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.
NORTHWESTERN: Bjala Slatina - Pleven
The easternmost dialects within the larger region of Northwest Bulgarian dialects are known as the Bjala Slatina - Pleven dialect. This group is represented on the website by two villages: Gigen (G) and Petŭrnica (P). Maxim Mladenov (1993: 60, 180) made a subsequent division within this group, citing the nominative form of the first singular pronoun as the isogloss dividing them. He called the western group (with the pronoun ja, jaze) the Bjala Slatina dialect, and the eastern group (with the pronoun az) the Iskŭr-Vit dialect. Both the villages on this site belong to this latter eastern group. In addition, these two villages are characterized by an important feature that both binds them and marks them as different from the majority of the Northwestern region: the historical Slavic vowel “jat” appears as open /ɛ/, distinct from etymological /e/. This development is found in all stressed syllables regardless of the nature of the following syllable. This same feature is found in a relatively small number of villages scattered along the western periphery of the major line dividing all Bulgarian dialects according to the development of this vowel (the “jat” isogloss), all the way from the Danube in the far north to Pazardžik in the central south (Gorno Vŭršilo, also represented on this site) is another one of them). These villages do not differ in any other significant way from their immediate neighbors.
The list below summarizes the salient features of the Bjala Slatina - Pleven 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. Because these two villages are not immediate neighbors, their dialects differ in a number of ways. We list first the features common to them, and then those that differentiate them.
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. G1 = Gigen 1) or simply the village (P = Petǔrnica), and the number after the colon identifies the line within the text where the cited form occurs.
• The historical Slavic vowel “jat” always appears as /ɛ/.
Examples: dvɛ̀ (G1: 4), gulɛ̀m (G1: 8), dubrɛ̀ (P: 4), živɛ̀le (P: 1)
• Unstressed /o/ is occasionally replaced by /a/.
Example: bìvale (P: 35)
• Soft /l’/ is replaced by /j/.
Examples: bɛ̀jek (P: 11), pojànata (P: 38)
• Soft /t’/ and /d’/ are replaced by /k’/ and /g’/.
Example: bràk’e (P: 3)
• The accent advances to the theme vowel in aorist forms and participles.
Example: skočìa (P: 25),
This shift does not occur if the verb form has a syllabic prefix.
Example: naràždaa (P: 3)
• The accent is retracted from the theme vowel in the present of many 2nd conjugation verbs.
Example: poizmòril (G2: 7)
• The neuter plural formant /t/ is lost in definite forms:
Example: momčèata (G2: 4)
• The ending of feminine nouns, when stressed, is /-ɤ/ and when unstressed /-ə/, both of which are the result of the historical Slavic “back nasal”.
Examples: vujnɤ̀ (G1: 1), glavɤ̀ (P: 28)
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 plural of masculine nouns is /-e/.
Example: žetvàre (G1: 9)
• The plural ending of the L-participle is /-e/.
Example: fanàle (G1: 6)
• Verbal nouns end in /-n’e/.
Example: jàden’e (P: 51)
• The ending of 1st person plural present tense forms can be either /-me/ or /-m/.
Examples: živɛ̀eme (P: 4), dɤržìm (P: 35), kopàem (G2: 20)
• The consonant /x/ in verbal endings developed in different ways in the two villages. In Petǔrnica it was replaced by /j/ in final position and before a consonant, whereas in Gigen its loss was “compensated” by lengthening of the preceding vowel.
Examples: dodòjme (P:6), nòsej (P: 37) // kòse:me (G1: 10).
• The consonant /l/ in syllable-final position remained unchanged in Gigen, but in Petǔrnica it was lost and the preceding vowel was lengthened.
Examples: poizmòril (G2:7) // dovè: (P: 10), da:bòka (P: 21); bì: (P: 16)
• End stress in adjectives is recorded only in Petŭrnica.
Examples: nemì (P: 29) // gul’èmi (G1: 4)
• Accent in prefixed first singular present tense forms is sometimes shifted to the initial syllable in Petŭrnica, though this is not consistent. It does not happen in Gigen.
Examples: zàveda (P: 39) vs. poglèdna (P:14) // [no relevant examples in Gigen]
• The shape of the vowel in the plural article in Petǔrnica is either /i/ or /e/, whereas in Gigen the vowel is always pronounced somewhere between the two, as /e̝/. What is interesting is that in Petǔrnica the shape of the vowel in the article is determined by the preceding vowel (the final vowel of the noun in question).
Examples: ezì̀citi (P: 22), kon’ète (P: 37) // kočànite̝ (G2: 22), ofcète̝ (G2: 27).
This is one of the few instances of “vowel harmony” in Bulgarian dialects.
Mladenov, Maksim. 1993. Bŭlgarskite govori v Rumŭnija. Sofia: Izdatelstvo na BAN.
Stojkov, Stojko. 1962. Kŭm dialektnija konsonantizŭm v bŭlgarski ezik (promeni na sŭglasnata l v govora na s. Petŭrnica, Plevensko). Bŭlgarski ezik 13: 13-19.