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Essential information for non-speakers of Bulgarian language


Bulgarian alphabet

Bulgarian is the official language in Bulgaria. The language is written only in Bulgarian alphabet which uses Cyrillic letters. That means that every official document, alphabetical index, names etc., if not exceptionally transcribed into Latin letters or translated in English, German or French, is written or sorted with Bulgarian Alphabet. As the translation and especially phonetic transcriptions using different rules (French, English) can be rather misleading, some basic knowledge (skills to read, pronounce and write) of Bulgarian Alphabet is strongly recommended for the one who analyses the Bulgarian roots.

Here is the Bulgarian alphabet:



The transcription of the foreign names and phrases into Cyrillic letters and of the Bulgarian ones into Latin letters is necessary for enabling the communication between the Bulgarians and the people who don’t use the Cyrillic alphabet. Transcription of foreign names with Cyrillic is simple because the Bulgarian language has no special phonetic code. The word are pronounciate in the same way in which they are written. A foreign word is written in the way it has been heart and this is enough for its use in the Bulgarian language. More problematic is the transcription of the Bulgarian names in Latin alphabet. Unfortunately the application of different transcription rules is rather chaotic and therefore depending on the time and the place of the work. In general today all existing Bulgarian writings using the Latin alphabet, no matter if they are documents, passports, town and street marks or something else, are colorful mosaic of names which have to be read according to the French, German, Czech, English or neighbor Balkan national phonetic codes. Anyway there are some standards and rules for certain groups of documents. These are known to me:

The French transcription was very popular until the computers came in use. It is used for all the names of persons and towns in the passports. Probably all the official documents from the last century and up to WWII are using French phonetic code The German transcription traits are the double instead of single s in some names in the passports w instead of v ; k instead of c and in general the transcription of the names of Bulgarians which have lived or have issued documents in the German speaking countries. Letters originating probably in the Czech code can be found on every town mark where the special diacritics are used. From a code which is probably Rumanian the letter  or â is used (presenting the 27th letter of Bulgarian alphabet) in some maps, atlases or on the town marks. Although the English is very popular in Bulgaria its phonetic code is not used for the transcription in Latin letters for all that „classical" examples. That is not the case in media and computer space. Althou for relatively short time, in that space have been written or transferred more than everywhere else during all the past. Here the Latin encoding covers not only the names, but also all the language. Most of the Bulgarians use it for exchanging e-mails, some Bulgarian newspapers in Internet offer reading in that way allowing so to avoid the complications of encoding Cyrillic with special converting programs or Cyrillic fonts for Windows. A couple of codes are used, concerning mostly the „problematic" letters and using for that the English encoding („ch", „sh", „zh", „sht") or simply chosen „free" letters like Q, X or W. In the table bellow I try to interprete the sound of bulgarian letters by cross-reference with different national phonetic codes. There is a column with the code used recently by me and some alternatives.

For people familiar with the Bulgarian way of writing who simply want to „bulgarize" their own computer, some links containing Bulgarian fonts and Keyboards may be useful:



About the Bulgarian names

The persons in Bulgaria have usually name consisting of three parts - Personal name, Fathers name and Family name. Officialy the Personal and Family name are used. The three names combination is used for documents and more precise identification. The Father and Family names are made from a name with the suffix -OV; -EV; -SKI; -IN by the men and respectively -OVA; -EVA; -SKA; -INA by the women. Important! The sufices of the women Father or Family names ALLWAYS change by adding „A" after the last consonant! After marriage the women usually accept the family name of the men. Therefor the Maiden name should be requested.

Very often in Bulgaria the Family name is „lost". That happends when somebody gets his Grandfathers name (of father side) instead of the Family name. As the grandson often (but not always) has been named himself with the name of his grandfather, such a persons have the same Personal and Family names. For instance: „Stefan Alexandrov STEFANOV" ; „Georgi Petrov GEORGIEV" etc. Here we can see „turning" of the names: for example it is clear that Georgi Petrov GEORGIEV has father Petyr and grandfather Georgi . If Georgi’s son is called Petyr (grandfathers name) which is very probable, than his full name will be Petyr Georgiev PETROV (the name of the grandfather is instead of Family name again). In reality there are lineages where names like Georgi Petrov GEORGIEV and Petyr Georgiev PETROV (usually father and his first son) are coming into turn during many generations. In such and similar cases the names don’t contain any onomastic information and the investigation is more difficult.




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This page updated:  29 November 2008 17:02

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