Slav Macedonian

Macedonian language

Macedonian is the official language of the Republic of Macedonia and is a part of the Eastern group of South Slavic languages. Macedonian is closely related to and shares a high degree of mutual intelligibility with the Bulgarian and Serbian languages. The name of the Macedonian language is controversial in Greece and part of an ongoing dispute. Bulgarian linguistics considers all Slavic dialects spoken in Macedonia (region) as a part of the Bulgarian diasystem.

Classification and related languages

The modern Macedonian language belongs to the eastern sub-branch of the South Slavic branch of the Slavic branch of the Indo-European family of languages.The closest relative of Macedonian is Bulgarian, with which it is mutually intelligible. Following that, the next closest languages are Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian. Macedonian and its neighbours form a dialect continuum, with the Bulgarian standard based on the more eastern dialects and Macedonian based on the more western ones. It also includes the Torlakian dialect group that is intermediate between Bulgarian, Macedonian and Serbian, comprising some of the northernmost dialects of Macedonian as well as varieties spoken in southern Serbia.

Together with its immediate Slavic neighbours, Macedonian also forms a constituent language of the Balkan Sprachbund, a group of languages which share typological, grammatical and lexical features based on geographical convergence, rather than genetic proximity. Its other principal members are Romanian, Greek and Albanian, all of which belong to different genetic branches of the Indo-European family of languages (Romanian is a Romance language, while Greek and Albanian each comprise their own separate branches). Macedonian and Bulgarian are the only Slavic languages that don't use noun cases (except for the vocative, and apart from some traces of once living inflections still found scattered throughout the languages). They are also the only Slavic languages with any definite articles (there are three: unspecified, proximate and distal). This last feature is shared with Romanian, Greek, and Albanian.

Geographical distribution

The population of the Republic of Macedonia was 2,022,547 in 2002, with 1,644,815 speaking Macedonian as the native language. Outside of the Republic, there are Macedonians living in other parts of the geographical area of Macedonia. There are ethnic Macedonian minorities in neighbouring Albania, in Bulgaria and in Greece. According to the official Albanian census of 1989, 4,697 ethnic Macedonians reside in Albania. In Greece, although groups may be considered to be speaking dialects heteronomous with standard Macedonian, they do not all identify their language with their national identity. The Slavic speaking minority in Greece varies on how it describes its language — most speakers describe it as Slavic and proclaim a Greek national identity; some smaller groups describe their speech as "Macedonian" and espouse an ethnic Macedonian identity; others describe it as "Bulgarian" and espouse a Bulgarian ethnic identity; and some prefer to identify as dopii and their dialect as dopia which mean "local" or "indigenous" in Greek.

A large number of Macedonians live outside the traditional Balkan Macedonian region, with Australia, Canada and the USA having the largest emigrant communities. According to a 1964 estimate, approximately 580,000 Macedonians live outside of the Republic of Macedonia, nearly 30% of the total population. The Macedonian spoken by communities outside the republic dates back to before the standardisation of the language and retains many dialectic though, overall, mutually intelligible variations.

The Macedonian language has the status of official language only within the Republic of Macedonia, and is a recognised minority language in parts of Albania. The language is taught in some universities in Australia, Canada, Croatia, Italy, Russia, Serbia, the United States and the United Kingdom among other countries.


The total number of Macedonian speakers is a highly disputed topic. Of Macedonia's neighbors, Serbia and Albania recognize the Macedonian language whereas Greece and Bulgaria do not. According to the latest censuses and figures, the number of Macedonian-speakers is:

State Number
Lower Range Higher Range
Republic of Macedonia 1,700,000 2,022,547
Albania 4,697 30,000
Bulgaria 5,071 25,000
Greece 35,000 Bilingual speakers 250,000,
Serbia 14,355 30,000
Rest of the Balkans 15,939 25,000
Canada 37,055 150,000
Australia 71,994 200,000
Germany 62,295 85,000
Italy 50,000 74,162
United States of America 45,000 200,000
Switzerland 6,415 60,362
Rest of World 101,600 110,000
Total 2,289,904 3,435,395


Based on a large group of features, Macedonian dialects can be divided into Eastern and Western groups (the boundary runs approximately from Skopje and Skopska Crna Gora along the rivers Vardar and Crna). In addition, a more detailed classification can be based on the modern reflexes of the Proto-Slavic reduced vowels (yers), vocalic sonorants, and the back nasal *ǫ. That classification distinguishes between the following 5 groups:

Western Dialects:

Eastern Dialects:

The Ser-Drama-Lagadin-Nevrokop dialect and Maleševo-Pirin dialect are considered to also be Bulgarian dialects or transitional dialects between Macedonian and Bulgarian.


Vowels of Macedonian
Front Central Back
Close и /i/ у /u/
Mid е /ɛ/ о /ɔ/
Open а /a/

In addition, the schwa [ə] may appear in certain dialects or loanwords.

Consonants of Macedonian
Bilabial Labio-
Dental Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar
Nasal m n ɲ
Plosive p b t d c ɟ k g
Affricate ts dz
Fricative f v s z ʃ ʒ x
Approximant j
Trill r
Lateral ɫ l

Macedonian exhibits final obstruent devoicing and syllabic /r/

Other than recent loanwords, word stress in Macedonian is antepenultimate, meaning it falls on the third from last syllable in words with three or more syllables, and on the first or only syllable in other words. By comparison, in standard Bulgarian, the stress can fall anywhere within a word.


Macedonian grammar is markedly analytic in comparison with other Slavic languages, having lost the common Slavic case system. The Macedonian language shows some special and, in some cases, unique characteristics due to its central position in the Balkans.

Literary Macedonian is the only South Slavic literary language that has three forms of the definite article, based on the degree of proximity to the speaker, and a past tense formed by means of an auxiliary verb "to have", followed by a past passive participle in the neuter.

Both double object and mediative (sometimes referred to as renarrative or admirative) mood are also found in the Bulgarian language, although the use of double object is much more restricted in the Bulgarian standard (see also Bulgarian syntax).


As a result of the close relatedness with Bulgarian and Serbian, Macedonian shares a considerable amount of its lexicon with these languages. Other languages which have been in positions of power, such as Ottoman Turkish and increasingly English also provide a significant proportion of the loan words. Prestige languages, such as Old Church Slavonic, which occupies a relationship to modern Macedonian comparable to the relationship of medieval Latin to modern Romance languages, and Russian also provided a source for lexical borrowings.

During the standardization process, there was deliberate care taken to try and purify the lexicon of the language. "Serbisms" and "Bulgarisms", which had become common due to the influence of these languages in the region were rejected in favor of words from native dialects and archaisms. One example being the word for "event", настан [ˈnastan], which was found in certain examples of folk poetry collected by the Miladinov Brothers in the 19th century, while the Macedonian writer Krste Misirkov had previously used the word собитие [ˈsɔbitiɛ]. This is not to say that there are no Serbisms, Bulgarisms or even Russianisms in the language, but rather that they were discouraged on a principle of "seeking native material first".

The language of the writers at the turn of 19th century abounds with Russian and Old Church Slavonic lexical and lexemogenic elements which in the modern written language in the Republic of Macedonia are substituted with new words and models. Thus, the nouns that end with siffixes -ние and -тел, adjectives with suffix -телен and others, are changed according to a Serbo-Croatian lexicogenic model, e.g., действие becomes дејство, лицемерие — лицемерство, развитие — развиток, определение — определба, движение — движење, продолжител — продолжувач, победител — победник, убедителен — убедлив, etc. This includes many words and expressions that came into the written norm of the Macedonian language from the Serbo-Croatian language and replace not only words that are found in the modern Bulgarian language but also words typical for the Old Church Slavonic like известиеизвештај, количествоколичина, съгласиеслога, etc. This fact, which aims at distancing the Macedonian written norm from the Bulgarian one, is a rare linguistic attempt to abolish a lexicogenic tradition that has been established in the written literature.

Writing system


The modern Macedonian alphabet was developed by linguists in the period after the Second World War, who based their alphabet on the phonetic alphabet of Vuk Stefanović Karadžić, though a similar writing system was used by Krste Misirkov in the late 19th century. The Macedonian language had previously been written using the Early Cyrillic alphabet, or later using the Cyrillic alphabet with local adaptations from either the Serbian or Bulgarian alphabets.

The following table provides the upper and lower case forms of the Macedonian alphabet, along with the IPA value for each letter:

А а
Б б
В в
Г г
Д д
Ѓ ѓ
Е е
Ж ж
З з
Ѕ ѕ
И и
Ј ј
К к
Л л
Љ љ
М м
Н н
Њ њ
О о
П п
Р р
С с
Т т
Ќ ќ
У у
Ф ф
Х х
Ц ц
Ч ч
Џ џ
Ш ш


Macedonian orthography is consistent and phonemic in practice, an approximation of the principle of one grapheme per phoneme. A principle represented by Adelung's saying, "write as you speak and read as it is written" („пишувај како што зборуваш и читај како што е напишано“). Though as with most, if not all, living languages it has its share of inconsistencies and exceptions.


Lord's Prayer
Оче наш

Оче наш којшто си на небото,
да се свети името Твое,
да биде царството Твое,
да биде волјата Твоја,
како на небото, така и на Земјата!
Лебот наш насушен дај ни го денес
и прости ни ги долговите наши
како што им проштеваме и ние
на нашите должници.
И не воведи нè во искушение'
но избави нè од лукавиот.

Oče naš

Oče naš, kojšto si na neboto
da se sveti imeto Tvoe,
da bide carstvoto Tvoe,
da bide voljata Tvoja,
kako na neboto, taka i na Zemjata!
Lebot naš nasušen daj ni go denes
i prosti ni gi dolgovite naši
kako što im proštevame i nie
na našite dolžnici.
I ne vovedi nè vo iskušenie,
no izbavi nè od lukaviot.


The region of Macedonia and the Republic of Macedonia are located on the Balkan peninsula. The Slavs first came to the Balkan Peninsula in the sixth and seventh centuries AD. In the ninth century, the Greek Byzantine monks Saints Cyril and Methodius developed the first writing system for the Slavonic languages. At this time, the Slavic dialects were so close as to make it practical to develop the written language on the dialect of a single region. There is dispute as to the precise region, but it is likely that they were developed in the region around Thessaloniki.

In the fourteenth century, the Ottoman Turks invaded and conquered most of the Balkans, incorporating Macedonia into the Ottoman Empire. While the written language, now called Old Church Slavonic, remained static as a result of Turkish domination, the spoken dialects moved further apart.

During the increase of national consciousness in the Balkans, standards for the languages of Slovenian, Serbo-Croatian and Bulgarian were created. As Turkish influence in Macedonia waned, schools were opened up that taught the Bulgarian standard language in areas with significant a Bulgarian population. (see Demographic History of Macedonia)

In 1845 the Russian scholar Viktor Grigorovich travelled in the Balkans in order to study the south Slavic dialects of Macedonia. His work articulated for the first time a distinct pair of separate Bulgarian dialects: Eastern and Western. According to his findings, the Western Bulgarian variety, spoken in Macedonia, was characterized by traces of Old Slavic nasal vowels. It wasn't until the works of Krste Misirkov that parts of what had been regarded as West Bulgarian dialects were defined as a separate 'Macedonian' language. Misirkov was born in a village near Pella in Greek Macedonia. Although literature had been written in the Slavic dialects of Macedonia before, arguably the most important book published in relation to the Macedonian language was Misirkov's On Macedonian Matters, published in 1903. In that book, he argued for the creation of a standard literary Macedonian language from the central dialects of Macedonia which would use a phonemic orthography.

After the first two Balkan wars, the region of Macedonia was split among Greece, Bulgaria, and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia occupied the area that is currently the Republic of Macedonia incorporating it into the Kingdom as "Southern Serbia." During this time, Yugoslav Macedonia became known as Vardar Banovina (Vardar province) and the language of public life, education and the church was Serbo-Croatian. In the other two parts of Macedonia, the respective national languages, Greek and Bulgarian, were made official. In Bulgarian Macedonia, the local dialects were described as dialects of Bulgarian.

During the second World War, Yugoslav Macedonia was occupied by the Bulgarians, who were allied with the Axis. The Bulgarian language was reintroduced in schools and liturgies. The Bulgarians were initially welcomed as liberators from Serbian domination until connections were made between the imposition of the Bulgarian language and unpopular Serbian assimilation policies; the Bulgarians were quickly seen as conquerors.

There were a number of groups fighting the Bulgarian occupying force, some advocating independence and others union with Bulgaria. The eventual outcome was that almost all of Vardar Banovina (i.e. the areas which geographically became known as Vardar Macedonia) was incorporated into the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as a constituent Socialist Republic with the Macedonian language holding official status within both the Federation and Republic. The Macedonian language was proclaimed the official language of the Republic of Macedonia at the First Session of the Assembly for the National Liberation of Macedonia, held on August 2, 1944. The first official Macedonian grammar was developed by Krume Kepeski. One of the most important contributors in the standardisation of the Macedonian literary language was Blaže Koneski. The first document written in the literary standard Macedonian language is the first issue of the Nova Makedonija newspaper in 1944. Makedonska Iskra (Macedonian Spark) was the first Macedonian newspaper to be published in Australia, from 1946 to 1957. A monthly with national distribution, it commenced in Perth and later moved to Melbourne and Sydney.

Political views on the language

As with the issue of Macedonian ethnicity, the politicians, linguists and common people from Macedonia and neighbouring countries have opposing views about the existence and distinctiveness of the Macedonian language.

In the ninth century AD, saints Cyril and Methodius introduced Old Church Slavonic, the first Slavic language of literacy. Written with their newly invented Glagolitic script, this language was based largely on the dialect of Slavs spoken in Thessaloniki; this dialect is closest to present day Bulgarian and Macedonian.

Bulgaria recognized the Macedonian language from 1944 until 1948, the date of the Tito-Stalin split. This date also coincided with the first referenced efforts of Bulgarian linguists to the Serbianisation of the Macedonian language. Although Bulgaria was the first country to recognize the independence of the Republic of Macedonia, it has since refused to recognise the existence of a separate Macedonian nation and a separate Macedonian language. Unlike Bulgaria, Serbia has acknowledged a separate Macedonian nation and language since the end of the Second World War.

Bulgarian linguists and scientists regard Macedonian as a dialect of the Bulgarian language. Although described as being dialects of Bulgarian prior to the establishment of the standard, the current academic consensus outside Bulgaria is that Macedonian is an autonomous language within the South Slavic dialect continuum. As of 2008, the Bulgarian authorities do not recognize officially a distinct Macedonian language.

Alternative names


In most sources in and out of Bulgaria before the Second World War, the southern Slavonic dialect continuum covering the area of today's Republic of Macedonia were referred to as group of Bulgarian dialects. The local variants of the name of the language are balgàrtzki, bulgàrtski, bùgarski or bugàrski.

After WWII, the question about the Bulgarian character of the language in the territory of Republic of Macedonia was forgotten in the name of the Bulgarian-Yugoslavian friendship under the pressure of the Soviet Union. After 1958 when the pressure from Moscow decreased, Sofia turned back to the view that the Macedonian language did not exist as a separate language.


According to the linguistic publication Ethnologue, alternative names include "Macedonian Slavic" and (in Greece) "Slavic. The use of the name Macedonian for the language is considered offensive by Greeks, who assert that the northern Greek ancient Macedonian language is the only "Macedonian language." Greeks object to the use of the "Macedonian" name in reference to the modern Slavic language, calling it "Slavomacedonian" (Macedonian: славомакедонски јазик, σλαβομακεδονική γλώσσα), a term introduced and accepted by the Slavic-speaking community of northern Greece itself, or "Skopian", which, since the 1990s, are considered pejorative terms by ethnic Macedonians (i.e. people with that national identity). Terms such as "Slav Macedonian" have also been used. The European Bureau for Lesser-Used Languages refers to the Slavic language spoken in Greek Macedonia as "Macedonian", with the endonym "Makedonski".

See also



Further reading

  • Kramer, Christina (2003). Macedonian: A Course for Beginning and Intermediate Students.. 2nd, University of Wisconsin Press.

External links

Search another word or see Slav Macedonianon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature