Balkan sprachbund

The Balkan Sprachbund or Balkan language area is the ensemble of areal features—similarities in grammar, syntax, vocabulary and phonology—among the languages of the Balkans. Several features are found across these languages though not all apply to every single language. The languages in question may belong to various separate branches of Indo-European (such as Slavic, Greek, Romance, Albanian and Indo-Aryan) or even outside of Indo-European (such as Turkish). Some of the languages use these features for their standard language (i.e. those whose homeland lies almost entirely within the region) whilst other populations to whom the land is not a cultural pivot (as they have wider communities outside of it) may still adopt the features for their local register.

While some of these languages may share little vocabulary, their grammars have very extensive similarities; for example they have similar case systems, in those that have preserved grammatical case and verb conjugation systems and have all become more analytic, although to differing degrees.


The earliest scholar to notice the similarities between Balkan languages belonging to different families was the Slovenian scholar Jernej Kopitar in 1829.[1] August Schleicher (1850)[2] more explicitly developed the concept of areal relationships as opposed to genetic ones, and Franz Miklosich (1861)[3] studied the relationships of Balkan Slavic and Romance more extensively.

Nikolai Trubetzkoy (1923),[4] Kristian Sandfeld-Jensen (1926),[5] and Gustav Weigand (1925, 1928)[6] developed the theory in the 1920s and 1930s.

In the 1930s, the Romanian linguist Alexandru Graur criticized the notion of “Balkan linguistics,” saying that one can talk about “relationships of borrowings, of influences, but not about Balkan linguistics”.[7]

The term "Balkan language area" was coined by the Romanian linguist Alexandru Rosetti in 1958, when he claimed that the shared features conferred the Balkan languages a special similarity. Theodor Capidan went further, claiming that the structure of Balkan languages could be reduced to a standard language. Many of the earliest reports on this theory were in German, hence the term "Balkansprachbund" is often used as well.


The languages that share these similarities belong to five distinct branches of the Indo-European languages:

The Finnish linguist Jouko Lindstedt computed in 2000 a "Balkanization factor" which gives each Balkan language a score proportional with the number of features shared in the Balkan language area.[8] The results were:

Language Score
Balkan Slavic 11.5
Albanian 10.5
Greek, Balkan Romance 9.5
Romani (Gypsy) 7.5

Another language that may have been influenced by the Balkan language union is the Judaeo-Spanish variant that used to be spoken by Sephardi Jews living in the Balkans. The grammatical features shared (especially regarding the tense system) were most likely borrowed from Greek.


The source of these features as well as the directions have long been debated, and various theories were suggested.

Thracian, Illyrian or Dacian and Albanian as successive language

Since most of these features cannot be found in languages related to those that belong to the language area (such as other Slavic or Romance languages), early researchers, including Kopitar, believed they must have been inherited from the Paleo-Balkan languages (e.g. Illyrian, Thracian and Dacian) which formed the substrate for modern Balkan languages. But since very little is known about Paleo-Balkan languages, it cannot be determined whether the features were present. The strongest candidate for a shared Paleo-Balkan feature is the postposed article. The Albanian language originates from one of these languages or possibly a mix of them.


Another theory, advanced by Kristian Sandfeld in 1930, was that these features were an entirely Greek influence, under the presumption that since Greece "always had a superior civilization compared to its neighbours", Greek could not have borrowed its linguistic features from them. However, no ancient dialects of Greek possessed Balkanisms, so that the features shared with other regional languages appear to be post-classical innovations. Also, Greek appears to be only peripheral to the Balkan language area, lacking some important features, such as the postposed article. Nevertheless, several of the features that Greek does share with the other languages (loss of dative, replacement of infinitive by subjunctive constructions, object clitics, formation of future with auxiliary verb "to want") probably originated in Medieval Greek and spread to the other languages through Byzantine influence.[9]

Latin and Romance

The Roman Empire ruled all the Balkans, and local variation of Latin may have left its mark on all languages there, which were later the substrate to Slavic newcomers. This was proposed by Georg Solta. The weak point of this theory is that other Romance languages have few of the features, and there is no proof that the Balkan Romans were isolated for enough time to develop them. An argument for this would be the structural borrowings or "linguistic calques" into Macedonian from Aromanian, which could be explained by Aromanian being a substrate of Macedonian, but this still does not explain the origin of these innovations in Aromanian. The analytic perfect with the auxiliary verb "to have" (which some Balkan languages share with Western European languages), is the only feature whose origin can fairly safely be traced to Latin.

Multiple sources

The most commonly accepted theory, advanced by Polish scholar Zbigniew Gołąb, is that the innovations came from different sources and the languages influenced each other: some features can be traced from Latin, Slavic, or Greek languages, whereas others, particularly features that are shared only by Romanian, Albanian, Macedonian and Bulgarian, could be explained by the substratum kept after Romanization (in the case of Romanian) or Slavicization (in the case of Bulgarian). Albanian was influenced by both Latin and Slavic, but it kept many of its original characteristics.

Several arguments favour this theory. First, throughout the turbulent history of the Balkans, many groups of people moved to another place, inhabited by people of another ethnicity. These small groups were usually assimilated quickly and sometimes left marks in the new language they acquired. Second, the use of more than one language was common in the Balkans before the modern age, and a drift in one language would quickly spread to other languages. Third, the dialects that have the most "balkanisms" are those in regions where people had contact with people of many other languages.


Grammatical features

Case system

The number of cases is reduced, several cases being replaced with prepositions, the only exception being Serbo-Croatian. In Bulgarian and Macedonian, on the other hand, this development has actually led to the loss of all cases except the vocative.

A common case system of a Balkan language is:

In the Balkan languages, the genitive and dative cases (or corresponding prepositional constructions) undergo syncretism.


Language Dative Genitive
English I gave the book to Maria. It is Maria's book.
Albanian Librin ia dhashë Marisë. Libri është i Marisë.
Aromanian Vivlia lju dedu ali Marii. Vivlia easti ali Marii.
Bulgarian Дадох книгата на Мария
[dadoh knigata na Marija]
Книгата е на Мария
[knigata e na Marija]
Romanian I-am dat cartea Mariei.
colloq. for fem. (oblig. for masc.):
I-am dat cartea lui Marian.
Cartea este a Mariei.
colloq. for fem. (oblig. for masc.):
Cartea este a lui Marian.
Macedonian Ѝ ја дадов книгата на Марија.
[ì ja dadov knigata na Marija]
Книгата е на Марија.
[knigata e na Marija]


Έδωσα το βιβλίο στην Μαρία.
[édhosa to vivlío stin María]
Έδωσα το βιβλίο της Μαρίας.
[édhosa to vivlío tis Marías]
Είναι το βιβλίο της Μαρίας.
[íne to vivlío tis Marías]
Της το έδωσα
[tis to édhosa]
'I gave it to her.'
Είναι το βιβλίο της.
[íne to vivlío tis]
'It is her book.'
language "in Greece" "into Greece"
Albanian në Greqi për/brenda në Greqi
Aromanian tu Gârția; tu Grecu tu Gârția; tu Grecu
Bulgarian в Гърция (v Gărcija) в Гърция (v Gărcija)
Greek στην Ελλάδα (stin Elládha) στην Ελλάδα (stin Elládha)
Macedonian во Грција (vo Grcija) во Грција (vo Grcija)
Romanian* în Grecia în Grecia

Note: In Romanian this is an exception, and it only applies when referring to individual countries, e.g. în Germania, în Franța, etc. The rule is that into translates as ”la” when trying to express destination, e.g. la Atena, la Madrid, la vale, la mare, etc but even in this case the same preposition is used to express direction and location.

Verb tenses

The future tense is formed in an analytic way using an auxiliary verb or particle with the meaning "will, want", referred to as de-volitive, similar to the way the future is formed in English. This feature is present to varying degrees in each language. Decategoralization is less advanced in fossilized literary Romanian voi and in Serbo-Croatian ću, ćeš, će, where the future marker is still an inflected auxiliary. In modern Greek, Bulgarian, Macedonian, and Albanian, Aromanian, and spoken Romanian, decategoralization and erosion have given rise to an uninflected tense form, where the frozen third-person singular of the verb has turned into an invariable particle followed by the main verb inflected for person (compare Rom voi, vei, va > invariable va > mod. o).[10] Certain Torlakian dialects also have an invariant future tense marker in the form of the proclitic third-person-singular present form of the verb 'to want': će vidim (ће видим) 'I will see', će vidiš (ће видиш) "you will see", će vidi (ће види) 'he/she/it will see'.

Language Variant Formation Example: "I'll see"
Albanian Tosk do (invariable) + subjunctive Do të shoh
Gheg kam (conjugated) + infinitive Kam me pa
Aromanian va / u (inv.) + subjunctive Va s'vedu / u s'vedu
Greek θα (inv.) + subjunctive Θα δω / βλέπω (tha dho / vlépo); "I'll see / be seeing"
Bulgarian ще (inv.) + present tense Ще видя (shte vidya)
Macedonian ќе (inv.) + present tense Ќе видам (kje vidam)
Serbian (standard Serbian) хтети / hteti (conjugated) + infinitive Ја ћу видети (видећу) (ja ću videti [videću])
(colloquial Serbian) хтети / hteti (conjugated) + subjunctive Ја ћу да видим (ja ću da vidim)
Romanian (literary, formal) voi, vei, va, vom, veți, vor + infinitive Voi vedea
(archaic) va (inv.) + subjunctive Va să văd
(modern) o (inv.) + subjunctive O să văd
(colloquial alternative) a avea (conjugated) + subjunctive Am să văd
Romani (Erli)[11] ka (inv.) + subjunctive Ka dikhav

The analytic perfect tense is formed in the Balkan languages with the verb "to have" and, usually, a past passive participle, similarly to the construction found in Germanic and other Romance languages: e.g. Romanian am promis "I have promised", Albanian kam premtuar "I have promised". A somewhat less typical case of this is Greek, where the verb "to have" is followed by the so-called απαρέμφατο ('invariant form', historically the aorist infinitive): έχω υποσχεθεί. However, a completely different construction is used in Bulgarian and Serbo-Croatian, which have inherited from Common Slavic an analytic perfect formed with the verb "to be" and the past active participle: обещал съм, obeštal sǎm (Bul.) / обећао сам, obećao sam (Ser.) - "I have promised" (lit. "I am having-promised"). On the other hand, Macedonian, the third Slavic language in the sprachbund, is like Romanian and Albanian in that it uses quite typical Balkan constructions consisting of the verb to have and a past passive participle (имам ветено, imam veteno = "I have promised"). Macedonian also has a perfect formed with the verb "to be", like Bulgarian and Serbo-Croatian.

The so-called renarrative mood is another shared feature of the Balkan languages, including Turkish. It is used for statements that are not based on direct observation or common knowledge, but repeat what was reported by others. For example, Патот бил затворен in Macedonian means "The road was closed (or so I heard)". A speaker who uses the indicative mood instead and states "Патот беше затворен" implies thereby that they personally witnessed the road's closure.

The use of the infinitive (common in other languages related to some of the Balkan languages, such as Romance and Slavic) is generally replaced with subjunctive constructions, following early Greek innovation.

  • in Bulgarian, Macedonian and Tosk Albanian, the loss of the infinitive is complete
  • in demotic (vernacular) Greek, the loss of the infinitive was complete, whereas in literary Greek (Katharevousa, abolished in 1976) it was not; the natural fusion of the vernacular with Katharevousa resulted in the creation of the contemporary common Greek (Modern Standard Greek), where the infinitive, when used, is principally used as noun (e.g. λέγειν "speaking, fluency, eloquence", γράφειν "writing", είναι "being", etc.) deriving directly from the ancient Greek infinitive formation. But its substitution by the subjunctive form when the infinitive would be used as a verb is complete. Most of the times, the subjunctive form substitutes the infinitive also in the cases when it would be used as a noun (e.g. το να πας / το να πάει κανείς "to go, the act of going", το να δεις / βλέπεις "to see/be seeing, the act of seeing" instead of the infinitive "βλέπειν", etc.)
  • in Aromanian and Southern Serbo-Croatian dialects, it is almost complete
  • in Gheg Albanian and Megleno-Romanian, it is used only in a limited number of expressions
  • in standard Romanian (prepositional phrase: a + verb stem) and Serbo-Croatian, the infinitive shares many of its functions with the subjunctive. In these two languages, the infinitive will always be found in dictionaries and language textbooks. However, in Romanian, the inherited infinitive form (-are, -ere, and -ire) is now used only as a verbal noun.
  • Turkish as spoken in Sliven and Šumen has also almost completely lost the infinitive, but not verbal nouns using the same grammatical form. This is clearly due to the influence of the Balkan sprachbund.

For example, "I want to write" in several Balkan languages:

Language Example Notes
Albanian Dua të shkruaj as opposed to Gheg me fjet "to sleep" or me hangër "to eat"
Aromanian Vroi să scriu / ăngrăpsescu
Macedonian Сакам да пишувам [sakam da pišuvam]
Bulgarian Искам да пиша [iskam da piša]
Modern Greek Θέλω να γράψω [Thélo na grápso] as opposed to older Greek ἐθέλω γράψαι
Romanian Vreau să scriu (with subjunctive)

Vreau a scrie (with infinitive)

The use of the infinitive is preferred in writing in some cases only. In speech it is more commonly used in the northern varieties (Transylvania, Banat, and Moldova) than in Southern varieties (Wallachia) of the language.[12] The most common form is still the form with subjunctive.
Serbian Želim da pišem / Желим да пишем As opposed to the more literary form: Želim pisati / Желим пиcaти, where pisati / пиcaти is the infinitive. Both forms are grammatically correct in standard Serbian and do not create misunderstandings, although the colloquial one is more commonly used in daily conversation.
Bulgarian Turkish isterim yazayım In Standard Turkish in Turkey this is yazmak istiyorum where yazmak is the infinitive.
Romani (Erli) Mangav te pišinav Many forms of Romani add the ending -a to express the indicative present, while reserving the short form for the subjunctive serving as an infinitive: for example mangava te pišinav. Some varieties outside the Balkans have been influenced by non-Balkan languages and have developed new infinitives by generalizing one of the finite forms (e.g. Slovak Romani varieties may express "I want to write" as kamav te irinel/pisinel — generalized third person singular — or kamav te irinen/pisinen — generalized third person plural).

But here is an example of a relict form, preserved in Bulgarian:

Language Without infinitive With relict "infinitive" Translation Notes
Bulgarian Недей да пишеш. Недей писа. Don't write. The first part of the first three examples is the prohibitative element недей ("don't", composed of не, "not", and дей, "do" in the imperative). The second part of the examples, писа, я, зна and да, are relicts of what used to be an infinitive form (писати, ясти, знати and дати respectively). This second syntactic construction is colloquial and more common in the eastern dialects. The forms usually coincide with the past aorist tense of the verb in the third person singular, as in the case of писа; some that don't coincide (for example доща instead of ще дойда "I will come") are highly unusual today, but do occur, above all in older literature.

The last example is found only in some dialects.

Недей да ядеш. Недей я. Don't eat.
Недей да знаеш. Недей зна. Don't know.
Можете ли да ми дадете? Можете ли ми да? Can you give me?
Немой чете Don't read

Bare subjunctive constructions

Sentences that include only a subjunctive construction can be used to express a wish, a mild command, an intention, or a suggestion.

This example translates in the Balkan languages the phrase "You should go!", using the subjunctive constructions.

Language Example Notes
Macedonian Да (си) одиш! "Оди" [odi] in the imperative is more common, and has the identical meaning.
Bulgarian Да си ходиш! "Ходи си!" [ho'di si] is the more common imperative.
Torlakian Да идеш! "Иди!" in the imperative is grammatically correct, and has the identical meaning.
Albanian Të shkosh! "Shko!" in the imperative is grammatically correct. "Të shkosh" is used in sentence only followed by a modal verbs, ex. in these cases: Ti duhet të shkosh (You should go), Ti mund të shkosh (You can go) etc.
Modern Greek Να πας!
Romany (Gypsy) Te dža!
Romanian Să te duci!
  • compare with similar Spanish "¡Que te largues!"
  • in Romanian, the "a se duce" (to go) requires a reflexive construction, literally "take yourself (to)"
Meglenian S-ti duts!
Aromanian S-ti duts!


With the exception of Greek, Serbo-Croatian, and Romani, all languages in the union have their definite article attached to the end of the noun, instead of before it. None of the related languages (like other Romance languages or Slavic languages) share this feature, with the notable exception of the northern Russian dialects, and it is thought to be an innovation created and spread in the Balkans.

However, each language created its own internal articles, so the Romanian articles are related to the articles (and demonstrative pronouns) in Italian, French, etc., whereas the Bulgarian articles are related to demonstrative pronouns in other Slavic languages.

Language Feminine Masculine








English woman the woman man the man
Albanian grua gruaja burrë burri
Aromanian muljari muljarea bărbat bărbatlu
Bulgarian жена жената мъж мъжът
Greek γυναίκα η γυναίκα άντρας ο άντρας
Macedonian[13] жена жената маж мажот
Romanian femeie




bărbat bărbatul
Torlakian жена жената муж мужът

The Slavic way of composing the numbers between 10 and 20, e.g. "one + on + ten" for eleven, called superessive, is widespread. Greek does not follow this.

Language The word "Eleven" compounds
Albanian "njëmbëdhjetë" një + mbë + dhjetë
Aromanian "unsprădzatsi", commonly, " unspră" un + spră + dzatsi
Bulgarian "единадесет" един + (н)а(д) + десет
Macedonian "единаесет" еде(и)н + (н)а(д) + (д)есет
Romanian "unsprezece" or, more commonly, "unșpe" un + spre + zece < *unu + supre + dece; unu + spre; the latter is more commonly used, even in formal speech.
Serbo-Croatian "jedanaest/једанаест" jedan+ (n)a+ (d)es(e)t/један + (н)а + (д)ес(е)т. This is not the case only with South Slavic languages. This word is formed in the same way in most Slavic languages, e.g. Polish - "jedenaście", Czech - "jedenáct", Slovak - "jedenásť", Russian - "одиннадцать", Ukrainian - "одинадцять", etc.

Direct and indirect objects are cross-referenced, or doubled, in the verb phrase by a clitic (weak) pronoun, agreeing with the object in gender, number, and case or case function. This can be found in Romanian, Greek, Bulgarian, Macedonian, and Albanian. In Albanian and Macedonian, this feature shows fully grammaticalized structures and is obligatory with indirect objects and to some extent with definite direct objects; in Bulgarian, however, it is optional and therefore based on discourse. In Greek, the construction contrasts with the clitic-less construction and marks the cross-referenced object as a topic. Southwest Macedonia appears to be the location of innovation.

For example, "I see George" in Balkan languages:

Language Example
Albanian "E shoh Gjergjin"
Aromanian "U- ved Yioryi"
Bulgarian "Гледам го Георги."
Macedonian "Гo гледам Ѓорѓи."
Greek "Τον βλέπω τον Γιώργο"
Romanian "Îl văd pe Gheorghe."

Note: The neutral case in normal (SVO) word order is without a clitic: "Гледам Георги." However, the form with an additional clitic pronoun is also perfectly normal and can be used for emphasis: "Гледам го Георги." And the clitic is obligatory in the case of a topicalized object (with OVS-word order), which serves also as the common colloquial equivalent of a passive construction. "Георги го гледам."

The replacement of synthetic adjectival comparative forms with analytic ones by means of preposed markers is common. These markers are:

  • Bulgarian: по-
  • Macedonian: по (prepended)
  • Albanian:
  • Romanian: mai
  • Modern Greek: πιο (pió)
  • Aromanian: (ca)ma

Macedonian and Modern Greek have retained some of the earlier synthetic forms. In Bulgarian and Macedonian these have become proper adjectives in their own right without the possibility of [further] comparison. This is more evident in Macedonian: виш = "higher, superior", ниж = "lower, inferior". Compare with similar structures in Bulgarian: висш(-(ия(т))/а(та)/о(то)/и(те)) = "(the) higher, (the) superior" (по-висш(-(ия(т))/а(та)/о(то)/и(те)) = "(the) [more] higher, (the) [more] superior"; 'най-висш(-(ия(т))/о(то)/а(та)/и(те))' = "(the) ([most]) highest, supreme"; нисш (also spelled as низш sometimes) = "low, lower, inferior", it can also possess further comparative or superlative as with 'висш' above.

Also, some common suffixes can be found in the language area, such as the diminutive suffix of the Slavic languages (Srb. Bul. Mac.) "-ovo" "-ica" that can be found in Albanian, Greek and Romanian.



Several hundred words are common to the Balkan union languages; the origin of most of them is either Greek, Bulgarian or Turkish, as the Byzantine Empire, the First Bulgarian Empire, the Second Bulgarian Empire and later the Ottoman Empire directly controlled the territory throughout most of its history, strongly influencing its culture and economics.

Albanian, Aromanian, Bulgarian, Greek, Romanian, Serbo-Croatian and Macedonian also share a large number of words of various origins:

Source Source word Meaning Albanian Aromanian Bulgarian Greek Romanian Macedonian Serbo-Croatian Turkish
Vulgar Latin mēsa table mësallë ‘dinner table; tablecloth’ measã маса (masa) masă маса (masa) masa
Thracian romphea,
polearm colloq. rrufe ‘lightning bolt’ rofélja dial. руфия (rufiya) ‘thunderbolt’ anc. ρομφαία (rhomphaía) colloq. ровја (rovja) and dial. рофја (rofja) ‘thunder’
Byzantine Greek λιβάδιον (livádion) meadow colloq. livadh livadhi ливада (livada) λιβάδι livadă ливада (livada) livada
ливада (livada)
Byzantine Greek διδάσκαλος (didáskalos) teacher obs. dhaskal/icë dascal colloq. даскал (daskal) δάσκαλος rare dascăl colloq. даскал (daskal) colloq. даскал (daskal)
Byzantine Greek κουτίον
box kuti cutii кутия (kutiya) κουτί cutie кутија (kutija) kutija
кутија (kutija)
Slavic *vydra otter vidër vidrã видра (vidra) βίδρα (vídra) vidră видра (vidra) видра (vidra)
Slavic *kosa scythe kosë coasã коса (kosa) κόσα (kósa) coasă коса (kosa) коса (kosa)
Turkish boya paint, color colloq. bojë boi боя (boya) μπογιά (boyá) boia боја (boja) boja
боја (boja)


Apart from the direct loans, there are also many calques that were passed from one Balkan language to another, most of them between Albanian, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Greek, Aromanian and Romanian.

For example, the word "ripen" (as in fruit) is constructed in Albanian, Romanian and (rarely) in Greek (piqem, a (se) coace, ψήνομαι), in Turkish pişmek by a derivation from the word "to bake" (pjek, a coace, ψήνω).[14]

Another example is the wish "(∅/to/for) many years":

Language Expression Transliteration
Greek (medieval) εις έτη πολλά is eti polla
(modern) χρόνια πολλά khronia polla
Latin ad multos annos  
Aromanian ti mullts anj  
Romanian la mulți ani  
Albanian për shumë vjet
Bulgarian за много години za mnogo godini
Macedonian за многу години za mnogu godini
Serbo-Croatian за много годинa za mnogo godina

Idiomatic expressions for "whether one <verb> or not" are formed as "<verb>-not-<verb>".[15] "Whether one wants or not":

Language expression transliteration
Bulgarian ще - не ще shte - ne shte
Greek θέλει δε θέλει theli de theli
Romanian vrea nu vrea
Turkish ister istemez
Serbo-Croatian хтео - не хтео hteo - ne hteo
Albanian do - s'do
Macedonian сакал - не сакал / нејќел sakal - ne sakal / nejkjel
Aromanian vrea - nu vrea

This is also present in other Slavic languages, eg. Polish chcąc nie chcąc.


The main phonological features consist of:

  • the presence of an unrounded central vowel, either a mid-central schwa /ə/ or a high central vowel phoneme
    • ë in Albanian; ъ in Bulgarian; ă in Romanian; ã in Aromanian
    • In Romanian and Albanian, the schwa is obtained via centralizing unstressed /a/
      • Example: Latin camisia "shirt" > Romanian cămașă /kə.ma.ʃə/, Albanian këmishë /kə.mi.ʃə/)
    • The schwa phoneme occurs across some dialects of the Macedonian language, but is absent in the standard.
  • some kind of umlaut in stressed syllables with differing patterns depending on the language.
    • Romanian:
      • a mid-back vowel ends in a low glide before a nonhigh vowel in the following syllable.
      • a central vowel is fronted before a front vowel in the following syllable.
    • Albanian: back vowels are fronted before i in the following syllable.
  • The presence of /v/ or /ʋ/ but not /w/

This feature also occurs in Greek, but it is lacking in some of the other Balkan languages; the central vowel is found in Romanian, Bulgarian, some dialects of Albanian, and Serbo-Croatian, but not in Greek or Standard Macedonian.

Less widespread features are confined largely to either Romanian or Albanian, or both:

  • frequent loss of l before i in Romanian and some Romani dialects
  • the alternation between n and r in Albanian and Romanian.
  • change from l to r in Romanian, Greek and very rarely in Bulgarian and Albanian.
  • the raising of o to u in unstressed syllables in Bulgarian, Romanian and Northern Greek dialects.
  • change from ea to e before i in Bulgarian and Romanian.

See also


  1. ^ Kopitar, Jernej K. (1829). "Albanische, walachische und bulgarische Sprache". Jahrbücher der Literatur (Wien). 46: 59–106. ISBN 3-89131-038-2.
  2. ^ August Schleicher, Linguistische Untersuchungen, vol. 2: Die Sprachen Europas in systematischer Übersicht. Bonn: H. B. König, 1850.
  3. ^ Miklosich, F. (1861). "Die slavischen Elemente im Rumunischen". Denkschriften der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philosophisch-historische Classe. 12: 1–70.
  4. ^ Trubetzkoy, N.S. (1923). "Vavilonskaja bašnja i smešenie jazykov". Evrazijskij vremennik. 3: 107–24.
  5. ^ K. Sandfeld, Balkanfilologien: En oversigt over dens resultater og problemer. Copenhagen: Lunp, 1926; translated into French as Linguistique balkanique: problèmes et résultats. Paris: Champion, 1930.
  6. ^ Weigand, Gustav (1925). "Vorwort, zugleich Programm des Balkan-Archivs". Balkan-Archiv. 1: V–XV.; Gustav Weigand, “Texte zur vergleichenden Syuntax der Balkansprachen”, Balkan Archiv IV (1928): 53-70.
  7. ^ Chase Faucheux, Language Classification and Manipulation in Romania and Moldova, M.A. thesis, Louisiana State University, 2006 quoting André Du Nay, The Origins of the Rumanians: The Early History of the Rumanian Language, 1996.
  8. ^ Lindstedt, J. (2000). "Linguistic Balkanization: Contact-induced change by mutual reinforcement". In D. G. Gilbers; et al. (eds.). Languages in Contact. Studies in Slavic and General Linguistics, 28. Amsterdam & Atlanta, GA: Rodopi. pp. 231–246. ISBN 90-420-1322-2.
  9. ^ Horrocks, Geoffrey (2010). Greek: A History of the Language and its Speakers (2nd ed.). Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 227–229.
  10. ^ Bernd Heine & Tania Kuteva, Language Contact and Grammatical Change (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).
  11. ^ Romani dialects outside of the Balkans generally do not express the future tense in this way. Unlike the avoidance of the infinitive, which had already come to encompass all Romani varieties before many of them were brought out of the Balkans into the rest of Europe, the formation of the future tense with a devolitive particle is apparently a later development, since it is only seen in those dialect groups that have not left the Balkans.
  12. ^ Mădălina Spătaru-Pralea. "Concurența infinitiv-conjunctiv în limba română". Archived from the original on 2011-04-23. Retrieved 2011-06-26.
  13. ^ In Macedonian there are three types of definite articles. In this example the common definite article is given.
  14. ^ In Greek, usually in the mediopassive voice, and applicable not only to fruits but other natural products: Babiniotis, Λεξικό της νέας Ελληνικής Γλώσσας (1998), gives the example "φέτος ψήθηκαν νωρίς τα καλαμπόκια".
  15. ^ Winford, Donald (2003). An Introduction to Contact Linguistics. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-631-21251-5.


  • Batzarov, Zdravko. "Balkan Linguistic Union". Encyclopædia Orbis Latini.
  • André Du Nay, The Origins of the Rumanians: The Early History of the Rumanian Language, 2nd edn. Toronto–Buffalo, NY: Matthias Corvinus, 1996 (1st edn., 1977), pp. 85-87, 88-97, 190.
  • Victor A. Friedman, "After 170 years of Balkan Linguistics: Whither the Millennium?", Mediterranean Language Review 12:1-15, 2000.PDF—an excellent survey article
  • Victor A. Friedman, “Balkans as a Linguistic Area”, Concise Encyclopedia of Languages of the World, eds. Keith Brown & Sarah Ogilvie (Elsevier, 2009), 119-134.
  • Joseph, Brian D. (1999). "Romanian and the Balkans: Some Comparative Perspectives" (PDF).
  • Christina E. Kramer, “The Grammaticalization of the Future Tense Auxiliary in the Balkan Languages”, Indiana Slavic Studies 7 (1994): 127–35.
  • Alexandru Rosetti, B. Cazacu, & I. Coteanu, eds. Istoria limbii române [History of the Romanian language], 2 vols. Bucharest: Edit. Acad. RSR, 1965 (vol.1), 1969 (vol. 2); 2nd edn., 1978.
  • Ion Russu, Limba Traco-Dacilor [The Language of the Thraco-Dacians]. Bucharest: Editura Științifică, 1967.
  • Klaus Steinke & Ariton Vraciu, Introducere în lingvistica balcanică [An Introduction to Balkan Linguistics]. Iași: Editura Universității “Alexandru Ioan Cuza”, 1999.
  • Thomason, Sarah G. (1999). "Linguistic areas and language history" (PDF).
  • Sarah G. Thomason, Language Contact: An Introduction. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2001, pp. 105–10.
  • Tomić, Olga Mišeska (2003). "The Balkan Sprachbund properties: An introduction to Topics in Balkan Syntax and Semantics" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2003-09-11.
  • Olga Mišeska Tomić (2006). Balkan sprachbund morpho-syntactic features. Dordrecht: Springer. ISBN 978-1-4020-4487-8.
  • Andrej N. Sobolev, ed. Malyi dialektologiceskii atlas balkanskikh iazykov. Munich: Biblion Verlag, 2003-
  • Andrej N. Sobolev, “Antibalkanismy”, Južnoslovenski filolog (2011) PDF

Further reading

  • Jack Feuillet. “Aire linguistique balkanique”, Language Typology and Language Universals: An International Handbook, vol. 2, eds. Martin Haspelmath, Ekkehard König, Wulf Oesterreicher, & Wolfgang Raible. NY: Walter de Gruyter, 2001, pp. 1510–28.
  • Victor A. Friedman. “Balkans as a Linguistic Area”, Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, 2nd edn., ed. Keith Brown. Oxford: Elsevier, 2005, pp. 657–72.
  • Brian D. Joseph. “Balkan Languages”, International Encyclopedia of Linguistics, 4 vols., ed. William Bright. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992, 1: 153–55.
  • Brian D. Joseph. “Language Contact in the Balkans”, The Handbook of Language Contact, ed. Raymond Hickey. Malden, MA–Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, pp. 618–33.
  • Olga Mišeska Tomić. “Balkan Sprachbund features”, The Languages and Linguistics of Europe: A Comprehensive Guide, eds. Bernd Kortmann & Johan van der Auwera. Berlin–Boston: Walter de Gruyter, 2011, pp. 307–24.
  • Helmut Wilhelm Schaller. Die Balkansprachen: Eine Einführung in die Balkanphilologie. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag C. Winter, 1975.
  • Harald Haarmann. Balkanlinguistik. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag, 1978.
  • Georg Renatus Solta. Einführung in die Balkanlinguistik mit besonderer Berücksichtigung des Substrats und des Balkanlateinischen. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1980.
  • G. A. Cyxun. Tipologičeskie problemy balkanoslavjanskogo jazykovogo areala. Moscow: Izdatel’stvo “Nauka i texnika”, 1981.
  • Emanuele Banfi. Linguistica balcanica. Bologna: Zanichelli, 1985.
  • Jack Feuillet. La linguistique balkanique. Paris: INALCO, 1986.
  • Agnija Desnickaja. Osnovy balkanskogo jazykoznanija. Leningrad: Nauka, 1990.
  • Shaban Demiraj. Gjuhësi balkanike [Balkan Linguistics]. Skopje: Logos-A., 1994.
  • Norbert Reiter. Grundzüge der Balkanologie: Ein Schritt in die Eurolinguistik. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1994.
  • Klaus Steinke & Ariton Vraciu. Introducere în lingvistica balcanică [An Introduction to Balkan Linguistics]. Iași: Editura Universității “Alexandru Ioan Cuza”, 1999.
  • Uwe Hinrichs, ed. Handbuch der Südosteuropa-Linguistik. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1999.
  • Petja Asenova. Balkansko ezikoznanie: Osnovni problemi na balkanskija ezikov sŭjuz. Veliko Tărnovo: Faber, 2002.
  • Victor Friedman. “Balkan Slavic dialectology and Balkan linguistics: Periphery as center”, American contributions to the 14th International Congress of Slavists, Ohrid, September 2008, ed. Christina Yurkiw Bethin & David M. Bethea. Bloomington, IN: Slavica, 2008, pp. 131–48.
  • Victor Friedman. “The Balkan languages and Balkan linguistics”, Annual Review of Anthropology 40 (2011): 275–91.
  • Petja Asenova. “Aperçu historique des études dans le domaine de la linguistique balkanique”, Balkansko ezikoznanie 22, no. 1 (1979): 5–45.
  • Brian D. Joseph. “On the Need for History in Balkan Linguistics”, Kenneth E. Naylor Memorial Lecture Series, vol. 10. Ann Arbor, MI: Beech Stave, 2008.
  • Howard I. Aronson. “Towards a Typology of the Balkan Future”, Indiana Slavic Studies 7 (1994): 9–18.
  • Howard I. Aronson. The Balkan Linguistic League, “Orientalism”, and Linguistic Typology. Ann Arbor, MI–NY: Beech Stave, 2006.
  • Bridget Drinka. “The Balkan Perfects: Grammaticalizion and Contact”, Language Contact in Europe: The Periphrastic Perfect through History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017, pp. 267–87.
  • Victor A. Friedman. “The Typology of Balkan Evidentiality and Areal Linguistics”, Balkan Syntax and Semantics, ed. Olga Mišeska Tomić. Amsterdam–Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 2004, pp. 101–135.
  • Brian D. Joseph. The Synchrony and Diachrony of the Balkan Infinitive: A Study in Areal, General, and Historical Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983 (reprint 2009).
  • Dalina Kallulli & Liliane Tasmowski, eds. Clitic Doubling in the Balkan Languages. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2008.
  • Christina E. Kramer. “The Grammaticalization of the Future Tense Auxiliary in the Balkan Languages”, Indiana Slavic Studies 7 (1994): 127–35.
  • Christina E. Kramer. “Negation and the Grammaticalization of Have and Want Futures in Bulgarian and Macedonian”, Canadian Slavonic Papers/Revue Canadienne des Slavistes 39, no. 3–4 (1997): 407–16.
  • Maria-Luisa Rivero & Angela Ralli, eds. Comparative Syntax of the Balkan Languages. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
  • Zuzanna Topolińska. “The Balkan Sprachbund from a Slavic perspective”, Zbornik Matice srpske za filologiju i lingvistiku 53, no. 1 (2010): 33–60.
Areal feature

In linguistics, areal features are elements shared by languages or dialects in a geographic area, particularly when the languages are not descended from a common ancestor language.

Bulgarian grammar

Bulgarian grammar is the grammar of the Bulgarian language. Bulgarian is a South Slavic language that evolved from Old Church Slavonic—the written norm for the Slavic languages in the Middle Ages which derived from Proto-Slavic.

Bulgarian is also a part of the Balkan sprachbund, which also includes Greek, Macedonian, Romanian, Albanian and the Torlakian dialect of Serbian. It shares with them several grammatical innovations that set it apart from most other Slavic languages, even other South Slavic languages. Among these are a sharp reduction in noun inflections—Bulgarian has lost the noun cases but has developed a definite article, which is suffixed at the end of words. In its verbal system, Bulgarian is set apart from most Slavic languages by the loss of the infinitive, the preservation of most of the complexities of the older conjugation system (including the opposition between aorist and imperfect) and the development of a complex evidential system to distinguish between witnessed and several kinds of non-witnessed information.

Eastern Romance substratum

According to the official theory regarding the origin of the Eastern Romance languages, they developed from the local Vulgar Latin spoken in the region of the Balkans.

That there is a connection between the Vulgar Latin and the Paleo-Balkan languages spoken in the area is a certainty. Taking into consideration the geographical area where this languages are spoken and the fact that there is not much information about the Paleo-Balkan languages, it is considered that the substratal of the Eastern Romance languages should be the ancient Thracian and Dacian.

The substratal elements in the languages are mostly lexical items. Around 300 words are considered by many linguists to be of substratum origin. Including place-names and river-names, and most of the forms labelled as being of unknown etymology, the number of the substratum elements in Eastern Romance may surpass 500 basic roots. Linguistic research in recent years has increased the body of Eastern Romance words that may be considered indigenous.

In addition to vocabulary items, some other features of Eastern Romance, such as phonological features and elements of grammar (see Balkan sprachbund) may also be from Paleo-Balkan languages.

Gustav Weigand

Gustav Weigand (1 February 1860 – 8 July 1930), was a German linguist and specialist in Balkan languages, especially Romanian and Aromanian. He is known for his seminal contributions to the dialectology of the Romance languages of the Balkans and to the study of the relationships between the languages of the Balkan sprachbund.

Weigand was born in Duisburg, Germany. He studied Romance languages in Leipzig and wrote a doctoral thesis about the language of the Vlachs in Livadi in the region of Mount Olympus in 1888, followed by a habilitation thesis on the Megleno-Romanian language in 1892. In 1893 he founded the Romanian Institute at the University of Leipzig, the first such institution outside Romania. During the following years he continued to conduct extensive personal field studies in the Balkans. In 1908 he published a Linguistic Atlas of the Daco-Romanian speech area, the first work of its kind in the field of Romance linguistics. During the First World War he was sent by the German authorities to conduct ethnographic studies in Macedonia, then under German occupation. The results were published in 1923.

In recognition of his research on the Romanian language, Gustav Weigand was elected as a foreign member of the Romanian Academy in 1892. He was also a foreign member of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and of the Macedonian Scientific Institute. He died in Belgershain.

History of Romanian

The history of the Romanian language began in the Roman provinces of Southeast Europe north of the so-called "Jireček Line", but the exact place where its formation started is still debated. Eastern Romance is now represented by four languages – Romanian, Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian, and Istro-Romanian – which originated from a common Proto-Romanian language. These languages also had a common substratum. The latter's morphological and syntactic features seem to have been similar to those shared by the languages – including Albanian, Bulgarian, and Macedonian – which form the Balkan sprachbund. The adoption of a number of Proto-Slavic and Old Church Slavonic loanwords by all Eastern Romance languages shows that their disintegration did not commence before the 10th century.

Inferential mood

The inferential mood (abbreviated INFER or INFR) is used to report a nonwitnessed event without confirming it, but the same forms also function as admiratives in the Balkan languages in which they occur. The inferential mood is used in some languages such as Turkish to convey information about events which were not directly observed or were inferred by the speaker. When referring to Balkan languages, it is often called renarrative mood; when referring to Estonian, it is called oblique mood. The inferential is usually impossible to be distinguishably translated into English. For instance, indicative Bulgarian той отиде (toy otide) and Turkish o gitti will be translated the same as inferential той отишъл (toy otishal) and o gitmiş—with the English indicative he went. Using the first pair, however, implies very strongly that the speaker either witnessed the event or is very sure that it took place. The second pair implies either that the speaker did not in fact witness it take place, that it occurred in the remote past or that there is considerable doubt as to whether it actually happened. If it were necessary to make the distinction, then the English constructions "he must have gone" or "he is said to have gone" would partly translate the inferential.


The male name Kiril (or Кирил or Кирилл) is a common first name in the Orthodox Slavic world, in particular in Bulgaria, North Macedonia, and Russia. It is also well known in Greece but in different forms like Kyriakos. (Note that in modern Russian the spelling Кирил is considered to be a mistake, the right spelling is Кирилл.)

Kiril has several variant forms: Cyril, Cyrill, Kirill, Kirillos, Kiryl (Belarusian), Kyril, Cyryl (Polish), Kyrill, Kyrylo (Ukrainian) and a diminutive Kiro (common in the Balkan Sprachbund).

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem was a 4th-century bishop and a Doctor of the Church. Saint Cyril of Alexandria was a 5th-century theologian. Another Saint Cyril, known as Kiril, was a 9th-century translator and a Byzantine missionary to the Slavs. He, together with his brother Methodius created an alphabet called Glagolica to serve the needs of the Slavic world, translating the Bible into the Church Slavic language. Later, their students created a simpler and graphically usable alphabet, which is known as the Cyrilic alphabet and is still used by millions of people.

Kumanovo dialect

The Kumanovo dialect (Macedonian: Кумановски дијалект, Kumanovski dijalekt) is a member of the eastern subgroup of the Northern group of dialects of the Macedonian language. It belongs to the so-called Prizren-Timok dialects, also known as Torlakian. The dialect is typical for the northern dialect of the Macedonian language and is very well known because of the use of some cases, such as the locative case. The Kumanovo dialect is spoken mainly in the city of Kumanovo and the surrounding villages. The dialect is closely related to the neighboring Kriva Palanka dialect. The Kumanovo dialect can be found in literary works, such as the famous play “Lenče Kumanovče” written by Vasil Iljoski in 1928. The Kumanovo dialect is especially popular as a source of humor in the spoken media, whereas the print media tend to favor Western dialect forms for humorous anecdotes and quotations in local news stories. The most significant example where the Kumanovo dialect is used in a humorous way is the festival Tumba Fest.

Macedonian grammar

The grammar of Macedonian is, in many respects, similar to that of some other Balkan languages (constituent languages of the Balkan sprachbund), especially Bulgarian. Macedonian exhibits a number of grammatical features that distinguish it from most other Slavic languages, such as the elimination of case declension, the development of a suffixed definite article, and the lack of an infinitival verb, among others.

The first printed Macedonian grammar was published by Gjorgjija Pulevski in 1880.

Paleo-Balkan languages

The Paleo-Balkan languages are the various extinct Indo-European languages that were spoken in the Balkans in ancient times. Hellenization, Romanization and Slavicization in the region caused their only modern descendants to be Modern Greek and Albanian, which are descended from Ancient Greek and one of the Thraco-Illyrian languages, respectively.


Paleo-Balkans refers to:

Prehistoric Balkans

Paleo-Balkan languages

Balkan sprachbund

Paleo-Balkanic peoples




Ancient and modern Greeks, see List of Ancient Greek tribes

Paleo-Balkanic mythology


Sambahsa or Sambahsa-Mundialect is an international auxiliary language (IAL) devised by French Dr. Olivier Simon.

Among IALs it is categorized as a worldlang. It is based on the Proto Indo-European language (PIE), with a highly simplified grammar.

The language was first released on the Internet in July 2007; prior to that, the creator claims to have worked on it for eight years. According to one of the rare academic studies addressing recent auxiliary languages, "Sambahsa has an extensive vocabulary and a large amount of learning and reference material".The first part of the name of the language, Sambahsa, is taken from two Malay words, sama and bahsa which mean 'same' and 'language' respectively.

Mundialect, on the other hand, is a result of combining two Romance words, mondial (worldwide) and dialect (dialect).Sambahsa tries to preserve the original spellings of words as much as possible and this makes its orthography complex, though still kept regular. There are four grammatical cases: nominative, accusative, dative and genitive.Sambahsa, though based on PIE, borrows a good proportion of its vocabulary from languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Indonesian, Swahili and Turkish, which belong to various other language families.


Shm-reduplication is a form of reduplication in which the original word or its first syllable (the base) is repeated with the copy (the reduplicant) beginning with shm- (sometimes schm-), pronounced . The construction is generally used to indicate irony, sarcasm, derision, skepticism, or lack of interest with respect to comments about the discussed object:

He's just a baby!

"Baby-shmaby". He's already 5 years old!The speaker is being skeptical. They do not think their kid is a baby or babyish.

What a sale!

"Sale, schmale". I'm waiting for a larger discount.The speaker is showing lack of interest. They do not care about the sale.

The original word can be a noun, but also an adjective:

"Whenever we go to a fancy-schmancy restaurant, we feel like James Bond."In this case, it is being used to intensify the meaning of "fancy", implying that it's really fancy.

In general, the new combination is used as an interjection. In the case of adjectives, the reduplicated combination can belong to the same syntactical category as the original.

South Slavic languages

The South Slavic languages are one of three branches of the Slavic languages. There are approximately 30 million speakers, mainly in the Balkans. These are separated geographically from speakers of the other two Slavic branches (West and East) by a belt of German, Hungarian and Romanian speakers. The first South Slavic language to be written (also the first attested Slavic language) was the variety spoken in Thessaloniki, now called Old Church Slavonic, in the ninth century. It is retained as a liturgical language in some South Slavic Orthodox churches in the form of various local Church Slavonic traditions.


A sprachbund (German: [ˈʃpʁaːxbʊnt], "federation of languages") – also known as a linguistic area, area of linguistic convergence, diffusion area or language crossroads – is a group of languages that have common features resulting from geographical proximity and language contact. They may be genetically unrelated, or only distantly related. Where genetic affiliations are unclear, the sprachbund characteristics might give a false appearance of relatedness. Areal features are common features of a group of languages in a sprachbund.

Theodor Capidan

Theodor Capidan (April 28 [O.S. April 15] 1879–September 1, 1953) was an Ottoman-born Romanian linguist. An ethnic Aromanian from the Macedonia region, he studied at Leipzig before teaching school at Thessaloniki. Following the creation of Greater Romania at the end of World War I, Capidan followed his friend Sextil Pușcariu to the Transylvanian capital Cluj, where he spent nearly two decades, the most productive part of his career. He then taught in Bucharest for a further ten years and was marginalized late in life under the nascent communist regime. Capidan's major contributions involve studies of the Aromanians and the Megleno-Romanians, as well as their respective languages. His research extended to reciprocal influences between Romanian and the surrounding Slavic languages, the Eastern Romance substratum and the Balkan sprachbund, as well as toponymy. He made a significant contribution to projects for a Romanian-language dictionary and atlas.


Thraco-Illyrian is a hypothesis that the Thraco-Dacian and Illyrian languages comprise a distinct branch of Indo-European. Thraco-Illyrian is also used as a term merely implying a Thracian-Illyrian interference, mixture or sprachbund, or as a shorthand way of saying that it is not determined whether a subject is to be considered as pertaining to Thracian or Illyrian. Downgraded to a geo-linguistic concept, these languages are referred to as Paleo-Balkan.

The linguistical hypothesis was especially current in the early 20th century, but after the 1960s it was seriously called into question. New publications argued that no strong evidence for Thraco-Illyrian exists, and that the two language-areas show more differences than correspondences (Vladimir Georgiev, Ivan Duridanov, Eric Hamp, et al.). Whereas more recent linguists like Sorin Paliga have argued that based on the available data, Illyrian and Thracian were mutually understandable in a way comparable to Czech-Slovak or Spanish-Portuguese.

Torlakian dialect

Torlakian, or Torlak (Serbo-Croatian: Torlački / Торлачки, [tɔ̌rlaːt͡ʃkiː]; Bulgarian: Торлашки, Torlashki), is a group of South Slavic dialects of southeastern Serbia, southern Kosovo (Prizren), northeastern North Macedonia (Kumanovo, Kratovo and Kriva Palanka dialect), western Bulgaria (Belogradchik–Godech–Tran-Breznik), which is intermediate between Serbo-Croatian, Bulgarian and Macedonian. According to UNESCO's list of endangered languages, Torlakian is vulnerable.Some linguists classify it as an old Shtokavian dialect or as a fourth dialect of Serbo-Croatian along with Shtokavian, Chakavian, and Kajkavian. Others classify it as a western Bulgarian dialect, in which case it is referred to as a Transitional Bulgarian dialect. Torlakian is not standardized, and its subdialects vary significantly in some features.

Speakers of the dialectal group are primarily ethnic Serbs, Bulgarians, and Macedonians. There are also smaller ethnic communities of Croats (the Krashovani) in Romania and Slavic Muslims (the Gorani) in southern Kosovo.

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