From BYU News (via Pat) comes this story about one of the least known minority communities of Europe (and Texas!), the Sorbs. Sorbian (also called Wendish and Lusatian) is a Slavic language (a fact oddly unmentioned in the BYU article), closely related to Polish [and Czech—thanks, Mark!]; here is a detailed discussion of its history and place in contemporary Germany, and here are versions of “Silent Night” in both High and Low Sorbian.

Addendum. R.G.A. de Bray, in his still very useful Guide to the Slavonic Languages (J.M. Dent & Sons, 1951, rev. ed. 1969 which I do not have), begins his final chapter, “Lusatian (or Wendish),” as follows:

No book on the modern Slavonic literary languages would be complete without a chapter on the ancient and interesting Lusatian Serb or Wendish tongue.

The Lusatians call themselves “Serbja” (Serbs) and their country “Łužica” (Lusatia; in German—Lausitz). Hence the English name Lusatian Serbs. The Germans call them “Wenden” (slightly pejorative) or “Sorben”—hence the English use of “Wends” or “Sorbs”. As the name “Serbs” can cause confusion with the Yugoslav Serbs of Serbia, while the term “Wend” or “Sorb” does not readily indicate a nationality to the English mind, we propose using the term “Lusatian” here. This name indicates the native land to which these Slavs are attached so passionately that they will not even hear of being transferred to other areas where there is a higher proportion of Slav inhabitants….

The period of Germanization has been so long that it is really a wonder that any Lusatians at all have preserved their language…. Too small in numbers, in comparison to their neighbours, to make an independent state, the Lusatians have been a pawn in the game for power of strong neighbouring rulers. Nevertheless they have survived, holding fast to their language, their Christian religion and their ancient customs, patiently tilling their land and waiting doggedly for better days. After the two recent world wars they have made claims to autonomy and independence, but the statesmen of the Great Powers have not even mentioned that they have considered their case. So the Lusatian cause has remained on the conscience of the very few who know anything about them (under whatever name). Their case has been passed over and ignored by the majority of the Press, and they have been considered too insignificant to be worthy of any kind of independence. Nevertheless, to the student of Slav languages, literatures and history they form a most interesting, if obscure, group of Slavs. Because of their very survival and ancient character they deserve to be more widely known, even apart from their literature, which is no mean achievement for so small a people.

Now there’s a man who liked Sorbs.

Further addendum (July 2021). I just took another look at de Bray, and I noticed that his final chapter, “Lusatian (or Wendish),” is almost twice as long as any other in the book. He really did like Sorbs.


  1. Ah, good old Sorb. But isn’t it rather closer to Czech?

  2. Good question. My man R.G.A. de Bray says Lower Lusatian is closer to Polish (retention of g, development of vocalic l and r) and Upper Lusatian closer to Czech (g>h); I’ll amend the entry accordingly, and append de Bray’s passionate pro-Sorb peroration.

  3. Hi Languagehat!
    I am an 18 year old Serbian girl writing to you from Canada, but I live in Serbia and Montenegro. I am always interested in Learning more about Slavic roots and diffrent nations who are also of Slavic heretige. Chechs and Polish people interest me to. But another Serbs?! What is this! How intresting!! I have never heard off them! So thank you for writing about that. Are they perhaps related to Serbs in Serbia or no? Why do they share same names?
    I thank you very much if you can answer my quostions!
    PS I am very sorry for my bad english! I am just visitor here.

  4. Hi, Mina! Yes, the names “Serb” and “Sorb” are related, and so are the peoples — Serbs are South Slavs (like Slovenians and Bulgarians), and Sorbs are West Slavs (like Czechs and Poles). I’ll be glad to try to answer any questions you have; I too think it’s very interesting!

  5. Hello,
    I am of Serbian origin and i am very surprised to hear about the sorbs. you say Serbs and Sorbs are connected cause they are both Slavs but even our flags are so similar..well almost the same!! There must be more to it. do you have any more info? Where can i find out more about sorbs?

  6. Hi, Paul! You might contact the people at Sorbian Cultural Information (Serbska kulturna informacija); they seem eager to provide information.

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