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 BALKAN -TRJAVNA
The large northeastern region comprises two large dialect groupings, Moesian and Balkan, which share a number of features, yet they are distinct enough to be considered separately, with each divided into clear sub-groups. Within the Balkan group, the Central Balkan variety is represented on the website by four villages from the region of Trjavna. It is important to note that the overall Central Balkan group is quite diverse (even the principal unifying feature, the modern results of the historical vowel “jat”, shows variation from region to region). Due to organizational factors concerning the field expeditions which produced the data for the BDLT website, data was obtained only from the town of Trjavna (T) and four villages in its vicinity: Bangejci (B), Černovrŭh (Č), Prestoj (P) and Stančov Han (SH).
The list below summarizes the salient features of the speech of the Trjavna region. It is based on the speech of these five locales as represented by texts on the site, with examples taken from those texts.
Abbreviations: the capital letter refers to the village, as noted above; the letter represents the village (e.g. P = Prestoj) and the following number identifies the text from that village (e.g. B1 = Bangejci 1), and the number after the colon identifies the line within the text where the cited form occurs.
• The historical Slavic vowel “jat” developed as in the standard language, namely /’a/ before hard syllables and /e/ before soft syllables. There are two exceptions with respect to the standard language: the vowel /e/ appears in 1st and 2nd plural past tense forms, and word-finally in aorist forms.
Examples: zəpr’èhme (B1: 86), b’èxmi (B2: 5), zəpustè (SH3: 9)
In fact, these forms are regular if one applies the rule strictly: the standard forms are exceptional in displaying /’a/ before a soft syllable.
• The results for the historical sequences “ja” and “post-alveolar + a” are the same everywhere as those for “jat”.
Examples: tujàgətə (SH1: 9), təčàh (SH2: 7), venčàvət (Č: 19) // jèrenci (T: 178), tujègi (SH1: 7), təčèhmi (B2: 71), venčèjət (Č: 21)
• The vowel /i/ is replaced by /u/ between postalveolar and labial consonants.
Example: žuv’èi (B1: 26)
• The unstressed vowels /e/, /a/, /o/ are pronounced as /i/, /ə/, /u/, respectively; this is very close to what Bulgarian dialectologists call “full vowel reduction”. The pronunciation of unstressed /e/ as /’ə/ is relatively rare.
Examples: vrit’ènutu (SH1: 58), mitɤ̀ (B1: 36) // grədɤ̀ (B1: 27), krəkàtə (SH1: 72) // udlip’ɤ̀d (P: 70), s’elu (B1: 7) // b’ed’ən (SH1: 14)
In endings of the imperfect tense, however, /e/ remains unchanged.
Examples: òd’exa (SH1: 5), rəbòt’exə̥ (SH1: 22), pràvea (B1: 49)
• The consonant /x/ is best preserved (sometimes shifted to /h/) in past tense verbal endings before a consonant. It is frequently lost in all other positions.
Examples: b’exmi (B2: 5), zəpr’ehmi (B1:86) // òdea (B1: 82), r’èku (SH3: 41), ispupàsuə (T: 140)
Sometimes this loss is compensated by a lengthening of the preceding vowel.
Examples: isɤ̀:ni (B2: 43), duisɤ̀:ni (B2: 45)
• The accent is retracted in the plural form of some disyllabic feminine nouns.
Examples: ìgli (B2: 55), dɤ̀ski (Č: 44)
• Clitic forms (short form object pronouns, reflexive particles, and present tense forms of the verb “sŭm”) are stressed after the conjunction “kato”; this phenomenon is termed “additional accent”
Examples: kəd gì izvìkəme (T: 150), kəd gì putklədɤ̀t (P: 16), kəd gì izbràxmi (SH3: 36)
• The ending of feminine nouns, when stressed, is the same as the result of the historical Slavic “back nasal”, namely /ɤ/.
Examples: zim’ɤ̀ (B1: 69), gurɤ̀tə (Č: 23), vudɤ̀ (B2: 42)
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, the old nominative form in /-a/ was adopted as the single form for feminine nouns meaning persons, and the casus generalis was adopted as the single form for all other feminine nouns.