Upper Sorbian phonology
- Word-initial vowels are rare, and are often preceded by a non-phonemic glottal stop [ʔ], or sometimes /ɦ/. /e, o/ never appear in word-initial position, whereas /i, u, ɛ, ɔ/ appear in word-initial position only in recent borrowings.
- /i/ is mid-centralized to [ɪ] after hard consonants.
- /e, o/ are diphthongized to [i̯ɛ, u̯ɔ] in slow speech.
- /ɛ/ has three allophones:
- /ɔ/ has two allophones:
- Diphthong with a mid onset [ɔ̝u̯] before labial consonants;
- Open-mid [ɔ] in all other cases.
- The /e–ɛ/ and /o–ɔ/ distinctions are weakened or lost in unstressed syllables.
- /a/ is phonetically central [ä]. It is somewhat higher [ɐ] after soft consonants.
- /m, mʲ, p, pʲ, b, bʲ, β, ɥ/ are bilabial, whereas /f, v/ are labiodental.
- /mʲ, pʲ, bʲ/ are strongly palatalized.
- /β/ is a somewhat velarized bilabial approximant [β̞ˠ], whereas /ɥ/ (the soft counterpart of /β/) is a strongly palatalized bilabial approximant [ɥ].
- /v/ is very rare. Apart from loanwords, it occurs only in two Slavonic words: zełharny /ˈzɛvaʀni/ 'deceitful' and zełharnosć /ˈzɛvaʀnɔst͡ʃ/ 'deceitfulness', both of which are derivatives of łhać /ˈfat͡ʃ/ 'to lie'. Usage of these words is typically restricted to the Bautzen dialect, as speakers of the Catholic dialect use łžeć /ˈbʒɛt͡ʃ/ and its derivatives.
- /n, l/ are alveolar [n̳, l̳], /ɲ/ is alveolo-palatal [ɲ̟], whereas /t, d, t͡s, d͡z, t͡sʲ, s, z, zʲ/ are dental [t̪, d̪, t̪͡s̪, d̪͡z̪, t̪͡s̪ʲ, s̪, z̪, z̪ʲ].
- /t, d, l/ before /i/ (in case of /l/ also before /e, ɛ/) are weakly palatalized [tʲ, dʲ, lʲ]. Šewc-Schuster (1984) also reports palatalized allophones of /f, v, k, ɡ, x, ɦ/, but without specifying the vowels before which they occur. Among these, the palatalized [fʲ, vʲ] are extremely rare.
- /n, nʲ/ are velar [ŋ, ŋʲ] in front of velar consonants.
- /d͡z/ is very rare. In many cases, it merges with /z/ into [z].
- /t͡sʲ, zʲ/ are very rare. According to Stone (2002), the phonemic status of /t͡sʲ/ is controversial.
- In most dialects, /t͡ʃ, d͡ʒ, ʃ, ʒ/ are palato-alveolar. This is unlike Lower Sorbian, where these consonants are laminal retroflex (flat postalveolar) [t͡ʂ, ʂ, ʐ] (Lower Sorbian /t͡ʂ/ does not have a voiced counterpart). Laminal retroflex realizations of /ʃ, ʒ/ also occur in Upper Sorbian dialects spoken in some villages north of Hoyerswerda.
- /k, ɡ, x/ are velar, whereas /ʀ, ʀʲ/ are uvular.
- An aspirated [kʰ] is a morpheme-initial allophone of /x/ in some cases, as well as a possible word-initial allophone of /k/.
- /x/ does not occur word-initially, whereas /ɦ/ does not occur word-finally.
- The alveolar realization [r̳, r̳ʲ] of /ʀ, ʀʲ/ is archaic.
- Soft /ʀʲ/ is strongly palatalized.
- /ɦ/ is voiced [ɦ], unlike Lower Sorbian where it is voiceless [h].
- An epenthetic /j/ is inserted before a post-vocalic soft consonant, yielding a diphthong. If the soft consonant occurs before /ɛ/ or /ɥ/, it is often realized as hard, and /ɥ/ is lowered to [ɛ].
- In literary language, the contrast between hard and soft consonants is neutralized in word-final position. Word-finally, the letter ⟨ń⟩ represents a post-vocalic sequence /jn/, as in dźeń /ˈd͡ʒɛjn/ 'day'.
Final devoicing and assimilation
Upper Sorbian has both final devoicing and regressive voicing assimilation, both word-internal and across word boundaries. In the latter context, /x/ is voiced to [ɣ]. Regressive voicing assimilation does not occur before sonorants and /ɦ/.
- Words consisting of up to three syllables are stressed on the first syllable.
- Foreign words, such as student /stuˈdɛnt/ 'student', preserve their original accent.
- Stone (2002), p. 600.
- Šewc-Schuster (1984), p. 20.
- Stone (2002), p. 604.
- Šewc-Schuster (1984:34). The author states that [ɪ] is less front and somewhat lower than [i], but unlike Russian [ɨ], it is front, not central.
- Šewc-Schuster (1984), pp. 32–33.
- Šewc-Schuster (1984), p. 32.
- Šewc-Schuster (1984), p. 33.
- Stone (2002), pp. 601 and 606–607.
- Šewc-Schuster (1984), p. 31.
- Šewc-Schuster (1984), p. 46.
- Šewc-Schuster (1984), pp. 35–37, 41 and 46.
- Šewc-Schuster (1984), p. 41.
- Šewc-Schuster (1984:36–37, 41 and 46). On page 36, the author states that Upper Sorbian /β/ is less velar than Polish /w/. The weakness of the velarization is confirmed by the corresponding image on page 37.
- Šewc-Schuster (1984), p. 36.
- Stone (2002), pp. 603–604.
- Šewc-Schuster (1984), pp. 37–41 and 46.
- Zygis (2003), pp. 190–191.
- Šewc-Schuster (1984), pp. 37, 39 and 46.
- Šewc-Schuster (1984), pp. 39 and 46.
- Šewc-Schuster (1984), p. 38.
- Zygis (2003), p. 191.
- Šewc-Schuster (1984), pp. 40–41.
- Zygis (2003), pp. 180–181 and 190–191.
- Zygis (2003), p. 180.
- Stone (2002), pp. 600 and 602.
- Šewc-Schuster (1984), pp. 42–44 and 46.
- Šewc-Schuster (1984), pp. 26–27 and 42–43.
- Šewc-Schuster (1984), p. 43.
- Stone (2002), p. 602.
- Stone (2002), pp. 600 and 605.
- Šewc-Schuster (1984), pp. 43 and 46.
- Šewc-Schuster (1984), p. 26.
- Šewc-Schuster (1984), p. 27.
- Šewc-Schuster (1984), p. 28.
- 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