement has resulted in an increased and greatly improved literary output. The earliest literary works in Lettish were transla tions of Luther's 'Catechism) (Konigsberg 1586). Undeutsche Psalmen' and (1587), a translation of the Bible (Riga 1685– 89) and other works almost exclusively of a religious or didactic character, and translations from the German. G. F. Stender (d. 1796) wrote a grammar and a compendious diction ary of Lettish, which gave a new impetus to the study of the language. He wrote also 'Augustas gudribas grahmata' (1776), a work containing the elements of astronomy, geogra phy, history, etc., and also stories and tales

which helped to popularize the language and at once arrested its decline. The first Lettish comedy was written by his son, Alexander Stender. The close of the 18th and the open ing decades of the 19th century saw a great literary revival among the Letts, who began to take pride in cultivating their language as a literary medium. Periodicals were founded, in cluding the Latweeschu Awise (1822—) and Magasin (Mitau 1827—), and a vigorous effort was made to develop a national literature free of German and Russian influences. The classics of the western European tongues were translated and exerted a marked influence on the literary development of Lettish. Lettish poems, novels and romances issued from the press in increasing numbers, and works on nomics and sociology ushered in a new era in national culture. Among the literary figures of the 19th century stand forth pre-eminently Jur Allunan, the Kaudoit brothers, Neikens, Pum purs, Kronwald, Lautenbach, Rosenberg Aspasia, Blanman, Janson, Zeifert and Lap. By the year 1900 there existed in Lettish about 2,500 works and 10 periodicals. The folksongs of the Letts are numerous and some are very beautiful. The best are con tamed in the first numbers of 'Latweeschu tantas dfeesmas) (Leipzig 1874 et seq.). Schleicher published a collection of tales and proverbs (Weimar 1857).

Bibliography.—Andreianov, (Lettische Volks lieder und (Halle 1896) ; Bezzen berger, Dialekt-Studien) (Gottin gen 1885); id., 'Veber die Sprache der preussischen Letten) (ib. Bielenstein, August, (Die lettisehe Sprache> (Berlin 1864); id., (Lettische Grammatik> (Matau 1863); id., (Die Elemente der lettischen Sprache> (ib. 1866) ; id., 'Tausend lettische Rathsel, iibersetzt und erklart) (Mitau 1881) ; id., 'Grenzen des lettischen Volkstammes und der lettischeh Sprache) (Saint Petersburg 1892); Brentano, 'Lehrbuch der lettischen Sprache> (Vienna 1906) ; Kalning, (Kurzer Lettischer Sprach fiihrer) (Riga 1910) ; Klaushush, 'Latweeschu vakstrieezibas wehsture> (Riga 1907) ; Leh golnis, 'Latweeschu literaturas wehsture' (Riga 1908); Ulmann and Brasche, 'Lettische Wor terbuch) (Riga 1872-80); Thomsen, ringer rnelem de Finske og de Baltiske Sprog) (Copenhagen 1890).