Lower Sorbian (Dolnoserbšćina) 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.
Bilingual road sign in Cottbus
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".
- /m, mʲ, p, pʲ, b, bʲ, w, wʲ/ are bilabial, whereas /f, v/ are labiodental.
- /n, nʲ, l, r, rʲ/ are alveolar [n, nʲ, l, r, rʲ], whereas /t, d, t͡s, s, z/ are dental [t̪, d̪, t̪͡s̪, s̪, z̪].
- /t͡ʃ, ʃ, ʒ/ have been variously transcribed with ⟨t͡ʃ, ʃ, ʒ⟩ and ⟨t͡ʂ, ʂ, ʐ⟩. Their actual phonetic realization is flat postalveolar [t͡ʃ˖, ʃ˖, ʒ˖] in all of the Lower Sorbian-speaking area. This is unlike in standard Upper Sorbian, where these are palato-alveolar [t͡ʃ, ʃ, ʒ].
- /h/ is voiceless [h], unlike Upper Sorbian, where it is voiced [ɦ].
Final devoicing and assimilation
Lower Sorbian has both final devoicing and regressive voicing assimilation:
- dub /dub/ "oak" is pronounced [dup]
- susedka /ˈsusedka/ "(female) neighbor" is pronounced [ˈsusetka]
- licba /ˈlit͡sba/ "number" is pronounced [ˈlʲid͡zba]
The hard postalveolar fricative /ʃ/ is assimilated to [ɕ] before /t͡ɕ/:
- šćit /ʃt͡ɕit/ "protection" is pronounced [ɕt͡ɕit]
The vowel inventory of Lower Sorbian is exactly the same as that of Upper Sorbian. It is also very similar to the vowel inventory of Slovene.
- /i/ is retracted to [ɨ] after hard consonants.
- /e, o/ are diphthongized to [i̯ɛ, u̯ɔ] in slow speech.
- The /e–ɛ/ and /o–ɔ/ distinctions are weakened or lost in unstressed syllables.
- /a/ is phonetically central [ä].
Stress in Lower Sorbian normally falls on the first syllable of the word:
- Łužyca [ˈwuʒɨt͡sa] "Lusatia"
- pśijaśel [ˈpɕijaɕɛl] "friend"
- Chóśebuz [ˈxɨɕɛbus] "Cottbus"
In loanwords, stress may fall on any of the last three syllables:
- 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:
- 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"
The Sorbian alphabet is based on the Latin script but uses diacritics such as acute accent and caron.
Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Lower Sorbian:
Wšykne luźe su lichotne roźone a jadnake po dostojnosći a pšawach. Woni maju rozym a wědobnosć a maju ze sobu w duchu bratšojstwa wobchadaś.
(All people are born free and equal in their dignity and rights. They are given reason and conscience and they shall create their relationships to one another according to the spirit of brotherhood.)
- Hannusch, Erwin (1998), Niedersorbisch praktisch und verständlich, Bautzen: Domowina-Verlag, ISBN 3-7420-1667-9
- Laver, John (1994), Principles of Phonetics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-45655-X
- Šewc-Schuster, Hinc (1984), Gramatika hornjo-serbskeje rěče, Budyšin: Ludowe nakładnistwo Domowina
- Stone, Gerald (2002), "Sorbian (Upper and Lower)", in Comrie, Bernard; Corbett, Greville G., The Slavonic Languages, London and New York: Routledge, pp. 593–685, ISBN 9780415280785
- Zygis, Marzena (2003), "Phonetic and Phonological Aspects of Slavic Sibilant Fricatives" (PDF), ZAS Papers in Linguistics, 3: 175–213
Czech-Lower Sorbian and Lower Sorbian-Czech