The monolingual habitus of German society challenging the interests of an autochthonous minority language: Linguistic landscapes in the Sorbian “capital” of Bautzen / Budyšin

Heiko F. Marten, Maris Saagpakk

Linguistic landscape, Sorbian, Minority languages, Language attitudes, German


This paper analyzes the LL in the city of Bautzen / Budyšin in Germany, a town which is frequently considered the “capital” of the Slavonic minority of the Sorbs. It focuses on the societal role of Sorbian in relation to practices and ideologies of mainstream German society. The vast majority of signs in Bautzen / Budyšin are in German only. Sorbian is essentially restricted to explicitly Sorbian institutions and to local and regional administration. Interviews conducted in shops and on the streets reveal that paternalistic attitudes common to perceptions of language policies and minority languages in Germany dominate; practices maintain the common monolingual habitus in German society. Members of the majority population show little awareness of Sorbian issues, and Sorbian signage is seen as a generous gesture but considered essentially unnecessary. Only in most recent times, a reaction by the Sorbian community has challenged these practices and attitudes.

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