Christopher Culver is back from his summer travels and after a difficult transition to WordPress is back to regular posting on Nephelokokkygia, “the classical and Indo-European philology weblog.” His latest post, Bulgarian’s interesting verbs, describes the horrors awaiting the student of Bulgarian:

One of the best resources for Bulgarian on the WWW is Katina Bontcheva’s Elementary On-Line Bulgarian Grammar (note that it is still a work in progress). She introduces verbs with this charming metaphor:

So far I would like to believe that the grammar of Bulgarian was neither difficult nor challenging for most of the foreigners that have chosen to study Bulgarian. Apart from the verb, all the other part-of-speech classes in Bulgarian could be compared to planets within the solar system of Bulgarian grammar. Unfortunately, the verbal system of Bulgarian should be compared to nothing less but a galaxy. However, you have to master the verbal system of Bulgarian if you want to master Bulgarian, as the predicate is in the core of the communication, and the verb is the core of the predicate. It is of little consolation to be reminded that in other languages that have declination you have to master the declination as well. The richness and the complexity of the verbal system in Bulgarian is a complete “compensation” for the simplicity of its nominal system.
So, let’s take a deep breath and face the beast!

…I should mention here that there is a helpful overview of the verb system which shows all forms for the verb ‘to write’. (But I don’t think HTML forms were meant to be used in that way!) Notice the rather depressing quotation at the top of the page: “The verb is the elephant of Bulgarian grammar.” — A. Teodorov-Balan.
The problem is that Bulgarian retains the aorist and imperfect of Proto-Slavonic, a quality shared only by Macedonian and Sorbian. This alone adds a ton of extra forms for the student to memorise. Bontcheva’s figure of 3,000 is perhaps excessive, other sources claim 236 forms for an imperfective verb.

Welcome back, Chris!

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