Bulgarian is a Slavic language from the Indo-European language family that is spoken in Bulgaria. It uses the Cyrillic writing form.

IPA Chart


  Bilabial Labiodental Dental Alveolar Postalveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
Stop p b     t d     c Ɉ   ʔ
Nasal m     n     ɲ ŋ  
Trill       r          
Tap/flap       ɾ          
Fricative   f v   s z ʃ ʒ   ç ɣ h
Affricates       t͡s d͡z tʃ d͡ʒ        
liquid       l          
Glide w           j    
Lateral Approximate       l ł     ʎ    


Bulgarian Language


In 850 AD, Proto-Bulgarian subjects of the  Byzantine empire had the benefit of developing the Cyrillic alphabet. The fact that the Cyrillic Alphabet originated in Bulgaria and not other Slavic states, is a point of pride for Bulgaria. Missionaries, Cyril and Methodius are generally agreed to be the creators, who collaborated with Bulgarians to develop the alphabet in order to allow Bulgarians to translate Christian documents as well as establish their own literature Crampton, 2005).


  •  Words ending with consonants are always voiceless.
  • Consonant clusters are more common in Bulgarian and do not require the presence of a vowel to separate them (i.e., /dd͡ʒ/,/tz/, /sdr/,/zdr/,/br/).
  • Unstressed vowel pronunciation and differentiation is always phonemic and frequently used to differentiate words, meaning and gender (where in English sometimes two different vowels can become /ə/ allophonically).

Difference Between Bulgarian & English Syntax/Morphology

  • Definiteness Attribute:
    • Bulgarian word order less definitive of syntactic meaning than English
  • Morphemes are more important for syntactic function, and especially to determine pronoun, so pronouns are less necessary than in English.

The sentence “I want milk” in Bulgarian is more commonly expressed as:

“Искам мляко” = /iskam mlyako/ → “want milk”; where the pronoun is dropped to the conjugation of the verb.

  • Dropping the pronoun in English may be more reflective of linguistic effects of the Bulgarian language.


  • Bulgarian has 9 verb tenses, where English has 12. English tenses NOT present in Bulgarian include:

Present Perfect Progressive Tense
      “You have been waiting here for two hours.”

Past Perfect Progressive Tense
      “I had been playing music for two hours, when he arrived.”

Future Perfect Progressive Tense
      “I will have been driving for more than two hours when we reach the I-5 highway.”

These tenses are subject to avoidance or error by a Bulgarian-English language learner as they are not present in Bulgarian.

Reflexive Verbs

  • Bulgarian transitive verbs when personally reflexive require an additional grammatical indicator (“се” -/sej/) to indicate that the action is being done to one’s self. In English this is not required (see example below).
  • “I will say ‘hello’” = “Ще се казвам ‘здравей’” →  “will (myself) say ‘hello’”
  • This may result in Bulgarian-English bilinguals adding “myself” to phrases when unnecessary.

Comparatives & Superlatives

  • In Bulgarian the degree aspect of adjectives is formed through an auxiliary particle indicating comparative (“По”) or superlative (“Най”). Since this can applied to all adjectives, it is similar to Englishs morphological indicators “-er, and -est.”
  • English adjectives that are exceptional to the “-er, “ and “-est” conjugations such as “good” or “stupid” may be incorrectly conjugated as “gooder” “goodest"
  • Such mistakes likely reflect influences of Bulgarian second language.  


  • Stress in Bulgarian words is more commonly found to be placed on the second or third syllable compared to the first. Word stress is also frequently used to differentiate words. For example, the word for “time” and “weather” are differentiated by stressing a different syllable.


  • Where English narratives are often focused on the settings, problems and resolutions of the story, Bulgarian narratives are often more focused on the symbolism of the setting, and a characters’ actions.
  • Bulgarian-English language learners may spend more time describing the setting and seemingly minor actions of the characters in order to evoke emotion than establishing a full story arch.
  • A sample translation of Bulgarian author Yordan Yovkov’s “Albena”: http://christopherbuxton.com/index.php/writing/translations/yordan-yovkov/


  • Bulgarian conversation with close friends, colleagues or family often consists of more imperatives than English. For example, the word “хайде” (“haide”) which directly translates to “Come on” or “let’s go” can easily be used as a means of coercion, politeness marker, pragmatic repair, as well as convey impatience.
  • Where the imperative form is often considered rude in American English, in Bulgarian it can indicate a close relationship with someone.
  • In Bulgaria, nodding the head indicates a negative response whereas shaking the head from side-to-side indicates a positive response. This is often reflected when Bulgarians shake their heads to indicate understanding during conversations.
  • Newly immigrated Bulgarians may nod for “no” and shake their heads for “yes” (reverse of American gesture)

Child-Adult Interactions

  • Traditional child-adult interactions in Bulgaria rely on a power dynamic. For example, an adult using the formal pronouns with children results in confusion.
  • Adults are relied on as an authority, not a play-mate or peer.
  • Drill-based therapy activities reflect Bulgarian educational values and will therefore may be interpreted as more beneficial than play-based.

Generational Interactions

  • Bulgarian cultural value of looking to elders for guidance is fundamental in all social and especially familial interactions. For example, there was not a word for “babysitting” until very recently in Bulgaria, the preferred term is “Baba” or “Grandma.” Grandmothers are not only respected as one of the primary caregivers for children, but also a reliable resource for young families and towns for guidance.


References and Resources