Upper Sorbian language

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Upper Sorbian (hornjoserbšćina)

Spoken in

Upper Lusatia
speaker 20,000-25,000
Official status
Recognized minority /
regional language in
GermanyGermany Germany ( Saxony )
Language codes
ISO 639 -1


ISO 639 -2


ISO 639-3


Upper Sorbian (Upper Sorbian: Hornjoserbšćina ) is a West Slavic language that is spoken in Upper Lusatia , especially in the area between Bautzen (Budyšin), Kamenz (Kamjenc) and Hoyerswerda (Wojerecy). Upper Sorbian is closely related to Lower Sorbian , as well as Czech , Slovak , Polish and Kashubian . As a Slavic language , Upper Sorbian is one of the Indo-European languages .

Upper Sorbian is one of the officially recognized minority languages ​​in Germany according to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In the official settlement area in Upper Lusatia there are, among other things, bilingual road and place signs and state schools with Upper Sorbian as the language of instruction or Sorbian as a foreign language.


A uniform Upper Sorbian written language has only existed since the 19th century. Before that, there was a Catholic and a Protestant variant, some of which differed in spelling, grammar and vocabulary and had been coined and coded by clergy. In terms of spelling, the Catholic variant was more based on Czech , the Protestant variant more on German . With the so-called "Sorbian rebirth" under the leadership of the Maćica Serbska , the two written languages ​​became a single, non-denominational one. Important pioneers for this process were a. Jan Arnošt Smoler , Michał Hórnik and Handrij Zejler .

For the linguistic conditions of the present see the article Sorbian language .



The consonantic phonemes of Upper Sorbian are as follows:

Michał Frencel's Gospel of Matthew
Bilabial  Labio-  
Alveolar Post
Palatal  Velar  Uvular Glottal
Plosive p b
pʲ bʲ
t d
k g
kʲ gʲ

nasal m
Vibrant r
Affricates ʦ
Fricative f
s z
ʃ ʒ
Lateral l

The consonants on the left are voiceless, those on the right are voiced. The consonants above are not
softened, those below are softened ( palatalized ).

  • the phoneme / r / can also be spoken as a voiced alveolar vibrant [ r ], but is rarely encountered today. It is mostly spoken today as a voiced uvular vibrant [ ʀ ]. Before i, ě, j, [ʀʲ] is spoken or, for speakers with a tongue-tip R, [rʲ] is spoken accordingly.

In Upper Sorbian both final hardening and regressive assimilation of the phonation occur:


The vowel phonemes are as follows:

  Front   Central   Back
Blank vowel trapezoid.png
i •   
ɨ •   
  • u
ɪ •   
e •   
  • o

ɛ •    
   • ɔ

a •   
 Almost closed
 Half closed
 Half open
 Almost open

The vowels on the left of the dots are not rounded ( spread ), those on the right are rounded .

Word Accent

Sorbian-German street sign in Crostwitz

The main accent ( stress ) in Upper Sorbian is usually on the first syllable, žida (ŽI-da) [ 'ʒida ], łastojčka (ŁAS-tojč-ka) [ ' u̯astɔiʧka ], kuzłapołna (KUZ-ła-poł-na) [ ' kuzu̯apou̯na ], with the following exceptions:

  • In some older compounds , the emphasis is on the second component: lětstotk (lět-STOTK), wokomik (woko-MIK)
  • Newer loanwords on -ěrować and -ować are always stressed before -ować : reagować (re-A-go-wać), gratulować (gra-TU-lo-wać), kopěrować (ko-PĚ-ro-wać)
  • Foreign words that got into Upper Sorbian via the German language are stressed before the first Sorbian component ( suffix or inflection ): agentura (a-gen-TU-ra), agitacija (a-gi-TA-ci-ja), ministerstwo (mi-ni-STER-stwo), procesjón (pro-ce'-SJÓN) ( zero ending in the nominative)

In word groups ( syntagma ), the preposition often (always before monosyllabic nouns ) attracts the stress: ke mni (KE mni), na wšo (NA wšo), do šule (DO šule), na zahrodźe (NA zahrodźe), na polu (NA polu), do města (DO města), za tebje (ZA tebje)


Place name sign for Niesendorf bei Bautzen: Upper Sorbian also uses more than just the 26 letters of the Latin basic alphabet.

The Upper Sorbian alphabet is based on the Latin alphabet , supplemented by the following diacritical signs and letter combinations: č, ć, dź, ě, ch, ł, ń, ó, ř, š, ž.
Q, v and x are not part of the alphabet, they only appear in foreign words. The Upper Sorbian alphabet thus has 34 elements.

Letter a b c č ć d d ź e ě f G H ch i j k ł l
Surname a at̯ ʦei̯ ʧei̯ ʧɛt dei̯ ʥei̯ / ʥɛt egg ʲɨt ɛf gei̯ Ha xa / kʰa i i̯ɔt / i̯ʊt ka ɛu̯ ɛl
Letter m n ń O O p r ř s š t u w y z ž
Surname ɛm ɛn eʲn ɔ ʊ pei̯ ɛʀ ɛʃ ɛs ɛʃ part u u̯ei̯ ɨ / ɨpsilɔn zɛt ʒɛt

In alphabetical sorting , no distinction is made between the letters n and ń and between o and ó . For example, nósk (= nose ) is sorted before nosorohač (= rhinoceros). If two words differ only in these letters, the alphabetical order is also taken into account here, for example with won (= out, out) - wón (= he) - wóń (= scent).

Ě, Ń, Ó and Ř never appear at the beginning of a word, which is why the corresponding capital letters are very rare and are only used when the whole word is written in capital letters (e.g. RÓŽEŃ (= (grill) grate; skewer) ).


Bilingual title page of the first complete translation of the Bible in Upper Sorbian

Upper Sorbian is an inflectional language , which means that the declination and conjugation are made using endings and often small changes in the stem. There are multiple declensions and multiple conjugations as well as numerous irregularities. The word order is relatively free and allows stylistic differentiations.

Sorbian grammar knows three grammatical numberssingular , dual and plural  - as well as four grammatical genera - male animate , male inanimate, female and neuter.


In addition to the categories number and gender, the nouns have the category case with the seven cases nominative , genitive , dative , accusative , instrumental , locative and vocative , whereby the vocative in colloquial language only occurs in the singular of the masculine animate nouns .

The grammatical gender of the nouns can usually be recognized by the word ending. Male nouns usually end with a consonant, feminine nouns with -a and neuter nouns with -o or -e. An article is usually not needed.

Declination examples

In the singular, the nouns are regularly formed as follows:

Case (kazus) w (hard) w (soft) m (hard, inanimate) m (hard, animated) m (soft, animated) n
1. (nominatiw) rjana žon a njedźel a rjany štom nan njetopyr rjane wokn o
2. (genitiw) rjaneje žon y njedźel e rjaneho štom a nan a njetopyr yes rjaneho wokn a
3. (datiw) rjanej žon je njedźel i rjanemu štom ej nan ej njetopyr jej rjanemu wokn u
4. (akuzatiw) rjanu žon u njedźel u rjany štom nan a njetopyr yes rjane wokn o
5. (instrumental) z rjanej žon u z njedźel u z rjanym štom om z nan om z njetopyr jom z rjanym wokn om
6. (lokatiw) where rjanej žon ever where njedźel i w rjanym štom je where nan je where njetopyr ju na rjanym wokn je
7. (wokatiw) rjana žon a ! njedźel a ! rjany štom o ! nan o ! njetopyr ever ! rjane wokn o !

The vocative as a case of addressing and calling has different forms from the nominative only in the singular masculine nouns, but mostly differs in terms of intonation .


In Upper Sorbian, as in most Slavic languages, the principle of congruence applies to adjectives, i.e. the formal agreement with the determined noun, e.g. B. rjana kniha ("beautiful book"), rjany štom ("beautiful tree") and rjane wokno ("beautiful window").

Verbs (conjugation)

In addition to the categories number and gender, the verb has the categories of aspect (perfect and imperfect) and tense (present, future, past tense), person and mode (imperative, conditional). The aspects are expressed partly by different inflection suffixes, partly by prefixes (usually perfecting imperfective verbs), in a few cases also by two different stems.


Map of the Sorbian dialects

The Sorbian-speaking area in Upper Lusatia is historically divided into several dialect zones. The various dialects differ mainly in pronunciation, but to a lesser extent in vocabulary and grammar.

The most lively Sorbian dialect to this day is the Catholic variant of Upper Sorbian, which is spoken in the villages on Klosterwasser . A characteristic feature is the realization of the written y as ó (dark o). Further north are u. a. the dialect areas of Nochten / Wochozy , Hoyerswerda / Wojerecy and Runde / Slepo , which are referred to as border dialects and are more closely related to Lower Sorbian. In the villages around Bautzen and in the city itself, the so-called (Protestant) Bautzner dialect is spoken, which formed the most important basis for the Upper Sorbian written language and therefore does not differ significantly from today's standard language.

The Muskau dialect , the Löbauer dialect and the so-called mountain dialect formerly spoken in and around Großpostwitz / Budestecy are considered to have died out in the 20th century . The few speakers remaining in these regions now use the Upper Sorbian standard language.

That variant of German that is spoken today in the linguistically assimilated villages of the Sorbian settlement area is known as Neulausitzisch .

See also

Upper Sorbian media

  • Upper Sorbian print media
    • Serbske Nowiny (daily newspaper in Upper Sorbian)
    • Płomjo (children's magazine in Upper Sorbian)
    • Rozhlad (cultural magazine in Upper Sorbian and Lower Sorbian language)
    • Katolski Posoł (Church newspaper of the Catholic Sorbs in Upper Lusatia)
    • Pomhaj Bóh (Protestant church newspaper in Upper Sorbian)
    • Lětopis (multilingual magazine for the Sorbian language, history and culture)
  • Upper Sorbian radio media
    • Wuhladko (TV program in Upper Sorbian)
    • Sorbian radio (27.5 hours per week in Upper Sorbian)
    • Radio Satkula (youth magazine of the Sorbian radio in Upper Sorbian language)



Grocery store in Bautzen

Web links



Commons : Upper Sorbian language  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Upper Sorbian phonetic transcription  - pronunciation and phonetic transcription

Individual evidence

  1. according to the Sorbisches Kulturlexikon (edited by Franz Schön and Dietrich Scholze). Bautzen: Domowina publishing house. P. 291.
  2. List of declarations made with respect to treaty No. 148
  3. Wiktionary: Upper Sorbian phonetic transcription  - pronunciation and phonetic transcription