On the development of the present active participle in Bulgarian

Abstract: The purpose of the study is to chronicle the loss and to a certain extent the restoration of the present active participle in Middle Bulgarian. Also problems concerning the past active participle 1 and the question of the gerund are touched upon. The study is based on empirical data in the form of excerpts from written documents from different periods in the history of the Bulgarian language. The excerpted occurrences of active participles are analysed in accordance with the traditional structuralistic concept, in which virtually all linguistic relationships are reduceable to a hierarchy of binary oppositions. The basic conclusions of the investigation are: 1) Contrary to the conventional view the study shows that the loss of the present active participle in Middle Bulgarian was in no way an automatic result of the transition of the Bulgarian language from one of a synthetic type to one of an analytic type. The syncretism and successive loss of case-forms are traceable in nearly all Bulgarian Church Slavonic manuscripts but the frequency and the syntactic usage of present active participles are virtually the same in ecclesiastical texts from the 15th-16th centuries as they are in Old Church Slavonic texts. 2) Up to the late 18th century written Bulgarian is to be regarded as Chuch Slavonic, an autonomous system, parallel to and totally separated from the spoken vernacular. 3) The present active participle as an a priori bookish category is used in speech in Slavic languages only as a borrowing from the literary language. In Bulgarian, which for a long time had no literary language for secular uses, the use of this participle is unnatural. It is also not found in any Bulgarian dialect. 4) The disappearance of the present active participle in Bulgarian is in fact a chimaera. It never disappeared from the written language (Church Slavonic). It never disappeared from the spoken language either, since it had never gained recognition in this system in the first place. What is peculiar to Bulgarian is the fact that when a new literary language was created in the 19th century due to the Bulgarian renaissance, a present active participle was borrowed into this system from Church Slavonic, but for some reason - perhaps because of the influence of Russian - it failed to acquire an adequate Bulgarian form.

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