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Appendix:Livonian pronunciation

A more detailed discussion with the relevant references in published literature can be found at w:lv:Lībiešu valoda#Patskaņi (in Latvian). Following is an outline of said discussion.

Terms "high" and "low" will be used instead of "close" and "open". Slashes /.../ will be used for a more general, phonemic representation, brackets [...] for a more phonetic representation.


  • ⟨a⟩ is a low unrounded back vowel /ɑ/.
  • ⟨ä⟩ is a low unrounded front vowel [a]. Considering the ambiguous nature of the symbol [a] it is conventionally given as /æ/.
  • ⟨e⟩ is a mid unrounded front vowel [e̞]. For the sake of expediency it is usually given as /e/.
  • ⟨i⟩ is a high unrounded front vowel /i/.
  • ⟨o⟩ according to Viitso is mid high rounded back [o], according to Moseley – mid rounded back [o̞]. It is usually given as /o/ in Livonian entries.
  • Long ⟨ō⟩ is either a long version of the previously mentioned vowel – /oː/ or a low rounded back vowel /ɒː/ which is the result of historical rounding of an , {{R:liv:LEL}} indicates this with an ogonek – for . This additional diacritical sign is not part of standard Livonian orthography but should be indicated in IPA.
  • ⟨ȯ⟩ according to Viitso is a mid-high unrounded back vowel [ɤ], according to Moseley it is a mid unrounded back vowel [ɤ̞]. For the sake of expediency it is usually indicated as /ɤ/ in Livonian pronunciations.
  • ⟨õ⟩ in a stressed (first) syllable is a high unrounded back vowel /ɯ/. A sound that can be found in Turkic and Korean languages.
  • ⟨õ⟩ in an unstressed syllable (other than the first) is a mid central vowel (schwa) – /ə/.
  • ⟨u⟩ is a high rounded back vowel /u/.


Only {{liv-IPA}} should be used for words with broken tone as it allows including them in the pertaining Category:Livonian words with broken tone. This is done by providing "1" for the unnamed 3rd parameter, e.g., {{liv-IPA|puːojmer||1}}. It should also be indicated in the headword line as it can be unclear which word has broken tone in the case of compounds, e.g., {{head|liv|proper noun|head=Pū'ojme'r}} for Pūojmer.


Livonian consonants (those whose IPA values are different from their orthographic value) should be transcribed thusly (see below for considerations):

  • ⟨ļ⟩ – /ʎ/
  • ⟨ņ⟩ – /ɲ/
  • ⟨ț⟩ – /c/
  • ⟨ḑ⟩ – /ɟ/
  • ⟨n⟩ (before ⟨k/g⟩) – ŋ
  • ⟨h⟩ – /x/ (Viitso describes this non-native sound as voiceless velar fricative thus /x/)
  • ⟨ŗ⟩ – /rʲ/

As with many other languages the usage of the terms "palatal" and "palatalized" in the pertaining literature is very ambiguous. Particularly in transcriptions that originate from Russia it is not uncommon to see "soft" Livonian consonants represented as, e.g., /lʲ nʲ/ etc. However, "soft" Livonian consonants are markedly phonemic vel (yet; more), veļ (brother) etc. The so-called assimilative palatalization as it's called in Lithuanian or the similar process in Russian and some varieties of Portuguese etc. is not present in Livonian thus while there might not necessarily be practical difference in the quality of, e.g., /lʲ/ and /ʎ/ the former is universally used for some type of an assimilatory "softening" while the latter for a strictly phonemic sound.

The character of ⟨ț⟩ and ⟨ḑ⟩ is yet more ambiguous. They are often transcribed as /tʲ dʲ/ although to a Latvian interlocutor they might sound identical to Latvian ⟨ķ⟩ and ⟨ģ⟩ (or Hungarian ⟨ty⟩ and ⟨gy⟩) thus /c ɟ/. Šuvcāne and Ernštreite in their book {{R:liv:LPB}} simply remark that they are identical to Latvian ⟨ķ⟩ and ⟨ģ⟩. This is perhaps one of the only instances where these Livonian sounds are expressly compared to an equivalent in another language thus they should be transcribed as /c ɟ/.

The only consonant where this ambiguity is not a concern is the soft ⟨ŗ⟩. It is believed that a palatal vibrant is a sound that is impossible to produce and it doesn't have its own discrete IPA symbol, thus both in Latvian and Livonian it is transcribed as a palatalized ⟨r⟩ – /rʲ/.