The Lower Sorbian vocabulary is relatively well described. Although so far there is no systematic comprehensive study of loanwords in Lower Sorbian, there exist some dictionaries, the Sorbian Language Atlas and quite a lot of detailed research literature. In most cases the loanword status of a given word is determined on the basis of these sources.
0 (No evidence for borrowing)
Words that are shown to be inherited from Proto-Slavonic or from an older historical stage of Sorbian without having been borrowed into it.
1 (Very little evidence for borrowing)
Mainly words of unclear etymology, but without further or only with meanwhile disproved indication that they are borrowed. In some other cases there is some indication that an indigenous word was replaced by a German loanword and later reborrowed from Upper Sorbian.
2 (Perhaps borrowed)
Mainly words of unclear etymology, but with some indication that they are borrowed. In some other cases it seems possible that an indigenous word was replaced by a German loanword and later reborrowed from Upper Sorbian, but it cannot be excluded that the original Lower Sorbian word had coexisted with the German loanword, although being less frequent than the loanword.
3 (Probably borrowed)
Mainly words generally considered to have been borrowed, but where there is still some doubt about it. One group of words within this category consists of items that are probably borrowed from Upper Sorbian but could also have been built on a Lower Sorbian basis under Upper Sorbian influence.
4 (Clearly borrowed)
Words generally considered to have been borrowed and where there is no doubt about it. Words not yet documented or not explicitly characterized as loans are assigned to category 4 if their status as a loanword was obvious (e.g. ocean < NHG Ozean ‘the ocean’).
|1. clearly borrowed|
Generally, this contact situation can be characterized by increasing Germanization. The last Sorbian tribes lost their political independence at the beginning of the 11th century (1003), followed by a long process of establishing German-ruled territories. There was a small class of German rulers whereas the great majority (about 90%) of the rural population was Sorbian. Since the 12th century the colonization of the Sorbian-speaking territory was forced by an increasing settlement of German farmers, craftsmen and merchants. This process – in combination with further Christian missionary activity and often with economic and technical superiority of the newcomers – generally led to a stepwise assimilation of the Sorbian population and therefore to a shrinking of their language territory. Another consequence of this process was a broader and much more intensive language contact leading to an increasing number of German borrowings in Sorbian, mainly since the 14th and 15th century. Intensive borrowing from German into Lower Sorbian was also caused by the Reformation since 1517. An important factor in this process was the formation of a Lower Sorbian literary language, which was closely connected with the Reformation. Mainly in the second half of the 19th century a non-religious literary language evolved. The only weekly newspaper (since 1848) clearly shows the efforts to handle the necessary opening of the language to new topics. Correspondingly we find a great amount of loanwords, some of them new for sure, others probably already known in the dialects, but registered for the first time. Most of the texts in this newspaper were written by the editors, who were bilingual, but mainly German-educated pastors and schoolmasters. In the first decades of this newspaper there is a clear dominance of German with respect to lexical innovations (loanwords or loan translations).