Department of Modern Languages

The University of Mississippi

Word Order in the Simple Bulgarian Sentence: A Study in Grammar, Semantics, and Pragmatics

By Donald L. Dyer

Word Order in the Simple Bulgarian Sentence: A Study in Grammar, Semantics, and Pragmatics


This book work seeks not only to determine the possibilities for Bulgarian sentential word order, but also to justify varieties of word order through a characterization of communicative function (functional sentence perspective). Also discussed are the configurational definitions of primary sentence elements; the issue of perceptual cueing for subject; the role played by intonation in the shaping of word order; and the relationship that exist between Bulgarian word order and nominal determinedness.

All attested sentence types [S(subject)-V(Verb)-Od(Object direct)-Oi(Object indirect) and any variation on this scheme ― are characterized as “neutral” or “marked” with regard to their structure (form), communicative intent, (pragmatics) and style (mood, speech-type association). Structurally marked sentences display non-[S-V-Od-Oi] alignments; communicatively marked marked sentences position given information in the sentence (theme) after new (rheme); and stylistically marked sentences signal non-indicative mood or “non-standard” speech. The present work concludes that “non-neutral” in no way suggests an “unnatural” or “uncommon” Bulgarian sentence. Most structurally marked sentences are communicatively neutral due to the manner of presentation of the sentences’ new information; and a number of communicatively marked sentences are structurally neutral. Stylistically marked sentences, however ― imperatives and interrogatives; dialectal and folk speech ― often signal structural and communicative markedness.

Contemporary written Bulgarian tends to be [S-V-O] in structure ― over two thirds (66.8%) of the sentences sampled by the author. Despite the loss of its case system, spoken Bulgarian displays greater flexibility of word order than does written Bulgarian. This is explained by the presence in speech of certain oral mechanisms ― logical (rhematic) stress, pronominal reprise ― which help to discern (semantically and grammatically) the functions of primary sentence elements.