Over the years, ITC has developed a strong network of translators whose native language is Bulgarian. These linguists have passed several rounds of tests and are evaluated regularly. In addition, ITC project managers have drawn up language guides to help translators follow the specific rules that apply to Bulgarian.

9 million

people have Bulgarian as their mother tongue

39 letters

make up the longest word “непротивоконституционствувателствувайте”

20 000

words make up today’s Bulgarian

History of the language: translation into Bulgarian

Bulgarian is a South Slavonic language that is also a member of the Indo-European family. Bulgarian was the first Slavonic language ever to be written. The earliest records date back to the ninth century in the Glagolitic alphabet devised by SS Cyril and Methodius. Over the following centuries, the Glagolitic alphabet was gradually replaced by an early version of the Cyrillic script devised in Bulgaria in the late ninth century. Bulgarian is spoken natively by about eight million people in Bulgaria and parts of Greece, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, Serbia, Turkey and the Ukraine, as well as immigrant communities around the globe. The history of Bulgarian is divided into three main periods:

  • Old Bulgarian, 9th–11th centuries;
  • Middle Bulgarian, 12th–16th centuries;
  • Modern Bulgarian, from the 16th century to the present.

Old Bulgarian, also referred to as Old Church Slavonic (the internationally preferred designation), was the first Slavonic literary and liturgical language that was later spread to other Orthodox nations, including the Russians and the Serbs. The Ottoman Conquest of Bulgaria in 1396 seriously hampered the development of Bulgarian literary traditions for several centuries. The Middle and Early Modern periods probably saw the most significant structural changes in the history of the language, though conservative scribal practices make it difficult to interpret the existing textual evidence prior to the 17th century. The transformation involved a general shift from a highly synthetic to a predominantly analytical language.

After the Bulgarians achieved independence in 1878, a modern literary language based on the vernacular came into its own. Many Turkish words were adopted into Modern Bulgarian during the long period of Ottoman Rule. Words have also been (directly or indirectly) borrowed from Latin, Greek, Russian, French, Italian, German and increasingly from English.

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Specific features of the Bulgarian language

The Bulgarian version of the Cyrillic alphabet contains 30 letters. Spelling is usually close to pronunciation, although there are a few exceptions to that rule. Bulgarian has free stress placement; therefore, the accent of every word must be learned individually. As in other Slavonic languages, nouns have three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter; adjectives, pronouns and participles have to agree in number and gender with the noun they modify. Bulgarian stands out among the other Slavonic languages in that, while preserving and enriching the Old Bulgarian/Old Church Slavonic verbal tense and aspect system, and using multiple negation, it has almost completely dropped the numerous case endings of the noun. Like English, it uses prepositions in order to indicate the grammatical relationships in a sentence, instead of cases (like Russian). Unlike English, however, Bulgarian word order remains relatively free. Unlike most other Slavonic varieties, Bulgarian has a definite article postposed to the first stressed word in the noun phrase, a feature typical of the Balkan Linguistic Area. It also lacks infinitives, and has innovated renarrative verb forms to report events that were not directly witnessed by the speaker. Despite these idiosyncrasies, Bulgarian still resembles the other Slavonic languages in many respects.

See Scatton, E. 1993. Bulgarian. In: Comrie, B. and G. G. Corbett (eds.) The Slavonic Languages. London: Routledge, pp. 188-248.