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NORTHEASTERN: WESTERN BALKAN:  Panagjurište / Teteven 

            The Western Balkan dialect group consists of the dialects of Panagjurište, Pirdop, and Teteven; the BDLT site includes one village representing the Panagjurište dialect, Oborište (O), and one representing the Teteven dialect, Vasiljovo (V).

            The Western Balkan group has been recognized as such only by Bojadžiev (1981: 175); it is not mentioned by other major classifications of Bulgarian dialects (Miletich 1903, Stojkov 1993, and the dialect map created at the Institute for Bulgarian Language (http://ibl.bas.bg//bulgarian_dialects/). What has presumably kept other sources from recognizing these dialects as a single group is the fact that they differ with respect to one important feature, the continuant of the historical Slavic vowel “back nasal” (which is /ɤ/  in Panagurište, /a / in Pirdop, and the broad vowel /ɛ/  in Teteven). Otherwise, because these dialects do share such a large number of common features, we follow Bojadžiev in viewing them as a separate linguistic unit, the Western Balkan group.

            What makes this group “western” is the presence of at least three features shared with the Western dialects, namely accent advancement in aorist forms and L-participles of unprefixed verbs, hard consonants before the endings 1st singular and 3rd plural present tense verbs, and the fact of insignificant changes in the quality of unstressed vowels. What makes it undoubtedly part of the Balkan group, however, is the behavior of the historical Slavic vowel “jat”.

            There is an additional curious feature about the dialect of Teteven in that it is only one of two dialects throughout Bulgaria in which the vowel /ɛ/  appears with the lexical distribution of the vowel /ɤ/  in the standard language and in many dialects. The other dialect is that of Erkeč, located at the easternmost edge of the Balkan mountain range, physically quite distant from the Teteven region. But whereas this vowel is regularly heard in Erkeč, even in the speech of children, it is more limited in Teteven, where speakers will use it,  the younger ones perhaps with some exaggeration, only when asked to talk “in the old way”.

            The list below summarizes the salient features of the Western Balkan dialect group. It is based on the speech of the two villages represented on the site, with examples taken from the texts presented on this site. We list first the features common to them, and then those that differentiate the Panagjurište group (represented by Oborište) from the Teteven one (represented by Vasiljovo).

            Abbreviations: the capital letter refers to the village, as noted above; the following number identifies the text from that village, if there is more than one (e.g. O1 = Oborište 1, V2 = Vasiljovo 2), and the number after the colon identifies the line within the text where the cited form occurs.




• The historical Slavic vowel “jat” appears either as the back vowel /’a/  (with softening of the preceding consonant) or as the front vowel /e/,  depending on the nature of the following syllable or the coda of the syllable itself (a following soft consonant can also condition /e/). This development is common to nearly all other Balkan dialects, and also characterizes the standard language. The specific feature of Western Balkan dialects is that /’a/ appears before post-alveolar fricatives.

            Examples: l’aba  (O1: 7), pr’àsno  (O1: 34), sed’ànka  (V1: 28), ml’àku  (V1: 38) // živèe  (O1: 80), gol’èmi  (V1: 21) // n’àštu  (O1: 57)


• The results of the the historical sequences “ja” and “post-alveolar + a” are the same as those for “jat”. Here the specific features of Western Balkan dialects is that it appears as /a/  after post-alveolar consonants, and /e/  after /j/.

            Examples: dɤržàle  (O1: 96), godežàre  (V1: 59) // jèzdat  (V1: 67), èzdat  (V1: 68), ègnetḁtḁ  (O: 139), èjca  (O: 70)

      The first two examples with /e/  appear to contradict the rule in that there is no soft consonant or front vowel in the syllable following, and the second two appear to contradict it in that there is no initial /j/.  Historically the correct “triggers” were present, however. In the first instance there used to be a soft consonant before the verbal ending but it subsequently hardened in this and other dialects; and in the second, the following front vowel caused the loss of initial /j/.

• The consonant /x/  is lost in 1st person plural past tense forms; this loss is “compensated” by lengthening of the preceding vowel:

            Examples: ìma:me  (V1: 22), zbìra:me  (V1: 2), òde:me  (V2: 21), vìka:me  (O2: 57)

• The sequence /mn/  is dissimilated to /vn/  between two vowels.

            Example: zìvnici  (O1: 78) // [no examples for Vasiljovo]



• The accent is retracted in some disyllabic feminine nouns.

            Examples: rɛ̀ka  (V1: 91), vòda  (V1: 186), rɤ̀ka  (O1: 173), vòda  (O1: 142)

• The accent is retracted from the theme vowel in the present tense of many verbs of the 2nd conjugation.

            Examples: vàrim  (V1: 35), svàlim  (O1: 52), izdòat  (O1: 134), utài  (O1: 154)

• The accent advances to the theme vowel in aorist forms and participles.

            Examples: stanɛ̀  (V1: 3), sipàle  (V1: 49), kupìle  (V1: 71), stanàxme  (O1: 57), pazìla  (O1: 44), slagàla  (O1: 47)

    This shift does not occur if the verb form has a syllabic prefix.

            Examples: zagìna  (V1: 22), zabràila  (V1: 63), napràvihme  (O1: 56)



• The ending of feminine nouns is the vowel which is the result of the historical Slavic “back nasal” (the actual form of which is one of the major differences between the sub-groups of Western Balkan; see below for more commentary).

            Examples: dɤskɤ̀  (O1: 15), ofcɤ̀  (O1: 97), vojnɛ̀ta  (V1: 5), rekɛ̀ta  (V1: 47)         

      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 and was used for all other meanings. In these dialects, as in most eastern dialects, it was this casus generalis that was adopted as the single form of feminine nouns (which elsewhere have adopted the old nominative form ending in /-a/  as their single form).

• The unstressed form of the masculine definite article is /-a/;  the stressed form is the vowel which is the result of the historical Slavic “back jer” (the actual form of which is one of the major differences between the sub-groups of Western Balkan; see below for more commentary).

            kvasɤ̀  (O1: 14), l’àba  (O1: 39) // gradɛ̀  (V2: 4), pòpa  (V1: 86)

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

            Examples: kravàje  (V1: 40), gajdàre  (V2: 23), kalɤ̀pe  (O1: 114)

• The consonant before 1st singular and 3rd plural present tense endings in the 2nd conjugation is hard.

            Examples: pòmna  (V1: 8), gònat  (V1: 23), razvalɤ̀  (O1: 15), delɤ̀t  (O2: 37), pokànɤtə  (O2: 29)

• The plural ending of L-participles is /-e/.

            Examples: zè̝le  (V1: 47), sipàle, gledàle  (O1: 96), dɤržàle  (O1: 26)




• The historical Slavic vowels “back jer” and “ back nasal” appear as /ɤ/  in the Panagjurište dialect (except for the prefix vɤz- , where the “back jer” appears as /o/). In the Teteven dialect, these vowels appear as /ɛ/  in stressed syllables and /a/  in unstressed ones.

            Examples for back nasal: rɤ̀ka  (O1: 173), okɤ̀pa  (O2: 42) // pɛ̀t’a  (V1: 60), rɛ̀ka  (V1: 91), dòdat  (O2: 29), rac’ète  (V1: 51)

            Example for back jer: presɤ̀:va  (O2: 48) // vɛ̀nka  (V1: 83); dobìtak  (V1: 38)

            Example for back jer in prefix: vozidè  (O1: 22), voziòdi  (O1: 27)

• Early South Slavic syllabic /r/  appears as syllabic /ṛ/  in Teteven, but in Panagjurište it is as in the standard language.

            Examples: sṛ̀bete  (V1: 4), pṛ̀stenete  (V1: 46) // vɤ̀rne  (O2: 92), vrɤ̀bnica  (O2: 40).

• The vowel /e/  is frequently raised in stressed syllables in Teteven, but not in Panagjurište.

            Examples: žè̝nena  (V1: 2). momčè̝ta  (V1: 29), zasè̝lile  (V2: 3) // pedesèta  (O1: 62), ofcète  (O1: 93)

• The consonant /j/ is lost between two vowels in Panagjurište but retained in Teteven.

            Examples: nèa  (O1: 9), ogrèa  (O1: 13), izdòat  (O1: 134) // pejàa  (V1: 7), krəvàje  (V1: 40)

• Voicing is retained in the preposition “v” in Panagjurište but not in Teteven.

            Example: v onìja  (O1: 26) // vəf rəkɛ̀ta  (V1: 47)

• There is a schwa-like release of final consonants as marker of unfinished phrase in Panagjurište.

            Examples: kvàsə  (O1: 14), l’àpə  (O1: 16)



• The formant /-t/  is lacking from the definite plural forms of neuter nouns in Teteven, but present in Panagjurište.

            Examples: momìčeata  (V1: 27), momčè̝ata  (V1: 30) // kačètata  (O1: 158)

• The future can be formed with the complementizer da  in Panagjurište but not in Teteven.

            Example: še da ìdem  (O2: 62) // še zakòlim  (V1: 86)



     Bojadžiev, Todor. 1981. Dialektite na bŭlgarskija ezik. Bŭlgarskijat ezik – ezik na 13-vekovna dŭržava, pp. 52-70. Sofia: Narodna prosveta.

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

     Stojčev, Kr. Tetevenski govor. Sbornik za narodni umotvorenija i narodopis 31, 1915.

     Stojkov, Stojko. 1993. Bǔlgarska dialektologija, 3rd edition. Sofia: Izdatelstvo na BAN.


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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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