See Latvian phonology for a more thorough look at the sounds of Latvian.
At the time of its inception, a conscious decision was made that Latvian orthography would not show gemination/lengthening of consonants because it was unnecessary to do so. Nevertheless, single obstruent consonants (as opposed to consonant clusters) between two short vowels are always long: Atis would be ⟨attis⟩ and aka would be ⟨akka⟩ or [ˈatːis] and [ˈakːa]. In transcribing Latvian in IPA, however, consonant length is usually not indicated. Sonorants, however, are indicated in orthography: in mamma, panna, allaž, ķerra the long sonorants should probably be indicated in both phonetic and phonemic [less precise] transcriptions: [mamːa], [panːa], [alːaʒ], [cærːa].
Standard Latvian has three tones called, by convention, the level (stiepts), broken (lauzts) and falling (krītošs,) indicated by a tilde (~), circumflex (^) or grave (`) accents, respectively. Different tones are distinguished if the stressed syllable (the first syllable, in most all cases) has either a long vowel or a diphthong. Short vowels and unstressed syllables do not take on different tones.
In Riga, Latvian the falling tone has been syncretized with the broken: its users differentiate only between the level and broken tones and perceive the falling tone as broken.
Tone is usually omitted transcribing Latvian in IPA.[why?] English Wiktionary for its Latvian entries, however, uses a notation of macron, circumflex or grave accent if necessary (the tilde is already reserved for indicating nasal vowels in IPA so it is replaced it with a macron.)
- An unvoiced consonant, in a compound, followed by a voiced consonant becomes voiced: atdarīt → [ˈadːariːt] or [ˈadˌdariːt].
- [f] and [x] occur only in loanwords.
- Before the masculine ending -s, voiced consonants are devoiced: smags → [smaks]. The -s is assimilated after a devoiced fricative, producing a long consonant: mazs → [masː] and mežs → [meʃː]. Devoicing also occurs in compounds: labprātīgs → [ˈlapːraːtiːks] or [ˈlapˌpraːtiːks].
- Allophone of nasals before velars.
- The letter ⟨o⟩ in Latvian orthography usually represents the diphthong [uɔ]): Lithuanian nuoma and Latvian noma. [ɔ] and its long counterpart, [ɔː], occur only in loanwords.
- "DIVSKAŅI". Retrieved 18 September 2018.
- In closed syllables, [ai], [ɛi], [oi], and [ui] may be transcribed as vowel-glide sequences: tais [tajs], veikt [vɛjkt], boikots [bɔjkɔts], and muita [mujta].
- Only in loanwords or onomatopoeiatic words.
- Only in loanwords and onomatopoeiatic words or as the result of vocalization in open syllables of [v].
- Kortmann, Bernd (2011). The Languages and Linguistics of Europe. Walter de Gruyter. p. 5. ISBN 3110220253. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
Consonant quantity is well-developed in Latvian as a result of Fennic substratum influence. Sonorants show distinctive quantity mainly in loanwords, cf. manna [manːa] 'manna' vs. mana [mana] (nom.sg.fem. of 1st ps. sg possesive pronoun). Non-distinctive quantitative variation in obstruents occurs in native words: immediately post-tonic voicless obstruents are automatically lengthened between short vowels, cf. lapa [lapːa] 'leaf' vs. lāpa [laːpa] 'torch,' lapā [lapaː] 'leaf (loc.sg.)'. In Lithuanian there is no consonantal quantity and on the morphemic boundary geminates are shortened.
- Masļanska, Olga; Rubīna, Aina (1992). Valsts valoda - Курс лекций латышского языка. Rīga. p. 11.
В латышском языке имеется слоговая интонация, которая может быть протяжной (~), прерывистой (^) и нисходящей (\). В некоторых случаях интонация имеет смыслоразличительное значение, например: за~ле ("зал"), за^ле ("трава"), za\les ("лекарство")
- Kortmann, Bernd (2011). The Languages and Linguistics of Europe. Walter de Gruyter. p. 6. ISBN 3110220253. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
Both Latvian and Lithuanian are pitch languages. In Lithuanian, stressed long vocalic segments (long vowels, diphthongs, and sequences of vowel plus sonorant) show a distinctive opposition of rising and falling pitch, cf. kar̃tų 'time:gen.pl' vs. kártų 'hang:irr.3'. In standard Latvian (and some of the dialects), long vocalic sequences (of the same type as in Lithuanian) distinguish three varieties of pitch: 'even', 'falling', and 'broken' ('broken pitch' being a falling pitch with superadded glottalisation). They are fully differentiated in stressed syllables only: unstressed syllables have an opposition of glottalised and non-glottalised long vocalic segments. Segments with 'even' pitch are ultra long. Neither Lithuanian nor Latvian mark pitch in their standard orthography.