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.
CENTRAL RUPIC: RHODOPE: Velingrad (Sǔrnica)
The name Velingrad, used here to refer to the three villages of Sǔrnica, Graševo and Sveta Petka, is not intended as a specific dialect group name. It is rather the name of the relevant administrative region, and is chosen here as a cover term for a number of reasons. The established term is “Čepino dialects”, but none of the three villages on this site are among the seven named as part of Čepino in Miletič’s classic source on the Rhodope dialects (Miletič 1912:8). When used as a geographical term, “Čepino” includes those original seven villages cited by Miletič plus two more, one of which is Sveta Petka (Čankov 1958: 499).
Linguistically, each of the three villages on the site is both close to the Čepino dialect, and distinct from it in particular ways. Although Graševo and Sveta Petka are geographically closer to the Čepino group, their dialects are less similar to it and in fact have a number of features connecting them with the Razlog-Babjak dialect group. By contrast, Sǔrnica is geographically further from the Čepino group, but has more dialectal features in common with it. The solution taken here, therefore, is to group all three under the administrative term Velingrad, but to describe Sǔrnica separately from Graševo and Sveta Petka.
The list below summarizes the salient features of the dialect of Sǔrnica. It is based on the speech of that village as represented by texts on the site, with examples taken from those texts.
Abbreviations: the capital letter refers to the village, the letter represents the village and the following number identifies the text from that village (e.g. S1 = Sǔrnica 1), and the number after the colon identifies the line within the text where the cited form occurs.
The dialect of Sŭrnica clearly belongs to the Rhodope dialects, in that its vocalic system is characterized by the primary features defining Rhodope dialects; these vowels are discussed below. At the same time the dialect of Sŭrnica stands apart from the core area of Rhodope dialects (as does the Čepino dialect) in that it lacks the tripartite system of definite articles and demonstratives.
• The historical Slavic vowel “jat” appears as /ɛ/ in stressed syllables.
Examples: vrɛ̀me (S1: 11), nɛ̀štu (S1: 13), d’ɛ̀te (180)
• The results of the historical sequences “ja” and “post-alveolar + a” are the same as those of “jat”, namely /ɛ/ in stressed syllables.
Examples: ubič’ɛ̀j (S1: 60), jɛ̀dene (S1: 70), uvəž’ɛ̀vət (S1: 143)
The merger of these two (historical “jat” and etymological “ja”) is a basic Rhodope feature.
• The historical Slavic vowels “back jer” and “back nasal” appear in stressed syllables as /ɤ/.
Examples of “back jer”: dɤ̀š’ (S3: 32), dɤ̀ski (S4: 19), təkɤ̀f (S2: 81)
Examples of “back nasal”: sɤ̀deše (S1: 130), vɤ̀tre (S2: 9)
• The historical Slavic vowels “front jer” and “front nasal” appear in stressed syllables as /’ɤ/ (i.e. /ɤ/ with softening of the preceding consonant), though with certain exceptions.
Examples of “front jer”: l’ɤ̀n (S2: 25), isp’ɤ̀niš (S2: 185) // tɤ̀vnutu (S4: 56), ispèniš (S2: 189)
Examples of “front nasal”: m’ɤ̀ku (S2: 12), gur’ɤ̀štətə (2: 51) // pr’eždə (S2: 58), z’èt’e (1: 195)
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 also a basic Rhodope feature.
• The early South Slavic sequence “/čr/ + front jer” appears as /č’ɤr/.
Example: č’ɤ̀rnite (S2: 121)
• The stressed vowel /o/ is sporadically pronounced as /wo/.
Examples: prwòstə (S3: 21), wògɤn’ (S3: 102)
• A prothetic /j/ occurs before stressed initial /e/.
Example: jèlhə (S2: 99)
• There is frequent elision of unstressed vowels.
Examples: vìtte (S1: 191), zìmme (S2: 55), sɛ̀k (S3: 25), t’èlve (S4: 14)
• Soft consonants may appear word-finally.
Examples: nəzàt’ (S2: 180), icumèn’ (S3: 52), kàl’ (S4: 14)
• The sequence /mn/ is dissimilated to /ml/ word-initially, and to /vn/ intervocalically.
Examples: mlògu (S2: 147), tɤ̀vnutu (S4: 56).
• There is frequent occurrence of double accent.
Examples: cìgənkìte (S2: 55), nìkugàš’ (S1: 89)
• The accent retracts in many disyllabic feminine and neuter nouns.
Examples: pòlə (S1: 193), jèlhə (S2: 99); d’ɛ̀te (S1: 180), plàtnu (S2: 10), dɤ̀rvu (S2: 185), vɤ̀že (S3: 26)
• The accent is retracted to initial syllable in 1st person singular present tense forms.
Example: kɤ̀lnɤ (S1: 133)
• The accent is retracted to the initial syllable in the imperative.
Example: pr’èdi (S2: 128).
• The plural of masculine nouns is /-e/.
Examples: kàmənete (S2: 70), trùp’e (S2: 3)
• The masculine singular definite article in nouns is /-ɤ/ after hard consonants and /-e/
(or /-ɤ/) after soft ones.
Examples: l’ənɤ̀ (S2: 10), cvetɤ̀ (S2: 83) // məž’ɤ̀ (S1: 22), z’èt’e (S1: 195), fəsùl’e (S3: 90)
• The plural masculine definite article may be /-to/.
Example: məž’ètu (S2: 122)
• The ending of feminine nouns, when stressed, is the same as the result of the historical Slavic “back nasal”, namely /ɤ/.
Examples: gləvɤ̀tə (S3: 30), zem’ɤ̀tə (S3: 39)
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 dialect, 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 dialectal form “vrit” in the meaning ‘all’ is frequently found.
Example: frèd (S2: 139)
• Passive participles are formed almost exclusively with the suffix /-t/.
Examples: umàčkət (S2: 204), vɤ̀rzətù (S3: 32), utvòr’əti (S3: 151)
Exception: umòkrenu (S3: 37)
• The use of neuter predicate forms has been generalized to include unspecified reference to human subjects.
Examples: kòjtu e pò pɤ̀rgəvu (S3: 5), kəkvò si s’àlu, kvò si kupàlu (S3: 115).
Miletič, Ljubomir. 1912. Die Rhodopenmundarten der bulgarischen Sprache. Schriften der Balkankomission der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Vienna.
Čankov, Žečo. 1958: Geografski rečnik na Bŭlgarija. Sofia, “Nauka i izkustvo”.