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.
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. Within the Balkan group, the sub-Balkan variety is represented on the website by two villages from the region of Čirpan, Kolju Marinovo (KM), Markovo (M); and one from the region of Stara Zagora, Iskrica (Is). The sub-Balkan dialect group is defined by a complex of features, some of which are shared with Rupic dialects and some of which are specific to the sub-Balkan group. The features illustrated below are characteristic of the sub-Balkan dialect, though one of its most salient features (the stressed ending /-a/ in 1st singular present tense forms) is found in only one of the villages represented here.
The list below summarizes the most important features of the sub-Balkan dialect. It is based on the speech of these three 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 (e.g. M = Markovo) and the following number identifies the text from that village (e.g. KM1 = Kolju Marinovo 1), and the number after the colon identifies the line within the text where the cited form occurs.
• The results for the historical sequences “ja” and “post-alveolar + a” are the same everywhere as those for “jat”, namely /a/ in position before hard syllables and /e/ in position before soft syllables.
Examples: čàkəj (KM4: 66), čàsə (KM5: 30) // jègne (KM5: 2)
• In most sub-Balkan dialects, the historical Slavic vowel “back nasal” appears as /a/ in word-final position and /ɤ/ elsewhere (except in definite forms of feminine nouns in a consonant, where it is always stressed /ɤ/). This general feature, /a/ in word-final position, occurs only in Iskrica; it is absent Koljo Marinovo and Markovo.
Examples: sɤ̀butə (Is1: 49), idɤ̀t (Is1: 36), mumɤ̀tə (Is1: 24), vičirtɤ̀ (Is3: 61) // ležà (Is1: 4), nəsəd’à (Is2: 21) rəkà (Is2: 16) // kɤ̀štə (M: 40), vudɤ̀ (KM5: 43), kačɤ̀ (KM4: 75).
• There is full vowel reduction: all unstressed non-high vowels are replaced by the corresponding high vowels. Thus, unstressed /e/, /o/, and /a/ are replaced by /i/, /u/, and /ə/, respectively.
Examples: vr’èmi (M: 5), pičèm (KM1: 15), pribìrəmi (KM1: 8), ditè (Is1: 15) // d’àdu (M: 7), vulòvi (KM1: 73), pus’ègnə (Is1: 3) // kvəsnìk (KM1: 17), nəsəd’à (Is2: 21).
• Before or after sonorants, /e/ and /i/ are replaced by /’ə/, almost exclusively in post-tonic syllables.
Examples: mèn’ə (M: 37), vèč’ər (Is1: 75), vr’ətènu (Is1: 69) // užèn’əh (Is1: 1), kùp’əl (M: 10).
• Unstressed /e/ and /i/ are replaced by /u/ after post-alveolar consonants.
Examples: čušmɤ̀ (KM5: 40), žulezà (KM4: 6), žuv’èjət (M: 145)
• The vowel /i/ is replaced by /u/ before labial consonants in stressed syllables; this occurs only in Iskrica.
Example: ot’ùvəme (Is1: 71)
• Unstressed vowels are frequently lost.
Examples: bəkɤ̀rti (KM6: 43), fcèti (M: 40), grədìntə (M: 27), jergènti (M: 89), bàncətə (Is1: 2), sèltu (Is1: 27)
• The consonant /j/ is inserted before initial /e/.
Examples: jèsenno (KM6: 3), jergènti (M: 89), jenò (Is2: 1)
• The consonant /x/ behaves differently depending on its place in the word. In initial position or between vowels, it is lost altogether, in all three villages. In medial position before a consonant it is replaced by /j/ in Markovo and Kolju Marinovo, but lost in Iskrica (frequently with compensatory lengthening of the preceding vowel). In final position it is either preserved or replaced by /h/ in Koljo Marinovo and Markovo, but replaced by /h/ or /w/ in Iskrica .
Examples of initial position: òdili (KM3: 35), l’àb (Is3: 25)
Examples of medial position: dokàrvəə (KM3: 70), ràdvəə (Is1: 9) // isɤ̀jnaa (KM5: 11), ìməjmi (KM5: 42) // zè:me (Is2: 26), prɤ̀ska:mi (Is2: 15), b’àme (Is1: 16)
Examples of final position: zər’àzəx (KM5: 11), nəpràvih (M: 39), t’ah (M: 174) // zəbràiw (Is1: 50), zəvɤ̀ršiw (Is3: 16)
• The consonants /l/ and /n/ are softened before soft and post-alveolar consonants.
Examples: gədùl’ki (KM6: 28), mənìn’ki (KM6: 57), mɤl’čɤ̀t (M: 192), nəžil’t’àvə (Is2: 35), t’àn’te (Is2: 3)
• The sequences /dn/ and sometimes also /tn/, and /bn/ are assimilated to /nn/ and /mn/, respectively.
Examples: plànne (KM5: 44), pannà (M:37), ennà (Is1: 68); s’ènne (I1: 13) // srɤ̀mnəl (M: 130)
• Fricative consonants are replaced by affricates after /r/.
Examples: vɤ̀rdzənə (KM6: 8), dərdžàə (M:50), dərdžàl (KM5: 30), svɤ̀rdzənu (Is1: 63)
• There is occasional occurrence of double accent.
Examples: šìlencàtə (KM3: 1), zɤ̀pčetàtə (KM4: 77), àgneàta (Is3: 8)
• The accent is retracted in the plural of bisyllabic feminine nouns, and sometimes also in the singular.
Examples: dɤ̀ski (KM3: 64), sèstri (M: 72) // rɤ̀kə (KM6: 31) // dəskɤ̀tə (KM3: 71)
• The accent sometimes advances to the theme vowel in aorist forms and L-participles.
Examples: stanà (KM5: 9), pannà (M: 37), ustanà (M: 129), kəzàl (M: 17), ustanàli (M: 13), stənà: (Is1: 21)
• The plural ending for polysyllabic masculine nouns is /-e/, though /i/ appears as well.
Examples: kəràre (KM3: 25), ərmàne (KM2: 70); čekɤ̀mi (KM2: 61), krèmeni (KM3: 57)
• The ending of feminine nouns when stress is the same as the result of the historical Slavic “back nasal”, namely/ɤ/, except in the non-definite form in Iskrica.
Examples: rikɤ̀tə (KM5: 63), vujnɤ̀tɤ̥ (M: 13), mumɤ̀tə (Is1: 24) // veselbà (Is1: 63)
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. It was this casus generalis that was adopted as the single form of feminine nouns.
• There are different forms of the personal pronouns, including differences between the three villages. Examples:
3rd singular accusative feminine short form: gə in Markovo and Iskrica // jə in Koljo Marinovo
Examples: žə jə nəmùšiš (KM2: 16), up’èkələ gə (Is1: 2) // nìj gə pràimi (M: 4)
3rd plural nominative: tìj (KM4: 8, M: 10), tìjə (KM3: 43), t’èe (Is1: 9)
• The aorist theme vowel /o/ is replaced by /a/ (pronounced /ə/ when unstressed).
Examples: dàdəh (M: 36), prudàdəjmi (M: 40), dòjdah (Is1: 1)
• The future particle is že.
Examples: že izl’èzim (M: 89), že tùriš (KM2: 9), že dòət (Is3: 42)
The dialect of Iskrica, which is very close to the Rupic area, has some additional features considered predominantly Rupic:
• Under stress the historical Slavic vowel “jat” frequently appears as /’a/ or /ɛ/ before a soft consonant or front vowel.
Examples: t’àn’te (Is2: 29), n’àštu (Is3: 17), gul’ɛ̀mi (Is2: 1) // b’èše (Is1: 1)
• Early Slavic “inserted jer” is retained in the inflected forms of L-participles.
Example: up’èkələ (Is1: 2)
• The nominative pronoun for 1st person singular is /ja/.
Example: jà sɤzdàdəw (Is1: 17)
• The perfective stem is used in the secondary imperfectives of some verbs.
Examples: nər’àdəme (Is2: 40), zəfàt’ət (Is1: 59)