Last Liv-speaker gone

Nieuws | de redactie
12 juni 2013 | With the passing of Grizelda Kristina (103), the last Livonian speaker with native fluency has disappeared. What’s left is a rather small dictionary and folk band Tulli Lum.

Although the Livonian was predominantly spoken on the Latvian coast, Asya Pereltsvaig of GeoCurrents underlines that in linguistics the language forms no part of the Baltic family. Together with Estonian Livonian “belongs to the Finnic subgrouping within the larger Finno-Ugric language family, which in turns nests within the Uralic family. Finnic languages include Finnish, Karelian, Veps and Livonian.”

Pereltsvaig is a connoisseur of the extinct language: “Because of its location, all aspects of Livonian, including its vocabulary, sound system, and grammar, have been influenced for centuries by Latvian, and to a lesser degree, and more indirectly, by German. Roughly 2,000 Latvian and 200 German loanwords are found in Livonian; most of the German words were incorporated through Latvian. The dative case in Livonian is also a reflex of Latvian influence.”

Only heritage speakers

“However, once those layers of linguistic influence through contact are peeled away, Livonian exhibits all the hallmarks of a Finnic language. A comparison of basic vocabulary, for instance numerals, across the three languages also confirms their relatedness; Latvian numerals, in contrast, are quite different from those in Finnic languages and much more like those in other Indo-European languages. Livonian is thus in no way a Baltic language.”

In response to people claiming that Ms. Kristina was the “last ever speaker of Livonian”, Asya Pereltsvaig notes that she was “actually the last speaker who had native fluency in the language. A number of remaining Livonians can be considered heritage speakers, as they picked up bits and pieces of the language in their childhood from grandparents or great-grandparents of the pre-war generations.”

Proof of that can be found on Youtube where a younger Livonian speaker, Julgi Stalte, performs with the Livonian-Estonian World Music group Tulli Lum.


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