The Macedonian Language
Language is one of the most important features of a people. As for the Macedonian people and its state are concerned, language is of extreme significance and offers confirmation of their historical continuity. Apart from being the official language in the Republic of Macedonia, Macedonian is spoken and cherished in many European countries, the United States, Canada and Australia, wherever Macedonians live. It is also the mother tongue and a language of everyday communication in those parts of the Balkan states populated by ethnic Macedonians.
As the official language of the Republic of Macedonia, Macedonian is written using its Cyrillic alphabet. The Macedonian literary standard is a modern European language, which according to its characteristics is different from the neighboring and other Slavic and non-Slavic languages.
Macedonian is an Indo-European language from the family of Slavic languages belonging to the South-Slavic group. At the same time, it is a Balkan language. It is interesting to mention that there are instances in the world when two or more nations have a common language, and vice versa, when some nations have two languages. The Macedonian nation, however, is in this respect like the majority of nations in the world – its members have a separate language. This fact creates a feeling of independence in every member of the Macedonian nation and represents a significant contribution in the construction of Macedonian national consciousness.
The historical development of the Macedonian language dates back to the 9th century AD when Slavonic literacy began with a standard Macedonian language. The modern codification of the Macedonian literary language was as late as 1944, although from the 1860s onwards, attempts were made at creating a general Macedonian literary standard.
The Macedonian language has a rich history and has played a key role in the development of the spiritual culture, creative activity and the preservation of the distinctive national identity of the Macedonians. It developed from the dialect of the South Slavs who deeply penetrated the Balkan Peninsula. It has common features with the Bulgarian dialects to the east and Serbian dialects to the north. Located in the Slavic linguistic periphery within the sphere of Greek-Byzantine civilization and Roman-Balkan culture, Macedonian preserves numerous archaic features, such as the use of imperfect and aorist, and has made a number of innovations.
Today it occupies a central position on the Balkan Peninsula. It has common borders with Albanian, Greek and the Turkish spoken in Thrace, which makes possible the inclusion of a large number of Balkan characteristics into the Macedonian language. Some of the more characteristic Balkan features of Macedonian are the postpositive article, analytic declination (the loss of case forms), double object, da-constructions, kje-constructions, constructions with ima/nema, constructions with sum + deverbative, etc.
The grammatical structure of Macedonian was chiefly stabilized during the 15th century. The modern Macedonian literary standard is based on the central variants of the western dialect, west of the River Vardar, even though it contains features from the eastern dialect, to the east of the Vardar. A characteristic feature of the Macedonian literary standard is the three-syllable accent (the accent always falls on the third syllable from the end in words of three syllables or more), and the clear pronunciation of unaccented vowels.
As we have already mentioned, starting from the 9th century and the foundation of the well-known Ohrid Literary School, the standard Macedonian language was used in written documents for a long period: until the 11th century in the Glagolitic, and after that in the Cyrillic script. Of old written documents (until the 13th century), we should mention Dobromir’s Gospel, the Ohrid Apostle (Work of the Apostles), the Slepche Apostle, Dobrejsho’s Gospel, the Macedonian Gospel of Priest John, the Dechani Gospel, the Vraneshnica Apostle, Pogodin’s Psalter, the Bologna Psalter, Radomir’s Gospel and the Strumica Apostle.
The phonetic principle has been applied in contemporary orthography, which means that there is a separate letter for each sound, so that the Macedonian alphabet has 31 letters. The period since 1944 has led to a swift development and comprehensive affirmation of the Macedonian literary language within the country and abroad. The first grammar was published by Krume Kepeski in 1946. A detailed grammar in two volumes was published by Blazhe Koneski in 1952 (Volume 1) and 1954 (Volume 2), while the first Macedonian grammar by a foreign scholar was published by H. Lunt in 1952. An abundant literature has been written in Macedonian in all fields, while in the fields of linguistics, a comprehensive Dictionary of the Macedonian Language and many bilingual dictionaries have been prepared. A large number of works, from classical literature up to the contemporary literature of many people, have been translated into Macedonian.
There are a number of institutions in the Republic of Macedonia where the Macedonian Language has been studied. Macedonian is taught as a subject in several university centres in the world, at the appropriate faculties in Moscow, Voronyezh, Minsk, Ivanovo, Warsaw, Krakow, Katowice, Lodz, Krajova, Prague, Vienna, Halle, Lund, Paris, Naples, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Bradford, Portland, Budapest, Istanbul and Toronto. Munich, Regensburg, Zurich, Cologne, Cannes, Brno, Bucharest, Harvard, Chicago, New York, Nanking, Klagenfurt, Trieste, Bratislava, St. Petersburg, Kansas, Syracuse, Ohio and Canberra. Macedonian is being taught in all universities of the former Yugoslavia.
Findings from the study of the Macedonian language have been published in specialized editions. A large number of scholarly papers from the field of Macedonian studies have been published by Macedonian and foreign authors.
There are thirty-one sounds in the Macedonian language. In the Macedonian Cyrillic alphabet, there is one symbol for each sound, that is, there are as many letters as sounds (31), making it completely phonetic. Spelling in Macedonian does not present any difficulties since there is one symbol for each sound. Thus, Macedonian is surely one of the easiest languages to learn to read and write.
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