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Official Language: Latvia

Home Speakers: Lithuania, Estonia, Sweden, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus

It belongs to the Indo-European family, Baltic group, and is spoken by over 1.5 million people. Like Lithuanian, though to a lesser extent, Latvian preserves a system of intonations no longer found in most other Indo-European languages. The first examples of written Latvian, created by German monks, are from the 16th and 17th centuries. The Gothic script, used up to the mid 1930's was replaced with the Latin script and a new system of writing created by Dr. J. Endzelins and K. Mühlenbach. In terms of language varieties, Central Latvian is the basis of literary Latvian. High Latvian is the basis of literary Latgalian, which died out in the West around 1985, but has had a vigorous revival in Latvia since 1988. The two dialects are not very different, but each has a separate literary tradition.

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