Online Livonian lesson marks International Mother Language Day

A beach on the northern Kurzeme peninsula in Latvia, ancestral home of the Livonian language, culture and people.
A beach on the northern Kurzeme peninsula in Latvia, ancestral home of the Livonian language, culture and people. Source: ERR

An online Livonian language lesson marking International Mother Language Day takes place on Friday afternoon and is open to all.

Livonian, (Livonian: livõ kel or randakel, Estonian: Liivi Keel, Latvian: Libiešu valoda), is a Finno-Ugric tongue, closely related to Estonian. While its last native speaker reportedly passed away in 2013, a few dozen people still speak it as a foreign language, from the Common European Framework level B1 and upwards.

Native speakers were historically concentrated in the northern half of the Courland (Kurzeme) peninsula in present-day Latvia, with numbers still in the thousands as late as the 19th century.

Livonian influence is also found in the etymology of some Latvian words, according to Latvian public broadcaster LSM.

The language is included in the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger.

The lesson starts at 3 p.m. Estonian time on Friday, 21 February, and will include instruction on a popular Livonian folk song. Tutors include a University of Latvia Livonian Institute researcher and a member of a mixed choir based in the Latvian town of Salaspils, according to LSM.

The tutorial is organized by the LU Liiv Language Institute and the UNESCO Latvian National Commission, and supported by the Latvian National Center for Culture.

Some UNESCO-associated schools are also hosting related events, LSM reports.

UNESCO's International Mother Language Day has been run for over 20 years and aims to promote cultural diversity, enrichment, and inter-cultural dialogue, while stressing the importance of language in both day-to-day communication and self-expression, and societal building, according to LSM.

International Mother Language Day itself is actually on Saturday, February 21.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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