The Sorbian languages ( hsb|serbska rěč, dsb|serbska rěc) are two closely related, but only partially mutually intelligible, West Slavic languages
spoken by the Sorbs
, a West Slavic
minority in the Lusatia
region of eastern Germany
. They are classified under the West Slavic
branch of the Indo-European languages
and are therefore closely related to the other two West Slavic subgroups: Lechitic
[About Sorbian Language]
by Helmut Faska, University of Leipzig
Historically, the languages have also been known as Wendish (named after the Wends
, the earliest Slavic people in modern Poland and Germany) or Lusatian
. Their collective ISO 639
-2 code is wen
The two Sorbian languages and literary standards
are Upper Sorbian
(), spoken by about 20,000-25,000 people in Saxony
, and Lower Sorbian
() spoken by about 7,000 people in Brandenburg
. The area where the two languages are spoken is known as Lusatia
( in Upper Sorbian, in Lower Sorbian, or in German
After the settlement of the formerly Germanic territories (the part largely corresponding to the former East Germany
) by the Sorbs
' Slavic ancestors in the fifth and sixth centuries, the Sorbian language (or its predecessors) had been in use in much of what was the southern half of East Germany for several centuries, and still had its stronghold in (Upper and Lower) Lusatia, where it enjoys national protection and fostering to the present day. Outside Lusatia, it has been superseded by German. From the 13th century on, the language suffered official discrimination.
Bible translations into Sorbian
provided the foundations for its writing system.
The exact origin of the language is uncertain. While some linguists consider it to be a transitory language between Lechitic
and other non-Lechitic languages of West Slavic languages
, others like Heinz Schuster-Šewc
consider it a separate dialectical group of Proto-Slavic
which is a mixture of Proto-Lechitic and South Slavic
languages. Furthermore, while some consider it a single language which later diverged to two major dialects, others consider these dialects two separate languages. There exist significant differences in phonology
, and lexicon
between them. Several characteristics in Upper Sorbian language
indicate a close proximity to Czech language
which again are absent in Lower Sorbian language
. Archaeological data cannot confirm the thesis about a single linguistic group, yet supports the claim about two separated ethno-cultural groups with different ancestry whose respective territories correspond to two languages, more indigenous Sukow-Dziedzice culture of Tornovo group (Lower Sorbian language) and more migrant Middle Danube valley culture (Upper Sorbian language).
In Germany, Upper and Lower Sorbian are officially recognized and protected as minority languages.
In the home areas of the Sorbs, both languages are recognized as second official languages next to German.
The city of Bautzen
in Upper Lusatia
is the centre of Upper Sorbian culture. Bilingual signs can be seen around the city, including the name of the city, "Bautzen/".
The city of Cottbus
() is considered the cultural centre of Lower Sorbian; here, too, bilingual signs are found.
Sorbian has also been spoken in the small Sorbian ("Wendish") settlement of Serbin
in Lee County, Texas
, and a few speakers possibly still remain there. Until 1949, newspapers were published in Sorbian there. The local dialect has been heavily influenced by surrounding speakers of German and English
The German terms "Wends" (''Wenden'') and "Wendish" (''wendisch/Wendisch'') once denoted "Slav(ic)" generally; they are today mostly replaced by "Sorbs" (''Sorben'') and "Sorbian" (''sorbisch/Sorbisch'') with reference to Sorbian communities in Germany.
Both Upper and Lower Sorbian have the dual
s, and verb
s; very few living Indo-European languages retain this as a productive feature of the grammar. For example, the word is used for one hand, for two hands, and for more than two hands. As with most of the Slavic languages
, Sorbian uses no articles.
The Sorbian languages are declined
in six or seven cases:
(Upper Sorbian only)
The following is selected vocabulary from the two Sorbian languages compared with other Slavic languages.
*List of Sorbian-language writers
*Low Lusatian German
Online course for Upper and Lower Sorbian
(English, Sorbian, German)
Kurs serskeje rěce / Bluń
introductory texts of the lessons included in the Sorbian language textbook ''Curs practic de limba sorabă''
Category:West Slavic languages
Category:Languages of Germany
Category:Culture of Saxony