Upper Sorbian language

Upper Sorbian (endonym: hornjoserbšćina), occasionally referred to as Wendish,[2] is a minority language spoken by Sorbs, in the historical province of Upper Lusatia, which is today part of Saxony, Germany. It is grouped in the West Slavic language branch, together with Lower Sorbian, Czech, Polish, Slovak and Kashubian.

Upper Sorbian
hornjoserbšćina, hornjoserbsce
Native toGermany
Native speakers
13,000 (2007)[1]
Latin (Sorbian alphabet)
Official status
Official language in
Regional language in Saxony
Language codes
ISO 639-2hsb
ISO 639-3hsb
ELPUpper Sorbian
Linguasphere53-AAA-bb < 53-AAA-b < 53-AAA-b...-d (varieties: 53-AAA-bba to 53-AAA-bbf)
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History edit

The history of the Upper Sorbian language in Germany began with the Slavic migrations during the 6th century AD. Beginning in the 12th century, there was a massive influx of rural Germanic settlers from Flanders, Saxony, Thuringia and Franconia. This so-called "Ostsiedlung" (eastern settlement or expansion) led to a slow but steady decline in use of the Sorbian language. In addition, in the Saxony region, the Sorbian language was legally subordinated to the German language. Language prohibitions were later added: In 1293, the Sorbian language was forbidden in Berne castle before the courts; in 1327 it was forbidden in Zwickau and Leipzig, and from 1424 on it was forbidden in Meissen. Further, there was the condition in many guilds of the cities of the area to accept only members of German-language origin.

However, the central areas of the Milzener and Lusitzer, in the area of today's Lusatia, were relatively unaffected by the new German language settlements and legal restrictions. The language therefore flourished there. By the 17th century, the number of Sorbian speakers in that area grew to over 300,000. The oldest evidence of written Upper Sorbian is the Burger Eydt Wendisch monument, which was discovered in the city of Bautzen and dates to the year 1532.

Upper Sorbian in Germany edit

A bilingual sign in Germany; German in first place and Upper Sorbian in second

There are an estimated 20,000 to 25,000[citation needed] speakers of Upper Sorbian. Almost all of these live in the state of Saxony, chiefly in the district of Bautzen (Budyšin). The stronghold of the language is the village of Crostwitz (Chrósćicy) and the surrounding municipalities, especially to the west of it. In this core area, Upper Sorbian remains the predominant vernacular.

Phonology edit

Vowels edit

The vowel inventory of Upper Sorbian is exactly the same as that of Lower Sorbian.[3]

Vowel phonemes[4]
Front Central Back
Close i ɨ u
Near-close ɪ ʊ
Mid ɛ ɔ
Open a
  • Word-initial vowels are rare, and are often preceded by a non-phonemic glottal stop [ʔ], or sometimes [h]. /i, u, ɛ, ɔ/ appear in word-initial position only in recent borrowings, whereas the diphthongs never occur in this position.[5]
  • The near-close /ɪ, ʊ/ can also be analyzed as diphthongs /iɪ, uʊ/.[4] Here, they are analyzed as monophthongs.
  • The diphthongal allophones of /ɪ, ʊ/ are falling: [iɪ̯, uʊ̯]. [iɪ] occurs only under strong sentence stress in monosyllabic words. Conversely, [uʊ] is a more common realization of /ʊ/ than [ʊ].[4]
  • /ɛ/ has three allophones:
    • Open-mid [ɛ] between hard consonants and after a hard consonant;[6]
    • Mid [ɛ̝] between soft consonants and after a soft consonant (excluding /j/ in both cases);[6]
    • Diphthong with a mid onset [ɛ̝i̯] before /j/.[6]
  • /ɔ/ has two allophones:
    • Diphthong with a mid onset [ɔ̝u̯] before labial consonants;[7]
    • Open-mid [ɔ] in all other cases.[7]
  • Additional diphthongs arise from r-vocalization, as in German. For instance, uniwersita 'University' may be pronounced [unʲiˈwɛɐ̯sita].[8]
  • The distinction between /ɛ, ɔ/ on the one hand and /ɪ, ʊ/ on the other is weakened or lost in unstressed syllables.[9]
  • /a/ is phonetically central [ä].[3][10] It is somewhat higher [ɐ] after soft consonants.[11]

Consonants edit

Consonant phonemes[3][12]
Labial Dental/
Palatal Velar/
hard soft hard soft soft hard soft hard
Nasal m n
Plosive voiceless p t k
voiced b d ɡ
Affricate voiceless t͡s (t͡sʲ) t͡ʃ
voiced (d͡z) d͡ʒ
Fricative voiceless f s ʃ x h
voiced (v) z () ʒ ʁ ʁʲ
Approximant w l j
  • /m, mʲ, p, pʲ, b, bʲ, w, wʲ/ are bilabial, whereas /f, v/ are labiodental.[13]
    • /mʲ, pʲ, bʲ/ are strongly palatalized.[14]
    • /w/ is a somewhat velarized bilabial approximant [β̞ˠ], whereas /wʲ/ is a strongly palatalized bilabial approximant [ɥ].[15]
    • /v/ is very rare. Apart from loanwords, it occurs only in two Slavonic words: zełharny /ˈzɛvarnɨ/ 'deceitful' and zełharnosć /ˈzɛvarnɔst͡ʃ/ 'deceitfulness', both of which are derivatives of łhać /ˈfat͡ʃ/ 'to lie'. Usage of these words is typically restricted to the Bautzen dialect, as speakers of the Catholic dialect use łžeć /ˈbʒɛt͡ʃ/ and its derivatives.[16][17]
  • /n, l/ are alveolar [, ], /nʲ/ is alveolo-palatal [n̠ʲ], whereas /t, d, t͡s, d͡z, t͡sʲ, s, z, zʲ/ are dental [, , t̪͡s̪, d̪͡z̪, t̪͡s̪ʲ, , , z̪ʲ].[3][18][19]
    • /t, d, l/ before /i/ (in the case of /l/ also before /ɛ, ɪ/) are weakly palatalized [tʲ, dʲ, lʲ]. Šewc-Schuster (1984) also reports palatalized [fʲ, vʲ, , ɡʲ, , hʲ] as allophones of /f, v, k, ɡ, x, h/.[20] Among these, the labiodental [fʲ, vʲ] are extremely rare.[5]
    • /n, nʲ/ are velar [ŋ, ŋʲ] in front of velar consonants.[21]
    • /d͡z/ is very rare. In many cases, it merges with /z/ into [z].[22][23]
    • /t͡sʲ, zʲ/ are very rare.[22][23] According to Stone (2002), the phonemic status of /t͡sʲ/ is controversial.[5]
  • In most dialects, /t͡ʃ, d͡ʒ, ʃ, ʒ/ are palato-alveolar. This is unlike Lower Sorbian, where these consonants are laminal retroflex (flat postalveolar) [t͡ʂ, ʂ, ʐ] (Lower Sorbian /t͡ʂ/ does not have a voiced counterpart).[24][25] Laminal retroflex realizations of /ʃ, ʒ/[what about the affricates /tʃ, dʒ/?] also occur in Upper Sorbian dialects spoken in some villages north of Hoyerswerda.[14][26]
  • /k, ɡ, x/ are velar, whereas /r, rʲ/ are uvular.[27][28]
    • An aspirated [kʰ] is a morpheme-initial allophone of /x/ in some cases, as well as a possible word-initial allophone of /k/.[29]
    • /x/ is typically accompanied with trilling of the uvula [ʀ̝̊], so that brach /ˈbrax/ 'fault' is typically pronounced [bʁaʀ̝̊].[30]
    • /x/ does not occur word-initially, whereas /h/ does not occur word-finally.[31]
    • /r, rʲ/ are typically realized as fricatives [ʁ, ʁʲ] or approximants [ʁ̞, ʁ̞ʲ]. They can be trilled [ʀ, ʀʲ] in clear and careful pronunciation. Furthermore, /r/ can also be realized as a voiceless fricative [χ]. It can also be vocalized in the syllable coda, as in uniwersita [unʲiˈwɛɐ̯sita] 'University'.[32] They are never alveolar [r, rʲ], which is an archaic pronunciation.[33]
    • Soft /rʲ/ is strongly palatalized.[14]
  • An epenthetic /j/ is inserted before a post-vocalic soft consonant, yielding a diphthong. If the soft consonant occurs before /ɛ/ or /ɪ/, it is often realized as hard, and the vowels merge to [ɛ̝].[5][example needed]
  • In literary language, the contrast between hard and soft consonants is neutralized in word-final position. For instance, the letter ⟨ń⟩ represents the /jn/ sequence in this position (as in dźeń /ˈd͡ʒɛjn/ 'day'), not a single phoneme /nʲ/.[5]

Final devoicing and assimilation edit

Upper Sorbian has both final devoicing and regressive voicing assimilation, both word-internal and across word boundaries.[5][34] In the latter context, /x/ is voiced to [ɣ]. Regressive voicing assimilation does not occur before sonorants and /h/.[34]

Stress edit

  • Words consisting of up to three syllables are stressed on the first syllable.[35]
  • Foreign words, such as student /stuˈdɛnt/ 'student', preserve their original accent.[36]

Samples edit

The Lord's Prayer in Upper Sorbian:

Wótče naš, kiž sy w njebjesach. Swjeć so Twoje mjeno. Přińdź Twoje kralestwo. Stań so Twoja wola, kaž na njebju, tak na zemi. Wšědny chlěb naš daj nam dźens. Wodaj nam naše winy, jako my tež wodawamy swojim winikam. A njewjedź nas do spytowanja, ale wumóž nas wot złeho. Amen.

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Upper Sorbian:

Wšitcy čłowjekojo su wot naroda swobodni a su jenacy po dostojnosći a prawach. Woni su z rozumom a swědomjom wobdarjeni a maja mjezsobu w duchu bratrowstwa wobchadźeć.

(All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.)[37]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Upper Sorbian at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ "9780781807807: Sorbian (Wendish)-English English-Sorbian (Wendish) Concise Dictionary (Concise Dictionaries) (English and Sorbian Languages Edition) – AbeBooks – Strauch, Mercin: 0781807808".
  3. ^ a b c d Stone (2002), p. 600.
  4. ^ a b c Howson (2017), pp. 363–634.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Stone (2002), p. 604.
  6. ^ a b c Šewc-Schuster (1984), p. 32.
  7. ^ a b Šewc-Schuster (1984), p. 33.
  8. ^ Howson (2017), p. 365.
  9. ^ Stone (2002), pp. 601, 606–607.
  10. ^ Šewc-Schuster (1984), p. 20.
  11. ^ Šewc-Schuster (1984), p. 31.
  12. ^ Šewc-Schuster (1984), p. 46.
  13. ^ Šewc-Schuster (1984), pp. 35–37, 41, 46.
  14. ^ a b c Šewc-Schuster (1984), p. 41.
  15. ^ Šewc-Schuster (1984:36–37, 41, 46). On page 36, the author states that Upper Sorbian /w/ is less velar than Polish /w/. The weakness of the velarization is confirmed by the corresponding image on page 37.
  16. ^ Šewc-Schuster (1984), p. 36.
  17. ^ Stone (2002), pp. 603–604.
  18. ^ Šewc-Schuster (1984), pp. 37–41, 46.
  19. ^ Zygis (2003), pp. 190–191.
  20. ^ Šewc-Schuster (1984), pp. 37, 39, 46.
  21. ^ Šewc-Schuster (1984), pp. 39, 46.
  22. ^ a b Šewc-Schuster (1984), p. 38.
  23. ^ a b Zygis (2003), p. 191.
  24. ^ Šewc-Schuster (1984), pp. 40–41.
  25. ^ Zygis (2003), pp. 180–181, 190–191.
  26. ^ Zygis (2003), p. 180.
  27. ^ Stone (2002), pp. 600, 602.
  28. ^ Šewc-Schuster (1984), pp. 42–44, 46.
  29. ^ Šewc-Schuster (1984), pp. 26–27, 42–43.
  30. ^ Howson (2017), p. 362.
  31. ^ Šewc-Schuster (1984), p. 43.
  32. ^ Howson (2017), pp. 362, 365.
  33. ^ Stone (2002), p. 602.
  34. ^ a b Šewc-Schuster (1984), p. 26.
  35. ^ Šewc-Schuster (1984), p. 27.
  36. ^ Šewc-Schuster (1984), p. 28.
  37. ^ Sorbian at Omniglot.com

Bibliography edit

  • Howson, Phil (2017), "Upper Sorbian", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 47 (3): 359–367, doi:10.1017/S0025100316000414, S2CID 232350142
  • Ross, Malcom. 2020. Syntax and contact-induced language change. In A. Grant (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Language Contact. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 123–154. [Upper Sorbian and German contact, with resulting changes in Sorbian]
  • Šewc-Schuster, Hinc (1984), Gramatika hornjo-serbskeje rěče, Budyšin: Ludowe nakładnistwo Domowina
  • Stone, Gerald (2002), "Sorbian (Upper and Lower)", in Comrie, Bernard; Corbett, Greville G. (eds.), The Slavonic Languages, London and New York: Routledge, pp. 593–685, ISBN 9780415280785
  • Zygis, Marzena (2003), "Phonetic and Phonological Aspects of Slavic Sibilant Fricatives" (PDF), ZAS Papers in Linguistics, 3: 175–213, doi:10.21248/zaspil.32.2003.191

Further reading edit

External links edit

Dictionaries edit

Czech-Sorbian and Sorbian-Czech edit

German-Sorbian edit

Sorbian-German edit