language

Bulgarian Language I.

General Information The Bulgarian language is a member of the Slavic language family. Today the Slavic languages are spoken by more than 250 million people in eastern and central Europe, in most of the Balkan Peninsula, and in northern Asia.

The modern Slavic languages are divided into three branches: East Slavic: Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian; South Slavic: eastern group-Bulgarian; western group-Serbo-Croatian and Slovenian; West Slavic: Czech, Slovak, Polish and High and Low Sorbian.

The Bulgarian language is also a member of the larger Indo-European family of languages, which includes the Romance languages (French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Romanian), the Germanic languages (German, English, Swedish, Norwegian, Dutch, Danish), and others, such as Greek, Albanian, Armenian, Sanskrit, Persian and so on.

Some modern Slavic languages (such as Czech, Slovak, Slovenian, and Polish) are written in the Latin alphabet, and their speakers are predominantly Roman Catholic. Other Slavic languages, among them the Bulgarian, Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarussian languages, use variations of the Cyrillic alphabet. (The Serbo-Croatian language is called Serbian when written by Serbs in the Cyrillic alphabet and Croatian when written by Croats in the Latin alphabet. The Serbs are predominantly Eastern Orthodox and the Croats are mostly Roman Catholic.)

II. History and Development of the Bulgarian Language All Slavic languages, including Bulgarian, are descendants of a Common Slavic Language, spoken thousands of years ago. After the Great Migration of the Slavs, the Common Slavic language slowly disintegrated and the modern Slavic languages began to develop.

The development of the Bulgarian language began in the 9th century and is divided into three periods: old, middle, and modern. The Old Bulgarian Period lasted from the 9th century through the 11th century, and it was during that time that the Bulgarians were the first among all Slavs to adopt Christianity and the Cyrillic alphabet.

The invention of the Cyrillic alphabet is attributed traditionally to Sts. Cyril and Methodius, Byzantine missionaries, whose purpose was to translate the New Testament into the then-common language of the Slavic peoples. (However, the two brothers created the Glagolithic alphabet; it was their disciple Saint Climent who invented the simpler Cyrillic alphabet and named it in honor of his teacher.) Since Sts. Cyril and Methodius were from the city of Thessaloniki, they chose the dialect of the Bulgarian Slavic tribes residing in the area as the foundation for the creation of the new alphabet.

Hence the language written in this alphabet is known as Old Bulgarian, Old Slavonic or Old Church Slavonic and is still used as a liturgical language in Eastern Orthodox Slavic churches. For most of the middle ages Old Bulgarian was the language of the ecclesiastical literature and of official and diplomatic documents of the Eastern Orthodox Slavs.

The Middle Bulgarian Period lasted from the 12th century through the 14th century. The Modern Bulgarian Period started in the 15th century, but the modern literary language, which is quite different from Old Bulgarian, formed only during the 19th century. Modern Bulgarian’s two major dialect groups are the eastern and western dialects, each subdivided into north and south varieties. The modern literary language is based primarily on the northeastern dialects.

III. The Modern Bulgarian Language Even though the Bulgarian language is closely related to all other Slavic languages, through the course of the centuries it has developed many specific traits and characteristics that clearly distinguish it among the other members of the Slavic family. First and foremost, Bulgarian has dispensed with the case system of the nouns, whereas all other Slavic languages have preserved their case systems.

Prepositions have replaced cases as a way of showing the grammatical relationships between different parts of a sentence. Second, Bulgarian has developed a system of definite articles (such as the English the) that come after the noun – for example kniga (book) and knigata (the book), while no other Slavic language has developed such a system. Third, Bulgarian has lost the infinitive form of all verbs, whereas the other Slavic languages have kept it.

Fourth, Bulgarian has preserved a wide array of verb tenses, while all other Slavic languages have significantly simplified their verb-tense systems. I. Bulgarian Alphabet The Bulgarians were the first people to use the Cyrillic alphabet immediately after its inception in the 9th century. The invention of the Cyrillic alphabet is attributed traditionally to Sts. Cyril and Methodius, Byzantine missionaries, whose purpose was to translate the New Testament into the then-common language of the Slavic peoples. However, the two brothers created the Glagolithic alphabet, not the Cyrillic. It was their disciple Saint Climent, the Bulgarian archbishop of the town of Ohrid, who invented the simpler Cyrillic alphabet and named it in honor of his teacher.

The Cyrillic alphabet, like the Roman, stems from the Greek; additional characters, however, were devised to represent Slavic sounds that had no Greek equivalents. From Bulgaria, the cultural center of the medieval Slavs, the Cyrillic alphabet spread to the neighboring countries, such as Serbia, and to the far-lying Eastern Slavs, the Russians, the Ukrainians, and the Belarussians.

The Cyrillic alphabet, in various forms, is used currently in Russian, Ukrainian, Belarussian, Serbian, and Bulgarian, but not in Polish, Czech, Slovak, or Slovenian, which are written in modified Roman alphabets. Since Sts. Cyril and Methodius were from the city of Thessaloniki, they chose the dialect of the Bulgarian Slavic tribes residing in the area as the foundation for the creation of the new alphabet.

Hence the language written in this alphabet is known as Old Bulgarian, Old Slavonic or Old Church Slavonic and is still used as a liturgical language in Eastern Orthodox Slavic churches. For most of the middle ages Old Bulgarian was the language of the ecclesiastical literature and of official and diplomatic documents of the Eastern Orthodox Slavs.

The Modern Bulgarian Period started in the 15th century, but the modern literary language, which is quite different from Old Bulgarian, formed only during the 19th century. Until that time St. Climent’s original Cyrillic alphabet, containing 44 letters for 44 sounds, had been used; however, by the 19th century the Bulgarian sound system had changed dramatically and contained fewer sounds. That necessitated an alphabet reform which reduced the number of letters used from 44 to 32; this modified alphabet was used until the Orthographic reform of 1945.

The alphabet used after 1945 contained the same letters as the previous one with the exception of (called “double e”) and (called “yus”). Thus the modern Bulgarian alphabet has 30 letters. Most letters in the Bulgarian alphabet stand for one specific sound and that sound only.

Three letters stand for the single expression of combinations of sounds, namely (sht), (yu), and (ya). Two sounds do not have separate letters assigned to them and are expressed by the combination of two letters, namely (like j in Jack) and (dz). The letter is not pronounced, but it softens any preceding consonant before the letter o.

II. Bulgarian Orthography The Bulgarian orthography rules are composed of a mix of phonetic and etymological principles. Generally speaking, most words are spelled phonetically, that is to say the way that they are heard. However, some words are spelled etymologically, that is to say somewhat differently than they are pronounced and heard.

The first major reason why that is done is in order to preserve and clearly indicate the root which a specific word came from.

The second major reason for non-phonetic spelling is that some words are still spelled the way that they were pronounced centuries ago. Even though the pronunciation changed in modern times, tradition has preserved the original spelling. Here you can learn some basic Bulgarian phrases. On the left you will see the way a phrase is written in Bulgarian Cyrillic. Click on it in order to hear how the phrase sounds in Bulgarian. Next to every phrase you will see its Latin transcription, and next to the transcription – the phrase’s English equivalent.

I. Greetings Zdravey/Zdrasti Hello!/Hi! Dobro utro Good morning! Dobar den Good afternoon! Dobar vecher Good evening! Leka nosht Good night! Dovizhdane/Sbogom (pronounced [Zbogom]) Goodbye!/Farewell! Priyatno mi e It is nice to meet you. Kak si How are you? Dobre Good/Well Zle/Losho Bad/Ill Gore-dolu So-so

II. Basic Conversation Da Yes. Ne No. Kak se kazvash What is your name? Ako obichate Please Blagodarya Thank you. Molya You are welcome. Izvinete/Izvinyavayte Excuse me. (formal)

III. Do You Speak… Ne razbiram I do not understand. Kak shte kazhesh tova na bulgarski How would you say this in Bulgarian?. Govorish li Do you speak… Angliyski English Frenski French Nemski German Ispanski Spanish Kitayski Chinese

IV. Personal Pronouns Az (pronounced [as]) I Ti You (singular informal) Nie We Vie You (singular formal or plural) Te They

V. Family Mayka Mother Bashta Father Sin Son Dushterya Daughter Supruga Wife Suprug (pronounced [supruk]) Husband Priyatel Friend (male)

BULGARIAN LESSONS FOR FOREIGNERS

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