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Lower Sorbian language


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Lower Sorbian (Dolnoserbski) is a Slavic minority language spoken in eastern Germany in the historical province of Lower Lusatia, today part of Brandenburg. It is one of the two literary Sorbian languages, the other being Upper Sorbian.

Lower Sorbian is spoken in and around the city of Cottbus in Brandenburg. Signs in this region are usually bilingual, and Cottbus has a Gymnasium where one language of instruction is Lower Sorbian. It is a heavily endangered language. Most native speakers are in the oldest generation today.

Lower Sorbian
Dolnoserbski, Dolnoserbšćina
Pronunciation [ˈdɔlnɔˌsɛrskʲi]
Native to Germany
Region Brandenburg
Native speakers
6,900 (2007)
Language family
Indo-European

  • Balto-Slavic
    • Slavic
      • West Slavic
        • Sorbian
          • Lower Sorbian
Writing system
Latin (Sorbian alphabet)
Language codes
ISO 639-2 dsb
ISO 639-3 dsb
Glottolog lowe1385
Linguasphere 53-AAA-ba < 53-AAA-b <53-AAA-b...-d(varieties: 53-AAA-baa to 53-AAA-bah)

Phonology

The phonology of Lower Sorbian has been greatly influenced by contact with German, especially in Cottbus and larger towns. For example, German-influenced pronunciation tends to have a voiced uvular fricative [ʁ] instead of the alveolar trill [r]. In villages and rural areas German influence is less marked, and the pronunciation is more “typically Slavic”.

Bilingual road sign in Cottbus, Germany

Bilingual road sign in Cottbus , Germany

Consonants

The consonant phonemes of Lower Sorbian are as follows:

Labial Dental Alveolar Post-
alveolar
(Alveolo-)
palatal
Velar Glottal
plain pala. plain pala. plain pala.
Stop p b pʲ bʲ t d k ɡ kʲ ɡʲ
Affricate t͡s t͡ʃ d͡ʒ t͡ɕ d͡ʑ
Fricative f fʲ vʲ s z ʃ ʒ ɕ ʑ x h
Nasal m n
Approximant w j
Lateral l
Rhotic r

Lower Sorbian has both final devoicing and regressive voicing assimilation::12

  • dub /dub/ ”oak” is pronounced [dup]
  • susedka /ˈsusedka/ ”(female) neighbor” is pronounced [ˈsusetka]
  • licba /ˈlit͡sba/ ”number” is pronounced [ˈlʲid͡zba]

The postalveolar fricative /ʃ/ is assimilated to [ɕ] before /t͡ɕ/::13

  • šćit /ʃt͡ɕit/ ”protection” is pronounced [ɕt͡ɕit]

Vowels

The vowel phonemes are as follows:

Monophthongs Front Central Back
Close i ɨ u
Open-mid ɛ ɔ
Open a
Diphthongs Centering Ending
in /j/
Ending
in /w/
Starting close iɪ̯ ij ɨj uj iw ɨw uw
Starting mid ej ɔj ɛw ow
Starting open aj aw

The centering diphthong /iɪ̯/, spelled ě, occurs only in stressed syllables. In unstressed syllables it is replaced by /ɛ/; for example, wěźeś ”to know” is /ˈvʲiɪ̯ʑɛɕ/, but its compound powěźeś ”to announce” is /ˈpɔvʲɛʑɛɕ/.

Stress

Stress in Lower Sorbian normally falls on the first syllable of the word::14

  • Łužyca [ˈwuʒɨt͡sa] ”Lusatia”
  • pśijaśel [ˈpɕijaɕɛl] ”friend”
  • Chóśebuz [ˈxɨɕɛbus] ”Cottbus”

In loanwords, stress may fall on any of the last three syllables::14

  • internat [intɛrˈnat] ”boarding school”
  • kontrola [kɔnˈtrɔla] ”control”
  • september [sɛpˈtɛmbɛr] ”September”
  • policija [pɔˈlʲit͡sija] ”police”
  • organizacija [ɔrɡanʲiˈzat͡sija] ”organization”

Most one-syllable prepositions attract the stress to themselves when they precede a noun or pronoun of one or two syllables::14

  • na dwórje [ˈna dwɨrʲɛ] ”on the courtyard”
  • pśi mnjo [ˈpɕi mnʲɔ] ”near me”
  • do města [ˈdɔ mʲɛsta] ”into the city” (note that the [iɪ̯] of město [ˈmʲiɪ̯stɔ] becomes [ɛ] when unstressed)

However, nouns of three or more syllables retain their stress:

  • pśed wucabnikom [pɕɛd ˈut͡sabnʲikɔm] ”in front of the teacher”
  • na drogowanju [na ˈdrɔɡowanʲu] ”on a journey”

Orthography

The Sorbian alphabet is based on the Latin script but uses diacritics such as acute accent and caron.




Published - November 2014










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