The Bulgarian language is the earliest written Slavonic language. It belongs to the southern branch of the Slavonic languages of the Indo-European language group. Its development comprises four main periods: pre-literal (before the 9th century), Old Bulgarian (9th-12th centuries), Middle Bulgarian (12th-14th centuries), and Modern Bulgarian (15th century and later). The beginnings of the Old Bulgarian language date back to the creation of an alphabet (the Glagolitsa) in 862 by Constantine Cyril the Philosopher and his brother Methodius. At the end of the 9th century another Old Bulgarian alphabet was created by the brothers Cyril and Methodius - the Cyrillic alphabet. Since they were born in Thessaloniki, they chose the dialect of the Bulgarian Slavic tribes residing in the area as the foundation for the creation of the new alphabet. Hence the language written in this alphabet is known as Old Bulgarian, Old Slavonic or Old Church Slavonic and is still used as a liturgical language in Eastern Orthodox Slavic churches. For most of the middle ages Old Bulgarian was the language of the ecclesiastical literature and of official and diplomatic documents of the Eastern Orthodox Slavs. The first Cyrillic Old Bulgarian manuscripts were written. Bulgaria became a centre for Slavonic culture and literacy. The Old Bulgarian language is the basis for the creation of Russian, Serbian, Slovene, Croatian variants and gained the significance of a universal literary Slavonic language. The modern Bulgarian literary language was formed during the Bulgarian National Revival. A note on translation Cyrillic words such as place names are translated phonetically. Because of this you will notice that often the spelling, when using the Latin (aka Roman) alphabet, varies. For instance, you may find Veliko Turnova referred to as Veliko Tarnova. This is nothing to worry about, and should in no way impair the enjoyment of your holiday.


Most letters in the Bulgarian alphabet stand for one specific sound and that sound only. Three letters stand for the single expression of combinations of sounds, namely ? (sht), ? (yu), and ? (ya). Two sounds do not have separate letters assigned to them and are expressed by the combination of two letters, namely ?? (like j in Jack) and ?? (dz). The letter ? is not pronounced, but it softens any preceding consonant before the letter o. The Bulgarian orthography rules are composed of a mix of phonetic and etymological principles. Generally speaking, most words are spelled phonetically, that is to say the way that they are heard. However, some words are spelled etymologically, that is to say somewhat differently than they are pronounced and heard. The first major reason for this is to preserve and clearly indicate the root that a specific word came from. The second major reason for non-phonetic spelling is that some words are still spelled the way that they were pronounced centuries ago. Even though the pronunciation changed in modern times, tradition has preserved the original spelling.

Useful phrases

Yes = Da  
No = Ne
And = E
But = No


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