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The complex dialectal variation of Bulgarian is best described within three major categories; the detailed description below follows this outline.

       The rubric Phonology describes the sound system of a dialect. Because the current forms ("reflexes") of historical Slavic vowels divide the region so systematically, they are used as cover symbols for current lexical distribution of these sounds.
       The rubric Accent notes systematic differences in accent placement from the standard language; these are usually associated with grammatically-defined groups.
       The rubric Morphology describes features of nouns, pronouns and verbs that differ from the standard language in particularly noteworthy ways. 

Dialect Group:
Description of the dialect group: 

NORTHEASTERN: MOESIAN: Greben (Garvan, Srebŭna), Sŭrt (Petrov Dol), Drjanovec (Kapan)

            The large northeastern region comprises two large dialect groupings, Moesian and Balkan, which share a number of features, yet they are distinct enough to be considered separately, with each divided into clear sub-groups. According to Miletič’s definition, the Moesian group extends to the river Jantra in the west, and in the past even as far west as the “jat”-boundary, the basic division line between western and eastern macro-dialects (Miletich 1903). There are several sub-dialects within the Moesian group that form relatively small islands, but most of the territory is unspecified, simply called Moesian (see the IBL dialect map at http://ibl.bas.bg//bulgarian_dialects/). Although there is no single unifying feature, but rather characteristic Moesian traits that overlap from region to region but do not cover the whole area, the speech of the area is immediately recognizable as Moesian.

            Three of the four recognizable islands within Moesian are represented on this website: the two villages Garvan (G) and Srebŭrna (S) represent the Greben variety; the village Petrov Dol (PD) represents the Sŭrt variety, and the village Drjanovec (D) represents the Kapan variety. The list below summarizes the salient features of these Moesian sub-varieties. It is based on the speech of these four villages as represented by texts on the site, with examples taken from those texts.

            Abbreviations: the capital letter refers to the village, as noted above; the letter represents the village and the following number identifies the text from that village (e.g. S1 = Srebŭrna 1, PD2 = Petrov Dol 2), and the number after the colon identifies the line within the text where the cited form occurs.



• The historical Slavic vowel “jat” appears in stressed syllables as /’a/ in position before hard syllables. There is regional difference in its behavior before soft syllables: it is /’ɛ/ in Sŭrt (PD), and /’e/ elsewhere.

            Examples: m’àstu (PD1: 99), kul’àntȕ (D1: 25), l’àtu (G2: 24), ml’aku (S2: 30) // nid’èl’e (S1: 104), b’èli (G1: 48), gul’èmi (D1: 63) // nɤm’ɛ̀ri (PD1: 33)

    The results for the historical sequences “ja” and “post-alveolar + a” are the same everywhere as those for “jat”.

            Examples: venčàvə (G1: 59), isušàvəš (S2: 55) // čeršèvi (S1: 107), venč’èni (G1: 70) // mɤlčàna (PD2: 18), vɤrš’ɛ̀čki (PD3: 115)

• The historical Slavic vowels “back jer” and “back nasal” appear in stressed root syllables as /ɤ/ (see under Morphology for the particular behavior of “back jer” in the masculine singular definite article).

            Examples of back jer: tɤ̀kɤn (D1: 17), dɤ̀ski (G1: 123), mɤ̀kniš (PD3: 49)

            Examples of back nasal: mɤ̀kɤtɤ (D2: 69), pɤ̀t’ (G2: 17, PD1: 37), bɤ̀di (S1: 55)

     Miletič considered the “strongly dark” pronunciation of this vowel, which became known as “velar ъ”, to be one of the principal features of Moesian dialects. This feature is very rare today. Extensive fieldwork underlying the Bulgarian Dialect Atlas (undertaken in the 1950s) found it in only one location, Petrov Dol. In texts recorded for BDLT, it exists as the optional allophonic raising of /ɤ/ to /ɯ/.

            Examples: kɯ̀šti (PD2: 75); rəskɤ̀səli (PD1: 91)

• The historical Slavic vowel “front jer” appears in stressed root syllables as either /e/ or /ɤ/, with only the latter occurring before nasal consonants.

            Examples: dèn’ (D1; 60), l’èku (S2: 39), ž’ènim (PD: 86) // pɤ̀sro (G1: 48), zɤ̀mniš (D2: 52), zɤ̀mət (S1: 56)

• The historical Slavic vowel “front nasal” appears in stressed syllables as /e/, including after post-alveolar consonants (thus, there is no “mixing of the nasals”).

            Examples: gl’èdə (D2: 22), zèt’u (S1: 94), šètə (D1: 42), ž’ètvəta (PD: 7)

• All unstressed non-high vowels are replaced by the corresponding high vowels. Thus, unstressed /e/, /o/, and /a/ are replaced by /i/, /u/, and /ɤ/, respectively. In Bulgarian dialectology this is termed “full vowel reduction”.

            Examples: b’èši (D1: 8), vrèmi (G1: 21) usimnàjsi (D1: 44) //  udòlu (G1: 21), udr’èž’im (PD3: 7) // glɤvɤ̀tɤ (D2: 11), klɤnn’ì (PD3: 33)

     In posttonic syllables and especially before sonorants, unstressed /e/ is pronounced as /’ə/ or /’ɤ/.

            Examples: v’èč’ər (D2: 21) bosìl’ək (S1: 93), v’ès’ɤlu (D1: 8), tòpč’ənca (PD2: 34)

• The vowel /i/ is replaced by /’u/ or /y/ before labial consonants. This is one of the highly distinctive markers of Moesian speech.

            Examples: ž’uwòt (D1: 74) ut’ùəm (PD1: 97), ž’uv’ɛ̀i (PD1: 20), b’ùwa (S1: 105), zəl’ùwəm (S1: 120)

• Word-initial stressed /o/ is replaced by /wo/.

            Examples: wòc’əm (D1: 23), wòs’əm (G1: 189)

• Unstressed vowels are frequently lost. Continuants in position before such a lost vowel are frequently lengthened; this process, called here “consonant-vowel fusion” here, is especially common after sonorants.

            Examples: čètri (D1: 11), žìttu (PD3: 147), sìttu (G1: 179) // məgàr:tȁ (D2: 39), màs:tȅ (G1: 116), dàr:tu (S1: 106)

• The consonant /x/ is lost in word-initial position; in other positions of the word it is replaced by /w/, /v/, or /f/. This is another of the highly distinctive markers of Moesian speech.

            Examples: òd’ɤ (D1: 40), òrtə (S2: 155) // t’aw (G1: 96), màwnɤ (D2: 46), b’àw (D1: 23), zèw (S2: 119) // òrevi (S2: 8), tùrivə (D2: 65), tɤ̀rsiva (G1: 168), slàgəvmi (PD2: 45) // nəm’èr’uf (S1: 34), kòžufč’etu (G1: 7).

            Exception:  snɤɤ̀ (D2: 33)

• The consonant /f/ is replaced by /v/ or /w/. Before the vowel /u/ it sometimes shifts to the bilabial voiceless fricative  /ф/.

            Examples: čəršèvi (S1: 107) // suwrɤ̀tə (S1: 97) // фùsti (G1: 213)

• The consonant /v/ is lost before rounded vowels, and usually replaced by /w/ in other positions (/w/ can also appear before rounded vowels, thought this is more rare).

            Examples: pruòdijmi (D2: 41), tòjtə (D1: 53), otòr:no (G2: 10), utòrenə (PD1: 99) // òwču (D1: 61), nìwɤtɤ (D2: 22), wrɤ̀štət (G1: 157), wèče (PD1: 54) // ž’uwòt (D1: 74)

• Soft consonants can appear word-finally.

            Examples: dèn’ (D1: 60), p’èt’ (D1: 65), pɤ̀t’ (G2: 17), d’èsit’ (PD2: 22)

• The sequence /dn/ is assimilated to /nn/.

            Examples: innà (D1: 59), plànne (G1: 145), klɤnn’ì (PD3: 33)

• The vowel /i/ is sometimes inserted before an initial consonant cluster.

            Examples: ismɤ̀kvə (G1: 68), iskɤ̀swə (S2: 51)

• There is a regional difference in the behavior of the sequence /str/: it is replaced by /sr/ in Greben (G), (S) and Kapan (D) varieties but not in Sŭrt (PD).

            Examples: srùvɤ (D1: 124), sràf (G2: 29), srigɤ̀t (S2: 2) // strɤ̀ka (PD 2: 24)



• The accent is retracted in the plural form of disyllabic feminine nouns.

            Examples: dɤ̀ski (G1: 123), sèstri (S1: 76), glàvi (S2: 130)

• There is frequent occurence of a secondary stress on the plural definite article; this also occurs, though less frequently, on feminine and neuter singular articles.

            Examples: màjki̥t’ȅ (D2: 16), pìtkit’ȅ (PD2: 34), drùgit’ȅ (G1: 173) // kul’àntȕ (D1: 25), rìz:tȁ (G1: 173)



• The plural ending for polysyllabic nouns is /-e/, though /i/ appears as well.

            Examples: əjdučòre (G2: 28), misàl’e (PD2: 89), rəkòe (PD3: 48), kumšìe (D2: 20) // məsùri (S2: 124), svədbàri (S1: 67)

• There is regional difference with respect to the ending of feminine nouns when stressed. In Greben (G), (S) and Kapan (D), it is the same as the result of the historical Slavic “back nasal”, namely /ɤ/, whereas in Sǔrt (PD), it is /a/.

            Examples: glɤvɤ̀tə (D2: 11), rɤkɤ̀ (G1: 69), strənɤ̀ (S2: 143)// guràta (PD1: 24), vudà (PD2: 19)

               These forms represent an interesting result in the history of Bulgarian, which gradually lost all case endings in nouns. At the penultimate stage of this development, feminine nouns had only two case endings (instead of the inherited seven), the nominative case and the so-called casus generalis, which continued the form of the accusative case – which ended in the historical Slavic vowel “back nasal”, and was used for all other meanings. In the Greben and Kapan groups, it was this casus generalis that was adopted as the single form of feminine nouns, while in the Sŭrt group it was the old nominative case in /a/  which continued as their single form.  

• There is regional difference in the form of the definite article for masculine singular nouns.  In Greben (G), (S) and Kapan (D), it is /-o/ (when unstressed, /-u/), but in Sǔrt (PD) it is /-ɤ/.

            Examples: məžò (G1: 5), zèt’u (S1: 67), dulàpu (D1: 17), tòju (G1: 60) // pragɤ̀ (PD1: 31), zbòrɤ (PD2: 123), trètijɤ (PD1: 71)

• Some indefinite adjectives appear in the long form.

            Examples: drùgij (D1: 49), nàšij (D1: 71), šèstij (PD2: 5)

• Personal pronouns are used as demonstrative.

            Examples: n’ègu dèn’ (D1: 60), nègu bòp (S2: 181), t’àw xòra (D1: 20), tè misàl’e (PD: 89)

• There is regional difference in the form of the back nasal in 1st singular and 3rd plural present tense endings of the 2nd conjugation. In Kapan (D) it is the expected /ɤ/; in Greben (S) it is either a fronted version of this, or the middle fronted vowel /e/; while in Sŭrt (PD) it appears as the high front vowel /i/.

            Examples: dujɤ̀t (D2: 39) // izgud’ə̝̀t (S1: 51), dər’èt (S1: 78) // kreštìt (PD3: 135), vɤr’ìt (PD3: 43)

• The early Slavic “inserted jer” is preserved in the inflected forms of L-participles.

            Example: dunèsələ (G1: 188)

• The preposition v ‘in’ appears in the form u.

            Examples: u tòs mom’ènt (D1: 28), u dàmu (G1: 109), u kɤ̀šti (PD2: 74)



     Miletich, Ljubomir. 1903. Das Ostbulgarische. Schriften der Balkancomission, Linguistische Abteilung. Kaiserliche Akademie der Wissenschaften. Vienna.

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Comments and questions may be addressed to bdlt@berkeley.edu.

Recommended Model for Citations

Bulgarian Dialectology as Living Tradition [2016] (http://www.bulgariandialectology.org, visited on 1 March 2016)
Babjak 1: 13-15. In: Bulgarian Dialectology as Living Tradition [2016] (http://www.bulgariandialectology.org, visited on 1 March 2016)

Location | by Dr. Radut