Monday, January 13, 2014

Language Profile: Bulgarian

This week we're looking at Bulgarian, the official language of Bulgaria and an official regional language of Ukraine. It is also spoken in Serbia, Moldova, and Romania. Bulgarian shares many characteristics with its fellow members of the Slavic language family and is closely related to Macedonian, which is considered by some to be a dialect of Bulgarian.

The first page of the Gospel of Mark
written using the Glagolitic alphabet
Lexically speaking, Bulgarian has a much more extensive vocabulary in terms of family relationships than many other languages. For example, it has unique words for "your mother's brother" and "your aunt's husband" as opposed to English, which defines both with the same word: "uncle". The relative age of family members is also taken into account in Bulgarian, so there are differences in the terms used for "younger sister" and "older sister". 

Most of the loanwords in Bulgarian come from Russian and French. Many Turkish words were added when the area was under Ottoman rule, but have generally been replaced since then. The language also contains English loanwords that are transcribed phonetically into the Cyrillic alphabet, often from the fields of science and technology. Bulgarian has also borrowed several expressions from various European languages for informal situations, such as Мерси (mersí) from French, Чао (cháo) from Italian, and Cупep (súper) from English.

Bulgarian has a long written history, and is thought to be the first written Slavic language. It was originally written using the Glagolitic alphabet, the oldest known Slavic alphabet that was created by Saints Cyril and Methodius in the 9th century as a way to convert people to Christianity. The language eventually converted to the Cyrillic alphabet, which it is still written in today. Due to its use as the official writing system of Bulgarian, Cyrillic became the third official alphabet of the EU (after Latin and Greek) when Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007.