ⓘ Bulgarian alphabet


ⓘ Bulgarian alphabet

In AD 886, the Bulgarian Empire introduced the Glagolitic alphabet, devised by Saints Cyril and Methodius and their disciples in the 850s. The Glagolitic alphabet was gradually superseded in later centuries by the Cyrillic script, developed around the Preslav Literary School, Bulgaria at the beginning of the 10th century.

Several Cyrillic alphabets with 28 to 44 letters were used in the early and middle 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: it 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. Yat was also known as "double e" двойно е/е-двойно, and yus was also known as "big nasal sign" голяма носовка, crossed yer ъ кръстато, and "wide yer" широко ъ.

With the accession of Bulgaria to the European Union on 1 January 2007, the Cyrillic script became the third official script of the European Union, following the Latin and Greek scripts.


1. List

The following table gives the letters of the Bulgarian alphabet, along with the IPA values for the sound of each letter. The listed transliteration in the Official transliteration column known as the Streamlined System is official in Bulgaria and is listed in the Official orthographic dictionary 2012. For other transliteration standards see Romanization of Bulgarian.

Most letters in the Bulgarian alphabet stand for just one specific sound. Five letters stand for sounds written in English with two or more letters. These letters are ч ch, ш sh, щ sht, ю yu, and я ya. Two additional sounds are written with two letters: these are дж /dʒ/ and дз /dz/. The letter ь marks the softening palatalization of any consonant except ж, ч, and ш before the letter о, while ю and я after consonants mark the palatalization of the preceding consonant in addition to representing the vowels /u/ and /a/. A letter that represents a voiced consonant can represent its voiceless counterpart and vice versa when adjacent to a voiceless or voiced consonant, respectively, or when a voiced consonant is the final consonant in a syllable, for example: вторник /ˈftɔrnik/ "Tuesday", нож /ˈnɔʃ/ "knife", сграда /ˈzɡradɐ/ "building", сватба /ˈsvadbɐ/ "wedding".

The names of most letters are simple representations of their phonetic values, with consonants being followed by /ɤ/ – thus the alphabet goes: /a/ – /bɤ/ – /vɤ, etc. However, the name of the letter Й is "i-kratko" short i, the name of Ъ is "er-golyam" large yer, and the name of Ь is "er-malak" small yer. People often refer to Ъ simply as /ɤ/.


2. Ѝ

The accented letter Ѝ is used to distinguish the conjunction и and from the pronoun Ѝ her. It is not considered a separate letter but rather a special form of И.


3. Writing

Bulgarian is usually described as having a phonemic orthography, meaning that words are spelt the way they are pronounced. This is largely true, but there are exceptions. Three of the most cited examples are:

  • The sounds)

3.1. Writing Modern developments

Since the time of Bulgarias liberation in the late 19th century, the Bulgarian language has taken on a large number of words from Western European languages. All of these are transcribed phonetically into Cyrillic, e.g.:

  • German – e.g. бинт Bind – bandage, багер Bagger – digger, бормашина Bohrmaschine – drill
  • French – e.g. тротоар trottoir – sidewalk, тирбушон tire-bouchon – corkscrew, партер from par terre – ground floor

Notable is the transliteration of many English names through German, e.g.:

  • Washington → Вашингтон "Vashington", Scotland → Шотландия "Shotlandiya"

In the years since the end of communism and the rise of technology, the tendency for borrowing has shifted mainly to English, where much computer-related terminology has entered and been inflected accordingly – again, in a wholly phonetic way. Examples include:

  • даунлоудваш го на десктопа download-vash go na desktop-a – you download it onto the desktop
  • чатим в нета chat-im v net-a – we chat on the net
  • кликвам на файла click-vam na file-a – I click on the file

The computer-related neologisms are often used interchangeably with traditional Bulgarian words, e.g. "download" and "upload" can be simply свалям and качвам "svalyam" & "kachvam" – "to bring down" & "to put up".


3.2. Writing Use of Roman script in Bulgarian

The insertion of English words directly into a Cyrillic Bulgarian sentence, while frowned upon, has been increasingly used in the media. This is done for several reasons, including –

  • To shorten what would otherwise be a longer word or phrase –
Янките против още US войски в Афганистан instead of американски - American The Yanks oppose more US troops in Afghanistan
  • To avoid the need to transcribe to Cyrillic or translate to Bulgarian well known abbreviations
Ние не сме видели края на SOPA, PIPA и ACTA We have not seen the end of SOPA, PIPA and ACTA

Brand names are also often not transcribed: WikiLeaks, YouTube, Skype – as opposed to Уикилийкс, Ю-Тюб, Скайп. However, this is not always the case, as in the headline Фейсбук vs. Гугъл literal transliteration: Feysbuk vs. Gugǎl. Note the inconsistency here – despite the insistence on Cyrillic, the "vs." has been retained in Roman script.

The 2012 Official Orthographic Dictionary of the Bulgarian Language by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences permits widely known proper names to remain in their original alphabet. Example sentences are given, all containing names of American IT companies: Yahoo, Microsoft, YouTube, PayPal, Facebook.