The Bulgarian Language


Bulgarian is the official language in the Republic of Bulgaria. The country is located in South-eastern Europe, bordering the Black Sea, between Romania and Greece. The language itself is affiliated to the Slavic language family. Other languages belonging to that family are Russian, Polish, Czech and Macedonian, to name a few.

Spoken in

Although Bulgarian is mainly spoken on the territory of Bulgaria (population around 7.4 million), in total there are around 12 million speakers around the world. There are large Bulgarian minorities in neighbouring Greece, Turkey, Macedonia, also in the Ukraine. In addition there are a large number of Bulgarians immigrants escaping the country during the last century due to wars or the political situation in the past. They emigrated into a number of countries – mainly in Western Europe and Northern America – Canada, Germany, UK and USA.

History of its origins

Bulgarian is known to be the first written Slavic language (9th century A.D.). There are 3 periods in the evolution of the language – Old Bulgarian, Middle Bulgarian and Modern Bulgarian, the latter dates from as far back as the 16th century. The foundations of the language were laid by the brothers Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius, monks and philosophers born in the 9th century A.D. in the city of Thessaloniki (present-day Greece). It is still being argued over their ethic origin - Bulgarian or not, but in Bulgaria they are greatly saluted for their work and yearly, there is a day celebrated in their name as a public holiday.

St. St. Cyril and Methodius are in fact attributed with the development of the Glagolotic script (9th century A.D.), which was the basis for the Cyrillic alphabet, developed later by their disciples. The two brothers used to translate Church literature from Greek into the new language – called the Slavic language, they and their disciples worked on. They distributed the literature over the Balkans region. Some time later the Slavic language, which is the common origin of the rest of the languages of the Slavic family, was renamed officially to Bulgarian language (11th century A.D).


The official, written, Bulgarian is the same for the whole territory of the country. Whereas in spoken Bulgarian, there are several regional variations, which very slightly differ from each other. They are not official dialects, but dialect is the common folk’s name. Main differences are in the way people pronounce some vowels, as well as, indeed, some local words used only in the particular regions. Prominent variations are used in the following regions:

  • In the West, mainly in the area surrounding the capitol Sofia – there is the “shopski” dialect, named after the region
  • In the North-east Bulgaria, named after the country’s largest sea-port Varna – “varnenski” dialect
  • “plovdivski” – in the city of Plovdiv and the area around it.

Slavic Language family

“Bulgarian is a South-Slavic language; it forms a dialect continuum with Macedonian and Eastern Serbo-Croatian dialects. Bulgarian is also a member of the Balkan language area“ (Aronson 1992). Further languages from the Slavic-family, where certain similarities to Bulgarian thesaurus are more or less obvious:

  • East Slavic languages – Ukrainian, Russian, Belarusian;
  • South Slavic – most of the Balkan languages – Serbo-Croatian, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Slovenian;
  • West Slavic – Czech, Slovak, Polish.

Modern Bulgarian

Nowadays there are plenty of words influenced by the English culture. Teenagers occasionally use English expressions or terms in music, sports or technology – well known by their peers.

Historically, due to Bulgaria being part of the Ottoman (Turkish) empire, back in (14th -19th century A.D.) century there are everyday expressions and words which are influenced, or taken from the Turkish language. Mainly in the cuisine there are some dishes and ingredients, which names have Turkish origin – e.g. patladjian, sudjuk, giuvetsh. In the evolution of the Modern Bulgarian (16th -20th century) there is a certain influence of German, French and Latin.

Links of Interest

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