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Word-initial vowels are rare, and are often preceded by a non-phonemic glottal stop , or sometimes /?/. /e, o/ never appear in word-initial position, whereas /i, u, ?, ?/ appear in word-initial position only in recent borrowings.
/?/ is a somewhat velarized bilabial approximant , whereas /?/ (the soft counterpart of /?/) is a strongly palatalized bilabial approximant .
/v/ is very rare. Apart from loanwords, it occurs only in two Slavonic words: ze?harny/'z?va?ni/ 'deceitful' and ze?harnos?/'z?va?n?st/ 'deceitfulness', both of which are derivatives of ?ha?/'fat/ 'to lie'. Usage of these words is typically restricted to the Bautzen dialect, as speakers of the Catholic dialect use e?/'bt/ and its derivatives.
/t, d, l/ before /i/ (in the case of /l/ also before /e, ?/) are weakly palatalized [t?, d?, l?]. ?ewc-Schuster (1984) also reports palatalized allophones of /f, v, k, ?, x, ?/, but without specifying the vowels before which they occur. Among these, the palatalized [f?, v?] are extremely rare.
/n, n?/ are velar [?, ] in front of velar consonants.
/d?z/ is very rare. In many cases, it merges with /z/ into .
/?/ is voiced , unlike Lower Sorbian where it is voiceless .
An epenthetic /j/ is inserted before a post-vocalic soft consonant, yielding a diphthong. If the soft consonant occurs before /?/ or /e/, it is often realized as hard, and /e/ is lowered to [?].[example needed]
In literary language, the contrast between hard and soft consonants is neutralized in word-final position. Word-finally, the letter ⟨?⟩ represents a post-vocalic sequence /jn/, as in d?e?/'djn/ 'day'.
Final devoicing and assimilation
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (April 2015)
^?ewc-Schuster (1984:36-37, 41, 46). On page 36, the author states that Upper Sorbian /?/ is less velar than Polish /w/. The weakness of the velarization is confirmed by the corresponding image on page 37.