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Bulgar language

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Title: Bulgar language  
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Subject: Chuvash language, Turkic languages, Bulgars, Old Great Bulgaria, Pecheneg language
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Bulgar language

Region from Central Asia to the steppes North of the Caucasus, the Volga, and the Danube, and Southern Italy (Molise, Campania)
Extinct by the 9th or 10th centuries on the Danube and by the 14th century on the Volga region
Language codes
ISO 639-3 xbo
Linguist list
Glottolog bolg1250[1]

Bulgar (also spelled Bolğar, Bulghar) is an extinct language which was spoken by the Bulgars.

The name is derived from the Bulgars, a tribal association which established the Bulgar khanate, known as Old Great Bulgaria in the mid-7th century, giving rise to the Danubian Bulgaria by the 680s.[2][3][4] While the language was extinct in Danubian Bulgaria (in favour of the Slavic Bulgarian language), it persisted in Volga Bulgaria, eventually giving rise to the modern Chuvash language.[5][6][7]


Mainstream scholarship place the Bulgar language among the "Lir" branch of Turkic languages referred to as Oghur-Turkic, Lir-Turkic, or, indeed, "Bulgar Turkic" as opposed to the "Shaz"-type of Common Turkic. The "Lir" branch is characterized by sound correspondences such as Oghuric r versus Common Turkic (or Shaz-Turkic) z and Oghuric l versus Common Turkic (Shaz-Turkic) š.[2][4][8] As was stated by Al-Istakhri "the language of Bulgars resembles the language of Khazars".[9] The only surviving language from this linguistic group is the Chuvash.

On the other hand, some Bulgarian historians, especially modern ones, link the Bulgar language to the Iranian language group instead (more specifically, the Pamir languages are frequently mentioned), noting the presence of Iranian words in the modern Bulgarian language.[10][11][12][13] According to Prof. Raymond Detrez, who is a specialist in Bulgarian history and language,[14] such views are based on anti-Turkish sentiments, and the presence of Iranian words in the modern Bulgarian is result of Ottoman Turkish linguistic influence.[15] Indeed, other Bulgarian historians, especially older ones, only point out certain signs of Iranian influence in the Turkic base,[16] or indeed support the Turkic theory.[17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24]

Danube Bulgar

The language of the Danube Bulgars (or Danube Bulgar) is recorded in a small number of inscriptions, which are found in Pliska, the first capital of Danube Bulgaria and in the rock churches near the village of Murfatlar, present-day Romania. Some of these inscriptions are written with Greek characters, others with runes similar to the Orkhon script. Most of them appear to have a private character (oaths, dedications, inscriptions on grave stones) and some were court inventories. Although attempts at decipherment have been made, none of them has gained wide acceptance. These inscriptions in Danube-Bulgar are found along with other official ones written in Greek. Greek was used as the official state language of Danube Bulgaria until the 9th century, when it was replaced by Old Bulgarian (Slavonic).[25]

The language of the Danube Bulgars is also known from a small number of loanwords in the Old Bulgarian language, as well as terms occurring in Bulgar Greek-language inscriptions, contemporary Byzantine texts, and later Slavonic Old Bulgarian texts. Most of these words designate titles and other concepts concerning the affairs of state, including the official 12-year cyclic calendar (as used e.g. in the Nominalia of the Bulgarian Khans). The language became extinct in Danubian Bulgaria in the 9th century as the Bulgar nobility became gradually Slavicized after the Old Bulgarian was declared as official in 893.

Volga Bulgar

The language spoken by the population of Volga Bulgaria is known as Volga-Bulgar. There are a number of surviving inscriptions in Volga-Bulgar, some of which are written with Arabic letters, alongside the continuing use of Turkic runes. These are all largely decipherable. That language persisted until the 13th or the 14th century. In that region, it may have ultimately given rise to the Chuvash language, which is most closely related to it[26] and which is classified as the only surviving member of a separate "Oghur-Turkic" (or Lir-Turkic) branch of the Turkic languages, to which Bulgar is also considered to have belonged (see above).[2][3][27] Still, the precise position of Chuvash within the Oghur family of languages is a matter of dispute among linguists. Since the comparative material attributable to the extinct members of Oghuric (Hunnic, Turkic Avar, Khazar and Bulgar) is scant, little is known about any precise interrelation of these languages and it is a matter of dispute whether Chuvash, the only "Lir"-type language with sufficient extant linguistic material, might be the daughter language of any of these or just a sister branch.[8]


  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Bolgarian". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  2. ^ a b c Encyclopaedia Britannica Online - Bolgar Turkic
  3. ^ a b Campbell, George L. Compendium of the World's Languages. Routledge, 2000. page 274
  4. ^ a b Marcantonio, Angela. The Uralic Language Family: Facts, Myths and Statistics. Blackwell Publishing Limited, 2002. page 25
  5. ^ The Uralic language family: facts, myths and statistics, Angela Marcantonio, Wiley-Blackwell, 2002, ISBN 0-631-23170-6, p. 167.
  6. ^ Encyclopedia of the languages of Europe, Glanville Price, Wiley-Blackwell, 2000, ISBN 0-631-22039-9, p. 88.
  7. ^ Studies in Turkic and Mongolic linguistics, Royal Asiatic Society books, Gerard Clauson, Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Routledge, 2002, ISBN 0-415-29772-9, p. 38.
  8. ^ a b Johanson, Lars. 1998. "The history of Turkic." In: Johanson, Lars & Éva Agnes Csató (ed.). 1998. The Turkic languages. London: Routledge, pp. 81-125.[1]; Johanson, Lars. 2007. Chuvash. Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics. Oxford: Elsevier.
  9. ^ Al-Istakhri translation by Zahoder B. N. "Caspian code of the information about Eastern Europe. Gorgan and Volga area in 9-11 cc", Oriental Literature, Moscow, 1962, p. 238
  10. ^ Добрев, Петър, 1995. "Езикът на Аспаруховите и Куберовите българи" 1995.
  11. ^ Бакалов, Георги. Малко известни факти от историята на древните българи Част 1част 2
  12. ^ Димитров, Божидар, 2005. 12 мита в българската история
  13. ^ Милчева, Христина. Българите са с древно-ирански произход. Научна конференция "Средновековна Рус, Волжка България и северното Черноморие в контекста на руските източни връзки", Казан, Русия, 15.10.2007
  14. ^ Detrez has specialisized Bulgarian philology at Sofia University and is author of several books treating Bulgarian history.
  15. ^ Developing cultural identity in the Balkans: convergence vs divergence, Raymond Detrez, Pieter Plas, Peter Lang, 2005, ISBN 90-5201-297-0, p. 29.
  16. ^ Бешевлиев, Веселин. Ирански елементи у първобългарите. Античное Общество, Труды Конференции по изучению проблем античности, стр. 237-247, Издательство "Наука", Москва 1967, АН СССР, Отделение Истории.
  17. ^ Йорданов, Стефан. Славяни, тюрки и индо-иранци в ранното средновековие: езикови проблеми на българския етногенезис. В: Българистични проучвания. 8. Актуални проблеми на българистиката и славистиката. Седма международна научна сесия. Велико Търново, 22-23 август 2001 г. Велико Търново, 2002, 275-295.
  18. ^ Съпоставително езикознание, Том 30, Софийски университет "Климент Охридски", 2005, стр. 66-68.
  19. ^ Исторически преглед, Том 62, Броеве 3–4, Bŭlgarsko istorichesko druzhestvo, Institut za istoria (Bŭlgarska akademia na naukite) 2006, стр. 14.
  20. ^ Palaeobulgarica: Starobŭlgaristika, Том 24, Tsentŭr za bŭlgaristika (Bŭlgarska akademiia na naukite), 2000, стр. 53.
  21. ^ Образуване на българската народност. Димитър Ангелов (Издателство Наука и изкуство, “Векове”, София, 1971) стр. 117.
  22. ^ Образуване на българската държава, Петър Петров (Издателство Наука и изкуство, София, 1981) стр. 94.
  23. ^ Васил Н. Златарски, History of the First Bulgarian Kingdom, I edition 1918, II edition 1970, Sofia, Science and Art, edited by Petar Hr. Petrov, pp. 55-56.
  24. ^ Медното гумно на прабългарите, Ivan Benedikov, (College "Thrace" publishing house, I edition 1983, II. reworked edition, Stara Zagora 1995, pp. 16-19.
  25. ^ “The” Other Europe in the Middle Ages: Avars, Bulgars, Khazars and Cumans; Florin Curta, Roman Kovalev, BRILL, 2008,ISBN 9004163891, p. 189.
  26. ^ Clark, Larry. 1998. "Chuvash." In: Johanson, Lars & Éva Agnes Csató (ed.). 1998. The Turkic languages. London: Routledge, p.434
  27. ^ Формирование болгарской (древнечувашской) народности - web page

External links

  • Britannica Online - The article describes the position of Bulgar and Chuvash in the classification of the Turkic languages.
  • Tower of BabelSergei Starostin's - A Russian Turkologist's take on Danube Bulgar inscriptions and the Bulgar calendar, in Russian. The article contains a tentative decipherment of inscriptions based on the Turkic hypothesis. PDF (350 KiB)
  • Rashev, Rasho. 1992. On the origin of the Proto-Bulgarians. p. 23-33 in: Studia protobulgarica et mediaevalia europensia. In honour of Prof. V. Beshevliev, Veliko Tarnovo - A Bulgarian archeologist's proposal. The author concedes that the ruling elite of the Bulgars was Turkic-speaking as evidenced by the inscriptions etc., but stipulates that the bulk of the population was Iranian.
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