Check Out Upper Sorbian


Upper Sorbian is a Slavic language spoken in Eastern Germany in Lusatia. Upper Sorbian is in pretty good shape and may have as many as 40,000 speakers, but Lower Sorbian is not in good shape and has only ~8,000 speakers, most of them elderly. I would expect Upper Sorbian to live at least until 2100 since children are being brought up speaking it. However, the outlook for Lower Sorbian seems to be quite poor.
East Germany always supported the Sorbian language, and the Sorbs had their own schools set up for them. However, upon German reunification, most of the Sorb schools were shut down for some dumb reason. This was just wrong.
Stanislaw Tillich is a major German politician with the Christian Democratic Party in Germany and he is also a Sorbian native speaker. It appears that children are still being brought up speaking Upper Sorbian.
Sorbian has a close relationship with both Czech and Polish. Its roots were in a movement of Slavic speakers into Lusatia in the 500’s, so it seems to have been split from the rest of Slavic for possibly 1,500 years. Lower Sorbian at least has undergone heavy German influence. Czechs say that they cannot understand a single word of Sorbian, but Poles say they can understand it quite well. I think the Poles are exaggerating though,and Sorbian-Polish intelligibility must not be complete. In fact, I doubt if even Lower and Upper Sorbian have full intelligibility.
I must say that this language sounds rather odd. To my untrained ears, it sounds something like a mixture of Polish and German. Anyone else have any impressions?
 

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0 thoughts on “Check Out Upper Sorbian”

  1. I have been to Sorbian regions and it is strange: although still in Germany you feel as if your are on foreign territory. One important reason, that Sorbian ethnic identity and culture could survive until the 20th century, was, that most Sorbs lived in swampy riverine forests, that were too difficult to cultivate (or cultivation was too expensive) for the state or (non-Sorbian) land developers. Sorbian has borrowed some German words, but otherwise is – of course – totally a Slavic language.

      1. To my ears, it sounds like a slavic language spoken with a strong German accent. I learned some Russian in my life and I have been living in Germany since I was born.
        P.S.: I found your blog by coincidence as I was googling for “islamist shithole” or something like that. Interesting topics.

  2. I’m Czech, but not linguist. I understand Russian. Generally I hear Polish intonation. I think I recognize more worlds than in Polish. Stress as in Czech. It sounds more Polish than Czech.
    He spoke about how to keep identity in United Europe and emphasis EU motto “united in diversity”. He maybe talked about newly opened cultural centre for Sorbians. I understood 1/3 – 1/2 words.

  3. I’m with Mr Hnilica, on most issues. I’m a dual UK-Czech national (born of Czech parents in London who didn’t actually want me to learn the language!), and have learnt Czech somewhat painfully over the more recent decades of my life. I find Slovak almost as intelligible as Czech. I’ve learnt a very little Polish (through the medium of Czech).
    (Upper) Lusatian Sorb sounds to me like a mash-up of extreme Prague colloquial Czech (all those vo-’s where there should be o-’s!) and Polish (the constant abstract nouns ending in ść), spoken with a strong German accent: sometimes uvular r, lengthening of a vowel in a stressed open syllable.
    Intelligibility to me: much less than Slovak; about like Ukrainian, from when I stayed for a couple of weeks in Kyiv – though I learned Russian at school, and this greatly helped with the Cyrillic orthography, Ukrainian came across more as an extreme variation on Slovak with some Russianisms, and Ukrainians confirmed to me that they find Slovak the easiest to understand of all foreign languages other than Russian (which they learn in school and encounter all the time).
    I’d well believe that Upper Sorbian is the nearest language to Czech other than Slovak; I’d differ from Mr Hnilica in not being deceived by the -ść endings and rating the language a bit nearer to Czech than to Polish.

  4. THE WORDS MAY BE VERY SIMILAR LIKE IN CZECH AND WRITTEN UPPER SORBIAN LOOKS LIKE A CZECH DIALECT. BUT THE GERMAN-LIKE PRONOUNCIATION IS SIMPLY ATROCIOUS. IT IS QUITE SHOCKING, HOW THE WRITTEN AND SPOKEN LANGUAGE CAN BE SO DIFFERENT.

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