Friday, 12 April 2013

Transitional dialects

Transitional dialects are spread about the two sides of today's Bulgarian-Serb border and are a gradual transition between Bulgarian and Serbian languages. Bulgarian are those dialects that were spoken inside the borders of Bulgaria before 1918, namely the dialects around Belogradchik, western of Berkovitsa, around Tsaribrod, Trən, Breznik, and Bosilegrad, known as Belogradchik-Trən dialect. Serbian are the dialects west of the border around Knjaževac, Pirot, Leskovac, and Vranja.

Transitional dialects between pure Bulgarian and pure Serbian contain traits from the two languages. From Bulgarian side, the beginning of these transitional dialects is in the settlements where the old nasal ѫ (Big Yus) is pronounced as у [u] so we have рука, мука instead of ръка, мъка or рака, мака. This pronunciation of ѫ as у is the main phonetic difference of these dialects compared to the standard Bulgarian, so they were called у-dialects [3].

Transitional dialects

These transitional or у-dialects from the Serbian side begin west of Morava along the line Smederevo, Kraguevəts, Trəstenik, Kurshumli, Prishtina, Prizren. From Bulgarian side they start along the line Belogradchik, Tsaribrod, Breznik, Bosilegrad, and 6 northern regions in Macedonia: Tetovo, Kumanovo, Preshovo, Gilyano, Kratovo, and Palanka. A small separate island of these dialects exist in Caraş-Severin County in Romania and there its speakers are called Krashovani and ethnically identify as Croats or Bulgarians. Speakers on the main territory are ethnically Bulgarians or Serbs. To the east and south of these regions are pure Bulgarian dialects, in which the regular substitution of ѫ is ъ, а or o while у is an exception.

The old population of Morava Valley (so-called Moravians) migrated along the military border with the Austrian Empire as early as 17-18 c. while the bulk of the old Bulgarian population was expeled from Belgrade Region after the capture of Belgrade in 1521. The regions along the Morava and Danube valleys remained very scarcely populated after the Ottoman conquest in 15-16 c. After the Karposh and Chiprovtsi uprisings, these regions were again populated mainly by Bulgarians coming from south and east. Walachians moved in the northern parts, in Mlava and Pecs valleys, and Kladovo. The Russian linguist Afanasiy Selishchev noted that Timok Walachians in Branichevo Region retained the old local toponymy which is of Bulgar, and not Serb, origin.

Hahn Bulgarian Morava map

Three empires that existed on the Balkan Peninsula: Byzantine Empire, First Bulgarian Empire, and Ottoman Empire, had their influence on forming transitional dialects between Serbian and Bulgarian. The historical and ethnographic aspects of this issue were worked out in detail by three Bulgarian authors: A. Ishirkov [86], S. Chilingirov [87], and G. Zanetov [88] [89] [90], while the linguistic aspects were first elucidated by B. Tsonev [3]

This border area has been included alternatively in Bulgaria or Serbia until 15th century, and after this until 1878 has been united politically, administratively, and economically. In the transitive dialects, there are traces of relationships that today do not exist. Generally speaking, these transitive dialects have a number of phonetic and other grammatical traits, some of which connect them with the Bulgarian, and others with the Serbian language system. It must be stressed, however, that in the main grammatical traits, transitive dialects are closer to Bulgarian than to Serbian, which is evidenced by the Bulgarian origin of the population. Serbian dialectologists, however, allege the opposite. They call these dialects "Torlakian dialects", and not transitive dialects, and allege that they are Serbian in their basis, in their primary traits. According to them, traits that are typically Bulgarian, such as the postfixed article, degraded case, analytical comparative degrees, etc. are not even due to Bulgarian influence but are some abstract "Balkanisms" which assumedly arose from assimilated Roman population. All other isoglosses which connect these dialects with the Bulgarian language system, according to Serbian dialectologists were chronologically secondary, much later. The only novel concept which they accepted in more recent time is that the issues about development and affiliations of these dialects shouldn't be linked to issues of ethnicity of their carriers.

The classification of the у-dialects to Bulgarian or Serbian language is not only linguistic but also a political problem. The codifier of the modern Serbian language Vuk Karađić as early as 19 c. wrote about the "torlakian dialect" in his Serbian Dictionary:

"Torlak is a person who speaks neither pure Serbian nor pure Bulgarian" [91]

Some of the Serbian linguists classify the у-dialects as a separate dialect, different from the other dialects of Serbo-Croatian (Štokavian, Čakavian, Kajkavian, etc.). Other Serbian linguists, as Milan Rešetar, Pavle Ivić, and Dalibor Brozović classify у-dialects as an old Štokavian dialect and name it Kosovo-Resavian dialect or Prizren-Timok dialect because some subdialects use the word що for 'what' (however, this is characteristic also for the Bulgarian dialects in today Bulgaria and Macedonia). On the other hand, some groups y-subdialects use the words кво, кикво or ко for 'what' (cf. the Standard Bulgarian какво).

Bulgarian linguists refer to the y-dialect area in Serbia and Kosovo as Prizren-Timok dialect or Kosovo-Morava dialect. For the territory of Bulgaria and the Western Borderland they use the name Belogradchik-Trən dialect (Rangel Bozhkov et al.) with Belogradchik, Trən, Godech, Breznik, Tsaribrod, Bosilegrad, etc., subdialects.

Stefan Mladenov defined these dialects as Transitional y-dialects that are a transition from Bulgarian to Serbian language but still Bulgarian for the bulk of their traits.

Krste Misirkov defined the western border of the y-dialects in this way:

"This is the line that begins on the right bank of the river Sava, goes to the south along the watershed of Kolubara and Morava, then along the watershed of Serbian Morava and Ibar towards Shkodra and the Adriatic."

According to Professors Benyo Tsonev and Gavril Zanetov who studied these dialects during the First World War when almost all Morava Valley was part of Bulgaria, the dialect continuum includes also the Požarevac (Pozharevəts) Region with the whole valley of river Great Morava (Common Morava), including Kruševac (Krushevəts), Smederevo, the region of Levoch, and the other left tributaries of Great Morava (only the lower reaches in the Lower Morava basin). For this reason the older Serbian authors call the Kosovo-Morava dialect – levachki (left) dialect.

Torlak dialect

Stoyko Stoykov called these dialects "transitional dialects" and thought that they shape a "gradual transition from Bulgarian to Serbian language" and the border between these languages is the state border before 1918, i.e. the subdialects Trən, Breznik, Belogradchik, Western Berkovitsa, Tsaribrod, and Bosilegrad are Bulgarian, while Knjaževac, Pirot, Leskovac, and Vranja are Serbian [1]; however, when writing this Prof. Stoykov worked in the circumstance of a totalitarian communist regime with censure in Bulgaria. According to Stoykov:

"The dialects along the western Bulgarian border, so-called 'transitional dialects', became an object of the Greater Bulgarian and Greater Serbian jingoism. Bulgarian and Serbian politicians tried through dialectology to prove that the dialects in the border area are pure Bulgarian or pure Serbian. Bulgarian linguists drew the border of Bulgarian language far to the west — from the Timok Estuary through Zaecar, Bolevac, Stalac, Pristina to Prizren. Serbian linguists placed the eastern border of Serbian language at Iskar River or even at the Yat border [1]."

From the Serbian side, the beginning of these transitional dialects is where traits characteristic for Bulgarian language begin: degradation of cases, archaic stress, lack of quantitet, lack of infinitive and of the old comparative degrees, retention of the old middle and end лъ and the more frequent use of definitive verb forms.

Bulgarian dialects in Serbia

The continuation of these у-dialects to north and west through Pirot and Nish regions through the whole Morava Valley, as well as through Prishtina and Prizren regions comprises a single dialect entity which is different from both Serbian and Bulgarian by the common trait of Yer fusion: the two Yers (ъ, Big Yer and ь, Small Yer) are pronounced in the same way as one darkened sound schwa – ъ [ə]:

Transitional dialect Old Bulgarian English
opinək (raw-hide shoe)
the eagle

Because this common trait of the transitional dialects spreads southwards through Kosovo Field, and to the north goes through the whole course of Morava, Tsonev [3] named them Kosovo-Morava dialects. Serbian dialectologists, such as Cvijić, true to their habit of inventing nationalities, call these dialects "torlak dialects" or "shop dialects" on the bases of the nickname of the population from these regions. No conclusions can be made only on the names "shops" and "torlaks" as these are very vague. It remains an open question if this population reflects some non-Slavic ethnicity. Based on the specific customs of this population, there is some reason to assume a foreign origin; however, in their language there is nothing that cannot be explained with reference to Bulgarian or Serbian: these dialects, although spread on a large area, didn't produce any individual traits. This, however, still doesn't mean that together they cannot be considered as a separate dialect. The reason that they were not completely assimilated into Bulgarian or Serbian was that throughout history they were on the border between Bulgaria and Serbia, and therefore they underwent a constant influence from east and west.

This relates to all Morava dialects, including Timok-Luzhica dialect, which A. Belić tried to present as free from all influences. The influence from east and south (from Bulgarian) has always been much greater than from the west (from Serbian). Exactly because of the strong influence from Bulgarian, Kosovo-Morava region is different from the Serbian nationality and language. Prof. Cvijić noticed very well this specificity; however, his explanation was wide off the mark. He saw in the Kosovo-Morava region a specific cultural belt, different from the Serbian culture, and because he didn't wish to admit that this non-Serbian culture is a continuation from Bulgarian side, he called the Kosovo-Morava cultural belt Byzanthine-Tsintsar, different from the Serbian cultural belt which he called 'patriarchal'. It is much more natural to accept the obvious, knowing (as Cvijić knew) that the larger part of the population in the Kosovo-Morava region came from south and east. For the Morava region, Cvijić himself wrote: "Most of the immigrants came from Kosovo and Macedonia", and for the Timok region, he wrote: " ... has immigrants from different regions of today Bulgaria, mainly from Znepole, Zagora, Berkovitsa, Vidin, and Lom". Of course, these "immigrants" from south and east came with their southern and eastern culture, and whatever they called it, it was a Bulgarian culture, because it came from Bulgarian regions. Furthermore, in all probability the original Slavic population in the Kosovo-Morava region has been Bulgarian from very early time, and alhough it has been dispersed many times for the last 300 years, it remained Bulgarian, because after each dispersal the empty places were again occupied by immigrants from Bulgarian regions. That this population was Bulgarian even 300 years ago, one can see from the many written documents, written in the Kosovo-Morava region for the past 500 years. As concerns Morava region, in addition to written documents, much evidence is given by European travellers all of whom accept River Morava as the border between Serbia and Bulgaria because they well noticed that beyond this river another population starts that is different from Serbs by language and customs.

According to the regions that they occupy, Kosovo-Morava dialects are clearly separated in half to northern and southern. Northern, or Moravan, are the dialects in Vrana, Leskovac, and Nish regions, and along Morava; southern, or Kosovan, are the dialects in Prishtina, Prizren, Tetovo, Kumanovo, and partly Kratovo regions. However, it must be stressed that this division is more geographic than dialectal, because in the Kosovo-Morava region, although it is large, dialect differences are very small and there is no dialect separation . The single more significant difference is the reflex of the Proto-Slavic *tj and *dj by which there are two well-defined dialect groups:

  1. dialects with fricative *tj,*dj reflex or ч-дж dialects (with pronunciation свеча, меджа – candle, border) and
  2. dialects with guttural *tj,*dj reflex or кь-гь dialects (with pronunciation свекьа, мегьа (свекя, мегя).

The first group occupy the eastern part of the Kosovo-Morava area: Bosilegrad, Breznik, Trən, Tsaribrod, Belogradchik, Pirot, Knjaževac, and Bela Palanka, and the second group which is much larger occupies the rest of the transitional dialect area. While the first group is very homogeneous as regards the use of ч-дж, the second group shows some variability in this respect, because in addition to кь-гь, one finds especially in towns the Serbian ћ-ђ (свећа, међа), and also the original pronunciation of *tj,*dj (светьа, медьа / светя, медя). Still, the guttural кь-гь predominates.

The first group is contiguous to the north-western Bulgarian dialects while the second group is contiguous to the south-western Bulgarian dialects that are spoken in Macedonia. Bulgarian traits predominate in both groups; therefore, those are predominantly Bulgarian dialects with very small Serbian admixture.

Still, these dialects are transitional, because they are a transition from Bulgarian to Serbian and vice versa. These dialects are as much transitional between Bulgarian and Serbian as, e.g., Belorussian is a transition from Russian to Polish, or Croatian is a transition from Serbian to Slovenian. Two long-time neighbouring languages – especially two related languages – are never sharply separated so that transition is abrupt; there is always a transitional environment, an intervening belt, which contains a mixture of both languages.

The origin of the population of Morava region indicates the type of speech there. Excepting the Walachians who rather densely populate the nortern part of Morava, above the line Zaječar – Bolevac – Kyupria, the rest of the Slavic population in Morava region consists of old and new immigrants. The old immigrants came from the south-east, i.e. from Macedonia and from western Bulgaria in the last 300 years when Bulgarians were often forced to escape from the Turkish attrocities towards freer lands. The new immigrants came from the north-west as clerks and officials of Serbian authorities after Morava region came into the Serbian state. Thus, in Morava region two Slavic languages, Bulgarian and Serbian, met and clashed and inevitably produced a dialect with characteristics of both languages. The problem is how much this dialect, which is primarily Bulgarian, reflect Serbian traits, and whether these Serbisms allow it to be separated from the other Bulgarian dialects.

Macedonian dialects which possess all the characteristics of the Bulgarian language system and are very similar in grammar and vocabulary had been described as Bulgarian dialects in the large majority of publications. The similarity of Bulgarian and Macedonian dialects is a result of their common origin and identical development for more than 12 centuries in the Bulgarian national and cultural area [15]. Bulgarian dialects in Macedonia are integral part of the Bulgarian language area and are different from the dialects in the Serbo-Croatian language continuum in all major traits. Some of them (Solun dialects, Kostur dialect, Ohrid dialect) served as originators of Bulgarian language on the whole Bulgarian linguistic territory. Therefore, Macedonian dialects are treated linguistically as typical Bulgarian dialects, and not as transitional dialects. Exception is made only for the northern-most dialects in Macedonia (torlak dialects) that are included in the Serbo-Bulgarian transitional dialects by Bulgarian, Serbian, and international linguists. [2] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] [26] [27] [28]



The transitional dialects have the following phonetic traits:
  1. Little Yus ѧ gives in transitional dialects e: месо (meat), десет (ten), гредà (beam), жèдън (thirsty)
  2. Yat ѣ gives in transitional dialects e: млеко (milk), лето (summer)
  3. Yery ъı () gives in transitional dialects и: бик (bull), рикам (cry)
  4. ръ gives in transitional dialects р̥ (vowel r, syllabic r): пр̥ви (first), др̥во (tree)
  5. Initial въ gives in transitional dialects у: удовица (widow), да улезем (to enter), уведèм (to usher in), удèвам (to thread), улàзим (to come in) унỳтре (inside)
  6. ъ and ь give in transitional dialects ъ in all positions, i. e. they are not substituted by other vowels: тънък (thin), остън (goad), лъ̀жем (to lie), дъскà (board), съ̀н (dream), песъ̀к (sand), добѝтък (cattle), òстър (sharp), свèкър (father-in-law); дъ̀н (day), тъ̀мен (dark), лън (flax), лъ̀сно (easily), овъ̀н (ram), оръ̀л (eagle), грòзън (ugly), сѝлън (strong), стàръц (old man), венъ̀ц (wreath).
  7. *tj-*dj give in transitional dialects кь-гь or ч-дж: свекьа, мегьа or свеча, меджа (candle, border), ноч/нокь (night), лèча/лèкя (lentils), плàчуем/плàкюем (to pay), вèджа/вèгя (brow), прèджа/прèгя (yarn)
  8. Big Yus ѫ give in transitional dialects у: рука (hand), мука (sadness), пут (road), гỳска (goose), кудèля (distaff-ful)
  9. Intrasyllable лъ is retained or gives л̥ (vowel л) : жлто (yellow), слза (tear)
  10. л at the end of syllables is retained and does not change in o: пепел, крилце and not пепео, криоце (ashes, winglet)
  11. The old sound дз /ʣ/ is retained: дзвезда, дзид/дзъд (star, wall)
  12. There is no inserted or palatal љ: гробье, др̥вье and not гробље, др̥вље (cemetry, woods)
  13. There is vowel reduction in transitional dialects: къкъ̀в (what), тъкà (so)
  14. Voiced consonants at the end of words are pronounced as voiceless: боп, рок, грат instead of боб, рог, град (beans, horn, town)
  15. Transitional dialects use the old stress: козà, орàч, мазнинà (goat, ploughman, fat)
  16. Transitional dialects lack tonal stress (change in pitch of the stressed vowel): главà, пѝтам and not глāва, пӣтам (head, ask)
  17. A specific middle л (л̚), which is softer than the consonant л in the other Bulgarian dialects; however it is less palatal than ль: бел̚—бел̚à (white), пàдъл̚—пàдл̚а—пàдл̚и (fallen), крил̚ò (wing), л̚ой (suet), л̚ук (onion).
  18. Assimilation of consonant л to vowel у (ў) /u/ — Pernik л; this is characteristic for Breznik dialect in Graovo (around Pernik) and is sometimes perceived as a speech defect: скакаўèц (grasshopper), пѝўе (chicken), кеўèш (brat), кòпеўе (bastard), поўè (field).
  19. Complete lack of the consonant ф and use of в instead of ф in new words: венèр (torch), ванèла (flannel), вỳрня (oven), Стèван (Stephen), кòва (bucket). The consonant ф does not appear even as assimilant in front of voiceless consonant: рàвт (shelf), тевтèр (notebook), Слàвчо (Slavcho), цъвтѝ (blooms), ковтòр (stove).
  20. Lack of consonant х in all positions: мъ (moss), дъ (breath), пу (rat), гре (sin), плèто (knitted), буà (flea), леб (bread).
  21. Very frequent use of soft н (нь) and л (ль) at the end of words (конь (horse), òгънь (fire), гòрънь (upper), тигàнь (pan), осѝль (awn), пасỳль (beans), медàль (medal)) and before the frontal vowels е, и (ньега (him), ньèму (him), гньетèм (to push), ньѝва (field); мèльем (to mill), льѝга (slobber), страшльѝв (timid)).

Traits 17, 18, 19, 20, and 21 are specific for individual transitional subdialects and are not found in either Standard Bulgarian or Standard Serbian. Traits 19 and 20 de facto remove from use two alphabetic consonants: ф is replaced by в, and х is disused. On the other hand, non-standard phonemes appear in these dialects as variations of the consonants л (л̥, л̚, ў — traits 9, 17, 18) and р (р̥ — trait 4).

Comparison of the other 16 phonetic traits with Bulgarian and Serbian shows that the first 5 traits are found in both Bulgarian and Serbian. Of the remaining 11 traits, 8 are Bulgarian (9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16). Only one of the remaining 3 traits is Serbian: it is (8) the reflex of the Old Bulgarian ѫ in у. The other 2 traits (6 and 7) are between Bulgarian and Serbian and are typical traits for transitional dialects which simultaneously assimilate and dissimilate it from both. For example, pronunciation of ъ and ь as ъ (6) is similar to Serbian in that the two yers fuse in the same vowel (although such fusion partly occurs in Bulgarian); however, their pronunciation as ъ is a typical Bulgarian trait.

The *tj,*dj reflexes (7) are not exactly the same as those occuring in Serbian language. Belić [92] marks them with ћ' and ђ' evidently aiming to symbolise an intermediate pronunciation between кь-гь and ћ-ђ; however, such pronunciation is transient and occurs only in persons who want to immitate the Standard Serbian pronunciation. The real *tj,*dj reflexes are either кь-гь or ч-дж depending on the subdialect: the dialects that are closer to Morava have кь-гь, and those along Timok, Luzhnica and Vlasina have ч-дж. Neither кь-гь nor ч-дж are the Serbian ћ-ђ although they are closer to ћ-ђ than to the Bulgarian щ-жд. Still, in Moravan region the pure Serbian reflexes ћ-ђ are also heard but those have been introduced later under the educational influence. Even if one accept that the *tj,*dj reflexes (7) in these dialects are a Serbian trait, then compared to Bulgarian, the transitional dialects have 8 Bulgarian phonetic traits against 2 Serbian traits; this is sufficient to show to which Slavic language they should be classified judging by phonetics. This comes only from enumerating the phonetic traits: however, looking closer into these traits, and hearing the native pronunciation in which the stress acts with its influence on the purity of vowels (reduction) and the various analogies which produce new changes in consonants (cf. прàтен, вàтен, извàден, садèнье, светèнье, зарòбен, изгỳбен, нàйден, раслàбен, кỳпен, забрàвен, задàвен, etc.), one can immediately be convinced that this is a Bulgarian dialect, which, because of its location close to the border, has acquired some Serbian traits. Is it possible to distinguish from Bulgarian reductions such as чък instead of чак, зър instead of зар, към, къмто (къмто Цариброд), пъ си рове, какъ̀в, къндѝло, ỳ‿зъм (instead of ỳ-земе), кр̥з неко време, тр̥си-баба, гр̥дѝна, стр̥нà, дьим instead of да идем!?

Compare also the metatheses, characteristic for Bulgarian: цъвти, съвнуло, пландувам, забовàрил, цъкло, цволика, Цона, etc. which are typical for transitional dialects. Note also the dropping of the end dental consonants: милос, жалос, радос, пос, мос, грос, дъш, дванайс, петнайс, двайс; and still more: ка instead of как, ча instead of чак, etc.

Also typical for Bulgarian is the transition of сц and шч into ц and ч: бесцèно кàменье (precious stone) → бецèно, исцерѝла → ицерѝла (cured), болешчѝца, ишчѝсти → болечѝца, ичѝсти (ache, to clean).

On the contrary, in the transitional dialects one finds exactly the same additions of sounds and whole particles, as in the other Bulgarian dialects: тая люта зима (this bitter winter), тия турци (these Turks), ония двоица (those two), това (this), онова (that), толкова (so much); тука (here), оттука (from here), оддека (where from), додека (where to), преди нас (before us), зади нас (behind us).

All the above examples are found in [92, p. 233]. Belić also notes these typical Bulgarian traits, however, he does not acknowledge those as Bulgarian but explains them in a peculiar way: for the old traits (stress, дж, л) he says that these are Old Serbian traits, left over in the transitional dialects from as long ago as 12 c., when these dialects had branched from the main Serbian language. As concerns the newer traits (lack of tonal stress, vowel reduction, darkening of end consonants), he says that the transitional dialects developed those independently of Bulgarian influence. In such way Belić explains all grammatical traits of this dialect ignoring their similarities with the neighbouring Bulgarian dialects. However, accepting that the transitional dialects branched from Serbian as long ago as 12 c., Belić indirectly admits that by such branching the dialect assimilated to Bulgarian. Whether these similarities to Bulgarian are ancestral or acquired later is irrelevant to the issue to which Slavic language the transitional dialect belongs, because it is judged by its present state.


Transitional dialects possess morphological traits reflecting the most important distinguishing characteristics of Bulgarian. The first three are the most basic traits of Bulgarian:
  1. Fusion of all cases (except nominative and vocative) into a single indirect case (agglomerative case) and use of pronouns (analyticity) instead of cases. The nominative and agglomerative cases are distinguished in impersonated male nouns: човèкът дойдè (the man came) — остàви човèка на мѝра (leave the man alone); купѝмо волà (we bought the ox), оценѝмо си момкà (we valued the boy). The -а form is not article because the article for male gender is only -ът. The two forms (nominative and agglomerative) occur also in female nouns and adjectives: дойдè женà (a woman came) — видè женỳ, видè еднỳ женỳ (he saw a woman). This agglomerative form which is accusative by origin, took the function of all other cases and is characteristic for all dependent cases: отидè ỳ‿гору (went to the woods), ударѝ га пò‿главу (hit him on the head); убѝ се нà‿руку (he hurt his hand).
  2. Development of article form as a further transition towards analyticity. The article in transitional dialect is only the full article -ът; short article is lacking; кòньът побèже (the horse ran), човèкът дойдè (the man came). There are vestiges of declensed article in plural animate nouns which ends in -тога for agglomerative case (човèкът – човèкатога (the man); он видè човèкатога (he saw the man); узè волàтога и коня̀тога (he took the ox and the horse)). The same article is taken by the adjacent adjectives (видè добрòтога човèка (he saw the good man)). There is also a specific form for dative article form ending in -отому: дàй добрòтому човèку (give to the good man). The feminine article in nominative case ends in -та, and in agglomerative case ends in -ту: рекàта дошлà—минỳл рекỳту (the river came—he passed the river), пòлякът òткара нàшуту кобѝлу (the field-keeper took away our mare)
  3. Analytical expression of the infinitive with the particle да + finitive verb: можеш ли да кажеш instead of the old можеш ли казати (can you say).

These 3 traits by which the transitional dialects differ from Serbian, constitute the foundation of Bulgarian language. Whether these traits were acquired from some non-Slavic tribe, or developed under the influence of the main Bulgarian language is not of such importance, as Belić implies when he tries to show that these traits do not come from Bulgarian but from some hypothetical more common culture existing in antiquity for all Balkan peoples east of Morava. Here Belić does not see how he contradicts himself, because to assume that Moravans were influenced by another, non-Serbian culture which influenced also Bulgarians, means that Moravans have lived from time immemorial together with the Bulgars in order to acquire their language and traits lacking in Serbian; meaning that the Moravan dialect developed for a long time parallel with Bulgarian language as its integral part. And this is really so, as the further comparison will show. Thus, in addition to the above 3 "major" (as Belić calls them) traits, there are other ones, as major and important, and all together give to the transitional dialects a Bulgarian character. Below are listed some of the most important:

  1. Analytical expression of the comparative and the superlative degrees in adjectives through the particles по- and най-: по-висок, най-голям (taller, biggest).
  2. Analytical expression of future tense with the particles ке or че and the verb in present tense (not infinitive): ке идем or че одим (I'll go), я че пийèм (I'll drink), че му дàм (I'll give him), тѝ че пийèш (you'll drink), он че òре (he'll plough), че нòсимо (we'll carry), онѝ че нòсу (they'll carry), че òру (I'll plough). In first person singular sometimes there is чу: я чу пийèм (I'll drink), чу му дадèм (I'll give him).
  3. Use of double personal pronouns: мeнe ме обичат; тебе ти пращат подарък; Ивана го хвалят (it is me they love, it is you to whom the present is sent, Ivan is whom they praise).
  4. Use of the preposition на to express both indirect cases (generative and dative).
  5. Use of suffix -ье for masculine plural nouns: гребенье (combs), овчарье (shepherds), селянье (peasants). This trait occurs in Bulgarian manuscripts as early as 12th c.; by preserving the softness of the base consonant, transitional dialects show very well its origin which is the 3rd declension, i. e., the abbreviated suffix -нѥ.
  6. The forms for the imperative and present tense in 2nd person plural are the same, as in Bulgarian: берèте (pick), перèте (wash), четèте (read).
  1. The two definite tenses (finite and infinite) are used much more often than in Serbian.
  2. Verbs which in Old Bulgarian had the root -ова, in transitional dialects are pronounced -ува, as in Bulgarian: немой купува (don't buy), зарадува се (rejoiced), царува (reigns), добрувà (prospered), светувàл (existed).
  3. The participles of verbs with soft roots do not change their root consonant which is the same as in Bulgarian: купен (bought), оставен (left), платен (paid), etc. and unlike Serbian: купљен, остављен, плаћен.
  4. Accusative and dative forms of plural personal pronouns ни and ви are the same, as in Bulgarian: я ви не видò, затò ви руку не подàдо (I didn't give you a hand because I didn't see you); он ни не познà, затова ни не проговори (he didn't talk to us because he didn't recognise us).
  5. Shorter forms of the pronoun in 3rd person as in Bulgarian: dative им (sr: њим), accusative ѝ (sr: ϳoϳ).
  6. Short forms for accusative personal pronouns: мен, теб instead of мене, тебе (me, you).
  7. Some nouns have changed gender in comparison with the standard languages: ствар (thing), смърт (death), памет (memory), кр̥в (blood), реч (speech), варош (town), жал (pity); the word вечер (evening) has double gender: добър вечер (good evening) but една вечер (one evening), първата вечер (the first evening); the words посао (work) and мисао (thought) in Serbian are masculine but in transitional dialects those are feminine (посъл, мисъл) under the influence of standard Bulgarian работа and мисъл. Cf. also: половин дън (half a day), на половин (in half) as in Bulgarian instead of половина.
  8. Plural and singular. The word гусла (a stringed musical instrument) in transitional dialects is singular as in Bulgarian, and not plural as in Serbian. Децà (children) is considered plural as in Bulgarian: две децà (two children), със децà (with children), има децà (there are children); the same with бракя or брача (brothers), дружина (company), двоѝца (pair).
  9. The vocative case in female nouns ending in ка in transitional dialects ends in ке instead of ко: Савке, Здравке, Марике, etc.

Against these 18 Bulgarian traits, transitional dialects have the following Serbian traits:

  1. Accusative case in female nouns which ends in -у, which by the way results from the common ѫ reflex in these dialects.
  2. Suffix -е for plural feminine nouns and adjectives: жèне (women), сèстре (sisters), рѝбе (fishes), рỳке (hands); белè (white), жлътè (yellow), църнè (black).
  3. Suffix -а for plural neutral adjectives (добрà децà (good children), големà селà (big villages)). Thus, in transitional dialects adjectives have specific suffices for all genders in plural: белѝ (m), белè (f), белà (n, white); добрѝ мỳжье (good men), добрè жèне (good women), добрà децà (good children).
  4. Forms ньèга и га instead of „него” and „го” for agglomerative case in masculine third person pronoun: ньèга га въ̀рли кòньът (the horse threw him over), мръ̀зи га ньèга (he is lazy), дàл га у сỳт (he sued him).
  5. Verbs in first person plural end in -мо: плетемо (we knit), плетоймо (we knitted), нòсимо (we carry), òдимо (we go), пѝйемо (we drink), четѝмо (we read).
  6. Verbs in third person plural in present tense end in -у and -е: плету (they knit), моле (they ask)
  7. Verbs in second person plural in past tense end in -сте: пойдосте (you went), плèтосте (you knitted), брàсте (you picked), носѝсте (you carried), минỳсте (you picked), направѝсте (you made).
  8. Verbs in third person plural in past definite end in -ше: пойдоше (they went), плèтоше (they knitted), брàше (they picked), минỳше (they packed), варѝше (they boiled), направѝше (they made).

Other than those 8 really Serbian traits, there is nothing else similar to Serbian in transitional dialects. If there are some other deviations from Bulgarian, they arose locally, either in recent or earlier times, e. g. the peculiar form for plural ending in и or ии (кучети (dogs), др̥вети (trees), колети (stakes), унучети (grandchildren)), as well as the various dative forms of the personal pronoun она – йо, о, ю, ву, во (her).

First person singular and third person plural in some transitional dialects (виду, видев (I see, they see)) and the peculiar participle form ending in -я instead of -л (видия (seeing)) are neither Bulgarian, nor Serbian. There are also many forms common for Serbian and Bulgarian.


As shown above, in transitional dialects there are some phonetic and morphological traits common with Serbian. Syntactically, however, in these dialects there is no trait that is common with Serbian and lacks in Bulgarian and on the contrary, there are many traits common only to Bulgarian and transitional dialects.

Thus, in addition to the 3 main traits (analytic declension, article form, and doubling of personal pronouns) which are both morphological and syntactic, transitional dialects possess the following syntactic traits that are common to Bulgarian and are lacking in Serbian:

  1. Use of accusative case with particles such as като (as), колко (how much), како (like): като мене (as me), колко ньега (as much as him), како пас (like a dog), момче како тебе (a boy like you), колко мене йе висок (he is as tall as me).
  2. Omission of the auxiliary verbs йе and су: он узел врекю (he took the sack), она задела дувку със клин (she plugged the hole with a wedge), деца му остали сираци (his children were orphaned), тъг му дал едън дукат (then he gave him a ducat), сватови га побрали и пропудили (his in-laws scolded him and chased him away), тъг бегали оди чуму (then they ran away from the plague).
  3. Use of the auxiliary verb бе: бе дошъл (he had come), бе паднала (she had fallen), да не бе утекъл (if you hadn't left), бе донел (he had brought).
  4. Omission of the conjunction да:
    • in future tense: я кю га изгорим (I'll burn it), я кье узнем (I'll take), кье идем на-гости у нюма (I'll visit him);
    • in other cases: много ни теше буде добро (it would have been good for us), теше га убийе (he could have killed him), не смеу се вр̥ну (he was afraid to go back), дали га могу найдем, не можем се опре (would I be able to find him he can't resist), иска се живи (should be alive).
  5. Use of буди in the Bulgarian sense 'when': буди су ти отпале руке те, не си корава (when your hands are tired then you are not wily enough), буди ме газиш, що ме ломиш? (when you step on me why do you break me?). Cf. бъди, синко, бъди (when, son, when).
  1. Frequent use of the particle си, as in Bulgarian: на си се вр̥не (to get back), продадомо си ги (we sold them), па си га ньега чувала (she brought him up), оне су си биле такве (they were like this), они си отишли (they went away).
  2. Use of the short plural form in simple masculine nouns in counting: десет гроша (ten pennies), девет стола (nine chairs) instead of грошева, столова.
  3. Use of invariable све: съ све войска (with all troops), съ све деца (with all children).
  4. Use of impersonal имало: имало йедън човек (there was a man), па га било чума (he suffered the plague), паднало снег (it was snowing), град га било (it was hailing on him).

There are many idioms in transitional dialects which are obvious because of their typically Bulgarian character:

  • "Ти ли си, попе?" – "Я съм" – "Що чеш тука" ("Is that you, father?" – "Yes, it's me" – "What are you doing here?"). Cf. Bulgarian: що щеш тука?
  • "Отѝде при йеднỳ жену на конак, па пита женỳту: може ли, снао, тува да спим?" ("He went to a woman at an inn, and he asked the woman: may I, wife, sleep here?")
  • Да има кой да ме вати, па пò‿главу! (Let someone catch me and hit me on the head!)
  • Иска да знайе много (he wants to know too much), я иска да ги исечем (I want to slaughter them)
  • Нече падне, защо се др̥жи (he won't fall because he has a hold); иде със ньега, защо йе муж ньойън (she goes with him because he is her husband)
  • Па ги вр̥наше (they turned them back); па кье га пита (he'll ask him); па га па зовне (calls him sometimes)
  • Идоше дур границу (they went to the border)
  • Че дойде куде Петровден (he'll come until St. Peter's Day), че се врати куде пладне (he will come back around midday)


Although accent in transitional dialects shows some deviations from standard Bulgarian, it still belongs to the common Bulgarian accent group (indefinite hetero-syllabic accent), and is most similar to the accent in the northwestern Bulgarian dialects around Sofia, Tsaribrod, and Trən.

Thus, two-syllable female nouns which in Bulgarian have accent on the end syllable retain this old stress in the transitional dialects: бащà, бл̥à (flea), водà, войскà, вр̥бà, вр̥вцà, главà, главня̀, горà, гредà, децà, дъскà, женà, жл̥нà, дзвездà, земя̀, зимà, змия̀, зорà, иглà, игрà, козà, кулà, лозà, лъжà, меджà, муà, мъглà, ногà, овцà, окà, пашà, пчелà, р̥джà, рекà, росà, рукà, свечà, свилà, свиня̀, сестрà, сланà, сл̥зà, слугà, снаà, странà, стрелà, торбà, травà, чешмà, чоà. Their derivatives change stress as in Bulgarian: водѝца, вр̥бѝца, ручѝца, главѝца, etc.

Three-syllable female nouns preserve the same accent, as in Bulgarian: я̀бл̥ка, лòбода, жèнщина, мàчеа, опрàва, вèщица, у̀сница, пàзуа, пòплака, прабàба; благовèс, зàповед; бòрина, ѝстина, сбѝрщина, кòзина, ровѝна, планинà, рудѝна, слàтина, суднинà, утринà, свѝнщина; верѝга, вечèра, грамàда, др̥жàва, дубрàва, дубѝца, девòйка, жл̥тѝца, иля̀да, йетръ̀ва, качỳла, клисỳра, кобѝла, кокòна, колѝба, корỳба, кошỳля, канàта, кумѝца, ливàда, лисѝца, лопàта, лъжѝца, Морàва, невèста, недèля, орлѝца, пая̀нта, панѝца, певѝца, секѝра, сколỳва; главѝна, градѝна, гр̥бѝна, зидѝна, петѝна, шестѝна, сланѝна, средѝна; cf. also: висинà, дл̥бинà, мазнинà, милинà, врукьинà, старинà, etc.

Four-syllable female nouns: керемѝда, кираджѝка, попадѝка, меанджѝка, измекя̀рка, кречетàлка, мотовѝлка, воденѝца, самовòлька, вражалѝца, каленѝца, сиротѝна, бр̥закѝна, испòлица, я̀ловица, я̀годица, кàмерица, крàставица, мỳтеница, прèперица, рỳ̀павице (череши-хрупавици), цàревица; годѝшнина, зимòвина, лапàвица, цепòтина, човèщина, etc.

Two-syllable male nouns on one hand: грèбен, зàяк, зàйъм, ѝзвор, кàмен, òблак, òгън, òглав, òпаш гя̀вол, пèпел, пòстав, прèкор, прèлаз, прèслав, рàбуш, рèмен, кàмен, спòмен, стрàтор, трòскот, ỳглен; and on other hand: бр̥шлàн, гр̥кля̀н, кожỳ, кочàн, обèд, обтòк, овъ̀н, ячъ̀м, ожèг, осѝл, паздèр, понòр, потòк, пригòр, рукàв, сокòл, унỳк, юнàк, човèк, поля̀к, роя̀к, шестàк; and also the foreign words: боклỳк, болвàн, беглѝк, вустàн, дирèк, дулỳм, дукя̀н, индàт, ковтòр, комàт, кромѝт, пипèр, пирòн, салàм, синòр, тавàн, триòн, чèреп, шекèр, etc.

Two-syllable neutral nouns on one hand: винò, влакнò, гнездò, крилò, кроснò, млекò, платнò, селò, сукнò, лицè детè, жребè, котлè, кутрè, петлè, сребрò; on the other hand: гỳмно, жѝто, зъ̀рно, я̀то, мèсто, мàсло, рàмо, я̀гне, сèме, etc.

There is no point to give more examples; the accent similarity with common Bulgarian accent is seen from the small list above. This can be seen further from the common words below.

Morphogenic suffices

Morphogenic elements in transitional dialects are the same as in Bulgarian; most of those are also common with Serbian, and yet in those the transitional dialects are closer to Bulgarian than to Serbian. For example, the suffix -як has wider meaning, and as in Bulgarian is used also in the sense of collectivity: траволя̀к, партоля̀к, лискуля̀к, прашуля̀к, трешчиля̀к, момчурля̀к, дечурля̀к.

The diminutive suffix -ийка is shortened to -ика: комшѝка, антерѝка, попадѝка, Марѝка, Софѝка, etc.

The suffix -ка is also wider used in transitional dialects, as in Bulgarian, and in many cases it is no longer diminutive: жѝлка, кѝтка, кр̥стàчка, рỳчка, сỳчка.

Suffix -ица is used in some nouns where it is not found in Serbian but only in Bulgarian: болешчѝца, вр̥вчѝца, певѝца, ръчѝца, солчѝца, ракѝйца, песънчѝца.

Also widened is the use of suffix -ичка, as in Bulgarian: бàбичка, ведрѝчка, главѝчка, здрàвичка, лъжѝчка, корѝчка, нѝвичка, ножѝчка, панѝчка, etc.

Suffix -енце, specifically Bulgarian suffix for diminutives of neutral gender, is also used very widely in transitional dialects: детèнце, кучèнце, момчèнце, пилèнце, джубèнце, унỳченце, шишèнце, йелèченце, кравàйченце, etc.

Suffix -ин is used as widely as in Bulgarian: бекя̀рин, везѝрин, гавàзин, говедàрин, гося̀нин, пандỳрин, etc.

Suffix -ина in some cases has the same use as in Bulgarian (for collectivity), and not in Serbian: добринà, итринà, чистинà, густинà; cf. Troyan damaskin: добринıa instead of добрина meaning много добрини.

In the transitional dialects one can find even the collective suffix -нье in female nouns which occurs in some old Bulgarian literature and dialects: рудиньè, гòдинье, лозѝнье, стрàнье; cf. планиньèто, стèнье, гòрье, even зємлє.

Suffix -ище in Bulgarian, Serbian, and transitional is used for forming plural in simple nouns: пỳтища, грàдища, плèтища, дòлища but in the same time it is used for magnification, as in Bulgarian: кутрѝще, кр̥вѝще, турчѝще, детѝще, девòйчище.

Suffix -етия is for collectivity: волетѝя, момчетѝя, колетѝя, кутретѝя, парчетѝя, скупотѝя, страотѝя.

Suffices -еа and -ейе for verbs are used as in Bulgarian: живеали, пеали, смеали се; слънце грейе, да окьоравейе, да остарейе, копнейе, слабейе, белейе се, жл̥тейе се, etc.

On the contrary, there is not a single suffix which is used only in transitional and Serbian, and is not found in Bulgarian.


If we separate words that are common to both Bulgarian and Serbian from words that are only found in transitional dialects, we can see that the rest, and they are many, are common only between Bulgarian and transitional. Out of the 2000 words, given by Belić [92], 800 are local for the transitional dialects, 1000 are common between Bulgarian and transitional and are not found in Serbian, and only 200 are common between transitional and Serbian. The last category are purely Serbian words that came into Morava region in the second half of 19th c.; those are easily recognised as foreign words either because they are bookish and formal or because they have local synonyms. It must be taken into account, that a great part of the words, assigned to the local category, are found in the Bulgarian western dialects, but these were not counted as Bulgarian because they are not in common use, e.g.: лапавина instead of лапавица, тресозем (swamp), трвонь (wood saw), трапушка (small pit), съвлак (dodder, Cuscuta sp.), старка (матица), ранкице (early pears), загмури се (dived), жъзну ме (burned me), мачуга (hoe), крупàвица (hail), крошна (basket), ковр̥част (curly), клюндр̥во (woodpecker), клашня̀нка (woolen cap), клашнье (soft woolen fabric), банка (pit), воденци (watery pears), ватраль (fire iron), etc.

The 1000 Bulgarian words can be grouped according to various criteria. Some are typical Bulgarian words which are widely used and undoubtedly belong to the Bulgarian vocabulary, e.g.: голèм, ỳбав, рàбота, рабòтим, одртèл, пъ̀шкам, надỳпчен, исплюскàл га, комкàл се, кòмка, намерѝла, дума, думам, станỳймо, кимнул, испратѝймо ги, заоратѝймо се, расчушкà ги, съсипà се, поискà му, съ̀вну, расъвну, осъвну, цъ̀вну, цъвтѝ , трсим да спастрим, отодим, наодим. мр̥мòри, кр̥мим, каним, кани се, да вр̥лим, вр̥вим, вр̥вèте, вардим, да надвѝйе, да попоскам, да прикоткам, карам, друсам, задавам се, бъ̀клица винò, дъш, мъзга, пъкло, лъ̀скаво, пуйък, излèзъл, любòв, гл̥чѝ, гл̥чка, жл̥тѝца, кл̥чѝща, жл̥чка, сплъстѝло се, слънчоглèд, дръ̀нкам, ръ̀тка, дрешки, седенкя, бувалкя, оцутра, одоцутра, пцувал, опцувал, котлè, бецèно каменье, разчорлила се, свени се, совест, градѝна, славей, бащà, кокòна, стòвна, качỳлка, òбич, тупàн, синѝгер, тараèж, велигден (and велигдън), врàчка, опàшка, дупка, дупчица, друшка, големствò, големцѝ, врапчè, клопотàр, облеклò, очилà, градỳшка, имàне, маанè, далèчко, минѝчко, ỳбавичко, блажно, рабòтна, нерабòтна, съгашно, старовремско, црвеникав, горчѝв, вакляст, галàтне думе, куче, мечка, сетне, така, съгà, къга, еднъ̀г, еднỳш, догде, првин, дори, комай, сплуло се, искам, белну се, да бръкнем, бркам, да бутнем, бутам, да куснем, да поминем, прилега, не свр̥та се, прилѝча, разбирам, налита, набеджуем, да погалим, надушуйе, сподобуйе, умѝлкуйе се, блъсък, заслънỳла се (склонила се), пъстр̥ва, шегувам се, да зèмеш, йеднъг, тъгàй, съга и съги, уджич (югич), снаоджа га (снахожда го), àрен човек, старойкя, люлькя, мишка, аджаркѝнье сливе, самовòлька жена, повѝвке (diapers), кобѝлка (кобилица), жѝчка, бувàлькя (baseball bat), патѝлник, кравàрник, повèсмо, кросно, трнокòп, обрòк, жèнщина, детѝще, падалище, кречетàло, густъ̀к (dense forest), момчурля̀к, средорек. (sr:спрудина, river island), убил га Марен!, кр̥внина (глоба за убийство), цволѝка (бучиниш, hemlock), диàние (таласъм), въшка, жъгли, да га жъгне, кр̥стъц, ракитъ̀к (ракитак), пуйка, пуйчичи, бучкам, бучка (piston), кийъц (кияк, тотмак на врата), турчетѝя, лъжла, венчѝла (венчални венци), мàточина, цепотина, бòрина, торбѝче, кладенче, песънчѝца, цàревица, мỳтеница, прèперица, кàтерица, солчѝца, ръжчѝца, панѝца, каленѝца, стринка, целѝвка, цедѝлка, семки, кречеталька, квачка, завèска, земнѝк и зѝмник, дрвнѝк, оканѝк, оканѝца (vessel containing 1 oka), камик, ремик, прашуля̀к, травуля̀к, кривак, конощѝп, заяк, канàта, коруба, калцỳнье, копиле, сучка (съчка), etc.

Another group are words that are not so common but occur in most Bulgarian dialects, e.g.: клепем, подрипỳйем, пландỳйем, пестỳйем, животỳйем, поваркỳйем, бидỳйем, ставина се, съвиня се, прашам, ощурел, дъш вр̥не, другòш, некне (през денè-си), бр̥го, вревлѝв, кощелив, клюсина, клекав, брабинàк, стреар, прикажня, кладня, чурлявина, обрисина, вражаръ̀ц, брабѝнци, вражалѝца, шупелька, умирачка, смешка, желкя, другачка, гонетка, несретник, клъчник, кр̥кàче, партоляк, нàвака (съдба), кошуля, сприя, руба, обга, карта (плоска), карпа (скала), вр̥чва, нèнавис, забовари, обричише га, улюдише га, закасàл, окни га, акну га, побъши, палъц, дзъд, цревье, оточка, опънджак, смотрим, кл̥баси, вревим, гмечим.

The third group are words that occur also in Serbian but have other meaning there, or have some specific meaning for Bulgarian and transitional, e.g.: превари га in Bulgarian and transitional means 'I overcame him' while in Serbian it means 'I deceived him'; вр̥ви in Bulgarian and transitional means 'goes' while in Serbian it means 'goes in file'; бацам in Bulgarian and transitional means 'to kiss' while in Serbian it means 'to throw'; одбирам in addition to its common meaning 'to select, to choose' in Bulgarian and transitional means also 'to understand': не одбирам от туш работу (I don't understand this thing). Such are also: докачам, прачам, облагам, капвам (капнах от ходене), истрови се (дете), кривъц (вятър), кротко (полека), држава, кр̥стъц, карам, блажим, ожени.

Finally, the closeness of transitional and Bulgarian is seen by the use of the same foreign words that do not occur in Serbian, such as: порта, дисаги, лѝпца and the verb липцà, стаса (фтаса), кромид, ластар, поянта, темпло, парусия, русалия, вута (фута); азгъ̀н, бадявà, баришъ̀к, къскандѝше, да бастишем, кабулим, заборчил се, батисàл, балдисàл, осакатил се, ерген, бумбул, атър, чатмà, камà, мая̀, бозгỳн, индàт, нишàн, керен, серкмè, чанàр, годжабашѝя, вергѝя, гарѝя, рабаджѝя, саачѝя, сайбия, япѝя, теслимуйе, трампували, дайма, сал, салте, годжà, годжàмити (instead of коджà, коджамити), зòрле, бèлким, башкà, дип, ич, сабàле, etc. Interestingly, transitional dialects use many Turkish words. Many of those have suffix -ък and this suffix is also added to local words; thus in addition to: кованлъ̀к, касаплъ̀к, комшилъ̀к, одалъ̀к, раатлъ̀к, спаилъ̀к, etc. also: гунаклъ̀к, рибарлъ̀к, ковачлъ̀к, кожарлъ̀к, оратлъ̀к (conversation), патлъ̀к (патило), приказлъ̀к, неразборлъ̀к, дечурлъ̀к, старешлъ̀к, etc.

Transitional dialect, on the other hand, do not use many of the Turkish words occuring in Serbian, such as басамак, пиринач, кашика, сирке, авля, etc. and use Bulgarian words instead: стлъба, орис, ложица, оцът, двор, etc.

All these common traits between transitional dialects and Bulgarian make us conclude that these dialects are inseparable part of Bulgarian language, and that these traits are the result of long coexistence under the same culture, same influences and same aspirations


Irrespective of their large dialect area, transitional dialects are very homogeneous. Only some very small and limited differences allow separation to individual dialects that are in fact sub-dialects. On the Bulgarian territory there are 3 (sub-)dialects: Trən, Breznik, and Belogradchik.

Trən dialect

Trən dialect is spoken in the region of Trən town. It is distinguished by the following traits:

1. Sonant р, л, and sometimes the groups ър, лъ: кр̥с, кр̥в, бр̥̀чка, гр̥м, but also къ̀рстът, тъ̀рнът, затъ̀рни, пригъ̀рчам, къ̀ршим; жл̥т, дл̥бòко, сл̥̀ба, but also жлът, длъбòко, слъ̀ба. However, after labial consonant there is у instead of group ъл: буà (бълха), вỳна, я̀бука, мучѝм (мълча), пун (пълен).

2. Yer vowel ъ at the place of OBg. ъ and ь: дъж, лъжем, мъ (мъх), дън (ден), лъ̀сън (лесен), овъ̀с, стàръц. There are also cases with vowel o instead of OBg. ъ and OBg. ь: ложѝца, рожъ̀нь (ръжен), собòр, соблàчим, чорàпок, моглà .

3. Triple article form, i. e. in addition to the article form -ът, -та, -та, -та, -та, which expresses general definitiveness, there are other 2 article forms: -ъв, -ва, -во, -ве, -ва for near definitiveness, to designate definite objects that are close to the speaking person, and -ън, -на, -но, -не, -на for far definitiveness, to designate definite objects that are far from the speaking person:

мỳжът, женàта, детèто, мужьèте, женèте, децàта;
мỳжъв, женàва, детèво, мужьèве, женèве, децàва;
мỳжън, женàна, детèно, мужьèне, женèне, децàна;
кòньът побèже, женàта отидè, испѝл водỳту; донèси винò у шишèво, кòньъв ме въ̀рльи, опѝнъкъв ме стèга, женàва йе бòлна, женỳву вòдете на дòктор; мужèне су билѝ на дървà, ѝжана със църнèте черемѝде йе нàша, селòно тèше да отнесè водà.

Today the article forms -ъв и -ън are seldom used.

4. Double article of female nouns that end in consonant (кос—костỳту, сол—солтỳту, пàмет—паметỳту), that developed in analogy to words such as рàбота—работỳту. Similar double article is typical for Gabrovo dialect.

Breznik (Graovo) dialect

Breznik dialect is spoken in the region of Graovo to the west and north-west of Sofia. It is characterised by the following traits:

  1. Sonant р, л: бр̥з, вр̥бà, др̥̀во, зр̥̀на, цр̥̀вик, цр̥н, гл̥̀там, дл̥бòк, жл̥т, сл̥̀нце, стл̥̀ба. However, after labial consonant there is у instead of group ъл: буà, вук, вỳна (вълна).
  2. Composite шч instead of шт irrespective of origin (башчà, гỳшчер, клèшчи, крàишче, пèшчо, òшче, огньѝшче, пỳшчам, шчо), but there are cases with ч (гàче, срèча, ноч). Also, instead of the composite жд regularly occurs дж: вèджа, меджà, прèджа, ръджà.
  3. A single full article form -ът in masculine nouns:: брèгът, крàйът, мỳжът, пỳтът, стòлът, кòньът, учѝтельът.
  4. Vowel е вместо х in the past infinite forms: бѝее (биех), гледàе (гледах), търпèе (търпях), бѝеемо, бѝеесте, бѝеею.
  5. Future tense particle чу: чу мèсим, чу к̀ỳпим.
  6. Example: Сèк’и не мòже дà подквàси ỳбаво к’ѝсало млèко. Онà бèше виновàта, а мỳжа си тỳраше на пòдклеп (It was her fault, but she slandered her husband). Сàмо га подкокорòсую, а òн им ѝде по акъ̀лът и щурèе.
    (Goz village) Тѝ па нèму не разбѝраш. Н’èга га рàниш чèсто унèтре (You feed him often inside.) Видовà ли сестрỳ ти? Товà ми се арèсуе на мèне.

Belogradchik dialect

Belogradchik dialect is spoken to the north, west, and southwest of the town of Belogradchik. Individual migrants from this dialect area settled between Vidin and Lom and separated the Vidin-Lom dialect. In addition, the Belogradchik dialect, like the Balkan dialects, influenced the dialects from the western part of the Danubian Plain.

The Belogradchik dialect is characterised with the following traits:

  1. Sonant consonants р and л: вр̥бà, гр̥̀не, гр̥̀нци, др̥̀во, кр̥в, ср̥п, ср̥̀це, гл̥̀там, гл̥̀тна, дл̥̀га, сл̥̀ба, вл̥к, вл̥̀на, мл̥зèм, пл̥ (плъх), пл̥̀на.
  2. A single full article form -ът in masculine nouns: комѝнът, носъ̀т, студъ̀т, мỳжът искочѝл нà двор.
  3. Pronoun form for 3rd person singular female agglomerative case гю, ню instead of я and for 3rd person plural dative case гьим, гюм instead of им: òн гю нèче, погл̥чàмо с ню вечертỳ; я гюм купѝ; онѝ едỳ, a òн гьѝм гл̥чѝ.
  4. Past indefinite form with root of -ше, obtained by generalisation of the forms for 2nd and 3rd person singular: я плетèше, тѝ плетèше, òн плетèше, мѝ плетèшемо, вѝ плетèшете, онѝ плетèшео (плетèшеу).

Timok-Morava dialect

Timok-Morava dialect in its variety spoken along the right bank of the river Bulgarian Morava (South Morava) in and around the town of Nish at the turn of the 19th c. is very well illustrated in the works of Stevan Sremac, most notable of which are the novels Zona Zamfirova and Ivkova slava. The latter one begins with an introductory chapter describing the dialect traits with respect to its differences from Standard Serbian, and ends with a dictionary of dialect words. Many of these differences are due to Standard Bulgarian traits (Shop dialect according to Sremac) present in the speech of the Nish citizens.


1. As in the other western Bulgarian dialects, the Yat reflex is ѣ → е: нѣ сам → не сам (I am not), нѣ си → не си (you are not), нѣ е → не е (he is not), нѣ сме → не сме (we are not), нѣ сте → не сте (you are not), нѣ са → не са (they are not) (instead Standard Serbian: нисам, ниси, etc.).

2. The Serbian л → о refleх at the end of words is lacking, as in Bulgarian: жао → жал (sorrow), био → бил (he was), соо → сол (salt), etc.

3. Reflex м → н lacking in both Serbian and Bulgarian: памтим → пантим (remember), узму → узну (to take), много → ного (many).

4. /v/ is sometimes dropped when preceding /ı/: правимо → праимо (to do), направи → напраи (did), etc.

5. г /g/ and к /k/ in some words are replaced with дж /ʤ/ and ч /ʧ/, most often when preceding /ı/: нагиздило се → наджиздило се (got adorned), погинеш → поджинеш (to perish), баягим → баяджим (supposedly); китим → читим (to decorate), накитило се → начитило се (was adorned), киша → чиша (rain, sleet), широки → широчи (wide), or /e/: тек → тече (until), букет → бучет (bunch of flowers). Reversely, sometimes reflexes ч /ʧ/ → к and дж/ʤ/ → г are observed: сирочичи → сирочики (orphans), рипчичи → рипчики (small fishes), санчим → санким (as if), джидия → гидия (madcap), черка → керка (daughter), чеф → кеф (fun), etc.

6. The sound й /j/ is suffixed to some indicative pronouns and adverbs: то → той (it), тук → туй (here), така → такой (such), etc.


7. The adjective comparison forms are formed with the prefixes по- and най- as in Bulgarian (analytically): по-луд (Sr: луђи) madder, по-голем (Sr: великиjи) bigger, по-добар (Sr: бољиjи) better, по-брго (Sr: хитниje) faster; these prefixes may be put in front of nouns: по-момак (more real boy), по-зулумчар (greater wrong-doer), and even before adverbs: по-таква (more so)

8. Suffixes й /j/ and я /ja/ are added to indicative pronouns and adverbs: то → той (it), тук → туй (here), така → такой (such); а на ония будале (and to those fools), да пойе туя песму (to sing this song), etc.

9. Pronoun form for 3rd person singular female accusative case гу instead of Bg: я, нея; Sr: ју, је; 3rd person singular female dative case ну instead of Bg: ѝ, Sr: јоj њоj – traits that are similar to the Belogradchik dialect: òн гу нèче (he doesn't want her), погл̥чàмо с ну вечертỳ (we talked with her in the evening). The respective 3rd person plural pronouns are the same as in Standard Bulgarian ги and им (Sr: их, њих; им, њима): я им купи (I bought them smth.); они еду, а он ги глчи (they eat, and he scolds them).

10. Common use of -уйе, -йеш as a suffix for present tense verbs: питуйе (asks), писуйе (writes), живуйе (lives), променуйе (changes), знайе (knows), знайеш (you know).

11. A Bulgarian-type verb form for past infinite tense which is lacking in Serbian with suffices -аше and -еше: имашем (I was having), могашем (I was able); зовеше (was calling), требешем (ought to), волешем (was wishing), правешем (was doing), назешем (was taking), зборешем (was talking); пийешем (was drinking), мислешем (was thinking), тејашем (was wanting); similar for past finite tense: тешем (wanted); беше (was).

12. The past tense suffix changes to (this trait is different from both Serbian and Bulgarian): бия сам (I was), пия сам (I drinked), бегендисая (wished); славия си (celebrated), обесия (hanged), врнуя (got back), улегнуя (went to sleep); засея (sowed over), дошея (came), изашея (went out), etc.

13. The conjunction с can be also са (as in Serbian) or със (as in Bulgarian): да се ожени със нюма.


14. The case system for nouns and adjectives is very simplified with only 2 cases – nominative and agglomerative (Serbian – 7 cases; Bulgarian – no cases); the lack of cases is compensated by frequent use of articles as in Bulgarian (analyticity): при него (at him), из кучу (out of the house), на той девойченце (to this girl), на Сийку (to Siyka), на нюма (to her), etc.

15. More frequent use of reflexive pronoun си compared to both Serbian and Bulgarian: та када си одоше Турци (so when the Turks (themselves) went away), па и он си пропаде (he, too, disappeared (himself)).

16. Use of 3rd person female dative instead of possessive pronoun: татко гу (her father).


Word-formers that are found more often than in standard languages are:

17. -ин for words that lack this suffix in the standard languages: коцкарин (lecher), клисарин (sexton), екимин (doctor), etc.;

18. -ке for many time and place adverbs: тамке (there), одовутке (beyond), отутке (from here); ючерке (yesterday);


1. Стойков (Stoykov), Стойко (2002) [1962] (in Bulgarian). Българска диалектология (Bulgarian dialectology). София: Акад. изд. "Проф. Марин Дринов". ISBN 9544308466. OCLC 53429452.

2. Institute of Bulgarian Language (1978) (in Bulgarian). Единството на българския език в миналото и днес (The Unity of Bulgarian language in the past and today). Sofia: Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. p. 4. OCLC 6430481. Published in Бълг. ез. (Bulgarian language), 1978, No. 1

3. Цонев, Б. Граници на българската реч и народност (Borders of Bulgarian language and ethnicity). In: История на българския език (History of Bulgarian language). Vol. 1. Sofia, 1940, pp. 272-301.

4. Селищев, Афанасий. Избранные труды, Москва 1968.

5. Die Slaven in Griechenland von Max Vasmer. Verlag der Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin 1941. Kap. VI: Allgemeines und sprachliche Stellung der Slaven Griechenlands.

6. K. Sandfeld, Balkanfilologien (København, 1926, MCMXXVI).

7. Konstantin Josef Jireček, Die Balkanvölker und ihre kulturellen und politischen Bestrebungen, Urania, II, Jg. 13, 27. März 1909, p. 195.

8. Stefan Verković, Описание быта македонских болгар; Топографическо-этнографический очерк Македонии (Description of the life of Macedonian Bulgarians. Topographic and ethnographic essay of Macedonia), St. Petersburg, 1889.

9. Шклифов, Благой. Проблеми на българската диалектна и историческа фонетика с оглед на македонските говори (Problems of the Bulgarian dialect and historic phonetics with respect to the Macedonian dialects), София 1995, с. 14.

10. Шклифов, Благой. Речник на костурския говор (Dictionary of Kostur dialect), Българска диалектология, София 1977, с. кн. VІІІ, с. 201-205.

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