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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NORTHEASTERN: EASTERN BALKAN: Erkeč
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This very archaic dialect was originally spoken only in two villages located in the easternmost edge of the Balkan mountain range, near the Black Sea. These two villages, Kozičino and Golica, are situated on opposite sides of the mountain range, with each of them belonging to a different administrative district (Golica in the Dolni Čiflik district of Varna region, and Kozičino in the Pomorie district of Burgas region). The name of the dialect group (Erkeč) is in fact the old name of the village of Kozičino.
The geographical scope of the dialect expanded considerably in the 19th century, when original inhabitants of these two villages spread out to regions of Pomorie, Varna, Balčik and Dobrič, either to establish new settlements or to join existing ones. Of these, villages which retained (or adopted) the Erkeč dialect are readily recognizable by their speech (primarily in the occurrence of the broad vowel /ɛ/ in words that contained the historical Slavic vowel “back jer”).
The Erkeč dialect is usually grouped together with Balkan dialects; Bojadžiev calls it (together with the sub-Balkan group) “Eastern Balkan” (Bojadžiev 1981). But it is connected by at least one important feature – the behavior of the historical Slavic vowel “jat” – also to Moesian dialects (located further to the north) and Eastern Rupic dialects (located further to the south). At the same time, the Erkeč dialect is known for its unique (and in the view of some, “exotic”) sound, resulting from the vowels /ɛ/ and /ɑ/, and from the lengthened pronunciation of stressed open vowels.
This dialect is represented on the website by the two original villages, Kozičino (K), and Golica (G), and also by the village Izgrev (I). The list below summarizes the salient features of the Erkeč 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 location, as noted above; the following number identifies the text from that village (e.g. K1 = Kozičino 1, G2 = Golica 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 Izgrev: they are further identified on the website by abbreviations referring to the administrative region in which they are located. The Izgrev described here is located in the Varna region; on the website it is labeled Izgrev/Var.
• The historical Slavic vowel “jat” appears in stressed syllables as /’a/ before hard syllable and as /’ɛ/ before soft syllables (that is, as in the standard language except for the fact of the open /ɛ/ preceded by softness); in word-final position it appears as /’a/.
Examples: l’àp (K1: 51), pl’àvətə (I2: 5), dv’à (G5: 22) // s’ɛ̀li (G3: 175), b’ɛ̀hme (K1: 125), izlɛ̀ze (I2: 14).
• The results of the historical sequences “ja” and “post-alveolar + a” are the same as those of “jat”.
Examples: čàsa (G5: 16), venčàwət (G3: 70) // təč’ɛ̀hme (K1: 30), š’ɛ̀jək (K1: 152), dəmədž’ɛ̀ni (I1: 5), təpəwdž’ɛ̀ri K1: 91)
• The historical Slavic vowels “back jer”, “back nasal”, and in some instances “front jer” merged in stressed syllables, all developing into /ɛ/.
Examples of back jer: dɛ̀š (G3: 80), vəzgɛ̀nəhə (G3: 157), bɛ̀cvitȅ (I1: 9)
Examples of back nasal: mɛ̀š:tȅ (K1: 152), pɛ̀t’ə (G3: 164), mɛ̀či (I1: 12)
Examples of front jer: pɛ̀stər (G5: 41), zɛ̀mnət (G1: 9); l’èsnu (K1: 36)
This is basically the same broad vowel found in Teteven (Western Balkan), except that in the Erkeč dialect it is pronounced more broadly, and occurs much more frequently.
• The historical Slavic vowel “front nasal” appears in stressed syllables as /e/, including after post-alveolar consonants (i.e. absence of the phenomenon “merger of nasals”).
Examples: z’èt’e (G5: 62), žètva (G3: 32)
• The early South Slavic syllabic liquids appear as in the standard language, but with the vowel /ɛ/ instead of /ɤ/.
Examples: dɛ̀rti (G1: 2), krɛ̀st’at (G3: 51), trɛ̀gnəli (G5: 86); pɛ̀l’nim (I1: 6), bɛ̀l’hitȅ (G3: 174)
• In stressed syllables, the vowel /a/ is retracted to /ɑ/, a change presumably due to the very low pronunciation of the front vowel /ɛ/: when the latter was pronounced so close to /a/ as to invade its “auditory space”, the distinction between the two was preserved by the retraction of /a/ to /ɑ/.
Examples: decɑ̀ (G2: 15), sirɑ̀k (G6: 27)
• In stressed syllables, the vowel /i/ is replaced by /u/ or /y/ after a post-alveolar consonant; this happens more frequently if the following consonant is labial.
Examples: kumšùja (G2: 18), žuv’ɛ̀jət (G1: 3), žỳvu (G5: 5)
In verbal endings for past tenses these changes can occur after other consonants.
Example: hòd’uw (G3: 130)
• An initial stressed /o/ is frequently replaced by /wo/.
Examples: wògən’ə (K1: 92), wòs’əm (G2: 15)
• Unstressed vowels are frequently lost.
Examples: vujnìstȅ (G5: 76), bùctȅ (K1: 110)
• When an unstressed vowel is lost after a continuant, the latter is lengthened, especially if it is a sonorant; this is the process termed “consonant-vowel fusion”.
Examples: harmɑ̀n:tȅ (G3: 42), č’ètir:tȅ (G5: 8), č’èl:tu (K1: 98), mɛ̀š:tȅ (K1: 152)
• The consonant /x/ is replaced by /h/ in all positions.
Examples: hùrka (G3: 22), hrənɛ̀tə (K1: 53), prid’àh (G3: 8)
• The consonant /f/ is regularly replaced by /h/.
Examples: kərtòhenə (G5: 85), sòhia (G5: 53), čùht (K1: 8)
• Soft consonants can appear word-finally.
Examples: d’èset’ (G2: 16), dèn’ (I2: 9), wrahɑ̀n’ (K1: 39)
• The consonant /l/ is palatalized before soft consonants.
Examples: kòl’č’eto (G5: 31), dɛ̀l’g’i (K1: 155)
• The sequence /dn/ is assimilated to /nn/.
Examples: glɑ̀nni (G5: 74), ennì (K1: 3), gùnna (G4: 12)
• The sequence /mn/ is dissimilated to /vn/.
Examples: zəpòwn’uw (G3: 83), utɛ̀vnət (G5: 69)
• The consonant /v/ is preserved only before front vowels. It is replaced by /w/ before non-front unrounded vowels and sonorants, and is lost before rounded vowels.
Examples: vìdel (G5: 75), vèšti (K5: 50), trevɛ̀tə (G5: 54) // wɑ̀di (K1: 108), wlɑ̀čim (K2: 2), wrɑ̀čkə (G5: 8) // kəkò (G2: 24), udɛ̀tə (G3: 139)
• The consonant /j/ is replaced by /v/ after rounded vowels.
Example: stuv’à (G5: 3)
• The accent fails to shift in the plural form of some monosyllabic masculine nouns.
Examples: wòlovi (G3: 88), mɛ̀žitȅ (K1: 143)
• In disyllabic feminine nouns, the accent is retracted in the plural only.
Examples: ženɑ̀ (G5: 36); svìni (G6: 37), òfci (I1: 23), bɛ̀l’hitȅ (G3: 174), žèn:tȅ (G3: 144)
• There is frequent occurrence of secondary stress on the plural article of nouns, and sometimes on the feminine and neuter singular article.
Examples: harmɑ̀n:tȅ (G3: 42), vujnìstȅ (G5: 76), kòzintȁ (K2: 116), č’èl:tȕ (K1: 98)
• Clitic forms (short form object pronouns, reflexive particles, and present tense forms of the verb “sŭm”) are stressed after the conjunctions “kato” and “ako”; this phenomenon is termed “additional accent”
Examples: kət nì zəkɑ̀rəhə (G5: 37), kət sɛ̀ uprust’ì (K2: 11), kət sɛ̀ rəst’ɛ̀li (G3: 104) // [no examples of “ako” in texts on the website]
• Although the normal plural ending for polysyllabic masculine nouns is /-i/, there are several instances of the ending /-e/, all of them in Golica.
Examples: pisɑ̀ri (G3: 66), kurbàni (G3: 143), təpəwdž’ɛ̀ri (K1: 91) // šmàjzere (G5: 38), kamiòne (G5: 26)
• The definite article /-to/ appears in masculine plural nouns, though rarely.
Example: komunìstetu (G5: 24)
• The ending of feminine nouns, when stressed, is the same as the result of the historical Slavic “back nasal”, namely /ɛ/. Nouns denoting humans, however, have the ending /-a/.
Examples: rəkɛ̀ (I1: 8), trevɛ̀tə (G5: 54) // ženɑ̀ (G5: 36)
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, the old nominative form in /-a/ was adopted as the single form for feminine nouns meaning persons, and the casus generalis was adopted as the single form for all other feminine nouns.
• Indefinite adjectives appear in the long form.
Example: drùgij (G3: 82)
• The 3rd singular object pronoun is used in place of the demonstrative pronominal adjective.
Examples: n’ègo dèn (G5: 25), n’ègu plàt (K1: 143), nèja godìna (G3: 96)
• Тhe complementizer ‘da’ is frequently dropped from the negative future.
Examples: n’èmə stìgət (K1: 22), n’èmə ìmə (K1: 26) // n’èmə də ustàne (G4: 6)
• The imperfectivizing suffix /-ga-/ is found in some verbs.
Examples: iznəm’àrgəme (K1: 15), zəpàlgə (G5: 102)
Bojadžiev 1981: Todor Bojadžiev. Dialektite na bŭlgardkija ezik. Bŭlgarskija ezik - ezik na 13-vekovna dŭržava. Narodna prosveta, Sofia, 52-70.
Georgiev, G. Erkečanite i tehnijat govor. Izvestija na Seminara po slavjanska filologija, 2, 1907, 133-200.
Stojkov, St. Dnešnoto systojanie na erkečkija govor. Izvestija na Instituta za bŭlgarski ezik, 4, 1955, 229-367.