Ludzī kīļ : The Lutsi Language


Background information on the Lutsi language

Lutsi or Ludza Estonian is a dialect of South Estonian. South Estonian, also called Võro-Seto, is a Finnic language. The Finnic languages are subgroup of the Finno-Ugrian languages, which themselves form one of the branches of the Uralic language family. South Estonian is indigenous to southeastern Estonia with particularly vibrant use in Võru County (Võru maakond, in Estonian) and also some speakers across the present-day Estonian-Russian border in Pechory County (Печорский район, in Russian) in areas which were part of Estonia prior to World War II.

Lutsi is one of three regions referred to as the (South) Estonian language islands -- regions outside of Estonia where South Estonian was once spoken. “Lutsi” is the Estonian name for the city of Ludza in southeastern Latvia and Lutsi was primarily spoken in an area to the north, east, and south of Ludza. The other two (South) Estonian language islands are called Leivu and Kraasna. Leivu was spoken in the towns of Ilzene and Lejasciems near Alūksne in northeastern Latvia. Kraasna was spoken in a series of villages near the town of Krasnogorodsk in Russia, approximately 30 km from the present-day Latvian border. People in each region spoke a variety of South Estonian unique from that spoken in the other regions and also from the South Estonian spoken in Estonia.

Lutsi is most similar to the Setu dialects of South Estonian. The closest linguistic relatives of South Estonian are Livonian and Estonian. Lutsi was spoken in approximately 50 small villages in the pre-World War II parishes (pagasts, in Latvian) of Mērdzene (formerly Mihalova), Pilda, Nirza, and Brigi (formerly Janovole). The number of Lutsi speaker decreased throughout the twentieth century. Estonian researcher Oskar Kallas was the first to document Lutsi and the Lutsi population in Latvia. He estimated in 1894 that there were approximately 800 speakers of Lutsi. In the beginning of the twentieth century, linguists Heikki Ojansuu and Villem Grünthal estimated that there were approximately 200 speakers of Lutsi. In 1925, researcher Paulopriit Voolaine estimated that there were around 120 people who spoke Lutsi, while linguist August Sang noted in 1936 that 30-40 people may have had native speaker competence in Lutsi. The last speaker of Lutsi, Nikolājs Nikonovs, died in 2006. In the present day, individual members of the Lutsi community still have some basic knowledge of their ancestral knowledge, but no fluent speakers remain.

As the last active speakers of Lutsi -- including the last known speaker, Nikolājs Nikonovs -- were from the village of Lielie Tjapši near Pilda and a great deal of the most extensive documentation of Lutsi is of speakers from Lielie Tjapši, the language information on this page, unless otherwise noted, mainly reflects the Lutsi speech of Lielie Tjapši and the village of Škirpāni (also near Pilda).

Tere! Hello! On this page you can learn a bit about the Lutsi sounds and forms of Lutsi, as well as, learn a few Lutsi phrases.

Start with the first section, which describes how Lutsi is written. I designed the Lutsi writing system based on the orthographic logic of Latvian and Latgalian, as these are the languages which descendants of the Lutsi community speak today. If you’re familiar with Latvian or Latgalian, the written Lutsi should be pronounceable for you mostly from its written form. However, there are a few additional sounds and orthographic principles, which differ from Latvian and Latgalian, so it’s worth taking a few minutes to look over this section.

Orthography and Pronunciation

Nouns and Verbs with an introduction into their morphology

Topical wordlist

Listen to an example of spoken Lutsi

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