Torlakian, or Torlak (Serbo-Croatian: Torlački/Торлачки, [tɔ̌rlaːt͡ʃkiː]; Bulgarian: Торлашки, Torlashki), is a group of South Slavic dialects of southeastern Serbia, southern Kosovo (Prizren), northeastern Republic of Macedonia (Kumanovo, Kratovo and Kriva Palanka dialects), western Bulgaria (Belogradchik–Godech–Tran-Breznik), which is intermediate between Serbian, Bulgarian and Macedonian. According to UNESCO's list of endangered languages, Torlakian is vulnerable.
Some linguists classify it as an Old Shtokavian dialect or as a fourth dialect of Serbo-Croatian along with Shtokavian, Chakavian, and Kajkavian. Others classify it as a western Bulgarian dialect, in which case it is referred to as a Transitional Bulgarian dialect. Torlakian is not standardized, and its subdialects vary significantly in some features.
Speakers of the dialectal group are primarily ethnic Serbs, Bulgarians, and Macedonians. There are also smaller ethnic communities of Croats (the Krashovani) in Romania and Slavic Muslims (the Gorani) in southern Kosovo.
The Torlakian dialects are intermediate between the Eastern and Western branches of South Slavic, and have been variously described, in whole or in parts, as belonging to either group. In the 19th century, their classification was hotly contested between Serbian and Bulgarian writers. In addition, there have been disputes regarding whether the Torlakian dialects in Macedonia, like with all dialects in Macedonia, belonged to Bulgarian or were a separate language.
Previously, "Torlakian" was not applied to the dialects of Niš and the neighbouring areas to the east and south.
Bulgarian scientists such as Benyo Tsonev, Gavril Zanetov and Krste Misirkov classified Torlakian as dialect of Bulgarian language. They noted the manner of the articles, the loss of most of the cases, etc. Today Bulgarian linguists (Stoyko Stoykov, Rangel Bozhkov) also classify Torlakian as a "Belogradchik-Tran" dialect of Bulgarian, and claim that it should be classified outside the Shtokavian area. Stoykov further argued that the Torlakian dialects have a grammar that is closer to Bulgarian and that this is indicative of them being originally Bulgarian.
The Torlakian dialects, together with Bulgarian and Macedonian, display many properties of the Balkan linguistic area, a set of structural convergence features shared also with other languages of the Balkans such as Albanian and Aromanian. In terms of areal linguistics, they have therefore been described as part of a prototypical "Balkan Slavic" area, as opposed to other parts of Serbo-Croatian, which are only peripherally involved in the convergence area.
Basic Torlakian vocabulary shares most of its Slavic roots with Serbian, Bulgarian, and Macedonian, but also over time it borrowed a number of words from Aromanian, Greek, Turkish, and Albanian in the Gora region of the Šar mountains. Also, it preserved many words which in the "major" languages became archaisms or changed meaning. Like other features, vocabulary is inconsistent across subdialects: for example, a Krashovan need not necessarily understand a Goranac.
The varieties spoken in the Slavic countries have been heavily influenced by the standardized national languages, particularly when a new word or concept was introduced. The only exception is a form of Torlakian spoken in Romania, which escaped the influence of a standardized language which has existed in Serbia since a state was created after the withdrawal of the Ottoman Empire. The Slavs indigenous to the region are called Krašovani (Krashovans) and are a mixture of original settler Slavs and later settlers from Timočka Krajina (eastern Serbia).
Bulgarian and Macedonian are the only two modern Slavic languages that lost virtually the entire noun case system, with nearly all nouns now in the surviving nominative case. This is partly true of the Torlakian dialect. In the northwest, the instrumental case merges with the genitive case, and the locative and genitive cases merge with the nominative case. Further south, all inflections disappear and syntactic meaning is determined solely by prepositions.
Macedonian, Torlakian and a number of Serbian and Bulgarian dialects, unlike all other Slavic languages, technically have no phoneme like [x], [ɦ] or [h]. In other Slavic languages, [x] or [ɦ] (from Proto-Slavic *g in "H-Slavic languages") is common.
The appearance of the letter h in the alphabet is reserved mostly for loanwords and toponyms within the Republic of Macedonia but outside of the standard language region. In Macedonian, this is the case with eastern towns such as Pehčevo. In fact, the Macedonian language is based in Prilep, Pelagonia and words such as thousand and urgent are iljada and itno in standard Macedonian but hiljada and hitno in Serbian (also, Macedonian oro, ubav vs. Bulgarian horo, hubav (folk dance, beautiful)). This is actually a part of an isogloss, a dividing line separating Prilep from Pehčevo in the Republic of Macedonia at the southern extreme, and reaching central Serbia (Šumadija) at a northern extreme. In Šumadija, local folk songs may still use the traditional form of I want being oću (оћу) compared with hoću (хоћу) as spoken in Standard Serbian.
Some versions of Torlakian have retained the syllabic /l/, which, like /r/, can serve the nucleus of a syllable. In most of the Shtokavian dialects, the syllabic /l/ eventually became /u/ or /o/. In standard Bulgarian, it is preceded by the vowel represented by ъ ([ɤ]) to separate consonant clusters. Naturally, the /l/ becomes velarized in most such positions, giving [ɫ].
|Torlakian||Krašovan (Karas)||влк /vɫk/||пекъл /pɛkəl/||сълза /səɫza/||жлт /ʒɫt/|
|Northern (Svrljig)||вук /vuk/||пекал /pɛkəɫ/||суза /suza/||жлът /ʒlət/|
|Central (Lužnica)||vuk /vuk/||pekl /pɛkəɫ/||slza /sləza/||žlt /ʒlət/|
|Southern (Vranje)||vlk /vəlk/||pekal /pɛkal/||solza /sɔɫza/||žlt /ʒəɫt/|
|Western (Prizren)||vuk /vuk/||pekl /pɛkɫ/||suza /sluza/||žlt /ʒlt/|
|Eastern (Tran)||вук /vuk/||пекл /pɛkɫ/||слза /slza/||жлт /ʒlt/|
|North-Eastern (Belogradchik)||влк /vlk/||пекл /pɛkɫ/||слза /slza/||жлт /ʒlt/|
|South-Eastern (Kumanovo)||влк /vlk/||пекъл /pɛkəɫ/||слъза /sləza/||жут /ʒut/|
|Standard Serbo-Croatian||vȗk /ʋûːk/||pȅkao /pêkao/||sȕza /sûza/||žȗt /ʒûːt/|
|Standard Bulgarian||вълк /vɤɫk/||пекъл /pɛkɐɫ/||сълза /sɐɫza/||жълт /ʒɤɫt/|
|Standard Macedonian||волк /vɔlk/||печел /pɛtʃɛl/||солза /sɔlza/||жолт /ʒɔlt/|
In all Torlakian dialects:
In some Torlakian dialects:
Literature written in Torlakian is rather sparse as the dialect has never been an official state language. During the Ottoman rule literacy in the region was limited to Eastern Orthodox clergy, who chiefly used Old Church Slavonic in writing. The first known literary document influenced by Torlakian dialects is the Manuscript from Temska Monastery from 1762, in which its author, the Monk Kiril Zhivkovich from Pirot, considered his language "simple Bulgarian".
According to one theory, the name Torlak derived from the South Slavic word tor ("sheepfold"), referring to the fact that Torlaks in the past were mainly shepherds by occupation. Some Bulgarian scientists[who?] describe the Torlaks as a distinct ethnographic group. The Torlaks are also sometimes classified as part of the Shopi population and vice versa. In the 19th century, there was no exact border between Torlak and Shopi settlements. According to some authors during the Ottoman rule, the majority of the Torlakian population did not have national consciousness in ethnic sense.
Therefore, both Serbs and Bulgarians considered local Slavs as part of their own people and the local population was also divided between sympathy for Bulgarians and Serbs. Other authors from the epoch take a different view and maintain that the inhabitants of the Torlakian area had begun to develop predominantly Bulgarian national consciousness.[improper synthesis?] With Ottoman influence ever weakening, the increase of nationalist sentiment in the Balkans in late 19th and early 20th century, and the redrawing of national boundaries after the Treaty of Berlin (1878), the Balkan wars and World War I, the borders in the Torlakian-speaking region changed several times between Serbia and Bulgaria, and later Republic of Macedonia.
Niš is located in a dialect area called prizrensko-južnomoravski; the name torlaški 'Torlak' is now applied to the dialect of the Niš area as well as to neighboring dialects to the east and south.