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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EASTERN RUPIC: Thrace
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The larger Rupic dialect group covers most of the south of Bulgaria, and the easternmost portion of Rupic includes two major dialect groups, Thracian and Strandža (Bojadžiev 1991: 20-24). The Thracian dialect group as such is not completely coterminous with the geographical region called Thrace; at the same time parts of the eastern Rhodopes are within this group. Thracian dialects are spoken in the valley of the river Marica and to the south of it, and to the northeast of it in the direction of Burgas. There are two sub-groups, northern and southern, which are separated by the river Arda (Bojadžiev 1991: 33). The northern group is represented on the website by four villages from the region of Haskovo: Kralevo (K), Malevo (M), Stalevo (S), Vŭglarovo (V). The southern group is represented by two villages from the region of Ivajlovgrad, Drabishna (D) and Huhla (H). Because features common to the two groups significantly outnumber the differences, the two groups are described here together. Specific notice is made of the differences.
The list below summarizes the salient features of the Thracian dialect. It is based on the speech of the six 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. K1 = Kralevo 1, D2 = Drabišna 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 Malevo: they are further identified on the website by abbreviations referring to the administrative region in which they are located. The Malevo described here is located in the Haskovo region; on the website it is labeled Malevo/Hsk.
• The historical Slavic vowel “front jer” appears regularly as /e/.
Examples: t’ènku (H2: 105; S4: 56), žènəlu (M1: 192), dl’ègi (K1: 47)
• The historical Slavic nasal vowels appear as in the standard language: /ɤ/ for the back nasal and /e/ for the front nasal, including after post-alveolar consonants. The only exception (the only evidence of the phenomenon called “mixing of nasals”) is the word for ‘handful’.
Examples for back nasal: pɤ̀ti (H5: 25), rɤ̀kə (V2: 44)
Examples for front nasal: ž’ètvə (D4: 4, M1: 184), š’ètəm (H2: 43) //: šɤ̀pkə (D2: 13)
Most of the differences between the two groups concern the historical Slavic vowels “jat” and the historical sequences and “post-alveolar + a”. These are outlined at the end of the description.
• The vowel /i/ is replaced by /’u/ or /y/ before labial consonants. The change is especially common after post-alveolar consonants.
Examples: bỳvə (H1: 31), ut’ùəm (D1: 32), ž’uv̀è̝j (M2: 113), č’uvìjki (V2: 86)
• Unstressed vowels are frequently lost.
Examples: nd’àl’ə (H5: 22), dumàtentu (D1: 43), mlàtte (K2: 99), žəlzàtə (V2: 97)
If the consonant preceding this loss is a sonorant, it is sometimes lengthened; this change has been called “consonant-vowel fusion”.
Examples: stàr:te (M1: 33), r’ətè̝n:tu (S1: 62)
• The consonant /j/ is inserted before an initial stressed /e/.
Examples: jèdru (H3: 51), jètərvi (S1: 10)
• The early South Slavic sequence “/čr/ + front jer” appears as /cɤr/.
Example: cɤ̀rn (H1: 22)
• The consonant /x/ is replaced by /h/ in all positions; it is sometimes lost, without any apparent systemic rule.
Examples: b’àhə (K1: 40), bè̝hme (M1: 108), l’ahə (V2: 53) // l’abə (K2: 10), rànili (H6: 74), izgl’èdəə (D1: 15)
• In word-initial position, the consonant /f/ is replaced by /h/.
Examples: hučì (s2: 3), hùrni (V1: 54), h udəìte (D1: 50)
• Soft consonants can appear word-finally.
Examples: velìgden’ (D2: 29), həmbàr’ (M1: 254), rudàn’ (S1: 65), dè̝vet’ (V2: 56), žuòt’ (K1: 73)
• The consonant /l/ is palatalized before soft consonants.
Examples: jàbəl’k’i (D2: 82), vijàl’ki (M1: 238), mɤ̀l’čə (V2: 122)
• The consonant /v/ is lost before a rounded vowel.
Examples: dòrə (D2: 138), tòjtu (H3: 51), duòl’ni (K1: 11), utòri (S1: 169), òlvet (V2: 38)
• The sequence /dn/ is assimilated to /nn/.
Examples: pànnələ (D2: 162), nəpànnəli (K3: 63), s’è̝nnem (V2: 127)
• The sequences /bn/ and /vn/ are assimilated to /mn/.
Examples: drèmničku (D1: 42), drèmnu (H3: 52), gràmnəd (K2: 51), ràmnu (H4: 5)
• The initial sequence /mn/ is dissimilated to /ml/.
Examples: mlògu (H2: 43, M2: 77, V1: 100)
• The sequence /str/ is replaced by /sr/.
Examples: srìgələ (S1: 13), srùnkə (V1: 6), nəsɤ̀rgənə (H1: 17)
• The consonant /j/ is replaced by /v/ after a rounded vowel.
Examples: stuv’ɤ̀t (H6: 15), dvìme (K2: 58), duv’àhne (H4: 34)
• The accent is regularly retracted in disyllabic feminine and neuter nouns.
Examples: l’àhə (V2: 53), nògə (D1: 23), čòrbə (S2: (74), dɤ̀ski (M1: 253), sèsri (V1: 74) // bràšnu (V1: 123), mòmč’etə (D1: 68), t’èletə (M2: 102)
• The accent is retracted to the initial syllable in 1st person singular present tense forms.
Examples: pèrə (H6: 18), mɤ̀l’čə (V2: 122), zàvedə (D2: 100), pòberə (K1: 56), ìspečə (M1: 265)
• The accent is retracted to the initial syllble in imperative forms.
Examples: s’enni (D2: 98), kàž’te (H1: 4), zàmesɨ (M1: 265), sùrni (S1: 107) vɤ̀rši (V2: 24)
• The masculine plural ending is /-e/.
Examples: kòkəle (D2: 177), prof’èsure (K2: 83), dòkture (S2: 11)
• The ending of feminine nouns, when stressed, is the same as the result of the historical Slavic “back nasal”, namely /ɤ/.
Examples: udɤ̀tə (D1: 84), vujnɤ̀ (H6: 62), žinɤ̀tə (K1: 18), gləvʌ̀tə (S2: 3)
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: rəkìti (M2: 39), nugì (H3: 47)
• The definite article for masculine plural nouns is /-to/.
Examples: səjvànetu (D1: 84), kəlàmetu̥ (S1: 112), òluvetu (V2: 98), ubòretu (H3: 34)
• The forms of the personal pronouns are different. Examples:
1st singular nominative: jà (K1: 16), jàs (D1: 39); the first form is more frequent.
3rd singular nominative neuter: tòj (D2: 72, K2: 74)
3rd singular accusative masculine: n’ègə (K3: 43)
3rd singular accusative feminine: nèhi (S4: 48)
3rd plural accusative short form: hi (D1: 93), i (D2: 57)
3rd plural dative short form: hmi (M1: 113), hni (S4: 40)
• The demonstrative pronouns distinguish a third degree of deixis, marking the idea “near” with the formant /-s-/, in addition to the expected “neutral” and “distant”, marked with the formants /-t-/ and /-on-/, respectively.
Examples: sòo (D1: 50), svà (K1: 2), tvà (S1: 117, D1: 4; K3: 8), nvà (H3: 52)
• The pronoun “kakǔv” and its derivatives are used instead of “koj” in adjectival function.
Examples: n’àkəv dèn’ (H3: 31), n’àkəf pɤ̀t (K2: 92; M1: 190), n’àkəv drɤ̀n (S3: 31)
• The interrogative pronoun “kutri” and its derivatives are used in place of “koji”.
Example: s’àkutri (H5: 41)
• The dialectal form “vrit” in the meaning ‘all’ is frequently found.
Example: frɤ̀t (D2: 67)
• The aorist theme vowel /o/ is replaced by /a/ (pronounced /ə/ when unstressed).
Examples: dun’èsəh (D2: 13), fl’àzəhme (K1: 2), p’è̝kəh (V1: 123)
• The present stem is used in the aorist forms and L-participles of some verbs.
Examples: zberàh (H3: 35), səberàl (K3: 50)
• The perfective stem is used in the secondary imperfective of some verbs.
Example: plàtəne (H6: 26), izvàdəš (K2: 78), hàtəme (M1: 158), s’àtəhme (S4: 34)
• Secondary imperfective forms of certain verbs end in -icam instead of expected -ičam.
Example: ublìcəli (S4: 47)
• Early Slavic “inserted jer” is retained in the inflected forms of L-participles.
Examples: obl’akələ (S4: 25), p’èkəli (V1: 111)
• There is reduplication of the morpheme /-l/ in L-participles with stressed endings.
Examples: dušlìli (H2: 63, D2: 7), reklìli (K3: 40)
• The future particle is zə in all villages except Huhla, where it is še.
Examples: zə (D1: 42, K1: 3, M2: 4, S1: 4, V1: 28) // še (H6: 93)
Both the historical Slavic vowels “jat” and etymological “ja” behave differently in the two subgroups.
• Historical Slavic “jat”. In the southern (Ivajlovgrad) group, it always appears as /’a/, whereas in the northern (Haskovo) group it 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 (that is, as in the standard language), except in aorist verb endings, where it is /e/.
Examples: s’àme (D1: 42), gul’àmijə (H5: 11) // b’àhə (K1: 40), d’àdu (S4: 33), bèše (K1: 12).
Example of aorist form: umr’è (M1: 54)
Within the northern group, the front vowel that appears before palatalizing environment takes different phonetic forms. It is the open vowel /ɛ/ in Stalevo (though sometimes also /e/), but is raised to the more closed vowel /e̝/ in the other villages.
Examples: : sm’ɛ̀n’əš (S1: 173), p’ɛ̀j (S1: 146) // jədèše (S2: 73) // pusè̝iš (K1: 84)
Finally, “jat” appears as /a/ after the /c/ in both the northern and southern groups.
Examples: càl’ (H1: 81; M1: 192; V2: 14)
• The historical sequences “ja” and “post-alveolar + a”. In the southern (Ivajlovgrad) group these always appear as /a/, whereas in the northern (Haskovo) group they appear either as the back vowel /a/ or the open front vowel /ɛ/ depending on the nature of the following syllable (except after /j/, where the result is always /a/).
Examples: teč’àš’e (D1: 84), uč’àhne (H2: 78) // issušàvə (S2: 51), nədnič’ɛret (M1: 184), uvəž’ɛvəhə (M1: 34), dərž’ɛ̀vi (S2: 88) // jàdenetu (M1: 113), vijàl’ki (M1: 238)
• The northern (Haskovo) group presents an interesting set of changes implementing what linguists call a “chain shift”, in which distinctions between vowels are maintained even as the individual vowels shift.
First, the vowel /e/ is frequently raised to /e̝/ in stressed syllables.
Examples: sè̝lu (K1: 19), b’è̝hme (S1: 70), dvè̝ (V2: 34)
Second, the high vowel /i/ is frequently retracted to /ɨ/.
Examples: burɨ̀lu (K2: 77), vərtɨ̀ (M1: 233), bərdɨ̀lu (S1: 143), ugurɨ̀š (V1: 120)
This chain shift continued, but only in Stalevo, with an occasional retraction of /ɤ/ to /ʌ/.
Examples: gləvʌ̀tə (S2: 3), jədʌ̀t (S2: 86)
The following traits are characteristic of the southern (Ivajlovgrad) dialect group.
• The 1st person plural ending /-ne/ for all tenses.
Examples: klàvəne (D1: 49), glubine (H2: 64) // hrànehne (D1: 49), b’àhne (H6: 32) // stòrihne (H6: 30)
• Instances, albeit infrequent, of 1st person singular present tense endings characteristic of Rhodope dialects, namely /-m/ in verbs of the 1st and 2nd conjugations, and /-a/ in prefixed verbs of the 3rd conjugation.
Examples: trɤ̀s’em (D2: 68), č’ètəm (H2: 67) // zàčukə (H6: 56)
• The future-in-the-past tense is formed with the future particle and the imperfect form of the verb.
Example: še ìməše (H3: 46)
Bojadžiev, Todor. 1991. Bŭlgarskite govori v zapadna (Belomorska) i istočna (Odrinska) Trakija. Sofia: Univerzitetsko izdatelstvo “Kliment Ohridski”.