(1.4–2.5 million cited 1986–2011)
Indo-EuropeanBalto-SlavicSlavicSouth SlavicEastern South SlavicMacedonian
Macedonian (/ˌmæsᵻˈdoʊniən/; македонски, makedonski, [maˈkɛdɔnski ˈjazik]) is a South Slavic language spoken as a first language by around two million people, principally in the Republic of Macedonia and the Macedonian diaspora, with a smaller number of speakers throughout the transnational region of Macedonia. It is the official language of the Republic of Macedonia and a recognized minority language in parts of Albania, Romania and Serbia.
- Classification and related languages
- Geographical distribution
- Relationship to Bulgarian
- Political views on the language
- Bulgarian view
- Greek view
Standard Macedonian was implemented as the official language of the Socialist Republic of Macedonia in 1945 and has since developed a modern literature. Most of the codification was formalized during the same period.
The name of the Macedonian language is a matter of political controversy in Greece and Bulgaria as is its distinctiveness compared to Bulgarian in Bulgaria.
Classification and related languages
The modern Macedonian language belongs to the eastern group of the South Slavic branch of Slavic languages in the Indo-European language family, together with Bulgarian and the extinct Old Church Slavonic. Macedonian's closest relative is Bulgarian, with which it has a high degree of mutual intelligibility. The next closest relative is Serbo-Croatian. Language contact between Macedonian and Serbo-Croatian reached its height during Yugoslav times, when most Macedonians learned Serbo-Croatian as a compulsory language of education and knew and used Serbian (or "pseudo-Serbian", i.e. a mixture of Serbian and Macedonian).
All South Slavic languages, including Macedonian, form a dialect continuum. Macedonian, along with Bulgarian and Torlakian (transitional varieties of Serbo-Croatian), is also a part of the Balkan sprachbund, a group of languages that 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 (Romanian is a Romance language, whereas Greek and Albanian comprise separate branches). Macedonian and Bulgarian are sharply divergent from the remaining South Slavic languages, Serbo-Croatian and Slovene, and indeed all other Slavic languages, in that they do not use noun cases (except for the vocative, and apart from some traces of once productive inflections still found scattered throughout the languages) and have lost the infinitive. They are also the only Slavic languages with any definite articles (unlike standard Bulgarian, which uses only one article, standard Macedonian as well as some south-eastern Bulgarian dialects have a set of three based on an external frame of reference: unspecified, proximal and distal definite article). Bulgarian and Macedonian are the only Indo-European languages that make use of the narrative mood.
Prior to the codification of the standard language (Standard Macedonian), Macedonian dialects were described by linguists as being either dialects of Bulgarian or Serbian. Similarly, Torlakian was also widely regarded as Bulgarian. The boundaries between the South Slavic languages had yet to be "conceptualized in modern terms," and codifiers of Serbian even found it necessary to argue that Bulgarian was not a Serbian dialect as late as 1822. On the other hand, many Macedonian intellectuals maintained that their language "was neither a dialect of Serbian nor of Bulgarian, but a language in its own right". Prior to the standardization of Macedonian, a number of linguists, among them Antoine Meillet, André Vaillant, Mieczysław Małecki, and Samuil Bernstein, also considered Macedonian dialects as comprising an independent language distinct from both Bulgarian and Serbian. Some linguists, including Otto Kronsteiner and Michael Clyne, especially in Bulgaria, still consider Macedonian a variety or dialect of Bulgarian, but this view is politically controversial:
According to Olga Mišeska–Tomić:
Macedonian is structurally related to Bulgarian more than to any other South Slavic language. But the core of its standard was not formed out of dialects or variants that had ever been covered by the Bulgarian standard. Consequently, its autonomy could not have resulted from a conscious distancing of a variant of a pluricentric language. Like the other South Slavic standards, the Macedonian standard was based on dialects which had never before been covered by a standard.
Modern questions of classification are largely shaped by political and social factors. Structurally, Macedonian, Bulgarian and southeastern forms of Serbo-Croatian (Torlakian) form a dialectical continuum that is a legacy of the linguistic developments during the height of the Preslav and Ohrid literary schools.
Although it has been claimed that Standard Macedonian was codified on the base of those dialects (i.e. the Prilep-Bitola dialect) most unlike Bulgarian, this interpretation stems from the works of Krste Misirkov, who suggested that Standard Macedonian should abstract on those dialects "most distinct from the standards of the other Slavonic languages". Likewise, this view does not take into account the fact that a Macedonian koiné language was already in existence. The codifiers ultimately chose the same dialects, but did so because they were "most widespread and most likely to be adopted by speakers of other dialects."
The population of the Republic of Macedonia was 2,022,547 in 2002, with 1,644,815 speaking Macedonian as their 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, in Greece, and in Serbia. According to the official Albanian census of 1989, 4,697 ethnic Macedonians reside in Albania.
A large number of Macedonians live outside the traditional Balkan Macedonian region, with Australia, Canada and the United States having the largest emigrant communities. According to a 1964 estimate, approximately 580,000 Macedonians live outside of the Macedonian Republic, nearly 30% of the total population. The Macedonian language has the status of official language only in the Republic of Macedonia, and is a recognized minority and official language in parts of Albania (Pustec), Romania, and Serbia (Jabuka and Plandište). There are provisions for learning the Macedonian language in Romania as Macedonians are an officially recognized minority group. Macedonian is taught in some universities in Australia, Canada, Croatia, Italy, Poland, Russia, Serbia, the United States, the United Kingdom, and other countries.
The varieties spoken by the Slavophone minority in parts of northern Greece, especially those in the Greek provinces of West and Central Macedonia, are today usually classified as part of the Macedonian language, with those in East Macedonia being transitional towards Bulgarian. Bulgarian linguistics traditionally regards them all as part of the Bulgarian language together with the rest of Macedonian. However, the codification of standard Macedonian has been in effect only in the Republic of Macedonia, and the Slavonic dialects spoken in Greece are thus practically "roofless", with their speakers having little access to standard or written Macedonian.
Most of the language speakers in Greece do not identify ethnically as "Macedonians", but as ethnic Greeks (Slavophone Greeks) or dopii (locals). Therefore, the simple term "Macedonian" as a name for the Slavic language is often avoided in the Greek context, and vehemently rejected by most Greeks, for whom Macedonian has very different connotations. Instead, the language is often called simply "Slavic" or "Slavomacedonian", with "Macedonian Slavic" often being used in English. Speakers themselves variously refer to their language as makedonski, makedoniski ("Macedonian"), slaviká (Greek: σλαβικά, "Slavic"), dópia or entópia (Greek: εντόπια, "local/indigenous [language]"), balgàrtzki in some parts of the region of Kastoria, bògartski ("Bulgarian") in some parts of Dolna Prespa along with naši ("our own") and stariski ("old"). In Kastoria, however, the name "Macedonian" is used as well by the local people.
The exact number of speakers in Greece is difficult to ascertain, with estimates ranging between 20,000 and 250,000. Jacques Bacid estimates in his 1983 book that "over 200,000 Macedonian speakers remained in Greece". Other sources put the numbers of speakers at 180,000 220,000 and 250,000, whereas Yugoslav sources vary, some putting the estimated number of "Macedonians in Greek Macedonia" at 150,000–200,000 and others at 300,000. The Encyclopædia Britannica and the Reader's Digest World Guide both put the figure of ethnic Macedonians in Greece at 1.8% or c.200,000 people, with the native language roughly corresponding with the figures. The UCLA also states that there are 200,000 Macedonian speakers in Greece. A 2008 article in the Greek newspaper Eleftherotypia put the estimate at 20,000.
The largest group of speakers are concentrated in the Florina, Kastoria, Edessa, Giannitsa, Ptolemaida and Naousa regions. During the Greek Civil War, the codified Macedonian language was taught in 87 schools with 10,000 students in areas of northern Greece under the control of Communist-led forces, until their defeat by the National Army in 1949. In recent years, there have been attempts to have the language recognized as a minority language.
Relationship to Bulgarian
The historical and linguistic relationships between the Macedonian and Bulgarian languages are special and complicated. Macedonian researchers claim Macedonian is spoken in southwestern Bulgaria, whereas Bulgarian and Greek linguists argue Macedonian is a variety of Bulgarian.
The rise of nationalism under the Ottoman Empire began to degrade its specific social system, and especially the so-called Rum millet, through constant identification of the religious creed with ethnicity. The national awakening of each ethnic group was complex and most of the groups interacted with each other.
During the Bulgarian national revival, which occurred in the first half of the 19th century, the Bulgarian and Macedonian Slavs under the supremacy of the Greek Orthodox clergy wanted to create their own Church and schools which would use a common modern "Macedono-Bulgarian" literary standard, called simply Bulgarian. The national elites active in this movement used mainly ethnolinguistic principles to differentiation between "Slavic-Bulgarian" and "Greek" groups. At that time, every ethnographic subgroup in the Macedonian-Bulgarian linguistic area wrote in their own local dialect and choosing a "base dialect" for the new standard was not an issue. Subsequently, during the 1850s and 1860s a long discussion was held in the Bulgarian periodicals about the need for a dialectal group (eastern, western or compromise) upon which to base the new standard and which dialect that should be. During the 1870s this issue became contentious, and sparked fierce debates.
In 1878, a distinct Bulgarian state was established. The new state did not include the region of Macedonia which remained outside its borders in the frame of the Ottoman Empire. As a consequence, the idea of a common compromise standard was rejected by the Bulgarian codifiers during the 1880s and the eastern Bulgarian dialects were chosen as a basis for standard Bulgarian. Macedono- Bulgarian writers and organizations who continued to seek greater representation of Macedonian dialects in the Bulgarian standard were deemed separatists. One example is the Young Macedonian Literary Association, which the Bulgarian government outlawed in 1892. Though standard Bulgarian was taught in the local schools in Macedonia till 1913, the fact of political separation became crucial for the development of a separate Macedonian language.
With the advent of Macedonian nationalism, the idea of linguistic separatism emerged in the late 19th century, and the need for a separate Macedonian standard language subsequently appeared in the early 20th century. In the Interwar period, the territory of today's Republic of Macedonia became part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Bulgarian was banned for use and the local vernacular fell under heavy influence from the official Serbo-Croatian language. However, the political and paramilitary organizations of the Macedonian Slavs in Europe and the Americas, the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) and the Macedonian Patriotic Organization (MPO), and even their left-wing offsets, the IMRO (United) and the Macedonian-American People's League continued to use literary Bulgarian in their writings and propaganda in the interbellum. During the World wars Bulgaria's short annexations over Macedonia saw two attempts to bring the Macedonian dialects back towards Bulgarian. This political situation stimulated the necessity of a separate Macedonian language and led gradually to its codification after the Second World War. It followed the establishment of SR Macedonia, as part of Communist Yugoslavia and finalized the progressive split in the common Macedonian–Bulgarian language.
During the first half of the 20th century the national identity of the Macedonian Slavs shifted from predominantly Bulgarian to ethnic Macedonian and their regional identity had become their national one. Although, there was no clear separating line between these two languages on level of dialect then, the Macedonian standard was based on its westernmost dialects. Afterwards, Macedonian became the official language in the new republic, Serbo-Croatian was adopted as a second official language, and Bulgarian was proscribed. Moreover, in 1946-1948 the newly standardized Macedonian language was introduced as a second language even in Southwestern Bulgaria. Subsequently, the sharp and continuous deterioration of the political relationships between the two countries, the influence of both standard languages during the time, but also the strong Serbo-Croatian linguistic influence in Yugoslav era, led to a horizontal cross-border dialectal divergence. Although some researchers have described the standard Macedonian and Bulgarian languages as varieties of a pluricentric language, they in fact have separate dialectal bases; the Prilep-Bitola dialect and Central Balkan dialect, respectively. The prevailing academic consensus (outside of Bulgaria and Greece) is that Macedonian and Bulgarian are two autonomous languages within the eastern subbranch of the South Slavic languages. Macedonian is thus an ausbau language; i.e. it is delimited from Bulgarian as these two standard languages have separate dialectal bases.
The total number of Macedonian speakers is highly disputed. Although the precise number of speakers is unknown, figures of between 1.6 million (from Ethnologue) and 2–2.5 million have been cited; see Topolinjska (1998) and Friedman (1985). The general academic consensus is that there are approximately 2 million speakers of the Macedonian language, accepting that "it is difficult to determine the total number of speakers of Macedonian due to the official policies of the neighbouring Balkan states and the fluid nature of emigration" Friedman (1985:?). According to the censuses and figures, the number of speakers of Macedonian is:
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:
The Ser-Drama-Lagadin-Nevrokop dialect and Maleševo-Pirin dialect are also considered Bulgarian dialects.
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 perfect tense formed by means of an auxiliary verb "to have", followed by a past participle in the neuter, also known as verbal adjective.
Macedonian nouns (именки, imenki) belong to one of three genders (masculine, feminine, and neuter) and are inflected for number (singular and plural), and marginally for case. The gender opposition is not distinctively marked in the plural. The Macedonian nominal system distinguishes two numbers (singular and plural), three genders (masculine, feminine, and neuter), case and definiteness. Definiteness is expressed by three definite articles pertaining to the position of the object (unspecified, proximate, and distal), which are suffixed to the noun.
Macedonian has a complex system of verbs. Generally speaking Macedonian verbs have the following characteristics, or categories as they are called in Macedonistics: tense, mood, person, type, transitiveness, voice, gender and number.
According to the categorization, all Macedonian verbs are divided into three major groups: a-group, e-group and i-group. Furthermore, the i-subgroup is divided into three more subgroups: a-, e- and i-subgroups. This division is done according to the ending (or the last vowel) of the verb in the simple present, singular, third person. Regarding the form, the verb forms can be either simple or complex.
Prepositions (предлози, predlozi) are part of the closed word class that are used to express the relationship between the words in a sentence. Because Macedonian lost its case system, the prepositions are very important for creation and expression of various grammatical categories. The most important Macedonian preposition is 'na' ('of', 'on', 'to'). Regarding the form, the prepositions can either be simple or complex. Based on the meaning the preposition express, they can be divided into prepositions of time, place, manner and quantity.
As a result of the close relationship with Bulgarian and Serbo-Croatian, Macedonian shares a considerable amount of its lexicon with these languages. Other languages that have been in positions of power, such as Ottoman Turkish and, increasingly, English have also provided a significant proportion of the loanwords. 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 items.
During the standardization process, there was deliberate care taken to try to purify the lexicon of the language. Serbianisms and Bulgarianisms, 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 was the word for "event", настан [ˈnastan], which was found in certain examples of folk poetry collected by the Miladinov Brothers in the 19th century, whereas the Macedonian writer Krste Misirkov had previously used the word собитие [sɔˈbitiɛ], a Russian loanword (событие). This is not to say that there are no Serbianisms, Bulgarianisms 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 abounded with Russian and, more specifically, Old Church Slavonic lexical and morphological elements that in the contemporary norm are substituted with native words or calqued using productive morphemes. Thus, the now slightly archaicized forms with suffixes –ние and –тел, adjectives with the suffixes –телен and others, are now constructed following patterns more typical of Macedonian morphology. For example, дејствие (Russ. действие) corresponds to дејство 'action', лицемерие (Russ. лицемерие) → лицемерство 'hypocrisy', развитие (Russ. развитие) → развиток 'development', определение (Russ. определение) → определба 'determination, orientation', движение (Russ. движение) → движење 'movement', продолжител (Russ. продолжитель) → продолжувач 'extender, continuator', победител (Russ. победитель) → победник 'winner, victor', убедителен (Russ. убедительный) → убедлив 'convincing, persuasive', etc. Many of these words are now obsolete or archaic (as with развитие), synonymous (лицемерие and лицемерство) or have taken on a slightly different nuance in meaning (дејствие 'military act' vs. дејство 'act, action' in a general sense).
The use of Ottoman Turkish loanwords is discouraged in the formal register when a native equivalent exists (e.g. комшија (← Turk. komşu) vs. сосед (← PSl. *sǫsědъ) 'neighbor'), and these words are typically restricted to the archaic, colloquial, and ironic registers.
New words were coined according to internal logic and others calqued from related languages (especially Serbo-Croatian) to replace those taken from Russian, which include известие (Russ. известие) → извештај 'report', количество (Russ. количество) → количина 'amount, quantity', согласие (Russ. согласие) → слога 'concord, agreement', etc. This change was aimed at bringing written Macedonian closer to the spoken language, effectively distancing it from the Bulgarian language with its numerous Russian loans, and represents a successful puristic attempt to abolish a lexicogenic tradition once common in written literature.
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 early 20th century. The Macedonian language had previously been written using the Early Cyrillic alphabet, or later using the Cyrillic script 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:
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"). However, there are occasional inconsistencies or exceptions.
The Lord's Prayer
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 Byzantine Greek 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. The Ohrid Literary School was established in Ohrid in 886 by Saint Clement of Ohrid on orders of Boris I of Bulgaria. In the fourteenth century, the Ottoman Turks invaded and conquered most of the Balkans, incorporating Macedonia into the Ottoman Empire. Although the written language, now called Old Church Slavonic, remained static as a result of Turkish domination, the spoken dialects moved further apart.
The earliest lexicographic evidence of the Macedonian dialects, described as Bulgarian, can be found in a lexicon from the 16th century written in the Greek alphabet. The concept of the various Macedonian dialects as a part of the Bulgarian language can be seen also from early vernacular texts from Macedonia such as the four-language dictionary of Daniel Moscopolites, the works of Kiril Peichinovich and Yoakim Karchovski, and some vernacular gospels written in the Greek alphabet. These written works influenced by or completely written in the local Slavic vernacular appeared in Macedonia in the 18th and beginning of the 19th century and their authors referred to their language as Bulgarian.
In 1845 the Russian scholar Viktor Grigorovich travelled in the Balkans to study the south Slavic dialects of Macedonia. His work articulated for the first time a distinct pair of two groups of Bulgarian dialects: Eastern and Western (spoken in today Western Bulgaria and Republic of Macedonia). According to his findings, a part of the Western Bulgarian variety, spoken in Macedonia, was characterized by traces of Old Slavic nasal vowels. During the increase of national consciousness in the Balkans, standards for the languages of Slovene, 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 Bulgarian population.
However, the Russian linguist of Bulgarian origin, Petar Draganov (1857–1928), after his visit to Macedonia, strongly opposed this 'Bulgarian origin of the Macedonian dialects', and he claimed that Macedonia is a separate ethnogeographic unit of the Balkans and the Macedonian dialects form a separate language. Similar ideas were proposed in Krste Misirkov's works. 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 creation of a standard literary Macedonian language from the central dialects of Macedonia that would use a phonemic orthography.
After the first two Balkan wars, the region of Macedonia was split between Greece, Bulgaria, and Serbia (later Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, Yugoslavia). Serbia 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 (Pirin) Macedonia, the local dialects continued to be described as dialects of Bulgarian.
During the second World War, most of Yugoslav Macedonia was occupied by the Bulgarian army, who was allied with the Axis. The standard 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. Even the Macedonian communists were then pro-Bulgarian oriented, but later the Bulgarians were seen as conquerors by the communist movement. However, there were pro-Bulgarian groups which advocated independence as a second Bulgarian state, and others, who supported the union with Bulgaria.
The eventual outcome was that almost all of Vardar Banovina (i.e. the areas that 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 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 around Thessaloniki; this dialect is closest to present-day Macedonian and Bulgarian.
Although described as being dialects of Bulgarian or Serbian prior to the establishment of the standard, the current academic consensus (outside of Bulgaria and Greece) is that Macedonian is an autonomous language within the South Slavic dialect continuum.
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 and Northern Greece was referred to as a group of Bulgarian dialects. The local variants of the name of the language were also balgàrtzki, bùgarski or bugàrski; i.e. Bulgarian. Although Bulgaria was the first country to recognize the independence of the Republic of Macedonia, most of its academics, as well as the general public, regard the language spoken there as a form of Bulgarian. However, after years of diplomatic impasse caused by an academic dispute, in 1999 the government in Sofia solved the problem of the Macedonian language by using the euphemistic formula: "the official language of the country (Republic of Macedonia) in accordance with its constitution".
Greeks object to the use of the "Macedonian" name in reference to the modern Slavic language, calling it "Slavomacedonian" (Greek: σλαβομακεδονική γλώσσα), a term coined by some members of the Slavic-speaking community of northern Greece itself.