The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Macedonian language

This article is about the Slavic Macedonian language. For the language spoken by the ancient Macedonians, see: Ancient Macedonian language.
Macedonian (Makedonski)
Spoken in: Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, Greece, Albania
Region: The Balkans
Total speakers: 2 million
Ranking: --


Official status
Official language of: Republic of Macedonia
Regulated by: --
Language codes
ISO 639-1 mk
ISO 639-2(B) mac
ISO 639-2(T) mkd

The Macedonian language (Македонски, Makedonski) is a language in the Eastern group of South Slavic languages. It is spoken by some 1.5 million people, primarily in the Republic of Macedonia, the Macedonian Slavs.

The Macedonian language is most closely related to the Bulgarian language. Macedonian also has similarities with Serbian, particularly Old Serbian. Bulgarian and Macedonian share typological similarities with Romanian, Greek, and Albanian. These five languages make up the Balkan language league, even though they are all from different language families (Romanian is a Romance language, while Greek and Albanian are part of their own branch in the Indo-European family).

Macedonian is the official language in the Republic of Macedonia, and officially recognized in the District of KorÁŽ in Albania. Native speakers are also found in Serbia and Montenegro, Greece, and Albania.

Macedonian is the only Slavic language apart from Bulgarian which has no noun cases, but three different definite articles, which are used as suffixes.

A modified Cyrillic script, Macedonian Cyrillic with 31 letters, is used for writing.

Cyrillic, with Glagolitic, was an old Slavic script, used for the original Old Slavonic language. Only Cyrillic is used today, probably because the letters are simpler and more easily learnt when scholars like Saint Cyril introduced Christian writings to the Slavic people.

Macedonian is taught as a subject in several university centres in the world, and is being taught in all universities of the former Yugoslavia.



The 19th century, accompanied by pan-Slavic nationalism, saw the first attempts to resolve the question of linguistic norms in the Bulgarian-Macedonian diasystem. Writers from Macedonia advocated a common Bulgarian language based on the Slavic dialects in Macedonia or on a compromise between the upper-Bulgarian (northeastern Bulgarian) and the western Macedonian dialects. Writers from Bulgaria, however, insisted on the adoption of the northeastern Bulgarian dialect only. The establishment of an autonomous Bulgarian principality north of the Stara Planina led eventually to the adoption of the Eastern literary variant although the preservation of the letters and ѫ even after the codification of the Bulgarian language in 1899 actually allowed for the differences between eastern Bulgarian and western Bulgarian and Macedonian dialects. (All this notwithstanding, it's important to remember that the Macedonians have not recognized in themselves a nation until relatively recently; excepting the minority that defined itself as Serbian, the predecessors of the modern Macedonians called themselves Bulgarians.)

Bulgarian view on the Macedonian language

Although it was the first country to recognise the independence of the Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria has refused to recognise the existence of a separate Macedonian nation and a separate Macedonian language. It is argued that the language of the Macedonian Slavs was regarded (both by the speakers themselves and by linguists) as a Bulgarian dialect before the 1940s and that Macedonian linguists resort to falsifications of history and documents in order to further the opinion that there was a consciousness of a separate Macedonian language before that time.

The publication in the Republic of Macedonia of the folk song collections Bulgarian Folk Songs by the Miladinov Brothers and Songs of the Macedonian Bulgarians by Serbian archaelogist Verkovic under the "politically correct" titles Collection and Macedonian Folk Songs are some of the examples quoted by the Bulgarians.

Greek view on the Macedonian language

The name of the language is considered offensive by Greece and many Greeks, who assert that the Ancient Macedonian language spoken by Alexander the Great in ancient Macedon is the only "Macedonian language". They further argue that since Slavic immigration to the region did not begin until well after the decline of the Macedonian Empire, it is historically inaccurate to refer to a Slavic language as Macedonian. However, most non-Greek parties such as international news organizations and language scholars refer to the language as "Macedonian". See Republic of Macedonia for more on the related naming dispute.


The Macedonian alphabet is based on the Serbian alphabet of Vuk Karadzic.

Macedonian alphabet
Upper case Lower case IPA
А а /a/
Б б /b/
В в /v/
Γ г /g/
Д д /d/
Ѓ ѓ /gʲ/
Е е /e/
Ж ж /ʒ/
З з /z/
Ѕ ѕ /dz/
И и /i/
Ј ј /j/
К к /k/
Л л /l/
Љ љ /ʎ/
М м /m/
Н н /n/
Њ њ /ɲ/
О о /o/
П п /p/
Р р /r/
С с /s/
Т т /t/
Ќ ќ /kʲ/
У у /u/
Ф ф /f/
Х х /x/
Ц ц /ts/
Ч ч /tʃ/
Џ џ /dʒ/
Ш ш /ʃ/

Differences from Bulgarian

Bulgarian and Macedonian are very closely related. However, there are also certain differences between the two languages. Roughly 15% of the whole vocabulary of both languages is different, although most words usually exist in the other language with a different or slightly modified meaning. 65% of the words are only differently accented, and 20% are identical. Lexical differences are owing to a great extent to loanwords borrowed by Bulgarian from Russian and by Macedonian from Serbian in the middle and the end of the 20th century.

Generally, there is little trouble for a Bulgarian speaker to understand a Macedonian speaker, and vice versa.

External links

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