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Template:XMacedonian language

The Macedonian alphabet ([Македонска азбука, Makedonska azbuka] error: {{lang-xx}}: text has italic markup (help)) is an adaptation of the Cyrillic alphabet used to write the Macedonian language.

Like all Cyrillic alphabets, the Macedonian alphabet is principally derived from the Cyrillic alphabet of Saints Cyril and Methodius. The Macedonian alphabet was standardized in 1944 by a committee formed in the Socialist Republic of Macedonia (then part of Yugoslavia) after the liberation of Vardar Macedonia (the area of the Republic of Macedonia) from the Nazis in World War II. The alphabet was similar to, and influenced by, the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet, and used the same phonemic principles employed by Vuk Karadžić in his development of the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet. It was officially adopted by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia on May 16, 1945.

Prior to the standardization of the Macedonian alphabet, Macedonian had been written using the Cyrillic alphabet with adaptations and/or characters from the Serbian, Bulgarian or early Cyrillic alphabets, depending on the writer.


Macedonian is an eastern South Slavic language with approximately 2 million speakers in the Republic of Macedonia, Greece, Albania, Australia, the United States and Canada. Macedonian is part of the dialect continuum stretching from Slovenian to Bulgarian, and is closely related to Bulgarian (with which it is mutually intelligible) and to Serbian (with which there is a high degree of mutual intelligibility, especially with the southern dialects, such as Torlakian). Macedonian became the official language of the Socialist Republic of Macedonia in 1944, and was an official language of Yugoslavia until its dissolution in 1991. Macedonian is an official language of the Republic of Macedonia, and is used in the liturgy of the Macedonian Orthodox Church.


There is much controversy and acrimony between some Bulgarian nationalists and Macedonians over the issues of separate Macedonian ethnicity and language, with many Bulgarians claiming that ethnic Macedonians are in fact ethnic Bulgarians, and that the Macedonian language is a dialect of Bulgarian. Macedonians dispute both Bulgarian claims, and most linguists consider standard Macedonian and standard Bulgarian to be two languages of the same diasystem (rather than Macedonian being a dialect of Bulgarian). Further, some Serbian nationalists claim that Macedonians are in fact ethnic Serbs, and that the Macedonian language is a southern Serbian dialect, although this view was more prevalent in the first half of the 20th century, and is now receding.

These controversies are beyond the scope of this article. This article merely deals with the development of the modern Macedonian alphabet.

The Alphabet[edit]

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
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

In addition to the standard sounds of the letters Ѓ and Ќ above, in some accents these letters possess the sounds /ʥ/ and /ʨ/, respectively.

Cursive Alphabet[edit]

The above table contains the printed form of the Macedonian alphabet; the cursive script is significantly different, and is illustrated below in lower and upper case.

350px|centerimage to be added later

Specialized Letters[edit]

The Macedonian language contains a number of specialized and unique phonemes. The committees charged with drafting the Macedonian alphabet decided on a phonetic alphabet, with one letter representing each phoneme. In his 1903 book "On Macedonian Matters", Krste Misirkov argued for the standarization of the Macedonian language (based on the central dialects), and for a phonetic orthography. Misirkov's book is considered one of the most important foundational works of the modern Macedonian language and nation.

Macedonian has two unique phonemes not represented in the Serbian or Bulgarian alphabets (Ѓ and Ќ).

Unique Letters[edit]

Ѓ and Ќ[edit]

In "On Macedonian Matters", Misirkov used the combinations Г' and К' to represent the phonemes /ɟ/ and /c/, which are unique to Macedonian among the local languages. Marko Cepenkov used ГЬ and КЬ. Eventually, Ѓ and Ќ were adopted for the Macedonian alphabet.


The Cyrillic letter Ѕ (IPA value /dz/) is based on Dzělo, the eighth letter of the early Cyrillic alphabet. Although a homoglyph to the Latin alphabet letter S, the two letters are not directly related. Both the Romanian Cyrillic alphabet and the Russian alphabet also had a letter Ѕ, although the Romanian Cyrillic alphabet was replaced with a Latin alphabet in the 1860s, and the letter Ѕ was abolished in Russian in the early 1700s.

It should be noted that while Ѕ is generally transcribed as dz, it is a distinct phoneme and is not analogous to ДЗ, which is also used in Macedonian orthography. Ѕ is sometimes transcribed as soft-dz.

Letters Adopted from Serbian Cyrillic[edit]


Prior to standardization, the IPA phoneme /j/ (represented by Ј in the modern Macedonian alphabet) was represented variously as:

Eventually the Serbian Cyrillic Ј was selected to represent /j/.

Љ and Њ[edit]

The letters Љ and Њ (/ʎ/ and /ɲ/) were adopted from the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet. Misirkov used Л' and Н' in On Macedonian Matters. Some earlier texts used ЛЬ and НЬ.


The letter Џ (representing the phoneme /ʤ/) was adopted from the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet. Misirkov used the digraph ДЖ (as in Bulgarian) where Џ is used today. The letter Џ was introduced to Serbian in the 17th century from the Romanian Cyrillic alphabet[1].

Accented Letters[edit]

The accented letters È, Ѝ and Ô are not regarded as separate letters, nor are they accented letters (as in French, for example). Rather, they are the standard letters Е, И and О topped with an accent when they stand in words that have homographs, so as to differentiate between them (for example, "сè се фаќа" - se se fakja, "all may be touched").

Development of the Macedonian alphabet[edit]

Until the modern era, Macedonian was predominantly a spoken language, with no standardized written form of the vernacular dialects. Formal written communication was usually in the Church Slavonic language[2] (in Pirin and Vardar Macedonia) or in Greek (in Greek Macedonia)[3], which were the languages of liturgy, and were therefore considered the 'formal languages'.[4]

The decline of the Ottoman Empire from the mid-19th century coincided with Slavic resistance to the use of Greek in Orthodox churches and schools[5], and a resistance amongst many Macedonians to the introduction of standard Bulgarian in Vardar Macedonia[6]. The latter half of the 19th century saw increasing literacy and political activity amongst speakers of Macedonian dialects, and an increasing number of documents were written in the dialects. At the time, transcriptions of Macedonian used the Cyrillic alphabet, with adaptations drawing from Old Church Slavonic, Serbian and Bulgarian, depending on the preference of the writer.

Early attempts to formalize written Macedonian included Krste Misirkov's book "On Macedonian Matters" (1903). Misirkov used the Cyrillic alphabet with several adaptations for Macedonian:

  • i (where Ј is used today);
  • л' (where Љ is used today);
  • н' (where Њ is used today);
  • г' (where Ѓ is used today);
  • к' (where Ќ is used today); and
  • ѕ (as used today).

Between the expulsion of the Ottoman Empire from Vardar Macedonia in the Balkan Wars of 1912/13, and the liberation of Vardar Macedonia from the Nazis in 1944, Vardar Macedonia was divided between Serbia (within the Kingdom of Yugoslavia) and Bulgaria, and Serbian and Bulgarian were the official languages. The Serbian and Bulgarian authorities considered Macedonian to be a dialect of Serbian or Bulgarian respectively, and proscribed its use[7][8][9][10] (see also History of the Macedonian language). Greek was used in areas under Greek control.

Standardization of the Macedonian Alphabet[edit]

With the liberation of Vardar Macedonia from the Nazis in 1944 and the incorporation of the territory into the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as the Socialist Republic of Macedonia, the Yugoslav authorities recognized a distinct Macedonian ethnic identity and language. The Anti-Fascist Assembly for the National Liberation of Macedonia (ASNOM, effectively the Macedonian provisional government) formed a committee to standardize the literary Macedonian language and alphabet.

ASNOM rejected the first committee's recommendations, and formed a second committee, whose recommendations were accepted. The (second) committees' recommendations were strongly influenced by the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet (28 of the Macedonian alphabet's 31 letters are common to both Macedonian and Serbian, the letters unique to Macedonian being Ѓ, Ѕ, and Ќ), and by the works of Krste Misirkov.

Committee Controversy[edit]

The extent (if any) to which Yugoslav politics overshadowed linguistics in the decisions behind the standardization of the Macedonian language and alphabet will never be fully known.

It is widely assumed by many commentators that there was some political pressure exerted by Yugoslav authorities to ensure that the Macedonian literary language and alphabet were sufficiently dissimilar to Bulgarian to deflect Bulgarian nationalist claims to the Macedonian language and ethnicity.

There were also pragmatic pressures to adopt an alphabet similar to the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet, which was already an official alphabet of Yugoslavia.

The First Committee[edit]

[[xImage:Mk alphabet committee nov1944.png|thumb|right|200px|The first committee meeting, November 1944. From left to right: Vasil Iljoski, Hristo Zografov, Krum Tošev, Dare Džambaz, Venko Markovski, Mirko Pavlovski, Mihail Petruševski, Risto Prodanov, Georgi Kiselinov, Georgi Šoptrajanov, Jovan Kostovski.]]

The first committee met from November 27, 1944 to December 4, 1944, and was composed of prominent Macedonian academics and writers (see list below). The committee chose the dialects of Veles, Prilep and Bitola as the basis for the literary language (as Misirkov had in 1903), and proposed a Cyrillic alphabet. The first committee's recommendation was for the alphabet to use

ASNOM rejected the first committee's recommendations, and convened a second committee. Although no official reason was provided, several reasons are supposed for the rejection of the first committee's recommendation, including internal disagreement over the inclusion of Ъ (the schwa, as used in Bulgarian), and the view that its inclusion made the alphabet "too close" to the Bulgarian alphabet. The true reasons for the rejection of the committee's recommendations may never be known.

While some Macedonian dialects contain a phonemic schwa and used a Bulgarian-style Ъ, the western dialects – on which the literary language is based – do not. Blaže Koneski objected to the inclusion of the schwa on the basis that since there was no schwa in the literary language, there was no need for it to be represented in the alphabet. By excluding it from the alphabet, speakers of schwa-dialects would more rapidly adapt to the standard dialect[12].

The Second Committee and Adoption[edit]

[[xImage:Mk alphabet decree.png|thumb|right|200px|Official government decree enacting the Macedonian alphabet in the Socialist Republic of Macedonia, May 16, 1945. Note the hand-written Ѕ, Ј and Џ in the typewritten line, and the hand-written diacritics added to create Ѓ and Ќ. Source: Archive of Macedonia.]]

With the rejection of the first committee's draft alphabet, ASNOM convened a new committee with five members from the first committee and five new members. On May 3, 1945, the second committee presented its recommendations, which were accepted by the Communist Party of Yugoslavia that same day, and published in Nova Makedonija, the official newspaper.

The committee's recommendations were:

The rejection of the schwa (Ъ), together with the adoption of four Serbian Cyrillic letters (Ј, Џ, Љ and Њ), led to accusations that the committee was "Serbianizing" Macedonian, while those in favor of including the schwa (Ъ) were accused of "Bulgarianizing" Macedonian. Irrespective, the new alphabet was officially adopted in the Socialist Republic of Macedonia on May 16, 1945, and is still used in the Republic of Macedonia and among Macedonian communities around the world.

Committee Members[edit]

First Committee Second Committee
m denotes military appointee
c denotes civilian appointee
* denotes member also served on the second committee
* denotes member also served on the first committee
Epaminonda Popandonov (m) Vasil Iljoski*
Jovan Kostovski (c) Blaže Koneski*
Milka Balvanlieva (m) Venko Markovski*
Dare Džambaz (m) Mirko Pavlovski*
Vasil Iljoski* (c) Krum Tošev*
Georgi Kiselinov (c) Kiro Hadži-Vasilev
Blaže Koneski* (m) Vlada Maleski
Venko Markovski* (m) Ilija Topalovski
Mirko Pavlovski* (c) Gustav Vlahov
Mihail Petruševski (c) Ivan Mazov
Risto Prodanov (m)
Georgi Šoptrajanov (m)
Krum Tošev* (m)
Hristo Zografov (c)
Source: Victor A Friedman[13]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]



  1. ^ Петар Ђорђић, "Историја српске ћирилице", Београд, 1970, p. 203 (in Serbian)
  2. ^ The Macedonian Language in the Balkan Language Environment
  3. ^ The Macedonian Language in the Balkan Language Environment
  4. ^ Prior to the autocephaly of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in 1872, Old Church Slavonic and Greek were the liturgical languages of Orthodox Christians in Macedonia, and therefore had higher status than the local dialects (see diglossia).
  5. ^ "The first philological conference of the Macedonian alphabet and Macedonian literary language: Its precedents and consequences", Victor A. Friedman (1993), pages 162
  6. ^ "The first philological conference of the Macedonian alphabet and Macedonian literary language: Its precedents and consequences", Victor A. Friedman (1993), pages 162-3
  7. ^ "Language Policy and Language Behavior in Macedonia: Background and Current Events", Victor A Friedman, in "Language Contact - Language Conflict", edited Eran Fraenkel and Christina Kramer, Balkan Studies, Vol 1., p76.
  8. ^ "The Sociolinguistics of literary Macedonian", Victor A Friedman, in the International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 1985, Vol. 52, p49.
  9. ^ "The first philological conference for the establishment of the Macedonian alphabet and Macedonian literary language: Its precedents and consequences", Victor A Friedman, in "The Earliest Stages of Language Planning", edited by Joshua A Fishman, 1993, p163.
  10. ^ "Language Planning in Macedonia and Kosovo", Victor A Friedman, in "Language in the Former Yugoslav Lands", edited by Ranko Bugarski and Celia Hawkesworth (2004), p201.
  11. ^ "The first philological conference of the Macedonian alphabet and Macedonian literary language: Its precedents and consequences", Victor A. Friedman (1993), p169.
  12. ^ "The first philological conference of the Macedonian alphabet and Macedonian literary language: Its precedents and consequences", Victor A. Friedman (1993), p171.
  13. ^ "The first philological conference of the Macedonian alphabet and Macedonian literary language: Its precedents and consequences", Victor A. Friedman (1993), pages 166, 170.

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