Bulgarian (including Macedonian, which, though politically a seperate language, is very, very close to Bulgarian), mostly spoken by the approximately nine million inhabitants of Bulgaria, is a Southern Slavic tongue related to Russian, Ukrainian, and Serbian, amongst others. Originally, however, the Bulgars were an Asian tribe who probably spoke some sort of Turkic language, but migration into the lands of Slavic tribes and intermarriage with them gradually caused the shedding of their old tongue for that of their newfound neighbors. Throughout the years, the piece of land which encompasses Bulgaria has generally been under some sort of subjugation, whether Byzantine or, after 1396, Ottoman; as a result, Bulgarian contains many borrowings—both syntactic and lexical—from Greek and Turkish.

But like most of its Slavic relatives, Bulgarian is written in a form of the Cyrillic alphabet with syllabical stress being rather random, forcing a non-native speaker to learn them individually by word (and some words even possess the peculiarity of a stressed schwa). On the other hand, Bulgarian is somewhat different from the other Slavic languages in that it possesses a definite article; however, unlike the majority of languages in which the definite article exists, it is placed after the noun which it modifies—in this case, as a suffix. For example, the word "book," which may be translated and transliterated as "kniga," becomes "knigata." This is thought to be a borrowing from from its geographical neighbor, Albanian, which has also spread to another neighbor, the Romance language Romanian, although none of the three are closely related. Bulgarian also has largely dropped the Slavic system of case endings to denote syntactic word function, relying instead as English does on word position and prepositions to convey that information. The accepted word order, however, is closer to that of Russian than that of English.

Old Bulgarian is perhaps more familiar to linguists—and liturgists—as Old Church Slavonic, the traditional literary and liturgical language of the Russian Orthodox Church, and until the 12th century, of the Bulgarian Church also. After that date arose Bulgarian Church Slavonic, which survived until the fifteenth century. With the decline of the Ottoman Empire in the late nineteeth century, Bulgaria gained its independence in 1878, and modern Bulgarian was codified with numerous borrowings, having developed since the sixteenth century.


Sources:

  • http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/society/A0809396.html
  • Dyer, Dr. Donald R.  Unpublished class lectures for Syntax 301 at the University of Mississippi.  August 2000 - December 2000.