|Native to||North Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Serbia|
|1.4–3.5 million (1999–2011)|
|Cyrillic (Macedonian alphabet)|
Official language in
|Regulated by||Macedonian Language Institute "Krste Misirkov" at the Ss. Cyril and Methodius University of Skopje|
Macedonian (//; 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.
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. All South Slavic languages, including Macedonian, form a dialect continuum.
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, 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 a mixture of Serbian and Macedonian Serbian, or "pseudo-Serbian." There are claims that Macedonian was intentionally Serbianized first during the process of its standardization.[a] At that time, the Bulgarian language was prohibited there.
All South Slavic languages, including Macedonian, form a dialect continuum. 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, 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 dialects of Bulgarian or Serbian, or forming an entirely distinct language. 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. 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 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 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 Western and Central Macedonia, are today usually classified as part of the Macedonian language, with those in Eastern 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.[b] 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 uniqueness of the Macedonian language in comparison to Bulgarian is a matter of political controversy in Bulgaria.
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) Harv error: no target: CITEREFFriedman1985 (help). 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:?) Harv error: no target: CITEREFFriedman1985 (help). According to the censuses and figures, the number of speakers of Macedonian is:
|Census data||Lower range||Higher range|
|Rest of the Balkans||15,807||25,000|
|Rest of world||101,600||110,000|
|Dialect divisions of Macedonian|
Kumanovo / Kratovo
Mala Reka / Galičnik
Drimkol / Golo Brdo
Vevčani / Radožda
Upper Prespa / Ohrid
Mariovo / Tikveš
Štip / Strumica
Maleševo / Pirin
Solun / Voden
Ser / Drama
During the standardization process of the Macedonian language, the dialectal base selected was primarily based on the West-Central dialects, which spans the triangle of the communities Makedonski Brod, Kičevo, Demir Hisar, Bitola, Prilep, and Veles. These were considered the most widespread and most likely to be adopted by speakers from other regions. The initial idea to select this region as a base was first proposed in Krste Petkov Misirkov's works as he believed the Macedonian language should abstract on those dialects that are distinct from neighbouring Slavic languages, such as Bulgarian and Serbian. Likewise, this view does not take into account the fact that a Macedonian koiné language was already in existence.
Based on a large group of features, Macedonian dialects can be divided into Eastern, Western and Northern groups (the boundary geographically runs approximately from Skopje and Skopska Crna Gora along the rivers Vardar and Crna). There are numerous isoglosses between these dialectal variations, with structural differences in phonetics, prosody (accentuation), morphology and syntax.
Variations in consonants occur between the two groups, with most Western regions losing the /x/ and the /v/ in intervocalic position (глава (head): /ɡlava/ = /ɡla/: глави (heads): /ɡlavi/ = /ɡlaj/) while Eastern dialects preserve it. Stress in the Western dialects is generally fixed and falls on the antepenultimate syllable while Eastern dialects have non-fixed stress systems that can fall on any syllable of the word, that is also reminiscent of Bulgarian dialects. Additionally, Eastern dialects are distinguishable by their fast tonality, elision of sounds and the suffixes for definiteness. The Northern dialectal group is close to South Serbian and Torlakian dialects and is characterized by 46–47 phonetic and grammatical isoglosses.
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 6 groups:
- Ohrid-Prespa Group: Ohrid dialect, Struga dialect, Vevčani-Radožda dialect, Upper Prespa dialect and Lower Prespa dialect.
- Debar Group: Debar dialect, Reka dialect, Drimkol-Golo Brdo dialect, Galičnik dialect, Skopska Crna Gora dialect and Gora dialect
- Polog Group: Upper Polog dialect, Lower Polog dialect, Prilep-Bitola dialect, Kičevo-Poreče dialect and Skopje-Veles dialect
- Kostur-Korča Group: Korča dialect, Kostur dialect and Nestram-Kostenar dialect
- Northern Group: Kumanovo dialect, Kratovo dialect, Kriva Palanka dialect and Ovče Pole dialect
- Eastern Group: Štip - Kočani dialect, Strumica dialect, Tikveš-Mariovo dialect, Maleševo-Pirin dialect, Solun-Voden dialect and Ser-Drama-Lagadin-Nevrokop dialect.
The phonological system of Standard Macedonian is based on the Prilep-Bitola dialect. 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.
The Macedonian language contains 5 vowels which are /a/, /ɛ/, /ɪ/, /o/, and /u/. For the pronunciation of the middle vowels /е/ and /о/ by native Macedonian speakers, various vowel sounds can be produced ranging from [ɛ] to [ẹ] and from [o] to [ọ]. Unstressed vowels are not reduced, although they are pronounced more weakly and shortly than stressed ones, especially if they are found in a stressed syllable. The five vowels and the letter /р/ which acts as a semivowel when found between two consonants (e.g. црква, "church"), can be syllable-forming.
The schwa is phonemic in many dialects (varying in closeness to [ʌ] or [ɨ]) but its use in the standard language is marginal. 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 words letter-by-letters, each consonant is followed by the schwa sound. 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 is not phonemic. Vowels in stressed open syllables in disyllablic words with stress on the penultimate 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', ⟨змии⟩ - snakes. In other words, two vowels appearing next to each other can also be pronounced twice separately (e.g. пооди - to walk).
The consonant inventory of the Macedonian language consists of 26 letters and distinguishes three groups of consonants (согласки): voiced (звучни), voiceless (безвучни) and sonorant consonants (сонорни). Typical features and rules that apply to consonants in the Macedonian language include assimilation of voiced and voiceless consonants when next to each other, devoicing of vocal consonants when at the end of a word, double consonants and elision. 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 and dynamic (expiratory). This means that 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. To note which syllable of the word should be accented, Macedonian uses an apostrophe over its vowels. Disyllabic words are stressed on the second-to-last syllable: дéте ([ˈdɛtɛ]: child), мáјка ([ˈmajka]): mother) and тáтко ([ˈtatkɔ]: father). Trisyllabic and polysyllabic words are stressed on the third-to-last syllable: плáнина ([ˈpɫanina]: mountain) планѝната ([pɫaˈninata]: the mountain) планинáрите ([pɫaniˈnaritɛ]: the mountaineers). There are several exceptions to the rule and they include: verbal adverbs (i.e. words suffixed with -ќи): e.g. викáјќи ([viˈkajci]: shouting), одéјќи ([ɔˈdɛjci]: walking); adverbs of time: годинáва ([godiˈnava]: this year), летóво ([leˈtovo]: this summer); foreign loanwords: e.g. клишé ([kliˈʃɛ]:cliché), генéза ([ɡɛˈnɛza] genesis), литератýра ([litɛraˈtura]: literature), Алексáндар ([alɛkˈsandar], Alexander).
Linking occurs when two or more words are pronounced with only stress and is a common feature of the Macedonian language. This linguistic phenomenon is called акцентска целост and is denoted with a (͜ ) sign. Several words are taken as a single unit and thus follow the rules of the stress falling on the antepenultimate syllable. The rule applies when using clitics (either enclitics or proclitics) such as the negating particle не with verbs (тој нé ͜ дојде, he did not come) and with short pronoun forms or the future particle ќе are used in-between (не ͜ му ͜ јá ͜ даде, did not give it to him; не ͜ ќé ͜ дојде, he will not come). Other uses include the imperative form accompanied by short pronoun forms (дáј ͜ ми: give me), the expression of possessives (мáјка ͜ ми), prepositions followed by a noun (зáд ͜ врата), question words followed by verbs (когá ͜ дојде), some compound nouns (сувó ͜ грозје - raisins, киселó ͜ млеко - yoghurt) and others.
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) 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. Masculine nouns usually end in a consonant or a vowel (-a, -o or -e) and neuter nouns end in a vowel (-o or -e). Virtually all feminine nouns end in the same consonant, -a.
The vocative of nouns is the only remaining case in the Macedonian language and is used to address a person directly. The vocative case always ends with a vowel, which can be either an -у (јунаку: hero vocative) or an -e (човече: man vocative) to the root of masculine nouns. For feminine nouns, the most common final vowel ending in the vocative is -o (душо, sweetheart vocative; жено, wife vocative). The final suffix -e can be used in the following cases: three or polysyllabic words with the ending -ица (мајчице, mother vocative), female given names that end with -ка: Ратка becomes Ратке and -ја: Марија becomes Марије or Маријо. There is no vocative case in neuter nouns. The role of the vocative is only facultative and there is a general tendency of vocative loss in the language since its use is considered impolite and dialectal. The vocative can also be expressed by changing the tone.
There are three different types of plural: regular, counted and collective. The first plural type is most common and used to indicate regular plurality of nouns: маж - мажи (a man - men), маса - маси (a table - table), село - села (a village - villages). There are various suffixes that are used and they differ per noun gender. Counted plural is used when a number or a quantifier precedes the noun; suffixes to express this type of plurality do not correspond with the regular plurality suffixes: два молива (two pencils), три листа (three leaves), неколку часа (several hours). The collective plural is used for nouns that can be viewed as a single unit: лисје (a pile of leaves), ридје (a unit of hills). Irregular plural forms also exist in the language: дете - деца (child - children).
A characteristic feature of the nominal system is the indication of definiteness. As with other Slavic languages, there is no indefinite article in Macedonian. The definite article in Macedonian is postpositive, i.e. it is added as a suffix to nouns. An individual feature of the Macedonian language is the use of three definite articles, inflected for gender and related to the position of the object, which can be unspecified, proximate or distal.
- Definite articles -ов, -ва, -во, -ве are used for objects located close to the speaker (човеков: - this person here)
- Definite articles -он, -на, -но, -не are used for objects located further away from the speaker that can still be perceived (женана: - that woman there)
- Definite articles -от, -та, -то, -те are most commonly used as general indicators of definiteness regardless of the referred object's position (детето: the child). Additionally, these suffixes can be used to indicate objects referred to by the speaker that are in the proximity of the listener, e.g. дај ми ја книгата што е до тебе - give me the book next to you.
Proper nouns are per definition definite and are not usually used together with an article, although exceptions exist in the spoken and literary language such as Совчето, Марето, Надето to demonstrate feelings of endearment to a person.
Personal pronouns in Macedonian appear in three genders and both in singular and plural. They can also appear either as direct or indirect object in long or short forms. Depending on whether a definite direct or indirect object is used, a clitic pronoun will refer to the object with the verb: Јас не му ја дадов книгата на момчето ("I did not give the book to the boy"). The direct object is a remnant of the accusative case and the indirect of the dative. Reflexive pronouns also have forms for both direct and indirect objects: себе се, себе си. Examples of personal pronouns are shown below:
- Personal pronoun: Јас читам книга. ("I am reading a book")
- Direct object pronoun: Таа мене ме виде во киното. ("She saw me at the cinema")
- Indirect object pronoun: Тој мене ми рече да дојдам. ("He told me to come")
Relative pronouns can refer to a person (кој, која, кое - who), objects (што - which) or serve as indicators of possession (чиј, чија, чие - whose) in the function of a question or a relative word. These pronouns are inflected for gender and number and other word forms can be derived from them (никој - nobody, нешто - something, сечиј - everybody's). There are three groups of demonstrative pronouns that can indicate proximate (овој - this one (mas.)), distal (онаа - the one there (fem.)) and unspecific (тоа - that one (neut.)) objects. These pronouns have served as a basis for the definite article.
|Person||Singular||Direct object||Indirect object||Plural||Direct object||Indirect object|
|1.||јас||мене ме||мене ми||ние||нас нѐ||нам ни|
вас ве (formal)
вас ви (formal)
|вие||вас ве||вас ви|
|него го (masculine)
неа ја (feminine)
него го (neuter)
|нему му (masculine)
нејзе ѝ (feminine)
нему му (neuter)
|тие||нив ги||ним им|
Macedonian verbs agree with the subject in person (first, second or third) and number (singular or plural). Some dependent verb constructions (нелични глаголски форми) such as verbal adjectives (глаголска придавка: плетен/плетена), verbal l-form (глаголска л-форма: играл/играла) and verbal noun (глаголска именка: плетење) also demonstrate gender. There are several other grammatical categories typical of Macedonian verbs, namely type, transitiveness, mood, superordinate aspect (imperfective/perfective aspectual typical feature of Slavic languages).
Macedonian has developed a grammatical category which specifies the opposition of witnessed and reported actions (also known as renarration). Per this grammatical category, one can distinguish between минато определено i.e. definite past, denoting events that the speaker witnessed at a given definite time point, and минато неопределено i.e. indefinite past denoting events that did not occur at a definite time point or events reported to the speaker, excluding the time component in the latter case. Examples: Но, потоа се случија работи за кои не знаев ("But then things happened that I did not know about") vs. Ми кажаа дека потоа се случиле работи за кои не знаев ("They told me that after, things happened that I did not know about").
The present tense in Macedonian is formed by adding a suffix to the verb stem which agrees with the person, form and number of the subject. Macedonian verbs are conventionally divided into three main conjugations according to the thematic vowel used in the citation form (i.e. 3p-pres-sg). These groups are: a-group, e-group and и-group. Furthermore, the и-subgroup is divided into three more subgroups: а-, е- and и-subgroups. The verb сум (to be) is the only exception to the rule as it ends with a consonant.
The perfect tense can be formed using both to be (сум) and to have (има). The first form conjugates the verb to be per person and uses a past active participle: сум видел многу работи ("I have seen a lot of things"). The latter form makes use of a clitic that agrees in number and gender with the object of the sentence and the passive participle of the verb in its uninflected form (го имам гледано филмот, "I have seen that movie"). Another past form, the aorist is used to describe actions that have finished at a given moment in the past: одев ("I walked"), скокаа ("they jumped").
Future forms of verbs are conjugated using the particle ќе followed by the verb conjugated in the present tense, ќе одам (I will go). To express negation in the future, the construction can either be formed by adding the negation particle at the beginning не ќе одам (I will not go) or using the construction нема да (нема да одам) with no difference in meaning. Another tense is the future-in-the-past tense which is formed using the clitic ќе and a past tense of the verb conjugated for person, таа ќе заминеше ("she would have left").
Aspect, transitiveness, mood
Similar to other Slavic languages, Macedonian verbs have a grammatical aspect (глаголски вид) that is a typical feature of Slavic languages. Per this category, verbs can be divided into imperfective (несвршени) and perfective (свршени) indicating actions whose time duration is unknown or occur repetitively or those that show an action that is finished in one moment. The former group of verbs can be subdivided into verbs which take place without interruption (e.g. Тој спие цел ден, "He sleeps all day long) or those that signify repeated actions (e.g. Ја бараше книгата но не можеше да ја најде, "He was looking for the book but he could not find it"). Perfective verbs are usually formed by adding prefixes to the stem of the verb, depending on which, they can express actions that took place in one moment (чукна, "knocked"), actions that have just begun (запеа, "start to sing"), actions that have ended (прочита, "read") or partial actions that last for short periods of time (поработи, "worked").
The contrast between transitive and intransitive verbs can be expressed analytically or syntactically and virtually all verbs denoting actions performed by living beings can become transitive if a short personal pronoun is added: Тоj легна ("He laid down") vs. Тоj го легна детето ("He laid the child down"). Additionally, verbs which are expressed with the reflexive pronoun се can become transitive by using any of the contracted pronoun forms for the direct object: Тој се смее - He is laughing, vs. Тој ме смее - "He is making me laugh"). Some verbs such as sleep or die do not traditionally have the property of being transitive.
Macedonian verbs have three grammatical moods (глаголски начин): indicative, imperative and conditional. The imperative mood can express both a wish or an order to finish a certain action. The imperative only has forms for the second person and is formed using the suffixes -ј (пеј; sing) or -и (оди, walk) for singular and -јте (пејте, sing) or -ете for plural (одете, walk). The first and third subject forms in singular and plural express indirect orders and are conjugated using да or нека and the verb in present tense (да живееме долго, may we live long). In addition to its primary functions, the imperative is used to indicate actions in the past, eternal truths as is the case in sayings and a condition. The Macedonian conditional is conjugated in the same way for all three persons using the particle би and the verbal l-form, би читал (I/you/he would read).
Syntax and prepositions
Macedonian syntax has a subject-verb-object (SVO) word order which is nevertheless flexible and can be tropicalized. For instance, the sentence Марија го сака Иван (Marija loves Ivan) can become of the object–verb–subject (OVS) form as well, Иван го сака Марија. Tropicalization can also be achieved using a combination of word order and intonation; as an example all of the following sentences give a different point of emphasis:
Macedonian is a null-subject language which means that the subject pronoun can be omitted, for instance Што сакаш (ти)? (what do you want?), (јас) читам книга (I am reading a book), (ние) го видовме (we saw him). Macedonian passive construction is formed using the short reflexive pronoun се (девојчето се уплаши, the girl got scared) or a combination of the verb "to be" with verbal adjectives (Тој е миен, he is washed). In the former case, the active-passive distinction is not very clear. Subordinate clauses in Macedonian are introduced using relativizers, which can be wh-question words or relative pronouns. A glossed example of this is:
English: The person with whom he walked yesterday.
Due to the absence of a case system, Macedonian makes wide use of prepositions (предлози) to express relationship between words in a sentence. The most important Macedonian preposition is на which can have local ('on') or motional meanings ('to'). As a replacement for the dative case, the preposition на is used in combination with a short indirect object form to demonstrate the indirect object of a sentence, Му давам книга на Иван (I am giving a book to Ivan), Им велам нешто на децата (I am saying something to the children). Additionally, на can serve to replace the genitive case and express possession, таткото на другар ми (my friend's father).
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 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 the 19th century abounded with Russian and, more specifically, Old Church Slavonic lexical and morphological elements that in the contemporary norm have been replaced by native words or calqued using productive morphemes.
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 more Russified Bulgarian language, representing 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 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 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 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 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. 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. Similar ideas were proposed in Krste Misirkov's works. Misirkov was born in a village Postol in Ottoman 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. 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 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. Its articles were not in standard Macedonian but in local Slavic dialects of Greece. A monthly with national distribution, it commenced in Perth and later moved to Melbourne and Sydney. After the Tito-Stalin split in 1948, under the auspices of some Macedonian intellectuals in Bucharest, anti-Yugoslav, non-serbianised alphabet, grammar, and primer were created. The grammar was prepared by a team headed by Atanas Peykov. However they presented Macedonian merely as variant of Bulgarian. This codification of Slavic dialects from Greece ended without widespread acceptance, because it was too artificial to be successful. The Soviet-Yugoslav rapprochement from the mid. of the 1950s also helped to put this Aegean Macedonian language to an end. Nonetheless educated in this norm Greek refugees were nearly unable to adopt later the Yugoslav version.
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.
Often described as being dialects of Bulgarian or Serbian or neither 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.
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. Although Bulgaria was the first country to recognize the independence of the Republic of Macedonia, most of Bulgarian 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.
In October 2019, Bulgaria has set a lot of tough terms for North Macedonia's EU progress. The Bulgarian government accepted an ultimate “Framework position”, where it has warned that Bulgaria will not allow the EU integration of North Macedonia to be accompanied by legitimization of an anti-Bulgarian historical ideology, sponsored by Skopje authorities. In the list are more than 20 demands and a timetable to fulfill them, during the process of North Macedonia's accession negotiations. It states that all EU documents should put an asterisk after “Macedonian language” to clarify that this is the term used in the North Macedonia's constitution. Bulgarian National Assembly also approved this “Framework position”. The harsh conditions set by Bulgaria received negative responses from both countries.
In December 2019 the assembly of Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts (MANU) adopted a charter of the Macedonian Language, which set out scientifically recognized facts for the Macedonian language and the role of MANU in the study and affirmation of the Macedonian language.  That has provoked a serious reaction by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, which denies the existence of Macedonian language. Its position remains that the official language in North Macedonia is a written regional form of the Bulgarian language.
Renowned linguist and slavicist Victor Friedman dismissed the Bulgarian position as linguistic imperialism and irredentism, quoting differences between the languages on every linguistic level - phonological, morphology, syntax and semantics.
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.
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, 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. 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.
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.