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About Macedonian Language

Macedonian (македонски јазик, pronounced [maˈkɛdɔnski ˈjazik]) is the official language of the Republic of Macedonia and a member of the Eastern group of South Slavic languages. It is closely related to and shares a high degree of mutual intelligibility with the Bulgarian, Serbian and Croatian languages. Standard Macedonian was implemented as the official language of the Socialist Republic of Macedonia after being codified in the 1940s, and has accumulated a thriving literary tradition.

Classification and related languages

The modern Macedonian language belongs to the eastern sub-branch of the South Slavic branch of the Slavic branch of the Indo-European family of languages. The closest relative of Macedonian is Bulgarian, with which it is mutually intelligible. Before their codification in 1945 Macedonian dialects were for the most part classified as Bulgarian and some lingusts consider them still as such, but this view is politically controversial. Following that, the next closest languages are Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian. All the South Slavic languages, including Macedonian, form a dialect continuum, in which Macedonian is situated between Bulgarian and Serbian. The Torlakian dialect group is intermediate between Bulgarian, Macedonian and Serbian, comprising some of the northernmost dialects of Macedonian as well as varieties spoken in southern Serbia.

Together with its immediate Slavic neighbours, Macedonian also forms a constituent language of the Balkan Sprachbund, a group of languages which share typological, grammatical and lexical features based on geographical convergence, rather than genetic proximity. Its other principal members are Romanian, Greek and Albanian, all of which belong to different genetic branches of the Indo-European family of languages (Romanian is a Romance language, while Greek and Albanian each comprise their own separate branches). Macedonian and Bulgarian are the only Slavic languages that don't use noun cases (except for the vocative, and apart from some traces of once living inflections still found scattered throughout the languages). They are also the only Slavic languages with any definite articles (there are three: unspecified, proximate and distal). This last feature is shared with Romanian, Greek, and Albanian.

Geographical distribution

The population of the Republic of Macedonia was 2,022,547 in 2002, with 1,644,815 speaking Macedonian as the native language. Outside of the Republic, there are Macedonians living in other parts of the geographical area of Macedonia. There are ethnic Macedonian minorities in neighbouring Albania, in Bulgaria, in Greece, and in Serbia. According to the official Albanian census of 1989, 4,697 ethnic Macedonians reside in Albania.

A large number of Macedonians live outside the traditional Balkan Macedonian region, with Australia, Canada and the United States having the largest emigrant communities. According to a 1964 estimate, approximately 580,000 Macedonians live outside of the Macedonian Republic, nearly 30% of the total population. The Macedonian spoken by communities outside the republic dates back to before the standardisation of the language and retains many dialectic though, overall, mutually intelligible variations. The Macedonian language has the status of official language only in the Republic of Macedonia, and is a recognised minority language in parts of Albania, Romania, and Serbia. There are provisions for learning the Macedonian language in Romania as Macedonians are an officially recognised minority group. The language is taught in some universities in Australia, Canada, Croatia, Italy, Russia, Serbia, the United States, and the United Kingdom among other countries.

Macedonian language in Greece

The varieties spoken by the Macedonians (ethnic group) minority in parts of northern Greece, especially those in the Greek provinces of West and Central Macedonia, are today usually classified as part of the Macedonian language, with those in East Macedonia being transitional towards Bulgarian. Bulgarian linguistics traditionally regards them all as part of the Bulgarian diasystem together with the rest of Macedonian. However, the codification of standard Macedonian has been in effect only in the Republic of Macedonia, and the varieties spoken in Greece are thus practically "roofless", with their speakers having little access to standard or written Macedonian.

Unlike in the Republic of Macedonia, many speakers of the language in Greece choose not to identify ethnically as "Macedonians", but as ethnic Greeks (Slavophone Greeks) or dopii (locals). Therefore, the simple term "Macedonian" as a name for the Slavic language is often avoided in the Greek context, and vehemently rejected by most Greeks, for whom Macedonian has very different connotations. Instead, the language is often called simply "Slavic" or "Slavomacedonian", with "Macedonian Slavic" often being used in English. Speakers themselves variously refer to their language as makedonski, makedoniski ("Macedonian"), slaviká (Greek: σλαβικά, "Slavic"), dópia or entópia (Greek: εντόπια, "local/indigenous [language]"), bălgarski, balgàrtzki, bolgàrtski or bulgàrtski ("Bulgarian"), naši ("our own [language]"), or stariski ("the old [language]").

The exact number of speakers in Greece is difficult to ascertain, with estimates ranging between 20,000 and 250,000. Jacques Bacid estimates in his 1983 book that "over 200,000 Macedonian speakers remained in Greece". Other sources put the numbers of speakers at 180,000, while Yugoslav sources vary, some putting the estimated number of "Macedonians in Greek Macedonia" at 150,000–200,000 and others at 300,000. The Encyclopedia Britannicaand the Reader's Digest World Guide both put the figure of ethnic Macedonians in Greece at 1.8% or c.200,000 people, with the native language roughly corresponding with the figures. The UCLA also states that there are 200,000 Macedonian speakers in Greece. A 2008 article in the Greek newspaper Eleftherotipia put the estimate at 20,000.

The largest group of speakers are concentrated in the Florina, Kastoria, Edessa, Giannitsa, Ptolemaida and Naousa regions. During the Greek Civil War, the codified Macedonian language was taught in 87 schools with 10,000 students in areas of northern Greece under the control of Communist-led forces, until their defeat by the National Army in 1949. In recent years, there have been attempts to have the language recognised as a minority language.

Usage

The total number of Macedonian speakers is highly disputed. Although the precise number of speakers is unknown, figures of between 1.6 million and 2–2.5 million have been cited; see Topolinjska (1998) and Friedman (1985). The general academic consensus is that there are approximately 2 million speakers of the Macedonian language, accepting that "it is difficult to determine the total number of speakers of Macedonian due to the official policies of the neighbouring Balkan states and the fluid nature of emigration".

Dialects

Based on a large group of features, Macedonian dialects can be divided into Eastern and Western groups (the boundary runs approximately from Skopje and Skopska Crna Gora along the rivers Vardar and Crna). In addition, a more detailed classification can be based on the modern reflexes of the Proto-Slavic reduced vowels (yers), vocalic sonorants, and the back nasal *ǫ.

Grammar

Macedonian grammar is markedly analytic in comparison with other Slavic languages, having lost the common Slavic case system. The Macedonian language shows some special and, in some cases, unique characteristics due to its central position in the Balkans.

Literary Macedonian is the only South Slavic literary language that has three forms of the definite article, based on the degree of proximity to the speaker, and a past tense formed by means of an auxiliary verb "to have", followed by a past passive participle in the neuter.

Both double object and mediative (sometimes referred to as renarrative or admirative) mood are also found in the Bulgarian language, although the use of double object is much more restricted in the Bulgarian standard (see also Bulgarian syntax).

Vocabulary

As a result of the close relatedness with Bulgarian and Serbian, Macedonian shares a considerable amount of its lexicon with these languages. Other languages which have been in positions of power, such as Ottoman Turkish and increasingly English also provide a significant proportion of the loan words. Prestige languages, such as Old Church Slavonic, which occupies a relationship to modern Macedonian comparable to the relationship of medieval Latin to modern Romance languages, and Russian also provided a source for lexical borrowings.

During the standardization process, there was deliberate care taken to try and purify the lexicon of the language. "Serbisms" and "Bulgarisms", which had become common due to the influence of these languages in the region were rejected in favor of words from native dialects and archaisms. One example was the word for "event", настан [ˈnastan], which was found in certain examples of folk poetry collected by the Miladinov Brothers in the 19th century, while the Macedonian writer Krste Misirkov had previously used the word собитие [ˈsɔbitiɛ].[59] This is not to say that there are no Serbisms, Bulgarisms or even Russianisms in the language, but rather that they were discouraged on a principle of "seeking native material first".

The language of the writers at the turn of 19th century abounded with Russian and, more specifically, Old Church Slavonic lexical and morphological elements which in the contemporary norm are substituted with more current models. Thus, the now slightly archaized forms with suffixes –ние and –тел, adjectives with the suffixes –телен and others, are now constructed following patterns more typical of Macedonian morphology. For example, дејствие corresponds to дејство, лицемерие → лицемерство, развитие → развиток, определение → определба, движение → движење, продолжител → продолжувач, победител → победник, убедителен → убедлив, etc. Many of these words are now synonymous or have taken on a slightly different nuance in meaning.

Many words and expressions were borrowed from the Serbian language to replace those taken from Old Church Slavonic, but also present in the Bulgarian language, which include известие → извештај, количество → количина, согласие → слога, etc. This change was aimed at bringing written Macedonian closer to spoken language and distancing it from the Bulgarian language which has kept its numerous Russian loans, and represents a successful puristic attempt at abolishing a lexicogenic tradition once common in written literature.

Alphabet

The modern Macedonian alphabet was developed by linguists in the period after the Second World War, who based their alphabet on the phonetic alphabet of Vuk Stefanović Karadžić, though a similar writing system was used by Krste Misirkov in the late 19th century. The Macedonian language had previously been written using the Early Cyrillic alphabet, or later using the Cyrillic alphabet with local adaptations from either the Serbian or Bulgarian alphabets.

History

The region of Macedonia and the Republic of Macedonia are located on the Balkan peninsula. The Slavs first came to the Balkan Peninsula in the sixth and seventh centuries AD. In the ninth century, the Byzantine Greek monks Saints Cyril and Methodius developed the first writing system for the Slavonic languages. At this time, the Slavic dialects were so close as to make it practical to develop the written language on the dialect of a single region. There is dispute as to the precise region, but it is likely that they were developed in the region around Thessalonika. The Ohrid Literary School was established in Ohrid in 886 by Saint Clement of Ohrid on orders of Boris I of Bulgaria. In the fourteenth century, the Ottoman Turks invaded and conquered most of the Balkans, incorporating Macedonia into the Ottoman Empire. While the written language, now called Old Church Slavonic, remained static as a result of Turkish domination, the spoken dialects moved further apart. During the increase of national consciousness in the Balkans, standards for the languages of Slovene, Serbo-Croatian and Bulgarian were created. As Turkish influence in Macedonia waned, schools were opened up that taught the Bulgarian standard language in areas with significant Bulgarian population. The concept of the various Macedonian dialects as a part of the Bulgarian language can be seen from early vernacular texts from Macedonia such as the four-language dictionary of Daniel Mоscopolites, the works of Kiril Peichinovich and Yoakim Karchovski, and some vernacular gospels written in the Greek alphabet. These written works influenced by or completely written in the local Slavic vernacular appeared in Macedonia in the 18th and beginning of the 19th century and their authors referred to their language as Bulgarian. The earliest lexicographic evidence of these local dialects can be found in a lexicon from the 16th century written in the Greek alphabet.

In 1845 the Russian scholar Viktor Grigorovich travelled in the Balkans in order to study the south Slavic dialects of Macedonia. His work articulated for the first time a distinct pair of two groups of Bulgarian dialects: Eastern and Western (spoken in today Western Bulgaria and Republic of Macedonia). According to his findings, a part of the Western Bulgarian variety, spoken in Macedonia, was characterized by traces of Old Slavic nasal vowels. It wasn't until the works of Krste Misirkov that parts of what had been regarded as West Bulgarian dialects were defined as a separate 'Macedonian' language. Misirkov was born in a village near Pella in Greek Macedonia. Although literature had been written in the Slavic dialects of Macedonia before, arguably the most important book published in relation to the Macedonian language was Misirkov's On Macedonian Matters, published in 1903. In that book, he argued for the creation of a standard literary Macedonian language from the central dialects of Macedonia which would use a phonemic orthography.

After the first two Balkan wars, the region of Macedonia was split among Greece, Bulgaria, and the Serbia (Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, Yugoslavia). Yugoslavia occupied the area that is currently the Republic of Macedonia incorporating it into the Kingdom as "Southern Serbia". During this time, Yugoslav Macedonia became known as Vardar Banovina (Vardar province) and the language of public life, education and the church was Serbo-Croatian. In the other two parts of Macedonia, the respective national languages, Greek and Bulgarian, were made official. In Bulgarian (Pirin) Macedonia, the local dialects continued to be described as dialects of Bulgarian.

During the second World War, a part of Yugoslav Macedonia was occupied by the Bulgarian army, who were allied with the Axis. The standard Bulgarian language was reintroduced in schools and liturgies. The Bulgarians were initially welcomed as liberators from Serbian domination until connections were made between the imposition of the Bulgarian language and unpopular Serbian assimilation policies; the Bulgarians were quickly seen as conquerors by communist movement.

There were a number of groups fighting the Bulgarian occupying force, some advocating independence and others union with Bulgaria. The eventual outcome was that almost all of Vardar Banovina (i.e. the areas which geographically became known as Vardar Macedonia) was incorporated into the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as a constituent Socialist Republic with the Macedonian language holding official status within both the Federation and Republic. The Macedonian language was proclaimed the official language of the Republic of Macedonia at the First Session of the Assembly for the National Liberation of Macedonia, held on August 2, 1944. The first official Macedonian grammar was developed by Krume Kepeski. One of the most important contributors in the standardisation of the Macedonian literary language was Blaže Koneski. The first document written in the literary standard Macedonian language is the first issue of the Nova Makedonija newspaper in 1944. Makedonska Iskra (Macedonian Spark) was the first Macedonian newspaper to be published in Australia, from 1946 to 1957. A monthly with national distribution, it commenced in Perth and later moved to Melbourne and Sydney.

 

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