Monday, November 2, 2015

Country Profile: The Languages of Bulgaria

After looking at the languages of Tajikistan and Switzerland in recent weeks, today we're shifting our focus to Bulgaria. Located in southeastern Europe, Bulgaria is home to over 7 million people that use nearly a dozen different native languages.

The Official Language

It should come as no surprise that the sole official language of Bulgaria is Bulgarian. This Slavic language, which is also used in nearby Serbia, Moldova, and Romania, is the native language of the vast majority of the country's population. Bulgarian is especially interesting to linguists because it is thought to have been the very first written Slavic language.

Other Languages

Devil's Bridge, an Ottoman bridge over the Arda River.
While the Bulgarian language certainly dominate's the country's linguistic landscape, the Ethnologue lists 10 other languages that are used in the country. Since Turks are the country's largest minority group, the most prominent of these languages is Turkish, which is the native language of about 600,000 Bulgarians.

The Romani are the second largest minority group in Bulgaria, which explains why there are thousands of speakers of various Romani languages. There are over 280,000 people who speak Balkan Romani in Bulgaria, as well as nearly 2,000 Vlax Romani speakers.

Bulgaria is also home to small numbers of people who speak Aromanian, Crimean Tatar, Gagauz, Balkan Gagauz Turkish, and Macedonian. The most spoken of these languages is Aromanian, a Romance language closely related to Romanian, which is spoken by over 10,000 Bulgarians.

Crimean Tatar, Gagauz, and Balkan Gagauz Turkish all belong to the Turkic language family. There are about 1,000 native speakers of Crimean Tatar in Bulgaria, though most speakers of this language live in Crimea. Gagauz, on the other hand, is the language of the Gagauz ethnic group, which primarily resides in Moldova, Ukraine, Turkey, and Russia. There are about 5,000 Gagauz speakers in Bulgaria, as well as an unknown number of speakers of Balkan Gagauz Turkish, a closely related but distinct language that is primarily used in Turkey.

Finally, there's Macedonian, which is considered by some linguists to be a dialect of Bulgarian due to their high degree of mutual intelligibility. It is the native language of around 1,000 Bulgarians.