EUROBULGARIAN.

A correspondent sent me an International Herald Tribune article by Matthew Brunwasser about various linguistic issues that will arise when Bulgaria joins the EU:

With Bulgaria scheduled to enter the European Union along with Romania on Jan. 1, Cyrillic is becoming the bloc’s third official alphabet, after Latin and Greek; by the end of the decade, if Bulgaria succeeds in joining the euro zone, it may even appear on euro banknotes.
Although Bulgaria has no commitment to reciprocate by displaying signs in the Latin alphabet, “We are doing it,” says Nikolay Vassilev, minister for state administration and administrative reform. “More slowly than I would like.”…
Rusana Bardarska, a Bulgarian translator, said the hardest part of introducing Bulgarian was EU terminology, for which Bulgarian words may not exist. “Should we translate ‘communitarization,’ ‘convergence,’ ‘flexsecurity’ and ‘cohesion,’ or rather introduce them as new words in Bulgarian?” she asked….
Back in Bulgaria, however, spelling is a major problem, according to Vassilev, the government minister. Many Cyrillic letters have no Latin equivalent, or several possibilities. The result, he says, is that some Bulgarian cities are spelled seven different ways in Latin – even on signs within the same city.
“There is no other country in the world with a problem of this magnitude,” Vassilev said.
To address this, Vassilev developed “Comprehensible Bulgaria,” a transliteration system created by linguists so that all Bulgarian proper names would be rendered the same way in the Latin alphabet. The transliteration software is available for free on the ministry’s Web page.
The new spellings are now obligatory for state institutions, but people are free to continue transliterating their names as they like, and Vassilev expects it to take years for the public to adopt the new system…

The “no other country” thing is silly, of course (everybody always thinks their own language is uniquely unique), but I’d be curious to know which cities are spelled seven different ways. And I love “the Day of Bulgarian Enlightenment and Culture and of the Slavonic Alphabet”; I’ll have to remember to celebrate it next May 24.

Comments

  1. “communitarization…flexsecurity”
    What the heck? Those aren’t words.
    On the other hand, I’m sure Bulgarian has a way of expressing “cohesion” and “convergence”.

  2. On the other hand, I’m sure Bulgarian has a way of expressing “cohesion” and “convergence”.
    They might have a way, but do they have the will?
    All Slovak bureaucrats could come up with was “kohézny fond” for “cohesion fund” and “konvergencia” for “convergence”.

  3. And what’s with Many Cyrillic letters have no Latin equivalent? All Bulgarian characters with the exception of ь and ъ can be transcribed using the ASCII character set. The rest is a matter of convention.

  4. “communitarization…flexsecurity”
    What the heck? Those aren’t words.

    EURLEX seems to disagree :o)

  5. And finally:
    Cyrillic is becoming the bloc’s third official alphabet, after Latin and Greek; by the end of the decade, if Bulgaria succeeds in joining the euro zone, it may even appear on euro banknotes.
    1. It is very unlikely that Bulgaria joins the Euro zone in this decade. E.g. Slovakia is set to adopt Euro in 2009 and even this seems unlikely in the light of the economic measures the new government is about to take. Even Czech Republic with its strong economy has set the date to 2010.
    2. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t the word “Euro” in the Bulgarian script look exactly the same as the same word in the Greek script, especially all in capitals?

  6. michael farris says:

    “but wouldn’t the word “Euro” in the Bulgarian script look exactly the same as the same word in the Greek script, especially all in capitals?”
    Close, but no. Greek uses omega for the last letter.
    And Bulgarian is probably the _easiest_ language normally written in Cyrillic to romanise. You can even do a very all ASCII version. Here’s a sample from a newspaper article:
    Dvama myzhe pyk zaginaha na mjastо, a trima sa tezhkо raneni pri katastrоfa, stanala vchera sutrinta pо pytja za Albena mezhdu Kichevо i Klimentоvо. Zhestоkijat sblysyk mezhdu sitrоen i dzhip zatvоri pytja za njakоlkо chasa i predizvika zadrystvanija.
    These are all conventions that in frequent use in ad hoc romanization (as in internet sites). It uses sh, ch, zh and y for the ъ. It only needs a convention to separate sh from s + h and zh from z + h (perhaps those latter ones could be s’h z’h as in iz’hod (exit).
    Alternately, the s, c and z hacek’s could be used. Simplicity itself.

  7. michael farris says:

    Just a note the “Comprehensible Bulgaria,” system is crap (IMHO). It’s sole concern seems to be transparent to English speakers with ts instead of c, y instead of j etc. and doesn’t distinguish between a and ъ (it’s true that a number of word final phonemic ъ’s are written a or ja, but they should be distinct as much as possible. And it doesn’t distinguish between sh and s+h and zh and z + h so that exit is spelled izhod. Blech.
    “a transliteration system created by linguists”
    Not very good linguists (if that’s true at all, which I doubt).

  8. I would have thought they could follow Polish or Czech when it comes to introducing EU terminology.

  9. I’d be curious to know which cities are spelled seven different ways.
    How about Ayutthaya, Ayudhya, Ayuthaya, Ayuthia, Ayuthya, Ayutthia, Ayouthia, Ayutia, Ayutya (Thailand)?

  10. I meant Bulgarian cities, as in the article. I can think of plenty of cities in other places that could be spelled many ways (Tripoli/Tarabulus/Trablous comes to mind).

  11. Close, but no. Greek uses omega for the last letter.
    Of course. Strike my remark from the record.
    It only needs a convention to separate sh from s + h and zh from z + h (perhaps those latter ones could be s’h z’h as in iz’hod (exit)
    I was thinking the same, do what the Catalans do with “ll” and double “l”.

  12. “I was thinking the same, do what the Catalans do with ‘ll’ and double ‘l’.”
    You mean using a dot? That dot is part of the upper ranges of Unicode and would not allow for ASCII-only or even ISO-8859 transcription.

  13. You mean using a dot?
    No, not necessarily the dot. The apostrophe would do just fine.

  14. David Marjanović says:

    Greek uses Y: ΕΥΡΩ. Man, will the Greeks become envious when they’ll see ЕВРО for the first time… :o)

  15. In fact the MIDDLE DOT is at U+00B7, and is available in ISO 8859-1, -3, -9, -10, -13, -15, and -16. It’s true that it’s not in ASCII, though.

  16. I don’t know whether this counts, but all of Sofia, Sofiia, Sofiya, Sofya, Sophia, Sophya, Sophiya get Google hits.

  17. Siganus Sutor says:

    David Marjanović: Greek uses Y
    Thank God it uses it, since in the language of one of the main EU member states — if not the main EU member state — this letter is called “Greek i”.

  18. michael farris says:

    “all of Sofia, Sofiia, Sofiya, Sofya, Sophia, Sophya, Sophiya get Google hits.”
    You forgot Sofija, which does too (including adhoc romanized Bulgarian).
    But that’s not really a Cyrillic/Latin question. In transliterating the Bulgarian София, the choices are Sofija (which I prefer) and Sofiya (current ‘official’ system I think). Anything else is motivated more by etymological considerations than transliteration ones, unless you want to consistently transliterate ф as ph, which I don’t understand why anyone would.

  19. It seems to be it would be very simple to transcribe Bulgarian into Latin script using the exact same correspondence found in Serbo-Croatian. Is there any practical reason this couldn’t be done or just nationalism?

  20. David Marjanović says:

    I can’t think of a practical reason…

  21. michael farris says:

    The main thing (besides nationalism) is that Bulgarian has a vowel written ъ (roughly like u in luck) that isn’t conveniently found in the Serbo-Croat set. It’s usually transcribed ă or ŭ though I don’t see why y couldn’t be used (not needed for anything else and it ‘looks’ slavic enough.
    As I pointed out, if y us used for that vowel, then all that’s needed are s, c and z hacek, as in the following which I think looks perfectly fine (and is basically an exact transliteration of the original):
    Avtоmоbilyt letjal s visоka skоrоst v selоtо i minuti sled starta šоfjоryt zagubil kоntrоl nad kоlata. Hоndata se se preоbyrnala i se zabila v kafene v centyra na selоtо.
    Dvamata prijateli zaginali na mjastо pоd smačkanite lamarini na kоlata. Nalоžilо se pоžarnikari da režat vratite, za da izvadjat telata na zaginalite mladeži.

  22. Jurobulgar-ba makinsat-wa hugaomapine rile-ki!

  23. David Marjanović says:

    though I don’t see why y couldn’t be used (not needed for anything else and it ‘looks’ slavic enough
    Well said :o)

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