2009 | 33 | 29-44
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LATGALIAN SPELLING 100 YEARS AGO AND CURRENTLY (Pisownia latgalska przed stu laty i dzis )

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Since 1908 Latvians have a unified writing - Antiqua or Latin script. Until that two writing traditions historically have been formed themselves - Fraktur or Gothic script used in Low Latvian texts, and Antiqua or Latin script for High Latvians or Latgalians. It should be mentioned that Latgale's (at that time called 'Inflanty Polskie') Latvians were separated by a state border from the rest of Latvians' ethnic territory for almost 300 years (1629–1917). During this separation, the region developed its own written language based on High Latvian dialect. One of the most essential problems connected with the consolidation of Latvian nation was to unite the spelling. It was changed from Fraktur to Antiqua. There were many unsolved problems of Latgalian writing and ortography. This article provides a description of the development of Latgalian writing from the beginning of the 20th century up to now. A short look into the first Latgalian book, the translation of Gospels 'Evangelia toto anno..' issued in Vilnius in 1753 is given, as far as this book is considered to be a foundation of Latgalian orthography until the beginning of the 20th century. It has influenced the development of contemporary Latgalian orthography norms as well. In the 30-ies of the 19th century, some Latgalian authors began to follow the change in Polish orthography.In the second half of the 19th century, the printing prohibition of Latin alphabet took place. At that time hand-written books were quite widespread in Latgale. In 1904 the print prohibition ended and the standartization of Latgalian written tradition and elaborating of the new orthography began. During this time, several texts for grammar norms and spelling, as well as a wide range of Latgalian literature genres were published. Most works in that period are attributed to a small group of Latgalian intellectuals in St.Petersburg. They were Francis Trasuns, Nikodems Rancans, Francis Kemps, brothers Antons and Kazimirs Skrinda, Peteris Smelteris etc. In 1927, the Ministry of Education has established an Orthography Committee, which developed and then adopted new orthography standards of Latgalian written language, officially confirmed in 1929. However, these rules did not solve all the problems of writing. The authoress dicusses main items mentioned by Francis Zeps, a member of Orthography Committee in 1929. After World War II, the usage of Latgalian written language gradually decreased and ceased completely when a new printing prohibition came into effect in the 1960-ies. The only place where Latgalian language were maintained was the Catholic church. An orthography commission chaired by Antons Breidaks (1932-2002), formed in the 1990s, has further developed many of the Latgalian written language principles introduced in the 1930-ies. For the most part, the principles introduced in the 1990-ies are based on the traditional orthography still used today, but there are also some differences. In 2003, the Subcommission of Orthography of the Latgalian Standard Language was established to supplement the work of the Latvian Language Experts Board with the task of completing the Latgalian orthography reform. The commission elaborated new standards of Latgalian written language which have been published in 2007. These rules comprise the orthography of words and their forms grammar forms.
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  • Anna Stafecka, Latvian Language Institute of the University of Latvia (Latviesu Valodas Instituts) LV-1050 Riga, Akademijas Laukums 1, Latvia
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