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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. 
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Dialect Group:
Description of the dialect group: 


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            The Rhodope dialects occupy the central geographical portion of the Rupic area. Rhodope dialects are also “central Rupic” in that many of the characteristic Rupic features (such as the accent retraction in disyllabic feminine nouns) are most consistently implemented in them. The existence of the Rhodope dialect as a distinct group was first asserted by Ljubomir Miletič (Miletich 1912). Since then, the Rhodope region has become quite well known, and not just for its characteristic dialect. The colorful local folklore, and the imposing mountain scenery have also attracted a great deal of attention.

            The dialect of Hvojna, also called the dialect of Ropkata, is spoken in a relatively small island within the Central/Smoljan Rhodope dialect, situated to the north of Smoljan. This dialectal “island” contains only five villages, three of which are represented on this site: Hvojna (H), Malevo (M) and Pavelsko (P). Despite its small size, however, it was accorded considerable importance by Miletich, who considered it to be the region where the “original ‘dark’ vowel” (the initial stage of the typical Rhodope merger of four important historical Slavic vowels) was actually preserved. (Miletich 1912: 29).

            The list below summarizes the salient features of the Hvojna dialect. It is based on the speech of the three villages mentioned above as represented by texts on the site, with examples taken from those texts.

            Abbreviations: the capital letter refers to the location, as noted above; the following number identifies the text from that village (e.g. H1 = Hvojna 1, P2 = Pavelsko 2), and the number after the colon identifies the line within the text where the cited form occurs. Note that the website includes two different villages bearing the name Malevo: they are further identified on the website by abbreviations referring to the administrative region in which they are located. The Malevo described here is located in the Asenovgrad region; on the website it is labeled Malevo/Asg.



• The historical Slavic vowel “jat”  follows a different pattern than in other dialects, where the modern vowel continuing it either always takes the same form, or alternates between two forms depending on the shape of the segment or syllable following it. Here, the vowel is /’a/  throughout all forms of a word if the conditions for /’a/  are present in any one form; if not, then it is /e/  in all forms of the word.

            Examples with /’a/:  gul’àm  (H2: 26), gul’àmi  (M1: 6), c’alija  (M2: 1), t’asni  (P4: 25)

            Examples with /e/ : m’èsec  (H2: 28), vr’ème  (H2: 15), ned’èl’e  (M2: 79)

     One may also find /’a/  in transparently related words.

            Example: kol’ance (M1: 6) [diminutive form of kol’ano]

• The results of the historical sequences “ja” and “post-alveolar + a” are as follows: in stressed syllables they appear as /ɛ/  after post-alveolar consonants, and as /a/  after /j/.

            Examples: č’ɛ̀k  (H1: 35), š’ɛ̀ren  (H1: 51), venč’ɛ̀vət  (H1: 52), š’ɛ̀və  (M1: 103) // jàli  (M1: 64), jàjca  (H1: 14)

• The historical Slavic vowels “back jer” and “back nasal” appear in stressed syllables as /ɤ/, with the phonetic variant /ʌ/. See below, however, for the result of back nasal + liquid.

            Examples of back jer: dɤ̀skə  (H2: 6), dɤ̀š’  (P4: 97), mʌ̀knehme  (H2: 10)

            Examples of back nasal: fkʌ̀šti  (H1: 31), pʌ̀t’  (M3: 55),

• The historical Slavic vowels “front jer” and “front nasal’ appear consistently in stressed syllables as /’ɤ/ (for the front nasal /jʌ/ word-initially),  i.e. with softening of the preceding consonant, although all such words can also optionally occur with /e/. The consistency of this replacement is such that it embraces even the words for ‘day’ and ‘five’, which are exceptions elsewhere in the Rhodopes.

            Examples of front jer:  z’ʌ̀mət  (H1: 35), z’èmət  (H1: 34), l’ʌ̀snu  (M1: 73), l’èsno  (M1: 98)

            Examples of front nasal:  p’ʌ̀t  (H1: 4), jʌ̀dri  (P2: 21), jèdru  (H2: 22), l’ʌ̀štətə  (M1:18), l’èštətə  (H2: 5)

     As elsewhere in the Rhodopes, the merger of these four classic historical Slavic vowels (both jers  and both nasals) – with the proviso that consonant softening distinguishes the two “front” vowels from the two “back” ones – is a significant defining feature of their “Rhodope” affiliation. (Miletič 1912: 29).

      In this particular dialect the vowel /ɤ/ appears in the phonetic variant /ʌ/ after soft consonants (including post-alveolars) and also frequently after bilabial consonants and sometimes also after velar consonants.

• Early South Slavic syllabic liquids appear as /ɤr/  and /ɤl/  or /lɤ/.

            Examples: pʌ̀rs  (M1: 95), gʌ̀rp  (M1: 38), vʌ̀rbnicə  (P3: 13), gʌ̀rsnici  (P4: 85), nəpɤ̀l’nim  (M1: 65), slɤ̀nceno  (M3: 50)

     Here it should be noted that the sequence of liquid and back nasal did not merge with the syllabic liquids.

               Example:  trɤ̀sime  (M2: 12)  

• Unstressed vowels are frequently lost.

            Examples: rəmòt  (M3: 43), məgàrtə  (P4: 28)

• The vowel /o/  is frequently replaced by /wo/  in stressed syllables.

            Examples: wòfce  (H1: 1), nwòsim  (P3: 14), nəwòkulu  (P1: 27)

• The consonant /x/  is replaced by /h/  in all positions, and frequently lost word-initially.

            Examples: pràvehə  (H1: 9), bèhme  (M1: 59), hòru  (M2: 77) // l’àp  (M1: 94), rànime  (M2: 65), òdehne  (M1: 37)

• Soft consonants can appear in word-final position.

            Examples: kupèn’  (H3: 4), uš’mèr’  (H1: 8), pʌ̀t’  ( H3: 55)

• The consonants /l/  and /n/  are palatalized before soft consonants.

            Examples: tɤ̀n’ki  (H2: 45), l’ùl’kite  (H1: 15)

• Fricative consonants are frequently replaced by affricates after liquids.

            Examples: dərdžì  (P2: 14), vɤ̀rdzuəme  (P2: 19)

• Soft /t’/  and /d’/  are replaced by soft affricates /c’/  and /dz’/.

            Examples: c’ìkvi  ( P2: 25), puisc’ìne  (M2: 28), pusedz’ì  (P1: 24)



• There is occasional occurrence of double accent:

            Examples: zàguv’èznite  (H1: 13), nòzicìne ( M1: 104)

• The accent is regularly retracted in disyllabic feminine and neuter nouns.

            Examples: dɤ̀skə  (H2: 6), kòsə  (M1: 4), vʌ̀rbə  (P3: 14), lìcetu  (H1: 45), m’ʌ̀su  (M2: 51), hòru  (M2: 77)

• The accent is retracted to the initial syllable in 1st person singular present tense forms.

            Examples: nàtup’ə  (M3: 14), kòs’ə  (M2: 70)

• The accent is retracted to the initial syllable in imperatives.

            Examples: mʌ̀kni  (M1: 5), pràj  (M3: 45)



• The plural ending of masculine nouns is /-e/.

            Examples: muzikànte  (M2: 80), snòpene  (M3: 53), š’iž’ìme  (P1: 33)

• The plural forms of the words for ‘arm’ and ‘leg’ have the productive ending -i  instead of the old dual ending /-e/.

            Examples: nògi  (P2: 19), rəkìse  (M3: 47)

• The ending of feminine nouns, when stressed, is the same as the result of the historical Slavic “back nasal”, namely /ɤ/.

               Examples: vudɤ̀tə  (H2: 40), pl’evɤ̀  (P4: 75)

     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 these dialects, it was this casus generalis that was adopted as the single form of feminine nouns (which elsewhere have adopted the old nominative case in /a/  as their single form.  

• A significant defining feature of Rhodope dialects is the existence of the tripartite definite article, with different forms indicating whether the speaker focuses on proximity, distance, or chooses not to emphasize either of these options. The Rhodope dialects are the primary locale of this trait in Bulgarian, though it is also found in the Trŭn dialect, where the formant /-v-/  marks the “proximal” form. In the Rhodopes the proximal form is marked by the formant /-s-/. The neutral (= “medial”) and “distal” forms are marked in both regions by /-t-/  and /-n-/, respectively.

            Examples: r’àkəsə  (M3: 15), màslutu  (H1: 7), kòn’uven’e  (M1: 16)

• The tripartite article invariably implies a tripartite system of demonstrative pronouns. Unfortunately there are no examples of distal or proximal pronouns in these texts.

• The forms of the personal pronouns are different. Examples:

            1st singular nominative jà  (M2: 21)

            3rd singular accusative masculine n’ègə  (M2: 47)

            3rd singular dative feminine short form hi  (H1: 44)

            1st plural nominative  n’è  (P4: 102)

            3rd plural dative short form him  (H1: 52)

• Early Slavic “inserted jer” is lost in the definite form of masculine singular nouns.

            Examples: ògn’en  (M3: 31), bɤ̀klən  (M3: 54)

• The masculine definite form of adjectives can be formed from the bare stem.

            Examples: ədìnən  (P2: 14), drùgən  (P2: 14)

• The pronoun kakŭv  and its derivatives are used instead of koj  with adjectival function.

            Examples: n’àkvi ìmə tə resìč’ət snòpite  (M1: 70), n’akəf l’èf  (M2: 4)

• Verbs of all three conjugations have the same endings in 1st person singular present tense forms: /-m/  for unprefixed verbs and /-a/  for prefixed verbs.

            Examples: mɤ̀č’əm  (M2: 3), pràv’əm  (M2: 54), vòd’əm  (P4: 55), sl’èzəm  (M3: 15) // dòkərə  (P2: 14), prèkərə  (M2: 89)

• The future particle is še  in Pavelsko and že  or žə  in Hvojna and Malevo.

            Examples: še izduìm  (P2: 3), že tùriš  (M3: 35), žə vdìgə  (H3: 6)

• There is reduplication of the morpheme /-l/  in L-participles with stressed endings.

            Example: dušlòlu  (M3: 51)

• The aorist theme vowel /o/  is replaced by /a/  (pronounced /ə/  when unstressed).

            Examples: r’èkəh  (P2: 9), izl’èzəhə  (M2: 12)

• The perfective stem is used in the secondary imperfective of many verbs.

            Examples: ràdə  (H1: 39), pugàdət  (H1: 54), fàtəme  (P2: 18)



     Keremidčieva, Slavka. 1993. Govorŭt na Ropkata (Rodopska gramatika).

     Miletich, Ljubomir. 1912. Die Rhodopenmundarten der bulgarischen Sprache. Schriften der Balkancomission, Linguistische Abteilung. Kaiserliche Akademie der Wissenschaften.


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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)

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