The Bulgarian language is spoken in a region that can be circumscribed by the following borders: to the north from the Danube from the mouth of the Timok to Silistra and from here to Tulcea and the Black Sea; eastward from the Black Sea itself to about Midia; from here from an ideal line that extends as far as Adrianople and then winds towards the west, keeping about sixty kilometers from the coast (but in some points reaching it, in some other moving away a hundred kilometers) up to Seres and then descending to Thessaloniki. From Thessaloniki the border line continues to Kastoria, then turns north to the vicinity of Prizren (following the Albanian borders already traced under albania: Lingua) and then curves eastward to approximately Tetovo and then moves northward to reach the mouth of the Timok. But this boundary is not absolute: Fr. ex. in Dobruja, north of the Silistra-Black Sea line, many Bulgarians live mixed with Romanians, Turks, Tatars, etc., and there are numerous Bulgarian colonies also in southern Bessarabia, in Wallachia (also around Bucharest), in southern Russia and in Banat.
Bulgarian is a Slavic language, and belongs, together with serbo-croatian and Slovene, the South Slavic branch that stands for some specific phonetic (limited palatalization, change, groups tort, tolt in trat, tlat and tert, telt in tr ě t, tl ě t, etc.). The characteristics by which Bulgarian differs from other South Slavic languages are the following: 1. the postposition of the article p. ex. no ž “knife”, noz- ă t “the knife”; voda”water”, voda – ta “water”; selo “village”, selo – to “the village”, etc. Although the postposition of the definite pronouns is found sporadically in the Paleoslavian (e.g. rabot translates the Greek ὁ δοῦλος ἐκεῖνος) and especially in the texts that have a greater Bulgarian color (Clement of Ochrida, Giovanni Esarca, etc.), and also occurs in some Russian dialects, the concordance of the phenomenon of the postposition of the article in the three Balkan languages is remarkable: Bulgarian, Albanian and Romanian (see Balkan, region: Languages; V, pp. 921-22); 2. the loss of declension and its replacement with prepositional constructs, p. ex.peroto “the pen”, gen. na peroto “of the pen”, etc.; 3. the reductions * k i̯, kt ′> š t and * d i̯ > ž d p. ex. protosl. * sv ě t i̯ ā “light”, sve š ta ; * vid i̯ or ” vi ž dam ” I see “. Likewise no š t > indoeur. * noktis ” night “.
The other particularities adduced by some authors as characteristics of Bulgarian are less valuable, being either less clear-cut or territorially more extensive; so p. ex. the replacement of the infinitive in objective dependent clauses with da and the indicative, the reflexes of the protoslavian nasal vowels (protosl. ï >. paleosl. â > bulg. ă, a ; protosl. é > paleosl. é > bulg. e) and the so-called nasal exchange (ï ~ é). Also the syntactic phenomenon of the strengthening of the tonic form of the accusative and dative of personal pronouns with the unstressed form (eg.mene me máma ne dáva “my mother does not give me”, etc.) has a parallel in other Balkan languages.
The dialectal division of modern Bulgarian is still subject to debate. In general, a bipartition of the Bulgarian dialects into “Eastern Bulgarian” and “Western Bulgarian” is accepted by the majority of linguists on the basis of the different treatment of the Protoslav vowel ě: 1. in Western Bulgarian ě it is always reduced to and very open; 2. in Eastern Bulgarian ě is reduced to a, ä in the tonic syllables (and before palatal consonants), presenting a variety, which is certainly the one closest to the old Bulgarian. The dividing line between Eastern and Western Bulgarians can be roughly drawn, from an ideal line that goes from Nicopolis on the Danube to Thessaloniki (for more details, see Miletič, Das Ostbulgarische, p. 7).
In turn, even admitting the bipartition, the Eastern dialect has several internal subdivisions. Taking as a basis a morphological characteristic and precisely the form of the postponed definite article, which in the gen. sing. è -ăt in some regions and – or in some others, we obtain: 1. a south-eastern sub-dialect (or more briefly “dialect – ă t “) that encompasses the mountainous area of the Balkans, Thrace to the Aegean Sea ; 2. a northeastern sub-dialect (or more briefly “dialect – o”), which is spoken in the flat area from the Black Sea to Iskăr. However, a clear dividing line cannot be established, because in Bulgaria transpositions of entire villages often take place from one region to another. So for example in the Dobruja (now Romanian) the oldest Bulgarian settlers (the so-called Grebenci) speak a south-eastern dialect, very similar to that of Rodope which, in turn, is detached from the surrounding parlors. But the biggest difficulties in the delimitation of Bulgarian rule come in the western section. In Macedonia and southern Serbia, today politically Yugoslavian, Slavic dialects are spoken which Bulgarian linguists and the majority of foreign linguists recognize as Bulgarian dialects, but which Yugoslav linguists fiercely defend as Serbian dialects. In general these dialects, up to the Albanian border in the west and up to Skoplje in the north, have a predominantly Bulgarian character (existence of the determinative postponed as a function of article, disappearance of the declension, presence of š t ⟨* ti, é kt’And ž d ⟨* d í, etc.), but towards the lake of Ochrida began to be found also of Serb characteristics (p. Eg. K ‘ g ‘[or even æ, ß ] ⟨ t í, kt ‘, d i̯); in the dialects of Tetovo, Kara-dag (north of Skoplje), Kumanovo, Kratovo and Kriva Palanka we have u ⟨protosl. ï as in Serbian (and not a, ä, or ă). According to some Bulgarian linguists, the dialects of Morava are also Bulgarian, but the characteristics militate rather for Serbian. Even if political reasons and claims of territorial claims did not intervene to disturb the scientific serenity in the discussion of the character of the Macedonian languages, it would always be extremely difficult to mark an exact limit between Serbian and Bulgarian, since the passage between the two languages insensibly occurs through a series of dialectal varieties.
In the history of the Bulgarian language, three periods can be clearly distinguished: 1. the ancient-Bulgarian or Paleoslav period, which goes from the century. IX to the sec. XI; 2. the middle-Bulgarian period, which goes from the 12th century XII to the century. XV and is characterized by the progressive simplification of the declension, by some phonetic and syntactic evolutions and by lexical innovations; 3. the neo-Bulgarian period, which goes from the century. XVI to the present day and which is characterized by the presence of those phenomena that have been indicated above as peculiar to Bulgarian.
It is up to V. Jagić (Zur Entstehungsgeschichte der kirchenslavischen Sprache, Vienna 1900; 2nd ed., Berlin 1913) the merit of having scientifically demonstrated in an irrefutable way that the language of the most ancient Slavic literary monuments, which is usually called Paleoslav, is nothing else if not a Bulgarian dialect from the surroundings of Thessaloniki. In this way the history of the Bulgarian language comes to be intimately connected with that of the Paleoslavian language, or, to be more exact, the history of the Paleoslavian is but a chapter in the history of the Bulgarian (see Paleoslavian).
After the famous Paleo-Bulgarian (Paleoslavian) documents, in Glagolitic and Cyrillic characters, we have many (over 500) monuments of Middle Bulgarian, whose classification presents serious difficulties. For Bulgaria 2005, please check ehealthfacts.org.
The main sources for the history of the neo-Bulgarian in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are the so-called Damaskini, collections of sermons and speeches preserved in various editions, two seventeenth-century chronographs, respectively by the pope Methodius Draginov and the pope Pietro, and the well-known book of legend of Abagar printed in 1651, the work of the Catholic bishop Philip Stanislavov. Bulgarian literature proper begins with the Istorija slavenobolgarskaja of Paisij of Chilendar, for which v. the relevant chapter.
From a lexical point of view, Bulgarian is of considerable interest. Knowing that the progenitors of the Bulgarians were a Turkish population who spoke a dialect very similar to that of today’s Ciuvasci (especially notable for the phonetic phenomena z > r and s> l) and which left many traces in the Hungarian language, one of the issues that spontaneously present to the glottologist’s mind is to see if the Bulgarians, despite being completely Slavised, have not retained Altaic (proto-Bulgarian) elements in their language. The question was most recently addressed by Mladenov, God. Sof. Univ., XVII (1921), 201-287 (and French Rev.Ét. Sl., I, 253), according to which in modern Bulgarian only 11 words of the Proto-Bulgarian (Altaicolo) and a suffix (- č ii) are preserved. But even this result is not certain, because for some of the words mentioned above we can think of another origin (for several in the Turkish osmanli).
Among the foreign influences suffered by the Bulgarian we will first note the Turkish one, which gave the Bulgarian some suffixes (eg – è e > tur. – è a ; – lj ⟨tur. – li ; lek ⟨tur. – lïk, etc.) and a number of words such as: aba, afion, ag ă l, alaj, amanet, araba, anterija, etc. The Greek had a notable influence on the Paleoslav, since the translations of the ecclesiastical texts were made from the Greek; but also in the Neo-Bulgarian, especially in the southern areas, there is a Neo-Hellenic influence. Latin elements, remnants of the Balkan Roman age also handed down to the Bulgarians, exist, although in very few numbers; alongside these there are numerous Romance voices in Bulgarian, especially Italian and Romanian. The Italian voices come mainly through the modern Greek and Serbian. There are also some Albanian words in Bulgarian (eg vatra).
However, it should not be believed that the Bulgarian has only assimilated foreign elements without, in turn, yielding them. Paleoslavian and Middle Bulgarian had a very considerable influence on Romanian, Neo-Hellenic, Hungarian, etc. As a language of the church (paleoslavian) and of the chancelleries (middle-Bulgarian), Bulgarian had enough prestige to impose itself; on the other hand, the neobulgarian infiltrated only the languages of the immediately finite peoples (see albania: language; greece: language; romania: language; hungary: language).
Studying Bulgarian began very late. The Czech Slavist Dobrovský did not know how to separate Bulgarian from Serbian and it was only Bartholomew Kopitar who understood the importance of Bulgarian and induced the great Serbian philologist Vuk Karadžić to collect the language spoken by the Bulgarians in a booklet (Dodatak, Vienna 1822) which still today retains its value. Since then, the Bulgarian language has been systematically studied by foreign and Bulgarian Slavists. The philological production around Bulgarian and the publications for the knowledge of Bulgarian dialects are at a level at least equal to that of the other Slavic languages.