Macedonian language

Macedonian (/ˌmæsɪˈdniən/; македонски јазик, translit. makedonski jazik, pronounced [maˈkɛdɔnski ˈjazik] (listen)) is a South Slavic language spoken as a first language by around two million people, principally in North Macedonia and its diaspora, with a smaller number of speakers throughout the transnational region of Macedonia. It is the official language of North Macedonia and a recognized minority language in parts of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Romania, and Serbia.

Native toNorth Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria,[1][2] Greece, Romania, Serbia
Native speakers
(1.4–2.5 million cited 1986–2011)[3]
Cyrillic (Macedonian alphabet)
Macedonian Braille
Official status
Official language in
 North Macedonia
Recognised minority
language in
Regulated byMacedonian Language Institute "Krste Misirkov" at the Ss. Cyril and Methodius University of Skopje
Language codes
ISO 639-1mk
ISO 639-2mac (B)
mkd (T)
ISO 639-3mkd
Linguasphere53-AAA-ha (part of 53-AAA-h)
The Macedonian-speaking world:
  regions where Macedonian is the language of the majority
  regions where Macedonian is the language of a significant minority

Standard Macedonian was implemented as the official language of the Socialist Republic of Macedonia in 1945[9] and has since developed a modern literature. Most of the codification was formalized during the same period.[10][11][11] Macedonian dialects form a continuum with Bulgarian dialects, which in turn form a broader continuum with Serbo-Croatian through the transitional Torlakian dialects.

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. Some authors classify to this group also the Torlakian dialects. Macedonian's closest relative is Bulgarian,[12] with which it has a high degree of mutual intelligibility.[13] 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 a mixture of Serbian and Macedonian Serbian, or "pseudo-Serbian."[14] There are claims that Macedonian was intentionally Serbianized first during the process of its standardization.[lower-alpha 1] At that time the Bulgarian language was prohibited there.[20][21]

All South Slavic languages, including Macedonian, form a dialect continuum.[13] Macedonian, along with Bulgarian and Torlakian, falls into the Balkan Slavic linguistic area, which is part of the broader Balkan sprachbund, a group of languages that share typological, grammatical and lexical features based on geographical convergence, rather than genetic proximity. Other principal languages in this continuum 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,[22] 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[23] 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.[24]

Prior to the codification of the standard language (Standard Macedonian), Macedonian dialects were described by linguists as being dialects of Bulgarian[25][26][27] or Serbian[28][29], or forming an entirely distinct language. Similarly, Torlakian was also widely regarded as Bulgarian.[30] The boundaries between the South Slavic languages had yet to be "conceptualized in modern terms,"[31] and codifiers of Serbian even found it necessary to argue that Bulgarian was not a Serbian dialect as late as 1822.[31] Many Macedonian intellectuals maintained that their language "was neither a dialect of Serbian nor of Bulgarian, but a language in its own right".[32] Prior to the standardization of Macedonian, a number of linguists, among them Antoine Meillet,[33] André Vaillant,[34] Mieczysław Małecki,[35] and Samuil Bernstein,[36] also considered Macedonian dialects as comprising an independent language distinct from both Bulgarian and Serbian. Some linguists, including Otto Kronsteiner[37] and Michael Clyne,[38] especially in Bulgaria, still consider Macedonian a variety or dialect of Bulgarian,[39][40][41] but this view is politically controversial.[13][42][43]

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.[44]

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[45] that is a legacy of the linguistic developments during the height of the Preslav and Ohrid literary schools.[46]

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,[47] 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".[48] Likewise, this view does not take into account the fact that a Macedonian koiné language was already in existence.[49] 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."[50]

Geographical distribution

The population of the Republic of Macedonia was 2,022,547 in 2002, with 1,644,815 speaking Macedonian as their native language.[51] Outside 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.[52]

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 the Macedonian Republic,[53] 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),[54][55][56] 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 Western and Central Macedonia, are today usually classified as part of the Macedonian language, with those in Eastern Macedonia being transitional towards Bulgarian.[57] Bulgarian linguistics traditionally regards them all as part of the Bulgarian language together with the rest of Macedonian.[58][59] 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",[60] 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"),[61] slaviká (Greek: σλαβικά, "Slavic"), dópia or entópia (Greek: εντόπια, "local/indigenous [language]"),[62] balgàrtzki in some parts of the region of Kastoria, bògartski ("Bulgarian") in some parts of Dolna Prespa[63] along with naši ("our own") and stariski ("old").[64] In Kastoria, however, the name "Macedonian" is used as well by the local people.[65]

The exact number of speakers in Greece is difficult to ascertain, with estimates ranging between 20,000 and 250,000.[66][67] Jacques Bacid estimates in his 1983 book that "over 200,000 Macedonian speakers remained in Greece".[68] Other sources put the numbers of speakers at 180,000[69][70] 220,000[71] 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.[72] The Encyclopædia Britannica[73] 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.[74][75] A 2008 article in the Greek newspaper Eleftherotypia put the estimate at 20,000.[76]

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.[77] In recent years, there have been attempts to have the language recognized as a minority language.[78]

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.[79] 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.[80] The national elites active in this movement used mainly ethnolinguistic principles to differentiation between "Slavic-Bulgarian" and "Greek" groups.[81] 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.[82] During the 1870s this issue became contentious, and sparked fierce debates.[83]

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.[84] Macedono-Bulgarian writers and organizations who continued to seek greater representation of Macedonian dialects in the Bulgarian standard were deemed separatists.[lower-alpha 2] 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,[90] the fact of political separation became crucial for the development of a separate Macedonian language.[91]

With the advent of Macedonian nationalism, the idea of linguistic separatism emerged in the late 19th century,[92] and the need for a separate Macedonian standard language subsequently appeared in the early 20th century.[93] 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.[94] 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.[95]

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.[96][97][98] 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.[99] 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.[100] Although some researchers have described the standard Macedonian and Bulgarian languages as varieties of a pluricentric language,[101] 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.[102] Macedonian is thus an ausbau language; i.e. it is delimited from Bulgarian as these two standard languages have separate dialectal bases.[103][104][105] The uniqueness of the Macedonian language in comparison to Bulgarian is a matter of political controversy in Bulgaria.[106][107][13]


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:

State Number
Census data Lower range Higher range
North Macedonia 1,344,815[108] 1,344,815[108] 2,022,547[109]
Albania 4,443[110] 4,443[110] 30,000[111]
Bulgaria 1,404[112] 1,404[113]
Greece 35,000[66]
Serbia 12,706[114] 12,706[114]
Rest of the Balkans 15,807[115][116][117][118] 25,000
Canada 18,440[119] 18,440[119] 150,000[120]
Australia 72,000[121] 72,000[121] 200,000[120]
Germany 62,295[122] 85,000[120]
Italy 50,000[123] 74,162[124]
United States 45,000[125] 200,000[120]
Switzerland 6,415[126] 60,116[127]
Rest of world 101,600[120] 110,000[115][128][129][130][131][132][133][134][135][135][116][117][136][137][138]
Total 1,710,670[2] 4,100,000


Dialect divisions of Macedonian[139]
  Lower Polog
  Crna Gora
  Kumanovo / Kratovo
  Upper Polog
  Mala Reka / Galičnik
  Drimkol / Golo Brdo
  Vevčani / Radožda
  Upper Prespa / Ohrid
  Lower Prespa
  Mariovo / Tikveš
  Štip / Strumica
  Maleševo / Pirin
  Solun / Voden
  Ser / Drama

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:[140]

Western Dialects:

Eastern Dialects:

The Ser-Drama-Lagadin-Nevrokop dialect and Maleševo-Pirin dialect are also considered Bulgarian dialects.[141]


This discusses the phonological system of Standard Macedonian (unless otherwise noted) based on the Prilep-Bitola dialect. For discussion of other dialects, see Macedonian dialects. Macedonian possesses five vowels, one semivowel, three liquid consonants, three nasal stops, three pairs of fricatives, two pairs of affricates, a non-paired voiceless fricative, nine pairs of voiced and unvoiced consonants and four pairs of stops. Out of all the Slavic languages, Macedonian has the most frequent occurrence of vowels relative to consonants with a typical Macedonian sentence having on average 1.18 consonants for every one vowel.[142]


Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid ɛ (ə) ɔ
Open a

The schwa is phonemic in many dialects (varying in closeness to [ʌ] or [ɨ]) but its use in the standard language is marginal.[143] When writing a dialectal word and keeping the schwa for aesthetic effect, an apostrophe is used; for example, к’смет, с’нце, etc. When spelling aloud, each consonant is followed by the schwa. The individual letters of acronyms are pronounced with the schwa in the same way: МПЦ ([mə.pə.t͡sə]). The lexicalized acronyms СССР ([ɛs.ɛs.ɛs.ɛr]) and МТ ([ɛm.tɛ]) (a brand of cigarettes), are among the few exceptions.

Vowel length
Vowel length is not phonemic. Vowels in stressed open syllables in disyllablic words with stress on the penult can be realized as long, e.g. Велес [ˈvɛːlɛs] (listen) 'Veles'. The sequence /aa/ is often realized phonetically as [aː]; e.g. саат /saat/ [saːt] 'colloq. hour'.


Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar
Nasal m 1 ɲ
Plosive voiceless p c k
voiced b ɟ ɡ
Affricate voiceless t̪͡s̪ t͡ʃ
voiced d̪͡z̪ d͡ʒ
Fricative voiceless f ʃ x
voiced v ʒ
Approximant ɫ̪1 j
Trill r1

^1 The alveolar trill (/r/) is syllabic between two consonants; for example, прст [ˈpr̩st] 'finger'. The dental nasal (/n/) and dental lateral (/ɫ/) are also syllabic in certain foreign words; e.g. њутн [ˈɲutn̩] 'newton', Попокатепетл [pɔpɔkaˈtɛpɛtɫ̩] 'Popocatépetl', etc.

The labiodental nasal [ɱ] occurs as an allophone of /m/ before /f/ and /v/ (e.g. трамвај [ˈtraɱvaj] 'tram'). The velar nasal [ŋ] similarly occur as an allophone of /n/ before /k/ and /ɡ/ (e.g. англиски [ˈaŋɡliski] 'English'). The latter realization is avoided by some speakers who strive for a clear, formal pronunciation.

Phonological processes

At morpheme boundaries (represented in spelling) and at the end of a word (not represented in spelling), voicing opposition is neutralized.


The 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. This is sometimes disregarded when the word has entered the language more recently or from a foreign source. The following rules apply:

  • Disyllabic words are stressed on the second-to-last syllable.

For example, дете [ˈdɛtɛ] 'child', мајка [ˈmajka] 'mother' and татко [ˈtatkɔ] 'father'.

For example, планина [ˈpɫanina] 'mountain', планината [pɫaˈninata] 'the mountain' and планинарите [pɫaniˈnaritɛ] 'the mountaineers'.

Exceptions include:

  • Verbal adverbs (i.e. words suffixed with -ќи): e.g. викајќи [viˈkajci] 'shouting', одејќи [ɔˈdɛjci] 'walking'.
  • Foreign loanwords: e.g. клише [kliˈʃɛ] 'cliché', генеза [ɡɛˈnɛza] 'genesis', литература [litɛraˈtura] 'literature', Александар [alɛkˈsandar], 'Alexander' (Possibly based on hellenised variations of indigenous Bryges and/or Enchele naming conventions), etc.


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 the 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.[147] 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.

The definite articles
Singular Plural
Masculine Feminine Neuter Masculine Feminine Neuter
Unspecified −ot (−от) −ta (−та) −to (−то) −te (−те) −ta (−та)
Proximate −ov (−ов) −va (−ва) −vo (−во) −ve (−ве) −va (−ва)
Distal −on (−он) −na (−на) −no (−но) −ne (−не) −na (−на)


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.[148] 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.[148][149]


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).[150] 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".[151]

The language of the writers at the turn of the 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.[152] 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.[152] 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.[153]

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.[152] This change was aimed at bringing written Macedonian closer to the spoken language, effectively distancing it from the more Russified Bulgarian language, representing a successful puristic attempt to abolish a lexicogenic tradition once common in written literature.[152]

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 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:

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
/ɫ, l/[154]
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"). However, there are occasional inconsistencies or exceptions.


The Lord's Prayer


The region of Macedonia and the country of North Macedonia are both 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 monks[155][156][157][158][159][160][161][162] 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,[163] can be found in a lexicon from the 16th century written in the Greek alphabet.[164] The concept of the various Macedonian dialects as a part of the Bulgarian language[165] 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.[166]

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 North Macedonia). According to his findings, a part of the Western Bulgarian variety, spoken in Macedonia, was characterized by traces of Old Slavic nasal vowels.[167] 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 North 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.[168] 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 North 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.[169] Even the Macedonian communists were then pro-Bulgarian oriented, but later the Bulgarians were seen as conquerors by the communist movement.[170] However, there were pro-Bulgarian groups which advocated independence as a second Bulgarian state,[171] and others, who supported the union with Bulgaria.[172]

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 2 August 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 North 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.[173]

Although described as being dialects of Bulgarian[141][174] or Serbian[28][29] prior to the establishment of the standard, the current academic consensus (outside of Bulgaria) is that Macedonian is an autonomous language within the South Slavic dialect continuum.[175]

Bulgarian view

In most sources in and out of Bulgaria before the Second World War, the southern Slavonic dialect continuum covering the area of today's North 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.[176] 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 signing a Joint Declaration in the official languages of the two countries - in Macedonian, pursuant the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia, and in Bulgarian, pursuant the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria.[177]

Greek view

Greeks were objecting 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.[178]

In 3 June 2018, the Greek Minister of Shipping and Island Policy, Panagiotis Kouroublis, acknowledged that Greece fully recognizes the term "Macedonian language" for the modern Slavic language, since the 1977 UN Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names,[179] a fact confirmed on 6 June by the Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, who stated that the language was recognized by the New Democracy-led government of that time. Kotzias also revealed classified documents confirming the use of the term "Macedonian Language" by the past governments of Greece, as well as pointing out to official statements of the Greek Prime Minister Evangelos Averoff who in 1954 and 1959 used the term "Macedonian language" to refer to the South Slavic language.[180][181] New Democracy has denied these claims, noting that the 1977 UN document states clearly that the terminology used therein (i.e. the characterization of the languages) does not imply any opinion of the General Secretariat of the UN regarding the legal status of any country, territory, borders etc. Furthermore, New Democracy stated that in 2007 and 2012, as governing party, it included Greece's objections in the relevant UN documents.[182]

On 12 June 2018, North Macedonia's Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, announced that the recognition of the Macedonian language by Greece is reaffirmed in the Prespa agreement, which thus, formally ends the dispute over the language's name.[183]

See also



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  139. After Z. Topolińska and B. Vidoeski (1984), Polski-macedonski gramatyka konfrontatiwna, z.1, PAN.
  140. Comrie & Corbett (2002:247)
  141. Стойков (Stoykov), Стойко (2002) [1962], Българска диалектология (Bulgarian dialectology) (in Bulgarian), София: Акад. изд. "Проф. Марин Дринов", ISBN 954-430-846-6, OCLC 53429452
  142. Istoričeskaja tipologija slavjanskih jazykov (Kiev, 1986)
  143. Friedman (2001:10)
  144. Lunt (1952:10–11)
  145. Friedman (2001:11)
  146. Lunt (1952:11–12)
  147. Friedman, Victor (2001). "Macedonian". Slavic and Eurasian Language Resource Center (SEELRC), Duke University. p. 40. Archived from the original on 28 July 2014. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  148. Бојковска, Стојка; Лилјана Минова; Ѓуркова, Димитар Пандев; Живко Цветковски (December 2008). Саветка Димитрова (ed.). Општа граматика на македонскиот јазик [General Grammar of the Macedonian language]. Скопје: АД Просветно Дело. ISBN 9789989006623.
  149. Кепески, К. (1946), Македонска граматика, Скопје, Државно книгоиздавателство на Македонија.
  150. In his most famous work "On the Macedonian Matters" (available online Archived 2014-12-20 at the Wayback Machine), Misirkov uses the word собитие (a Russian loan taken from Bulgarian) where настан is used today.
  151. Friedman (1998:?)
  152. Т. Димитровски. Литературната лексика на македонскиот писмен јазик во XIX в. и нашиот однос кон неа: Реферати на македонските слависти за VI Меѓународен славистички конгрес во Прага, Скопје, 1968 (T. Dimitrovski. The literary vocabulary of the Macedonian written language in the 19th century and our attitude to it. Abstracts of Macedonian Slavists for the 6th International Slavic Studies Congress in Prague. Skopje, 1968)
  153. Friedman, V. (1998) "The implementation of standard Macedonian: problems and results" in International Journal of the Sociology of Language, Vol. 131, pp. 31–57, p. 8
  154. л is pronounced /l/ before /e, i, j/, and /ɫ/ otherwise. љ is always pronounced /l/ but is not used before /e, i, j/. Cf. how the final љ in биљбиљ /ˈbilbil/ "nightingale" is changed to a л in the plural form биљбили /ˈbilbili/.
  155. Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001–05, s.v. "Cyril and Methodius, Saints"; Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica Incorporated, Warren E. Preece – 1972, p.846, s.v., "Cyril and Methodius, Saints" and "Eastern Orthodoxy, Missions ancient and modern"; Encyclopedia of World Cultures, David H. Levinson, 1991, p.239, s.v., "Social Science"; Eric M. Meyers, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East, p.151, 1997; Lunt, Slavic Review, June, 1964, p. 216; Roman Jakobson, Crucial problems of Cyrillo-Methodian Studies; Leonid Ivan Strakhovsky, A Handbook of Slavic Studies, p.98; V.Bogdanovich, History of the ancient Serbian literature, Belgrade, 1980, p.119
  156. The Columbia Encyclopaedia, Sixth Edition. 2001–05, O.Ed. Saints Cyril and Methodius "Cyril and Methodius, Saints) 869 and 884, respectively, "Greek missionaries, brothers, called Apostles to the Slavs and fathers of Slavonic literature."
  157. Encyclopædia Britannica, Major alphabets of the world, Cyrillic and Glagolitic alphabets, 2008, O.Ed. "The two early Slavic alphabets, the Cyrillic and the Glagolitic, were invented by St. Cyril, or Constantine (c. 827–869), and St. Methodius (c. 825–884). These men were Greeks from Thessaloniki who became apostles to the southern Slavs, whom they converted to Christianity."
  158. Hastings, Adrian (1997). The construction of nationhood: ethnicity, religion, and nationalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 126. ISBN 0-521-62544-0. . the activity of the brothers Constantine (later renamed Cyril) and Methodius, aristocratic Greek priests who were sent from Constantinople.
  159. Fletcher, R. A. (1999). The barbarian conversion: from paganism to Christianity. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press. p. 327. ISBN 0-520-21859-0.
  160. Cizevskij, Dmitrij; Zenkovsky, Serge A.; Porter, Richard E. Comparative History of Slavic Literatures. Vanderbilt University Press. pp. vi. ISBN 0-8265-1371-9. "Two Greek brothers from Salonika, Constantine who later became a monk and took the name Cyril and Methodius.
  161. The illustrated guide to the Bible. New York: Oxford University Press. 1998. p. 14. ISBN 0-19-521462-5. In Eastern Europe, the first translations of the Bible into the Slavonic languages were made by the Greek missionaries Cyril and Methodius in the 860s
  162. Smalley, William Allen (1991). Translation as mission: Bible translation in the modern missionary movement. Macon, Ga.: Mercer. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-86554-389-8. The most important instance where translation and the beginning church did coincide closely was in Slavonic under the brothers Cyril, Methodius, with the Bible completed by A.D. 880 This was a missionary translation but unusual again (from a modern point of view) because not a translation into the dialect spoken where the missionaries were The brothers were Greeks who had been brought up in Macedonia.
  163. Littera et Lingua Archived 2013-11-12 at the Wayback Machine, ISSN 1312-6172, Пролет 2010, Лилия Илиева, Нови данни за българската поезия през XVI и XVII век.
  164. 'Un Lexique Macedonien Du XVIe Siecle', Giannelli, Ciro. Avec la collaboration de Andre Vaillant, 1958
  165. Concise encyclopedia of languages of the world, Keith Brown, Sarah Ogilvie, Elsevier, 2008, ISBN 0-08-087774-5, pp. 120; 663.
  166. F. A. K. Yasamee "NATIONALITY IN THE BALKANS: THE CASE OF THE MACEDONIANS" in Balkans: A Mirror of the New World Order, Istanbul: EREN, 1995; pp. 121–132.
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  168. and the Macedonians: a history By Andrew Rossos. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  169. The A to Z of Bulgaria, Raymond Detrez, Scarecrow Press, Incorporated, 2010, ISBN 0-8108-7202-1, p. 485.
  170., ISBN 1-85065-663-0
  171. Tomasevich, Jozo (2002). War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941–1945: Occupation and Collaboration. Stanford University Press. p. 167. ISBN 978-0-8047-7924-1. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
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  173. Dostál (1965:69)
  174. Institute of Bulgarian Language (1978), Единството на българския език в миналото и днес (in Bulgarian), Sofia: Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, p. 4, OCLC 6430481
  175. Trudgill (1992:?)
  176. Шклифов, Благой and Екатерина Шклифова, Български деалектни текстове от Егейска Македония, София 2003, с. 28–33 (Shklifov, Blagoy and Ekaterina Shklifova. Bulgarian dialect texts from Aegean Macedonia Sofia 2003, p. 28–36)
  177. "1999/02/22 23:50 Bulgaria Recognises Macedonian Language". Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  178. Although acceptable in the past, current use of this name in reference to both the ethnic group and the language can be considered pejorative and offensive by ethnic Macedonians. In the past, the Macedonian Slavs in Greece seemed relieved to be acknowledged as Slavomacedonians. Pavlos Koufis, a native of Greek Macedonia, pioneer of ethnic Macedonian schools in the region and local historian, says in Laografika Florinas kai Kastorias (Folklore of Florina and Kastoria), Athens 1996:
    "[During its Panhellenic Meeting in September 1942, the KKE mentioned that it recognises the equality of the ethnic minorities in Greece] the KKE recognised that the Slavophone population was ethnic minority of Slavomacedonians. This was a term, which the inhabitants of the region accepted with relief. [Because] Slavomacedonians = Slavs+Macedonians. The first section of the term determined their origin and classified them in the great family of the Slav peoples."
    The Greek Helsinki Monitor reports:
    "... the term Slavomacedonian was introduced and was accepted by the community itself, which at the time had a much more widespread non-Greek Macedonian ethnic consciousness. Unfortunately, according to members of the community, this term was later used by the Greek authorities in a pejorative, discriminatory way; hence the reluctance if not hostility of modern-day Macedonians of Greece (i.e. people with a Macedonian national identity) to accept it."
  179. "Kouroublis: In 1977, Greece recognized «Macedonian language» (original: Κουρουμπλής: To 1977 η Ελλάδα αναγνώρισε «μακεδονική γλώσσα»)". Skai Channel. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  180. Τα απόρρητα έγγραφα που κατέθεσε ο Κοτζιάς για ΠΓΔΜ) [The classified documents submitted by Kotzias about the Republic of Macedonia]. (in Greek). The Press Project. 6 June 2018. Retrieved 23 August 2018.
  181. Τα απόρρητα αρχεία που κατέθεσε στη Βουλή ο Νίκος Κοτζιάς (pics) [The classified files submitted by Nikos Kotzias in the Parliament (pics)]. (in Greek). CNN. 18 June 2018. Retrieved 24 August 2018.
  182. "ND dismisses accusations that it recognized "macedonian" language since 1977", Prot Thema newspaper, 8 June 2018 In Greek.
  183. "Zaev:We made a deal - Republic of North Macedonia, with Macedonian language and Macedonian identity". (in Macedonian). Кајгана. 12 June 2018. Retrieved 12 June 2018.


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