Alternative name(s): Wendic, Wendisch (nl), Sorbisch (nl), Sorbian
Language family: Indo-European
Language group: Slavic
Geographical use: Lausitz region (east Germany) in an area of 60 by 40 kilometers
Information: There are 60,000 speakers left. A distinction is made between North and South Sorbic.
Besides Slovenian, Sorbic is the only language that still has dual. So people distinguish 1 thing - singular, 2 things - dual, 3 or more things - plural.Having succeeded in protecting their language and customs from centuries of German rule, the Sorbs founded a political party in 2007 to keep their language from extinction.
The fact that they survived all these centuries is nothing short of a miracle. In the middle of the 13th century more than 90% of the population in the area was Sorbian. At that time a gradual germanisation started untill only the Sorbs sticked to their language and customs.
The nazi period was also a low point for the Sorbs. A slavic people was at most fit to serve the German Herrenvolk. So the nazis prohibited the Sorbian language, dances, and music. All associations were closed and teachers of Sorbic were driven away. Eventually their culture proved tougher. Already on 10 May 1945, a few days after the end of the war, the Sorbs founded an new organisation to protect their interests: the Domowina.During communism things were again looking bright for the Sorbs. They got bilingual road signs and their folklore was heavily promoted, which fitted nicely in the communist mentality. So at Easter, Sorb women could once again show their craftily painted eggsn while the men drove cavalcades in a black suit.
At the same time their culture was hit very hard. When it was discovered that the Sorbs were living on rich deposits of brown coal, dozens of villages had to make way for mining industry.
It was only when Germany was unified that their rights were officially settled. Their language has an official status, which means they can e.g. fill in their tax bill in Sorbic, or they candispute a traffic fiune in their mother tongue. They can send their children to a Sorbic language school.
Nevertheless, Sorbic has a difficult time. Only 20,000 to 30,000 are thought to actively speak the language. For the older genertation Sorbic is a symbol of their identity, for the younger generation it is often an old-fashioned language that is of little use to them in a completely German speaking world. The economic crisis, especially in this area, complicates the situation even further as many young people look for fortune elsewhere.
now the Sorbs did not have an own political party. The umbrella
organisation Domowina that was founded in 1945 had its representatives
in all major political parties and so far that had sufficed. Still,
they founded their own party in the city of Cottbus: the NLS, the
Sorbian National Party. The party wants extra protection for the
language through education, by consistently teaching Sorbic to toddlers.
The Domowina reacted with dismay to the new political party and fears the Sorbian interests will be less well defended. A wedge in the already tiny community is possible, even more so because the Sorbs in the north are protestant, the Sorbs in the south are generally cathlolic. The dialect of the northern group is close to Polish, the dialect of the south is close to Czech. Both groups are having a harder and harder time understanding each other.