Sorbian languages

Not to be confused with Serbian language.
Wendish, Lusatian
Ethnicity: Sorbs
Linguistic classification:


ISO 639-2 / 5: wen
Glottolog: sorb1249[1]


The Sorbian-speaking region in Germany

The Sorbian languages (Upper Sorbian: Serbsce; Lower Sorbian: Serbski) are two closely related languages spoken by the Sorbs, a Slavic minority in the Lusatia region of eastern Germany. They are classified under the West Slavic branch of the Indo-European languages. Historically the languages have also been known as Wendish or Lusatian. Their collective ISO 639-2 code is wen. They are closely related to Polish, Kashubian, Czech and Slovak.[2]

There are two literary languages: Upper Sorbian (hornjoserbsce), spoken by about 40,000 people in Saxony, and Lower Sorbian (dolnoserbski) spoken by about 10,000 people in Brandenburg. The area where the two languages are spoken is known as Lusatia (Łužica in Upper Sorbian, Łužyca in Lower Sorbian, or Lausitz 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 5th and 6th 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 Outside Lusatia, it has been superseded by German, following official discrimination from the 13th century on.[2] The printed language developed around the main Bible translations into Sorbian.

Geographic distribution

In Germany, Upper and Lower Sorbian are officially recognized and protected as minority languages. In the home areas of the Sorbs, both languages are officially equal to German.

A bilingual sign in Bautzen

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/Budyšin".

The city of Cottbus (Chóśebuz) 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 it is possible that a few speakers still remain there. Until recently newspapers were published in Sorbian there. The local dialect has been heavily influenced by surrounding speakers of German and English.

While the old German-derived labels "Wend" and "Wendish", which once denoted "Slav(ic)" generally, have been retained in American and Australian communities, they are today mostly unusual in place of "Sorb" and "Sorbian" with reference to Sorbian communities in Germany, because many Sorbs consider such words to be offensive.

Linguistic features

Both Upper and Lower Sorbian have the dual for nouns, pronouns, adjectives and verbs; very few living Indo-European languages retain this as a productive feature of the grammar. For example, the word ruka is used for one hand, ruce for two hands, and ruki for more than two hands. As with most of the Slavic languages, Sorbians uses no articles.


The Sorbian languages are declined in six to seven cases:

  1. Nominative
  2. Accusative
  3. Dative
  4. Genitive
  5. Instrumental
  6. Locative
  7. Vocative (Upper Sorbian only)
Case nan
  Upper Sorb. Lower Sorb. Upper Sorb. Lower Sorb. Upper Sorb. Lower Sorb.
Nom. nan nan štom bom wokno wokno
Gen. nana nana štoma boma wokna wokna
Dat. nanej nanoju štomej bomoju woknu woknoju, woknu
Acc. nana nana štom bom wokno wokno
Instr. z nanom z nanom ze štomom z bomom z woknom z woknom
Loc. wo nanje wó nanje na štomje na bomje na woknje na woknje
Voc. nano štomo
Case ramjo
shoulder, armpit
woman, wife
  Upper Sorb. Lower Sorb. Upper Sorb. Lower Sorb. Upper Sorb. Lower Sorb.
Nom. ramjo ramje žona žeńska ruka
Gen. ramjenja ramjenja žony žeńskeje ruki
Dat. ramjenju ramjenjeju, ramjenju žonje žeńskej ruce
Acc. ramjo ramje žonu žeńsku ruku
Instr. z ramjenjom z ramjenim ze žonu ze žeńskeju z ruku
Loc. wo ramjenju wó ramjenju wo žonje wó žeńskej w ruce

Vocabulary comparison

The following is selected vocabulary from the two Sorbian languages compared with other Slavic languages.

English Upper Sorbian Lower Sorbian Croatian Czech Polish Polabian Kashubian Serbian Silesian Slovak Ukrainian
person čłowjek cłowjek čovjek člověk człowiek clawak człowiek човек
człowiyk človek чоловік
evening wječor wjacor večer večer wieczór vicer wieczór вече
wiyczōr večer вечір
brother bratr bratš brat bratr brat brot brat брат
bracik brat брат
day dźeń źeń dan den dzień dôn dzéń дан
dziyń deň день
hand ruka ruka ruka ruka ręka ręka rãka рука
rynka ruka рука
snow sněh sněg snijeg sníh śnieg sneg sniég снег
śniyg sneh сніг
summer lěćo lěśe ljeto léto lato ljutü lato лето
lato leto літо
sister sotra sotša sestra sestra siostra sestra sostra сестра
szwestra sestra сестра
fish ryba ryba riba ryba ryba raibo rëba риба
ryba ryba риба
fire woheń wogeń vatra *oganj -ingle oheň ogień widin òdżin ватра
(vatra) *огањ (oganj) -ingle
ôgiyń oheň вогонь
water woda wóda voda voda woda wôda wòda вода
woda voda вода
wind wětr wětš vjetar vítr wiatr wjôter wiater ветар
wiŏter vietor вітер
winter zyma zyma zima zima zima zaima zëma зима
zima zima зима

See also


  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Sorbian". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. 1 2 About Sorbian Language, by Helmut Faska, University of Leipzig (English)
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/4/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.