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Encyclopedia > Balkan linguistic union

The Balkan linguistic union or Balkansprachbund is the similarity in grammar, syntax, vocabulary and phonology among languages of the Balkans, which belong to various Indo-European branches, such as Albanian, Greek, Romance and Slavic. While they share little vocabulary, their grammars are very similar: for example they have very similar case systems and have all become more analytic. A Sprachbund (German for language bond, also known as a linguistic area, convergence area, diffusion area) is a group of languages that have become similar in some way because of geographical proximity. ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... The Indo-European languages comprise a family of several hundred related languages and dialects [1], including most of the major languages of Europe, as well as many spoken in the Indian subcontinent (South Asia), the Iranian plateau (Southwest Asia), and Central Asia. ... The Romance languages, a major branch of the Indo-European language family, comprise all languages that descended from Latin, the language of the Roman Empire. ...  Countries where a West Slavic language is the national language  Countries where an East Slavic language is the national language  Countries where a South Slavic language is the national language The Slavic languages (also called Slavonic languages), a group of closely related languages of the Slavic peoples and a subgroup... In grammar, the case of a noun or pronoun is its grammatical function in a greater phrase or clause; such as the role of subject, of direct object, or of possessor. ... An isolating language is a language in which the vast majority of morphemes are free morphemes and are considered to be full-fledged words. By contrast, in a synthetic language, a word is composed of agglutinated or fused morphemes that denote its syntactic meanings. ...



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 Franc Miklošič (1861)[3]studied the relationships of Balkan Slavic and Romance more extensively. Jernej Kopitar (born 21 August 1780 in Repnje, died 11 August 1844 in Vienna) was a Slovenian linguist. ... Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 1829 was a common year starting on Thursday (see link for calendar). ... August Schleicher August Schleicher (February 19, 1821 - December 6, 1868) was a German linguist. ... Franc MikloÅ¡ič Franc MikloÅ¡ič (de: Franz von Miklosich), (November 29, 1813 – March 7, 1891) was a Slovenian philologist, born at Ljutomer (German Luttenberg), Styria, Slovenia, then a part of Austria. ...

Nikolai Trubetzkoy (1923),[4] Kristian Sandfeld-Jensen (1930),[5] and Gustav Weigand[citation needed] developed the theory in the 1920s and 1930s. Prince Nikolai Sergeyevich Trubetzkoy (Cyrillic ; Moscow, April 15, 1890 - Vienna, June 25, 1938) was a Russian linguist whose teachings formed a nucleus of the Prague School of structural linguistics. ... The 1920s is a decade sometimes referred to as the Jazz Age or the Roaring Twenties, usually applied to America. ... The 1930s (years from 1930–1939) were described as an abrupt shift to more radical and conservative lifestyles, as countries were struggling to find a solution to the Great Depression, also known in Europe as the World Depression. ...

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”.[6]

The term "Balkan linguistic union" 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. Year 1958 (MCMLVIII) was a common year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar. ...


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

However, not all of these languages have the same number of features shared. That is why they are divided into three groups: The Indo-Aryan languages form a subgroup of the Indo-Iranian languages, thus belonging to the Indo-European family of languages. ... Romany (or Romani) is the language of the Roma and Sinti, peoples often referred to in English as Gypsies. The Indo-Aryan Romany language should not be confused with either Romanian (spoken by Romanians), or Romansh (spoken in parts of southeastern Switzerland), both of which are Romance languages. ... The Romance languages, a major branch of the Indo-European language family, comprise all languages that descended from Latin, the language of the Roman Empire. ... Aromanian (also known as Macedo-Romanian, Arumanian or Vlach in most other countries; in Aromanian: limba aromână, limba armânească, armâneashti or armãneshce) is an Eastern Romance language spoken in Southeastern Europe. ... Megleno-Romanian (known as VlăheÅŸte by speakers and Moglenitic, Meglenitic or Megleno-Romanian by linguists) is a Romance language, similar to Aromanian, and Romanian spoken in the Moglená region of Greece, in a few villages in the Republic of Macedonia and also in a few villages in Romania. ... Istro-Romanian is a Romance language used in a few villages in the peninsula of Istria, on the northern part of the Adriatic Sea, in Croatia. ...  Countries where a West Slavic language is the national language  Countries where an East Slavic language is the national language  Countries where a South Slavic language is the national language The Slavic languages (also called Slavonic languages), a group of closely related languages of the Slavic peoples and a subgroup... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... Geographical distribution of Torlakian dialect (exception of Bulgaria) Torlakian is the name used for the dialects spoken in Southern and Eastern Serbia (Serbia and Montenegro), Northwest Republic of Macedonia (Kratovo-Kumanovo) and Northwest Bulgaria (Vidin-Bregovo). ...

  1. Albanian, Romanian, Macedonian and Bulgarian have the most properties in common
  2. Serbian (especially Torlak dialect) and Greek share with the others a lower number of properties
  3. Turkish - shares mainly vocabulary and replacement of infinitive with subjunctive.

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 linguistic union. [7] The results were: Serbian (српски језик; srpski jezik) is one of the standard versions of the Shtokavian dialect, used primarily in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, and by Serbs everywhere. ...

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

Of all the languages studied, Macedonian language got 12.0, the highest overall score. The Macedonian language (Macedonian: , Latinic: ) is a language in the Eastern group of South Slavic languages and is the official language of the Republic of Macedonia. ...

Another language that may have been influenced by the Balkan language union is the Judeo-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. Not to be confused with Ladin. ... Sephardim (ספרדי, Standard Hebrew Səfardi, Tiberian Hebrew ardî; plural Sephardim: ספרדים, Standard Hebrew Sfaradim, Tiberian Hebrew ) are a subgroup of Jews, generally defined in contrast to Ashkenazim and/or . ...


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

Thracian, Dacian or Illyrian

Since most of these features cannot be found in languages related to those that belong to the linguistic union (such as other Slavic or Romance languages), early researchers, including Kopitar, believed they must be inherited from the ancient indigenous languages (Thracian, Dacian and Illyrian) which formed the substrate for the modern Balkan languages. But since very little is known about any of these languages, it cannot be determined whether the features were present. The Thracian language was the Indo-European language spoken in ancient times by the Thracians in South-Eastern Europe. ... The Dacian language was an Indo-European language spoken by the ancient people of Dacia. ... The Illyrian languages are a group of Indo-European languages that were spoken in the western part of the Balkans in pre-Roman times. ... In linguistics, a substratum (lat. ...


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 linguistic union, lacking some important features, such as the postposed article.

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. Common Romanian is a hypothetical language considered to have been spoken by the Romanians after the breakdown of the Roman Empire and before it was broken into modern Balkan Romance languages and dialects: Romanian Aromanian Megleno-Romanian Istro-Romanian The place where this language was formed is still under debate... Georg Renatus Solta (1915-2005) was an Austrian Indo-Europeanist who specialized in Balkan linguistics. ...

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. // In linguistics, a calque (pronounced ) or loan translation is a word or phrase borrowed from another language by literal, word-for-word (Latin: verbum pro verbo) or root-for-root translation. ...

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, while 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. Current political map of the Balkans. ... Drift may refer to: Look up drift in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...

Most likely areas of language contact
Most likely areas of language contact

Image File history File links Balkan_links. ... Image File history File links Balkan_links. ...

Timeline of contacts

(under development)

Most likely the earliest contact was between the Proto-Romanians and Proto-Albanians, (1st century - 5th century AD) this theory being supported by the Albanian vocabulary borrowed from Balkan Latin, as well as the Romanian substrate, which has words cognate to Albanian words. The 1st century was that century which lasted from 1 to 100 according the Gregorian calendar. ... Europe in 450 The 5th century is the period from 401 - 500 in accordance with the Julian calendar in the Christian Era. ...

The exact area where contact occurred is under debate, ranging from Northern Albania to Transylvania. For more, see Origin of Romanians and Origin of Albanians. All Romanian varieties (from the Republic of Moldova to the Vlachs of Serbia) are part of the sprachbund, which shows that the contact was before they diverged. Map of Romania with Transylvania in yellow Transylvania (Romanian: or ; Hungarian: ; German: ; Serbian: / Transilvanija or / Erdelj) is a historical region in central and western Romania. ... The Romanians (also sometimes referred to along with other Balkan Latin peoples as Vlachs) are a nation speaking Romanian, a Romance language, and living in Central and Eastern Europe. ... The origin of Albanians has been for some time a matter of dispute among historians. ... Vlachs (Vlach/Romanian: Rumâni, Serbian: Власи or Vlasi) are an ethnic group of Serbia, culturally and linguistically cognate to Romanians. ...

The invasion of the Slavs led to a period of migrations throughout the Balkans which created multi-ethnic communities and this led to the sprachbund beginning around the 8th century; most features were present by the 12th century, but in some parts it continued until the 17th century. (7th century — 8th century — 9th century — other centuries) Events The Iberian peninsula is taken by Arab and Berber Muslims, thus ending the Visigothic rule, and starting almost 8 centuries of Muslim presence there. ... (11th century - 12th century - 13th century - other centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 12th century was that century which lasted from 1101 to 1200. ... (16th century - 17th century - 18th century - more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 17th century was that century which lasted from 1601-1700. ...

Serbian was perhaps the last language to join, as shown by the low number of features, most of which were only in the Torlak dialect, a dialect intermediary to Bulgarian which emerged rather late, after most features were settled in the sprachbund.


Grammatical features

Case system

The number of cases is reduced, several cases being replaced with prepositions, the only exception being Serbian.

A common case system of a Balkan language is:

The nominative case is a grammatical case for a noun, which generally marks the subject of a verb, as opposed to its object or other verb arguments. ... The accusative case (abbreviated ACC) of a noun is the grammatical case used to mark the direct object of a transitive verb. ... The dative case is a grammatical case generally used to indicate the noun to whom something is given. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Possessive case. ... In linguistics, syncretism is the agreement in form of distinct morphological forms of a word. ... The vocative case (also called the fifth case) is the case used for a noun identifying the person (animal, object, etc. ...

Syncretism of genitive and dative

In the Balkan languages, the genitive and dative cases (or corresponding prepositional constructions) undergo syncretism. It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Possessive case. ... The dative case is a grammatical case generally used to indicate the noun to whom something is given. ... In linguistics, syncretism is the agreement in form of distinct morphological forms of a word. ...


Language Dative Genitive
English I gave the book to Maria. It is Maria's book.
Albanian Ia dhashë librin Marisë. Është libri i Marisë.
Aromanian U-ded vivliapi Maria. Easte vivlia aliMarie.
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.
Este cartea Mariei.
colloq. for fem. (oblig. for masc.):
Este cartea lui Marian.
Macedonian и ја дадов книгата на Марија.
[ì ja dadov knigata na Marija]
Книгата е на Марија.
[knigata e na Marija]


Έδωσα το βιβλίο στη Μαρία.
[eδosa to vivlio sti maria]
Έδωσα το βιβλίο της Μαρίας.
[eδosa to vivlio tis marias]
Είναι το βιβλίο της Μαρίας.
[ine to vivlio tis marias]
Της το έδωσα
[tis to eδosa]
'I gave it to her.'
Είναι το βιβλίο της.
[ine to vivlio tis]
'It is her book.'

Syncretism of locative and directional expressions
language "in Greece" "into Greece"
Albanian në Greqi në Greqi
Aromania tu Elladha tu Elladha
Bulgarian в Гърция в Гърция
Greek στην Ελλάδα στην Ελλάδα
Romanian în Grecia în Grecia

Verb tenses

Future tense

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 and originating with Greek innovation around the 1st century AD. This feature is present to varying degrees in each language. Decategoralization is less advanced in Romanian voi and Serbo-Croatian ću, ćeš, će, where the future marker is still an inflected auxiliary. In Modern Greek, Bulgarian, Macedonian, and Albanian, decategoralization and erosion have given rise to an uninflected tense form, where the the frozen 3rd person singular of the verb has turned into an invariable particle followed by the main verb inflected for person[8]. An isolating language is a language in which the vast majority of morphemes are free morphemes and are considered to be full-fledged words. By contrast, in a synthetic language, a word is composed of agglutinated or fused morphemes that denote its syntactic meanings. ...

Language Variant Formation Example: "I'll see"
Albanian Tosk "do" (invariant) + subjunctive Do të shikoj
Gheg "kam" (conjugated) + me + verbal noun Kam me shik
Aromanian "va" (invariant) + subjunctive Va s-ved
Greek "θα" (invariant) + subjunctive Θα δω
Bulgarian "ще" (invariant) + present tense Ще видя
Macedonian "ќе" (invariant) + present tense Ќе видам
Serbian (literary standard) "hteti" (conjugated) + infinitive Ја ћу видети (видећу) - Ja ću videti (videću)
(colloquial) "hteti" (conjugated) + subjunctive Ја ћу да видим - Ja ću da vidim
Romanian (literary standard) "a voi" (conjugated) + infinitive Voi vedea
(colloquial) "o" (invariant) + subjunctive O să văd
(colloquial alternate) "a avea" (conjugated) + subjunctive Am să văd
(archaic) "va" (invariant) + subjunctive Va să văd
Romani (Erli) "ka" (invariant) + subjunctive Ka dikhav

Analytic perfect tense

The analytic perfect tense is formed in the Balkan languages with the verb "to have". The origin of this language feature could be Latin. However, this does not apply to Bulgarian and Serbian, where the analytic perfect is formed with the verb "to be" and the past active participle: обещал - "who has promised" (past active participle); съм (Bul.); сам (Ser.) - "I am"; обещал съм; обећао сам (Ser.) - "I have promised" (lit. "I am one who has promised"), perfect tense. Constructions using the verb to have are characteristic of Macedonian language (Имам ветено./Imam veteno. = I have promised.).

Avoidance of infinitive

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 Macedonian, Greek and Tosk Albanian, the loss of the infinitive is complete
  • in Aromanian, Bulgarian and Southern Serbian dialects, it is almost complete
  • in Gheg Albanian and Megleno-Romanian, it is used only in a limited number of expressions
  • in standard Romanian, Serbian and Croatian, the infinitive shares many of its functions with the subjunctive
  • Turkish as spoken in Sliven and Šumen has also almost completely lost the infinitive. This Altaic language then clearly belongs to the Balkan Sprachbund.

For example, "I want to write" in several Balkan languages: Sliven (Bulgarian: Сливен) is a town in southeast Bulgaria and the administrative centre of Sliven Province. ... Shumen (Bulgarian: ; Turkish: ) is a city in the northeastern part of Bulgaria, capital of Shumen Province. ...

Language Example Notes
Albanian "Dua të shkruaj" as opposed to Gheg me fjet "to sleep" or me hangr "to eat"
Aromanian "Voi sã-ngrapsescu"
Macedonian "Сакам да пишувам"
Bulgarian "Искам да пиша"
Modern Greek "Θέλω να γράψω" as opposed to Ancient Greek γράψειν
Romanian "Vreau să scriu" as opposed to "Vreau a scrie", which is also correct, but rarely used.
Serbian "Želim da pišem" as opposed to the form more common in Croatian: "Želim pisati", where pisati is the infinitive.
Bulgarian Turkish "isterim yazayım" In Standard Turkish in Turkey this is "yazmak istiyorum" where "yazmak" is the infinitive.

But here's the sentence "Don't write" in Bulgarian:

Language Example Notes
Bulgarian "Недей да пишеш" as opposed to: "Недей писа", where писа is part of the infinitive. This form is a bit more common.

Bare subjunctive constructions

Sentences which 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 одиш!
Bulgarian Да отидеш!
Serbian (mainly Torlak) Da ideš!
Albanian Të shkosh!
Modern Greek Να πας!
Romany (Gypsy) Te dža!
Romanian Să te duci! in Romanian, the "a se duce" (to go) requires a reflexive construction
Megleno-Romanian S-ti duţ!
Aromanian S-ti duts!

Geographical distribution of Torlakian dialect (exception of Bulgaria) Torlakian is the name used for the dialects spoken in Southern and Eastern Serbia (Serbia and Montenegro), Northwest Republic of Macedonia (Kratovo-Kumanovo) and Northwest Bulgaria (Vidin-Bregovo). ... In grammar, a reflexive verb is a verb whose semantic agent and patient (typically represented syntactically by the subject and the direct object) are the same. ...


Postposed article

With the exception of Greek 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) shares this feature and it is thought to be either an innovation or Albanian borrowing spread in the Balkans. Definite Article is the title of British comedian Eddie Izzards 1996 performance released on video and CD. The video/DVD and CD performances were both recorded on different nights at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London, England. ...

However, each language created its own internal articles, so the Romanian articles are related to the articles (and demonstrative pronouns) in Italian, French, etc., while the Bulgarian articles are related to demonstrative pronouns in other Slavic languages. // Demonstratives are deictic words (they depend on an external frame of reference) that indicate which entities a speaker refers to, and distinguishes those entities from others. ... In linguistics and grammar, a pronoun is a pro-form that substitutes for a noun phrase. ...

Language Feminine Masculine








Albanian shtëpi shtëpia qiell qielli
Aromanian muljare muljarea bãrbat bãrbatlu
Bulgarian жена жената мъж мъжът
Macedonian жена жената маж мажот
Romanian casă casa cer cerul
Serbian Torlak жена жената муж мужот

Number formation

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

Language The word "Eleven" compounds
Albanian "njëmbëdhjetë" një + mbë + dhjetë
Aromanian "unãsprã" unã + sprã
Bulgarian "единадесет" един + (н)а + десет
Macedonian "единаесет" еде(и)н + (н)а + (д)есет
Romanian "unsprezece" un + spre + zece < *unu + supre + dece
Serbian "jedanaest" jedan + (n)a + (d)es(e)t

Clitic pronouns

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. The construction is weakly attested in Greek, associated with definite objects. Southwest Macedonia appears to be the location of innovation. Clitic doubling, or pronominal reduplication, in linguistics, is a phenomenon by which clitic pronouns appear in verb phrases together with the full noun phrases that they refer to (as opposed to the cases where such pronouns and full noun phrases are in complementary distribution). ... In linguistics, a clitic is an element that has some of the properties of an independent word and some more typical of a bound morpheme. ...

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

Language Example
Albanian "E shikoj Gjergjin"
Aromanian "U- ved Yioryi"
Bulgarian "Виждам го Георги." (colloquial form; see note)
Macedonian "Гo гледам Ѓорѓи."
Greek "Τον βλέπω τον Γιώργο"
Romanian "Îl văd pe George."

Note: The neutral case in normal (SVO) word order is without a clitic: "Виждам Георги." However, the form with an additional clitic pronoun is also possible in colloquial speech: "Виждам 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 виждам." In linguistic typology, subject-verb-object (SVO) is a sentence structure where the subject comes first, the verb second, and the object third. ...


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

  • Bulgarian:
  • Albanian:
  • Romanian: mai
  • Modern Greek: pió; though Greek has retained many of the earlier synthetic forms.
  • Aromanian: (ca)ma


Also, some common suffixes can be found in the linguistic area, such as the diminutive suffix of Slavic origin "-ica" that can be found in Albanian, Greek and Romanian.


Loan words

Several hundred words are common to the Balkan union languages; the origin of most of them is either Greek or Turkish, as the Byzantine Empire and later the Ottoman Empire had a strong influence on the culture and economics of this region. Byzantine Empire at its greatest extent c. ... Motto: دولت ابد مدت Devlet-i Ebed-müddet (The Eternal State) Anthem: Ottoman imperial anthem Borders in 1680, see: list of territories Capital Söğüt (1299-1326) Bursa (1326-1365) Edirne (1365-1453) Constantinople (Istanbul) (1453-1922) Language(s) Ottoman Turkish Government Monarchy Sultans  - 1281–1326 Osman I  - 1918–1922 Mehmed VI...

Albanian, Romanian and Bulgarian also share a large number of words of various origins:

Source Source word meaning Albanian Bulgarian Greek Romanian Macedonian
Latin mensa table menca маса (masa) - masă маса
Thracian rompea spear rrufë roféja ρομφαία (rhomphaía) - rufja
Byzantine Greek λιβάδιον meadow livadhe ливада (livada) λιβάδι livadă ливада
Byzantine Greek διδάσκαλος teacher mësues/arsimtar даскал (daskal) (colloquial) δάσκαλος dascăl даскал (colloquial)
Byzantine Greek κουτίον box kuti кутия κουτί cutie кутија
Turkish boya paint, color bojë/ngjyr boja μπογιά (boyá) boia boja


Apart from the direct loans, there are also many calques that were passed from one Balkan languages to another, most of them between Albanian, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Greek and Romanian. In linguistics, a calque (pronounced [kælk]) or loan translation (itself a calque of German Lehnübersetzung) is a phrase borrowed from another language by literal word-for-word translation. ...

For example, the word "ripen" (as in fruit) is constructed in Albanian, Romanian and (rarely) in Greek (piqem, a (se) coace, ψήνομαι) by a derivation from the word "to bake" (pjek, a coace, ψήνω).[9]

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

Language Expression Transliteration
Greek (medieval) εις έτη πολλά eis etē polla
(modern) χρόνια πολλά khronia polla
Latin ad multos annos
Aromanian ti multsã-anj
Romanian la mulţi ani
Albanian për shumë vit
Bulgarian за много години za mnogo godini
Macedonian за многу години za mnogu godini

Idiomatic expressions for "whether one <verb> or not" are formed as "<verb>-not-<verb>". [10]

Language expression meaning
Bulgarian ще - не ще "whether one wants or not"
Greek θέλει δε θέλει "whether one wants or not"
Romanian vrea nu vrea "whether one wants or not"
Turkish ister istemez "whether one wants or not"
Serbian хтео - не хтео "whether one wants or not"
Albanian deshti - nuk deshti "whether one wants or not"
Macedonian сакал - не сакал "whether one wants or not"
Aromanian i vrei - i nu vrei "whether one wants or not"


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
    • In Romanian and Albanian, the schwa is obtained via centralizing unstressed /a/
      • Example: Latin camisia "shirt" > Romanian cămaşă /kə.ma.ʃə/, Albanian këmishë /kə.mi.ʃə/)
    • The schwa phoneme occurs in most dialects of the Macedonian language, with the exception of the western-central dialects, on which the standard is based.
  • some kind of vowel harmony 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
    • Albanian and Bulgarian: back vowels are fronted before i in the following syllable.

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 Macedonian and Serbo-Croatian, and Albanian, but not in Greek or Standard Macedonian. In linguistics, specifically phonetics and phonology, schwa can mean: An unstressed and toneless neutral vowel sound in any language, often but not necessarily a mid-central vowel. ... The Macedonian language (Macedonian: , Latinic: ) is a language in the Eastern group of South Slavic languages and is the official language of the Republic of Macedonia. ...

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

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

Both the appearance of a schwa and the change of a to o are considered to originate in Albanian, where the sound changes are complete, widespread, and often constitute morphological markers. Indeed, the change of o to a in particular is considered characteristic of the northern branches of Indo-European, such as Germanic and Baltic, and occurs in Messapian, an ancient, extinct language thought to be related to Albanian, constituting an extremely early attestation of this phenomenon. In linguistics, Alternation is when a set of morphosyntactic properties is phonologically expressed in two or more different ways in different words. ... Messapian (also known as Messapic) is an extinct Indo-European language of South-Eastern Italy, in the regions of Apulia and Calabria. ...

See also

The Paleo-Balkan languages were the Indo-European languages which were spoken in the Balkans in ancient times: Dacian language Thracian language Illyrian language Paionian language Ancient Macedonian language The only remnant of them is Albanian, but it is still disputed which language was its ancestor. ... This is a list of languages spoken in the Balkans. ... // General characteristics Syntax The predominant word order in Greek is SVO (Subject-Verb-Object), but word order is quite freely variable, with VSO and other orders as frequent alternatives. ... This article or section is incomplete and may require expansion and/or cleanup. ...


  1. ^ Kopitar, Jernej K. (1829). "Albanische, walachische und bulgarische Sprache". Jahrbücher der Literatur (Wien) 46: 59–106. ISBN 3-89131-038-2. 
  2. ^ Schleicher, August (1850). Die Sprachen Europas. 
  3. ^ Miklosich, F. (1861). "Die slavischen Elemente im Rumunischen". Denkschriften der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philosophisch-historische Klasse 12: 1-70. 
  4. ^ Trubetzkoj, N.S.. "Vavilonskaja bašnja i smešenie jazykov". Evrazijskij vremennik 3: 107-24. 
  5. ^ K. Sandfeld, Linguistique balkanique, 1930 (first published in Danish in 1926),
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Lindstedt, J. (2000). "Linguistic Balkanization: Contact-induced change by mutual reinforcement", in D. G. Gilbers & al. (eds.): Languages in Contact, (Studies in Slavic and General Linguistics, 28.), Amsterdam & Atlanta, GA, 2000: Rodopi, 231–246. ISBN 90-420-1322-2. 
  8. ^ Heine, Bernd and Tania Kuteva. Language Contact and Grammatical Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
  9. ^ 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".
  10. ^ Winford, Donald (2003). An Introduction to Contact Linguistics. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-631-21251-5. 


  • Batzarov, Zdravko. "Balkan Linguistic Union". Encyclopædia Orbis Latini.
  • Du Nay, André (1977). The Origins of the Rumanians: Balkan Linguistic Union.
  • Victor A. Friedman, "After 170 years of Balkan Linguistics: Whither the Millennium?", Mediterranean Language Review 12:1-15, 2000.PDF -- an excellent survey article
  • Grey Thomason, Sarah (1999). Linguistic areas and language history (PDF).
  • Joseph, Brian D. (1999). Romanian and the Balkans: Some Comparative Perspectives (PDF).
  • Rosetti, Alexandru (1965–1969). History of the Romanian language (Istoria limbii române), 2 vols.. 
  • Russu, Ion (1967). The Language of the Thraco-Dacians (Limba Traco-Dacilor). Bucharest: Editura Ştiinţifică. 
  • Thomason, Sarah G. Language Contact: An Introduction. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2001, pp. 108-9.
  • Tomić, Olga Mišeska (2003). The Balkan Sprachbund properties: An introduction to Topics in Balkan Syntax and Semantics (PDF).

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