Upper Sorbian Grammar

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Nouns


Number and case

Upper Sorbian nouns are inflected for three numbers: singular (sing.), dual (du.) (used when referring to two objects), plural (pl.) and for seven cases: nominative (N), genitive (G), dative (D), accusative (A), instrumental (I), locative (L) and vocative (V).


Gender

Each Sorbian noun is of one of the following three genders: masculine (masc.), feminine (fem.) and neuter (neut.). Masculine nouns are furtherly divided into virile (denoting masculine human beings), animate (denoting animals) and inanimate (denoting things, phenomena and abstracts) sub-genders.

Grammatical gender does not always coincide with the biological sex and nouns are assigned to particular genders based on a mix of semantic (based on the noun's meaning) and formal (based on the noun's endings) criteria.


The formal criterion states that, in general:

nouns with nominative singular (the basic form) ending in a consonant and with genitive singular ending in -a (more rarely in -u) are masculine, eg.:
    N sing. wučer, G sing. wučerja (male) teacher
    N sing. hród, G sing. hrodu castle

nouns with nominative singular ending in -a or, more rarely, with nominative singular ending in a consonant and genitive singular ending in -e or -y are feminine, eg.:
    N sing. wučerka (female) teacher
    N sing. kosć, G sing. kosće bone

nouns with nominative singular ending in -o or -e are neuter, eg.:
    N sing. polo field
    N sing. žiwjenje life


The semantic criterion states that, in general:

nouns referring to adult humans and animals are assigned masculine or feminine gender based on the biological sex of the person or animal they reffer to, eg.:
    wučer (male) teacher (grammatically masculine)
    wučerka (female) teacher (grammatically feminine)

some nouns referring to young humans and animals are assigned masculine or feminine gender based on the biological sex whereas some others are assigned neuter gender irregardless of the biological sex, eg.:
    hólc boy (grammatically masculine)
    holca girl (grammatically feminine)
    holčo girl (grammatically neuter)
    psyčk puppy (grammatically masculine)
    šćenjo puppy (grammatically neuter)

the semantic criterion does not apply to inanimate nouns, which are assigned genders using the formal criterion only.

When the two criteria contradict each other, the semantic criterion prevails in personal nouns denoting adult human beings and the vast majority of these nouns is assigned to masculine and feminine gender in accordance with the person's sex. Thus the noun wójwoda duke is grammatically masculine in spite of ending in -a in the nominative singular form. There are, however, some exceptions to this rule, eg. syrota orphan and wosoba person are always feminine (even when referring to a male) and čłowjek human is always masculine (even if referring to a female).


Articles

Nouns are never accompanied by articles, as there are no articles in the Standard Upper Sorbian.

In the colloquial and dialectal Upper Sorbian, both indefinite and definite articles are sometimes used under the influence of German. The indefinite article is identical to the numeral jedyn one (see Numerals) and the definite article is identical to the demonstrative pronound tón this (see Demonstrative pronouns). However, using articles in the standard language is higly unusual and it is considered a serious mistake.


Declension

Declension of masculine nouns

Delcencion of feminine nouns

Declension of neuter nouns



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