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What’s with this “Wren” thing?
The oldest extant version of the fable
are presenting here appeared in 1913 in the first volume of a two-volume anthology
Saxon folktales (Plattdeutsche
Volksmärchen “Low German Folktales”)
collected by Wilhelm Wisser (1843–1935). Read
on special occasions Sorbian culture is still celebrated in a number
of Lusatian communities, Sorbian language loyalty is dwindling
among younger Sorbs.
information: Sorbian—which is also known as “Sorabian,” “Lusatian” and “Wendish”—is the indigenous Slavic language of a small area in Eastern Germany near the
Polish and Czech borders. The name of the area is Lusatia (Lower SorbianŁužyca, Upper Sorbian and Slavic Silesian Łužica, PolishŁużyce, CzechLužice, GermanLausitz), known as Luzici at the turn of the first millennium, derived from an Old Slavic word for “low swamp land.”
The earliest known
extent of Lusatia covers an area from the southern part of today’s state of Brandenburg (Lower Sorbian Bramborska), including parts of southeastern Berlin (Lower Sorbian Barliń), to the eastern part of today’s state of Saxony (Upper Sorbian Sakska, German Sachsen) and in the east parts of the Polish voivodships of Lower Silesia (Upper Sorbian
Delnja Šleska, formerly Šlezynska, Lower Sorbien Dolnošlazyńska, Slavic Silesian Dolny Ślůnsk,
Śląsk, Czech Dolní Slezsko, German Niederschlesien)
(Czech Lubušsko, German Lebus). However, these days most people use the name Lusatia to refer to a
small portion of this historical Lusatia, from the northern end of the Spree
(Sorbian Błota, German Spreewald) to just north of today’s German-Czech border in the south. Nowadays split by the German-Polish border,
the city of Görlitz (Upper Sorbian Zhorjelc), including
the eastern part Zgorzelec, used to be a major
Lusatian center but has not been Sorbian-speaking for centuries now. The city
of Dresden (Upper Sorbian Drježdźany, Old Sorbian Drežďany) lay at the western periphery of Old Lusatia.
Soon after medieval
Flemish, Saxon, Thuringian and Frankish colonization of the area, the Sorbian
language came to be outlawed in many peripheral centers, such as Leipzig (Sorbian Lipsk) and Meissen (Upper Sorbian Mišno). Public use of Sorbian was prohibited during Germany’s fascist (“Nazi”) era, and Sorbian organizations, gatherings and publications were
outlawed as well. Under the East German government, maintenance of Sorbian
culture used to be publicly glorified for political ingratiation with the Soviet
Union and other Slavic-speaking allied countries, but little respect was given
to Sorbian matters in real life. Complaints in Sorbian circles did not cease
with German reunification, however. Much of this has to do with the discovery
of rich natural resources in this
region whose erstwhile supposed poverty once kept away most ethnic Germans
and thus helped to preserve Sorbian language and culture. Many young Sorbs
now search for new opportunities on the German-speaking outside,
Sorbian-speaking circles are aging, and Sorbian-language performance groups
are hard pressed to recruit younger participants.
Sorbian has long-standing
with Polish, Czech, Standard German and
Lower Silesian German dialects (German Niederschlesisch, Upper Sorbian delnjošleski), and it has absorbed influences from all of them. Furthermore, specific Lusatian
dialects of Lower Silesian German developed, partly on Sorbian
other Lower Silesian German dialects, they are fading away rapidly as, popularized
by the mass media, Standard
German is taking over. Similarly, German
Sorbian are increasing rapidly from generation to generation. Unlike the very
people speak Sorbian with what sounds like more or less strong German accents.
There are currently
an estimated 50,000 speakers of Sorbian in Germany, ca. 40,000 of which speak
Upper Sorbian. There is
and dwindling number of Sorbian speakers in Texas where a specific, English-influenced
among descendants of immigrants from Lusatia. Few, if any, Sorbian speakers remain
among the Sorbs of Australia.
Midi (R. F. Hahn):
words to the Sorbian people’s anthem were written in Upper Sorbian by Handrij Zejler (Andreas Seiler, 1804–1872) and published in Leipzig (Lipsk) in 1827. In 1845, Korla Awgust Kocor
(Karl August Katzer, 1822–1904) published the music. The continued collaboration of these two men resulted
in numerous works held near and dear by Sorbs and those
support them. The anthem has no official standing but is regularly
played and sung at Sorbian functions.
Zejler’s two additional verses have been excluded from the official version.
days, all Sorbian speakers of Germany are also quite proficient in German,
German, though proficiency in Lusatian
Silesia is dwindling. But in recent decades dialect loyalty has
loyalty, despite opportunities for using Sorbian as a medium of school instruction.
proper implementation of the European Languages Charter will
be able to halt
slow this trend.
since the fall of the Iron Curtain, tourist barge tours along the
canals of the Spree Forest (Sorbian Błota, German Spreewald), like here near Lübbenau (Sorbian Lubnjow), have become very popular. These tours take you through the Sorbian-speaking
heart of Lower Lusatia in the state of Brandenburg.
has a dialect continuum. Between the northernmost and southernmost dialects
there is poor mutual
comprehension. For this reason, two standard languages have been developed: Lower
Sorbian (dolnoserbski, German Niedersorbisch) in the north and Upper Sorbian (hornjoserbsce, German Obersorbisch) in the south. As can be seen in the two Sorbian versions displayed in this
two standard languages.
The two written
standard varieties use identical orthographic devices, though Lower Sorbian
has a few more of them.
those used in Polish and Czech. Sorbian orthography is somewhat historic, or
etymological. For instance, the
letters ł and w are kept apart but are both pronounced [w] (e.g. woł [wow] ‘ox’). In Upper Sorbian,
the letters ř and š are now both pronounced [∫] but are still kept apart. The same goes for č and
ć, which are pronounced like English ch ([t∫]). The letter ź only occurs in the sequence dź which used to be pronounced palatally; it is now pronounced as though written dž, but the old spelling is maintained. (It is a development of palatalized /d/,
as ć is a development of palatalized /t/.)In both
languages, w preceding a consonant is not pronounced but is still written (e.g. in Upper
Sorbian wróćo ‘(come) back’, wčera ‘yesterday’, wšudźe ‘everywhere’), and h (which is derived from /g/) does the same in Upper Sorbian (e.g. in hdźež ‘(there) where’, hłowa ‘head’, hněw ‘rage’).
Sorbian is fairly
strongly influenced by German. This includes phonologically adapted loans and
loan translations (calques) from both the contact dialects and Standard German. The
word štom for ‘tree’ (originally from a cognate of “stem”) is an example of an early dialect loan. However, many neologisms are inspired
by neologisms in the nearby Polish and Czech languages as well. Sorbian word
German influenced, is therefore quite different from the predominant word order
several ways, Sorbian also retains some ancient features, such as dual forms
and plural forms. As mentioned above, increasingly German-influenced, too,
is Sorbian phonology. Original Sorbian pronunciation is fading away with the
proficient Sorbian speakers now have what sounds like more or less strong German
accents (which includes use of the uvular /r/). Until a few decades ago, Lower
Silesian German still shared the apical pronunciation of /r/ with Sorbian.
The uvular pronunciation in both is due to
Standard German influence.
is used on local television and radio, on the Internet, as well as in literature,
theater and concerts. Sorbian arts and literature enjoy high levels of sophistication
and allow for traditional, contemporary and avant-garde genres and styles.
poorly known, the Sorbs and their languages are often mistaken for Serbs and
there appear to be historical name connections between the two, and it has
claimed that there are ancient ethnic connections as well, today’s Sorbs and Serbs are two rather different ethnic groups speaking very different
Slavic languages, Sorbian being West Slavic, and Serbian being South Slavic.
Even though some
German titles still contain the names Wende and wendisch, they and derived English “Wend” and “Wendish” are perceived as derogatory by many and are therefore no longer to be used,
regard to Sorbs specifically or Slavs generally. “Lusatian” can be used for the language but is not as precise a term as is “Sorbian,” because there are Lusatian dialects of German as well. “Lusatian” for the inhabitants usually refers to both ethnic Sorbs and ethnic Germans
living in Lusatia.
Genealogy: Indo-European > Slavic > West > Sorbian