Along with the closely related Macedonian language (collectively forming the East South Slavic languages), it is a member of the Balkan sprachbund and South Slavic dialect continuum of the Indo-European language family. The two languages have several characteristics that set them apart from all other Slavic languages, namely changes include the elimination of case declension, the development of a suffixed definite article and the lack of a verb infinitive. They retain and have further developed the Proto-Slavic verb system (albeit analytically). One such major development is the innovation of evidential verb forms to encode for the source of information: witnessed, inferred, or reported.
One can divide the development of the Bulgarian language into several periods.
Bulgarian was the first "Slavic" language attested in writing. As Slavic linguistic unity lasted into late antiquity, the oldest manuscripts initially referred to this language as ѧзꙑкъ словѣньскъ, "the Slavic language". In the Middle Bulgarian period this name was gradually replaced by the name ѧзꙑкъ блъгарьскъ, the "Bulgarian language". In some cases, this name was used not only with regard to the contemporary Middle Bulgarian language of the copyist but also to the period of Old Bulgarian. A most notable example of anachronism is the Service of Saint Cyril from Skopje (Скопски миней), a 13th-century Middle Bulgarian manuscript from northern Macedonia according to which St. Cyril preached with "Bulgarian" books among the Moravian Slavs. The first mention of the language as the "Bulgarian language" instead of the "Slavonic language" comes in the work of the Greek clergy of the Archbishopric of Ohrid in the 11th century, for example in the Greek hagiography of Clement of Ohrid by Theophylact of Ohrid (late 11th century).
During the Middle Bulgarian period, the language underwent dramatic changes, losing the Slavonic case system, but preserving the rich verb system (while the development was exactly the opposite in other Slavic languages) and developing a definite article. It was influenced by its non-Slavic neighbors in the Balkan language area (mostly grammatically) and later also by Turkish, which was the official language of the Ottoman Empire, in the form of the Ottoman Turkish language, mostly lexically. As a national revival occurred toward the end of the period of Ottoman rule (mostly during the 19th century), a modern Bulgarian literary language gradually emerged that drew heavily on Church Slavonic/Old Bulgarian (and to some extent on literary Russian, which had preserved many lexical items from Church Slavonic) and later reduced the number of Turkish and other Balkan loans. Today one difference between Bulgarian dialects in the country and literary spoken Bulgarian is the significant presence of Old Bulgarian words and even word forms in the latter. Russian loans are distinguished from Old Bulgarian ones on the basis of the presence of specifically Russian phonetic changes, as in оборот (turnover, rev), непонятен (incomprehensible), ядро (nucleus) and others. Many other loans from French, English and the classical languages have subsequently entered the language as well.
Modern Bulgarian was based essentially on the Eastern dialects of the language, but its pronunciation is in many respects a compromise between East and West Bulgarian (see especially the phonetic sections below). Following the efforts of some figures of the National awakening of Bulgaria (most notably Neofit Rilski and Ivan Bogorov), there had been many attempts to codify a standard Bulgarian language; however, there was much argument surrounding the choice of norms. Between 1835 and 1878 more than 25 proposals were put forward and "linguistic chaos" ensued. Eventually the eastern dialects prevailed, and in 1899 the Bulgarian Ministry of Education officially codified a standard Bulgarian language based on the Drinov-Ivanchev orthography.
Bulgarian is the official language of Bulgaria, where it is used in all spheres of public life. As of 2011, it is spoken as a first language by about 6 million people in the country, or about four out of every five Bulgarian citizens.
There is also a significant Bulgarian diaspora abroad. One of the main historically established communities are the Bessarabian Bulgarians, whose settlement in the Bessarabia region of nowadays Moldavia and Ukraine dates mostly to the early 19th century. There were 134,000 Bulgarian speakers in Ukraine at the 2001 census, 41,800 in Moldova as of the 2014 census (of which 15,300 were habitual users of the language), and presumably a significant proportion of the 13,200 ethnic Bulgarians residing in neighbouring Transnistria in 2016.
Another community abroad are the Banat Bulgarians, who migrated in the 17th century to the Banat region now split between Romania, Serbia and Hungary. They speak the Banat Bulgarian dialect, which has had its own written standard and a historically important literary tradition.
There are Bulgarian speakers in neighbouring countries as well. The regional dialects of Bulgarian and Macedonian form a dialect continuum, and there is no well-defined boundary where one language ends and the other begins. Within the limits of the Republic of North Macedonia a strong separate Macedonian identity has emerged since the Second World War, even though there still are a small number of citizens who identify their language as Bulgarian. Beyond the borders of North Macedonia, the situation is more fluid, and the pockets of speakers of the related regional dialects in Albania and in Greece variously identify their language as Macedonian or as Bulgarian. In Serbia, there were 13,300 speakers as of 2011, mainly concentrated in the so-called Western Outlands along the border with Bulgaria. Bulgarian is also spoken in Turkey: natively by Pomaks, and as a second language by many Bulgarian Turks who emigrated from Bulgaria, mostly during the "Big Excursion" of 1989.
The language is also represented among the diaspora in Western Europe and North America, which has been steadily growing since the 1990s. Countries with significant numbers of speakers include Germany, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom (38,500 speakers in England and Wales as of 2011), France, the United States, and Canada (19,100 in 2011).
The language is mainly split into two broad dialect areas, based on the different reflexes of the Proto-Slavic yat vowel (Ѣ). This split, which occurred at some point during the Middle Ages, led to the development of Bulgaria's:
The literary language norm, which is generally based on the Eastern dialects, also has the Eastern alternating reflex of yat. However, it has not incorporated the general Eastern umlaut of all synchronic or even historic "ya" sounds into "e" before front vowels – e.g. поляна (polyana) vs. полени (poleni) "meadow – meadows" or even жаба (zhaba) vs. жеби (zhebi) "frog – frogs", even though it co-occurs with the yat alternation in almost all Eastern dialects that have it (except a few dialects along the yat border, e.g. in the Pleven region).
Until 1945, Bulgarian orthography did not reveal this alternation and used the original Old Slavic Cyrillic letter yat (Ѣ), which was commonly called двойно е (dvoyno e) at the time, to express the historical yat vowel or at least root vowels displaying the ya – e alternation. The letter was used in each occurrence of such a root, regardless of the actual pronunciation of the vowel: thus, both mlyako and mlekar were spelled with (Ѣ). Among other things, this was seen as a way to "reconcile" the Western and the Eastern dialects and maintain language unity at a time when much of Bulgaria's Western dialect area was controlled by Serbia and Greece, but there were still hopes and occasional attempts to recover it. With the 1945 orthographic reform, this letter was abolished and the present spelling was introduced, reflecting the alternation in pronunciation.
Sometimes, with the changes, words began to be spelled as other words with different meanings, e.g.:
In spite of the literary norm regarding the yat vowel, many people living in Western Bulgaria, including the capital Sofia, will fail to observe its rules. While the norm requires the realizations vidyal vs. videli (he has seen; they have seen), some natives of Western Bulgaria will preserve their local dialect pronunciation with "e" for all instances of "yat" (e.g. videl, videli). Others, attempting to adhere to the norm, will actually use the "ya" sound even in cases where the standard language has "e" (e.g. vidyal, vidyali). The latter hypercorrection is called свръхякане (svrah-yakane ≈"over-ya-ing").
Bulgarian is the only Slavic language whose literary standard does not naturally contain the iotated sound /jɛ/ (or its palatalized variant /ʲɛ/, except in non-Slavic foreign-loaned words). The sound is common in all modern Slavic languages (e.g. Czech medvěd /ˈmɛdvjɛt/ "bear", Polish pięć /pʲɛɲtɕ/ "five", Serbo-Croatian jelen /jělen/ "deer", Ukrainian немає /nemájɛ/ "there is not ...", Macedonian пишување /piʃuvaɲʲɛ/[stress?] "writing", etc.), as well as some Western Bulgarian dialectal forms – e.g. ора̀н’е /oˈraɲʲɛ/ (standard Bulgarian: оране /oˈranɛ/, "ploughing"), however it is not represented in standard Bulgarian speech or writing. Even where /jɛ/ occurs in other Slavic words, in Standard Bulgarian it is usually transcribed and pronounced as pure /ɛ/ – e.g. Boris Yeltsin is "Eltsin" (Борис Елцин), Yekaterinburg is "Ekaterinburg" (Екатеринбург) and Sarajevo is "Saraevo" (Сараево), although - because the sound is contained in a stressed syllable at the beginning of the word - Jelena Janković is "Yelena" – Йелена Янкович.
Until the period immediately following the Second World War, all Bulgarian and the majority of foreign linguists referred to the South Slavic dialect continuum spanning the area of modern Bulgaria, North Macedonia and parts of Northern Greece as a group of Bulgarian dialects. In contrast, Serbian sources tended to label them "south Serbian" dialects. Some local naming conventions included bolgárski, bugárski and so forth. The codifiers of the standard Bulgarian language, however, did not wish to make any allowances for a pluricentric "Bulgaro-Macedonian" compromise. In 1870 Marin Drinov, who played a decisive role in the standardization of the Bulgarian language, rejected the proposal of Parteniy Zografski and Kuzman Shapkarev for a mixed eastern and western Bulgarian/Macedonian foundation of the standard Bulgarian language, stating in his article in the newspaper Makedoniya: "Such an artificial assembly of written language is something impossible, unattainable and never heard of."
After 1944 the People's Republic of Bulgaria and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia began a policy of making Macedonia into the connecting link for the establishment of a new Balkan Federative Republic and stimulating here a development of distinct Macedonian consciousness. With the proclamation of the Socialist Republic of Macedonia as part of the Yugoslav federation, the new authorities also started measures that would overcome the pro-Bulgarian feeling among parts of its population and in 1945 a separate Macedonian language was codified. After 1958, when the pressure from Moscow decreased, Sofia reverted to the view that the Macedonian language did not exist as a separate language. Nowadays, Bulgarian and Greek linguists, as well as some linguists from other countries, still consider the various Macedonian dialects as part of the broader Bulgarian pluricentric dialectal continuum. Outside Bulgaria and Greece, Macedonian is generally considered an autonomous language within the South Slavic dialect continuum. Sociolinguists agree that the question whether Macedonian is a dialect of Bulgarian or a language is a political one and cannot be resolved on a purely linguistic basis, because dialect continua do not allow for either/or judgements. Nevertheless, Bulgarians often argue that the high degree of mutual intelligibility between Bulgarian and Macedonian proves that they are not different languages, but rather dialects of the same language, whereas Macedonians believe that the differences outweigh the similarities.
In 886 AD, the Bulgarian Empire introduced the Glagolitic alphabet which was devised by the Saints Cyril and Methodius in the 850s. The Glagolitic alphabet was gradually superseded in later centuries by the Cyrillic script, developed around the Preslav Literary School, Bulgaria in the late 9th century.
Several Cyrillic alphabets with 28 to 44 letters were used in the beginning and the middle of the 19th century during the efforts on the codification of Modern Bulgarian until an alphabet with 32 letters, proposed by Marin Drinov, gained prominence in the 1870s. The alphabet of Marin Drinov was used until the orthographic reform of 1945, when the letters yat (uppercase Ѣ, lowercase ѣ) and yus (uppercase Ѫ, lowercase ѫ) were removed from its alphabet, reducing the number of letters to 30.
Bulgarian possesses a phonology similar to that of the rest of the South Slavic languages, notably lacking Serbo-Croatian's phonemic vowel length and tones and alveo-palatal affricates. The eastern dialects exhibit palatalization of consonants before front vowels (/ɛ/ and /i/) and reduction of vowel phonemes in unstressed position (causing mergers of /ɛ/ and /i/, /ɔ/ and /u/, /a/ and /ɤ/) - both patterns have partial parallels in Russian and lead to a partly similar sound. The western dialects are like Macedonian and Serbo-Croatian in that they do not have allophonic palatalization and have only little vowel reduction.
Bulgarian has six vowel phonemes, but at least eight distinct phones can be distinguished when reduced allophones are taken into consideration.
The parts of speech in Bulgarian are divided in ten types, which are categorized in two broad classes: mutable and immutable. The difference is that mutable parts of speech vary grammatically, whereas the immutable ones do not change, regardless of their use. The five classes of mutables are: nouns, adjectives, numerals, pronouns and verbs. Syntactically, the first four of these form the group of the noun or the nominal group. The immutables are: adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, particles and interjections. Verbs and adverbs form the group of the verb or the verbal group.
Nouns and adjectives have the categories grammatical gender, number, case (only vocative) and definiteness in Bulgarian. Adjectives and adjectival pronouns agree with nouns in number and gender. Pronouns have gender and number and retain (as in nearly all Indo-European languages) a more significant part of the case system.
The plural forms of the nouns do not express their gender as clearly as the singular ones, but may also provide some clues to it: the ending –и (-i) is more likely to be used with a masculine or feminine noun (факти /ˈfakti/ 'facts', болести /ˈbɔlɛsti/ 'sicknesses'), while one in –а/–я belongs more often to a neuter noun (езера /ɛzɛˈra/ 'lakes'). Also, the plural ending –ове /ovɛ/ occurs only in masculine nouns.
Two numbers are distinguished in Bulgarian–singular and plural. A variety of plural suffixes is used, and the choice between them is partly determined by their ending in singular and partly influenced by gender; in addition, irregular declension and alternative plural forms are common. Words ending in –а/–я (which are usually feminine) generally have the plural ending –и, upon dropping of the singular ending. Of nouns ending in a consonant, the feminine ones also use –и, whereas the masculine ones usually have –и for polysyllables and –ове for monosyllables (however, exceptions are especially common in this group). Nouns ending in –о/–е (most of which are neuter) mostly use the suffixes –а, –я (both of which require the dropping of the singular endings) and –та.
With cardinal numbers and related words such as няколко ('several'), masculine nouns use a special count form in –а/–я, which stems from the Proto-Slavonic dual: два/три стола ('two/three chairs') versus тези столове ('these chairs'); cf. feminine две/три/тези книги ('two/three/these books') and neuter две/три/тези легла ('two/three/these beds'). However, a recently developed language norm requires that count forms should only be used with masculine nouns that do not denote persons. Thus, двама/трима ученици ('two/three students') is perceived as more correct than двама/трима ученика, while the distinction is retained in cases such as два/три молива ('two/three pencils') versus тези моливи ('these pencils').
Cases exist only in the personal and some other pronouns (as they do in many other modern Indo-European languages), with nominative, accusative, dative and vocative forms. Vestiges are present in a number of phraseological units and sayings. The major exception are vocative forms, which are still in use for masculine (with the endings -е, -о and -ю) and feminine nouns (-[ь/й]о and -е) in the singular.
In modern Bulgarian, definiteness is expressed by a definite article which is postfixed to the noun, much like in the Scandinavian languages or Romanian (indefinite: човек, 'person'; definite: човекът, "the person") or to the first nominal constituent of definite noun phrases (indefinite: добър човек, 'a good person'; definite: добрият човек, "the good person"). There are four singular definite articles. Again, the choice between them is largely determined by the noun's ending in the singular. Nouns that end in a consonant and are masculine use –ът/–ят, when they are grammatical subjects, and –а/–я elsewhere. Nouns that end in a consonant and are feminine, as well as nouns that end in –а/–я (most of which are feminine, too) use –та. Nouns that end in –е/–о use –то.
The plural definite article is –те for all nouns except for those whose plural form ends in –а/–я; these get –та instead. When postfixed to adjectives the definite articles are –ят/–я for masculine gender (again, with the longer form being reserved for grammatical subjects), –та for feminine gender, –то for neuter gender, and –те for plural.
Both groups agree in gender and number with the noun they are appended to. They may also take the definite article as explained above.
Pronouns may vary in gender, number, and definiteness, and are the only parts of speech that have retained case inflections. Three cases are exhibited by some groups of pronouns – nominative, accusative and dative. The distinguishable types of pronouns include the following: personal, relative, reflexive, interrogative, negative, indefinitive,[check spelling] summative and possessive.
Finite verbal forms are simple or compound and agree with subjects in person (first, second and third) and number (singular, plural). In addition to that, past compound forms using participles vary in gender (masculine, feminine, neuter) and voice (active and passive) as well as aspect (perfective/aorist and imperfective).
Bulgarian verbs express lexical aspect: perfective verbs signify the completion of the action of the verb and form past perfective (aorist) forms; imperfective ones are neutral with regard to it and form past imperfective forms. Most Bulgarian verbs can be grouped in perfective-imperfective pairs (imperfective/perfective: идвам/дойда "come", пристигам/пристигна "arrive"). Perfective verbs can be usually formed from imperfective ones by suffixation or prefixation, but the resultant verb often deviates in meaning from the original. In the pair examples above, aspect is stem-specific and therefore there is no difference in meaning.
In Bulgarian, there is also grammatical aspect. Three grammatical aspects are distinguishable: neutral, perfect and pluperfect. The neutral aspect comprises the three simple tenses and the future tense. The pluperfect is manifest in tenses that use double or triple auxiliary "be" participles like the past pluperfect subjunctive. Perfect constructions use a single auxiliary "be".
The traditional interpretation is that in addition to the four moods (наклонения /nəkloˈnɛnijɐ/) shared by most other European languages – indicative (изявително, /izʲəˈvitɛɫno/) imperative (повелително /poveˈlitelno/), subjunctive (подчинително /pottʃiˈnitɛɫno/) and conditional (условно, /oˈsɫɔvno/) – in Bulgarian there is one more to describe a general category of unwitnessed events – the inferential (преизказно /prɛˈiskɐzno/) mood. However, most contemporary Bulgarian linguists usually exclude the subjunctive mood and the inferential mood from the list of Bulgarian moods (thus placing the number of Bulgarian moods at a total of 3: indicative, imperative and conditional) and don't consider them to be moods but view them as verbial morphosyntactic constructs or separate gramemes of the verb class. The possible existence of a few other moods has been discussed in the literature. Most Bulgarian school grammars teach the traditional view of 4 Bulgarian moods (as described above, but excluding the subjunctive and including the inferential).
There are three grammatically distinctive positions in time – present, past and future – which combine with aspect and mood to produce a number of formations. Normally, in grammar books these formations are viewed as separate tenses – i. e. "past imperfect" would mean that the verb is in past tense, in the imperfective aspect, and in the indicative mood (since no other mood is shown). There are more than 40 different tenses across Bulgarian's two aspects and five moods.
The four perfect constructions above can vary in aspect depending on the aspect of the main-verb participle; they are in fact pairs of imperfective and perfective aspects. Verbs in forms using past participles also vary in voice and gender.
There is only one simple tense in the imperative mood, the present, and there are simple forms only for the second-person singular, -и/-й (-i, -y/i), and plural, -ете/-йте (-ete, -yte), e.g. уча /ˈutʃɐ/ ('to study'): учи /oˈtʃi/, sg., учете /oˈtʃɛtɛ/, pl.; играя /ˈiɡrajɐ/ 'to play': играй /iɡˈraj/, играйте /iɡˈrajtɛ/. There are compound imperative forms for all persons and numbers in the present compound imperative (да играе, da iɡˈrae/), the present perfect compound imperative (да е играл, /dɐ ɛ iɡˈraɫ/) and the rarely used present pluperfect compound imperative (да е бил играл, /dɐ ɛ bil iɡˈraɫ/).
The conditional mood consists of five compound tenses, most of which are not grammatically distinguishable. The present, future and past conditional use a special past form of the stem би- (bi – "be") and the past participle (бих учил, /bix ˈutʃiɫ/, 'I would study'). The past future conditional and the past future perfect conditional coincide in form with the respective indicative tenses.
The subjunctive mood is rarely documented as a separate verb form in Bulgarian, (being, morphologically, a sub-instance of the quasi-infinitive construction with the particle да and a normal finite verb form), but nevertheless it is used regularly. The most common form, often mistaken for the present tense, is the present subjunctive ([по-добре] да отида (ˈpɔdobrɛ) dɐ oˈtidɐ/, 'I had better go'). The difference between the present indicative and the present subjunctive tense is that the subjunctive can be formed by both perfective and imperfective verbs. It has completely replaced the infinitive and the supine from complex expressions (see below). It is also employed to express opinion about possible future events. The past perfect subjunctive ([по добре] да бях отишъл (ˈpɔdobrɛ) dɐ bʲax oˈtiʃɐl/, 'I'd had better be gone') refers to possible events in the past, which did not take place, and the present pluperfect subjunctive (да съм бил отишъл /dɐ sɐm bil oˈtiʃɐl/), which may be used about both past and future events arousing feelings of incontinence,[clarification needed] suspicion, etc. and has no perfect English translation.[dubious ]
The inferential mood has five pure tenses. Two of them are simple – past aorist inferential and past imperfect inferential – and are formed by the past participles of perfective and imperfective verbs, respectively. There are also three compound tenses – past future inferential, past future perfect inferential and past perfect inferential. All these tenses' forms are gender-specific in the singular. There are also conditional and compound-imperative crossovers. The existence of inferential forms has been attributed to Turkic influences by most Bulgarian linguists. Morphologically, they are derived from the perfect.
The participles are inflected by gender, number, and definiteness, and are coordinated with the subject when forming compound tenses (see tenses above). When used in attributive role the inflection attributes are coordinated with the noun that is being attributed.
Bulgarian uses reflexive verbal forms (i.e. actions which are performed by the agent onto him- or herself) which behave in a similar way as they do in many other Indo-European languages, such as French and Spanish. The reflexive is expressed by the invariable particle se,[note 1] originally a clitic form of the accusative reflexive pronoun. Thus –
When the action is performed on others, other particles are used, just like in any normal verb, e.g. –
Sometimes, the reflexive verb form has a similar but not necessarily identical meaning to the non-reflexive verb –
In other cases, the reflexive verb has a completely different meaning from its non-reflexive counterpart –
When the action is performed on an indirect object, the particles change to si and its derivatives –
In some cases, the particle si is ambiguous between the indirect object and the possessive meaning –
The difference between transitive and intransitive verbs can lead to significant differences in meaning with minimal change, e.g. –
The particle si is often used to indicate a more personal relationship to the action, e.g. –
The most productive way to form adverbs is to derive them from the neuter singular form of the corresponding adjective—e.g. бързо (fast), силно (hard), странно (strange)—but adjectives ending in -ки use the masculine singular form (i.e. ending in -ки), instead—e.g. юнашки (heroically), мъжки (bravely, like a man), майсторски (skillfully). The same pattern is used to form adverbs from the (adjective-like) ordinal numerals, e.g. първо (firstly), второ (secondly), трето (thirdly), and in some cases from (adjective-like) cardinal numerals, e.g. двойно (twice as/double), тройно (three times as), петорно (five times as).
The remaining adverbs are formed in ways that are no longer productive in the language. A small number are original (not derived from other words), for example: тук (here), там (there), вътре (inside), вън (outside), много (very/much) etc. The rest are mostly fossilized case forms, such as:
Adverbs can sometimes be reduplicated to emphasize the qualitative or quantitative properties of actions, moods or relations as performed by the subject of the sentence: "бавно-бавно" ("rather slowly"), "едва-едва" ("with great difficulty"), "съвсем-съвсем" ("quite", "thoroughly").
Bulgarian employs clitic doubling, mostly for emphatic purposes. For example, the following constructions are common in colloquial Bulgarian:
The phenomenon is practically obligatory in the spoken language in the case of inversion signalling information structure (in writing, clitic doubling may be skipped in such instances, with a somewhat bookish effect):
In this case, clitic doubling can be a colloquial alternative of the more formal or bookish passive voice, which would be constructed as follows:
Clitic doubling is also fully obligatory, both in the spoken and in the written norm, in clauses including several special expressions that use the short accusative and dative pronouns such as "играе ми се" (I feel like playing), студено ми е (I am cold), and боли ме ръката (my arm hurts):
Except the above examples, clitic doubling is considered inappropriate in a formal context.
Questions in Bulgarian which do not use a question word (such as who? what? etc.) are formed with the particle ли after the verb; a subject is not necessary, as the verbal conjugation suggests who is performing the action:
While the particle ли generally goes after the verb, it can go after a noun or adjective if a contrast is needed:
Rhetorical questions can be formed by adding ли to a question word, thus forming a "double interrogative" –
The impersonal verb ще (lit. 'it wants')[note 5] is used to for forming the (positive) future tense:
The negative future is formed with the invariable construction няма да /ˈɲamɐ dɐ/ (see няма below):[note 6]
The past tense of this verb – щях /ʃtʲax/ is conjugated to form the past conditional ('would have' – again, with да, since it is irrealis):
The verbs имам /ˈimɐm/ ('to have') and нямам /ˈɲamɐm/ ('to not have'):
In Bulgarian, there are several conjunctions all translating into English as "but", which are all used in distinct situations. They are но (no), ама (amà), а (a), ами (amì), and ала (alà) (and обаче (obache) – "however", identical in use to но).
While there is some overlapping between their uses, in many cases they are specific. For example, ami is used for a choice – ne tova, ami onova – "not this one, but that one" (compare Spanish sino), while ama is often used to provide extra information or an opinion – kazah go, ama sgreshih – "I said it, but I was wrong". Meanwhile, a provides contrast between two situations, and in some sentences can even be translated as "although", "while" or even "and" – az rabotya, a toy blee – "I'm working, and he's daydreaming".
Very often, different words can be used to alter the emphasis of a sentence – e.g. while pusha, no ne tryabva and pusha, a ne tryabva both mean "I smoke, but I shouldn't", the first sounds more like a statement of fact ("...but I mustn't"), while the second feels more like a judgement ("...but I oughtn't"). Similarly, az ne iskam, ama toy iska and az ne iskam, a toy iska both mean "I don't want to, but he does", however the first emphasizes the fact that he wants to, while the second emphasizes the wanting rather than the person.
Ala is interesting in that, while it feels archaic, it is often used in poetry and frequently in children's stories, since it has quite a moral/ominous feel to it.
Some common expressions use these words, and some can be used alone as interjections:
Bulgarian has several abstract particles which are used to strengthen a statement. These have no precise translation in English.[note 8] The particles are strictly informal and can even be considered rude by some people and in some situations. They are mostly used at the end of questions or instructions.
These are "tagged" on to the beginning or end of a sentence to express the mood of the speaker in relation to the situation. They are mostly interrogative or slightly imperative in nature. There is no change in the grammatical mood when these are used (although they may be expressed through different grammatical moods in other languages).
These express intent or desire, perhaps even pleading. They can be seen as a sort of cohortative side to the language. (Since they can be used by themselves, they could even be considered as verbs in their own right.) They are also highly informal.
These particles can be combined with the vocative particles for greater effect, e.g. ya da vidya, be (let me see), or even exclusively in combinations with them, with no other elements, e.g. hayde, de! (come on!); nedey, de! (I told you not to!).
Bulgarian has several pronouns of quality which have no direct parallels in English – kakav (what sort of); takuv (this sort of); onakuv (that sort of – colloq.); nyakakav (some sort of); nikakav (no sort of); vsyakakav (every sort of); and the relative pronoun kakavto (the sort of ... that ... ). The adjective ednakuv ("the same") derives from the same radical.[note 9]
An interesting phenomenon is that these can be strung along one after another in quite long constructions, e.g.
An extreme (colloquial) sentence, with almost no physical meaning in it whatsoever – yet which does have perfect meaning to the Bulgarian ear – would be :
—Note: the subject of the sentence is simply the pronoun "taya" (lit. "this one here"; colloq. "she").
Another interesting phenomenon that is observed in colloquial speech is the use of takova (neuter of takyv) not only as a substitute for an adjective, but also as a substitute for a verb. In that case the base form takova is used as the third person singular in the present indicative and all other forms are formed by analogy to other verbs in the language. Sometimes the "verb" may even acquire a derivational prefix that changes its meaning. Examples:
Another use of takova in colloquial speech is the word takovata, which can be used as a substitution for a noun, but also, if the speaker doesn't remember or is not sure how to say something, they might say takovata and then pause to think about it:
As a result of this versalitity, the word takova can be used as a euphemism for literally anything. It is commonly used to substitute words relating to reproductive organs or sexual acts, for example:
Similar "meaningless" expressions are extremely common in spoken Bulgarian, especially when the speaker is finding it difficult to describe something.
Most of the vocabulary of modern Bulgarian consists of terms inherited from Proto-Slavic and local Bulgarian innovations and formations of those through the mediation of Old and Middle Bulgarian. The native terms in Bulgarian account for 70% to 80% of the lexicon.
The remaining 25% to 30% are loanwords from a number of languages, as well as derivations of such words. Bulgarian adopted also a few words of Thracian and Bulgar origin. The languages which have contributed most to Bulgarian as a way of foreign vocabulary borrowings are Latin 26%, Greek 23%, French 15%, Ottoman Turkish, (and, via Ottoman Turkish, Arabic) 14%, Russian 10%, Italian 4%, German 4%, and English 4%. The classical languages Latin and Greek are the source of many words, used mostly in international terminology. Many Latin terms entered Bulgarian during the time when present-day Bulgaria was part of the Roman Empire and also in the later centuries through Romanian, Aromanian, and Megleno-Romanian during Bulgarian Empires. The loanwords of Greek origin in Bulgarian are a product of the influence of the liturgical language of the Orthodox Church. Many of the numerous loanwords from another Turkic language, Ottoman Turkish and, via Ottoman Turkish, from Arabic were adopted into Bulgarian during the long period of Ottoman rule, but have been replaced with native Bulgarian terms. Furthermore, after the independence of Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire in 1878, Bulgarian intellectuals imported many French language vocabulary. In addition, both specialized (usually coming from the field of science) and commonplace English words (notably abstract, commodity/service-related or technical terms) have also penetrated Bulgarian since the second half of the 20th century, especially since 1989. A noteworthy portion of this English-derived terminology has attained some unique features in the process of its introduction to native speakers, and this has resulted in peculiar derivations that set the newly formed loanwords apart from the original words (mainly in pronunciation), although many loanwords are completely identical to the source words. A growing number of international neologisms are also being widely adopted, causing controversy between younger generations who, in general, are raised in the era of digital globalization, and the older, more conservative educated purists.