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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 Zlatograd is represented on the website by the villages Leštak (L) and Vŭrbina (V).  These villages, in fact, are transitional to the Smoljan dialect, with major traits connecting them to the Smoljan dialect on the one hand, and to the Zlatograd dialect on the other.

            The list below summarizes the salient features of the Zlatograd dialect. It is based on the speech of the two 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. L1 = Leštak 1, V2 = Vŭrbina 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 /ɛ/  or /e/;  the former is more frequent in Leštak, and the latter is more frequent in Vŭrbina. After the consonant /c/  in the word ‘entire’ it appears as /a/.

            Examples: gulɛ̀mi  (L1: 45), mlɛ̀ku  (L1: 3), mɛ̀stu  (L2: 69), v’ɛ̀lu  (V1: 11), l’ɛ̀hi  (V3: 36); prolètenu  (L2: 29), l’èbə  (V2: 62) // càlənə  (L1: 32), càltə  (V2: 51)

• The  historical sequences “ja” and “post-alveolar + a” are the same as those of “jat” appear in stressed syllables as /ɛ/.

            Examples: čɛ̀snicite  (L1: 5), tujɛ̀gə  (L3: 410), kujədž’ɛ̀k  (L2: 80), kučɛ̀ni  (V4: 53), užɛ̀ci  (V3: 53)

• The historical Slavic vowels “back jer” and “ back nasal” appear in stressed syllables as /ɤ/  or /ʌ/. (See below for commentary on the vowel /ʌ/).

            Examples for back jer:  dʌ̀ski  (L1: 20), isʌ̀hne  (L2: 42), dɤ̀šterə ( V3: 55)

            Examples for back nasal: nəzɤ̀benku  (L3: 151), prʌ̀čkə  (L3: 406), mɤ̀ž’uve  (V1: 37)

     It is this trait (back jer  and back nasal appearing as /ɤ/  or /ʌ/)  that connects the speech of these villages with the Zlatograd dialect.

• The historical Slavic vowels “front jer” and “front nasal” appear in stressed syllables as /’ɤ/  or /’ʌ/ (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/.

            Examples for front jer:  l’ɤsnu  (L1: 77, V1: 39), z’ɤ̀meš  (L1: 33), l’ʌ̀ku  (L3: 101); l’èku  (V4: 42)

            Examples for front nasal: gl’ɤ̀dəli  (V1: 23), ispr’ɤ̀denə  (V1: 39),  m’ʌ̀su  (L1: 65), jʌ̀dri  (L3: 134), gl’èdəš  (L2: 35)

     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). Indeed, it is this trait that connects the speech of these two villages with the Smoljan dialect.

    Note on the vowel /ʌ/:  In Vŭrbina, the vowel /ʌ/ is a phonetic variant appearing after labial consonants; in Leštak, however, it is the basic variant and appears nearly everywhere.

• The early South Slavic syllabic liquids appear as /ɤr/  and /ɤl/.

            Examples: pɤ̀rs  (V4: 92), vɤ̀rštəm  (V2: 60), nəpɤ̀lni  (L3: 424), bɤ̀l’hi  (V3: 23)

• The vowel /i/  is replaced by /’u/  before labial consonants. The reverse change, the replacement of /u/  after soft consonant by /i/,  is attested only in Vŭrbina.

            Examples for /i/ > /’u/:  l’uvàtki  (L2: 70), čuvìjə  (L3: 363), ž’uvèi  (V1: 39) 

            Example for /u/ > /i/:  jinìcə  (V2: 37)

• Unstressed vowels are frequently lost.

            Examples: càrvicə  (L1: 28), tvàr’ət  (L1: 20), càltu  (V2: 51), zvè̝me  (V2: 18)

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

            Examples: isʌ̀hne  (L2: 57), bɤ̀l’hi  (V3: 23) hòd’əm  (V3: 45) // l’èbə  (V2: 62), umòt’  (L3: 232)

• With rare exceptions, the affricate /dž/  is replaced by the fricative /ž/.

            Examples: g’um’urz’ìne (V1: 27), bəžɤ̀nə  (V3: 106), sež’ìm  (L3: 267) // kujədž’ɛ̀k (L2: 80)

• Soft consonants can appear word-finally.

            Examples: umòt’  (L3: 232), fəsul’  (V4: 9)

• The consonant /l/  is palatalized before soft consonants.

            Examples: bɤ̀l’hi  (V3: 23), vɤ̀l’n’eni  (V4: 83)



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

            Examples: rɤ̀kə  (L3: 157), kòzə  (L1: 85), bɤ̀l’hi  (V3: 23); t’èle  (L1: 85), dɤ̀rvu  (V4: 104)

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

            Examples: òmur’ə  (V3: 59), s’èdəm  (V3: 48)

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

            Examples: vɤ̀ri  (L1: 41), òpeni  (L3: 424), zàkuli  (V2: 24)



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

            Examples: həjvàne  (L3: 75), kətɤ̀re  (L3: 56), kàmene  (V4: 94)

• Feminine nouns ending in a consonant have shifted to the masculine gender.

            Examples: sɤ̀štijə kàl  (V4: 92), ədɨ̀n p̀è̝š  (V2: 51)

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

            Examples: metlɤ̀ (L3: 43), pl’əvɤ̀nə (V1: 10)

    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.  

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

            Examples: rɤ̀ki  (V3: 84), nògi  (V3: 42)

• 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: sʌ̀rpəs  (L2: 42), mesòtu  (L1: 88), l’ɛ̀tunu  (L1: 31)

• The definite article for masculine plural nouns is /-to/  (or /-so/,  /-no/).

            Examples: kòl’etu  (L1: 82), snòpetu  (L3: 54) // [no examples of proximal or distal articles attested in the texts]

• The tripartite article invariably implies a tripartite system of demonstrative pronouns.

            Examples: sàe  (L1: 4), tvà (L1: 56), nvà  (V4: 70)

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

            1st singular nominative: jɛ̀  (L1: 23)

            3rd plural short form accusative: hi  (V4: 72) or i  (V4: 30)

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

            Examples: nɛ̀kvə l’uvàtkə  (L2: 70), nɛ̀kəf kujədž’ɛ̀k  (L2: 80), n’èkvə gudɨ̀nə  (V3: 104)

• The interrogative pronoun “kina” is used in place of “kakvo”.

               Example: kinà (L2: 83, V2: 15)

• The interrogative pronoun “kutri” and its derivatives are used in place of “koji”.

            Example: kutrɤ̀  (V4: 4)

• The dialectal form “vrit” in the meaning ‘all’ is frequently found.

            Example: vrìt (L2: 54)

• Verbs of all three conjugations have the same endings in 1st person singular present tense forms of unprefixed verbs: /-m/. In prefixed verbs it is either /-m/  or /-a/.

            Examples: hòd’əm  (V3: 45), s’edəm  (V3: 48) // zàmes’əm  (V2: 60), òmur’ə  (V3: 59)

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

            Examples: bilìli ( L2: 44), dušlìli  (V4: 3)

• Passive participles are frequently formed with the suffix /-t/.

            Examples: iskuvàtu  (V3: 88), sml’èti  (V1: 54)

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

            Examples: fàtəš  (L2: 44), ràdəhə  (V4: 75)



Three phonetic features are found in Vŭrbina, but not in Leštak.

• The vowel /e/  is frequently raised in stressed syllables, including as a reflex of “jat”.

            Examples: pè̝čki  (V3: 103), pè̝š  (V2: 61), mè̝secə  (V2: 26)

• The vowel /i/  is frequently retracted to /ɨ/.

            Examples: sɨ̀tu  (V1: 9), gudɨ̀nə  (V3: 72)

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

            Examples: wòs’em  (V3: 82), wògən’ən  (V3: 103), nətwòč’eni  (V3: 8)



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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