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The Language of the Paulicians and Pomaks

BY: Edouard Selian | Category: Issues | Submitted: 2013-09-18 18:07:59
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Article Summary: "This is a story about the Paulicians and their language from which originated the modern dialects and languages in southeastern Europe: the Paulician dialect, the Paulician Bulgarian language, the disputed Pomak language, and others..."


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The Paulicianism was a Christian religious movement that started in Armenia in sixth-seventh century. This movement was Adoptionist and iconoclast until the ninth century, than dualist.

The more important Paulician centers in Asia Minor were: Melitene, Argaun, Amara, Tephrike, Samosata, Mopsuestia, Armeniakon, Koloneia, Antioch of Pisidia (Antiochia in Prygia), Amorion, and Jrkay (probably south-west of Lake Van). The Paulician centers in Europe arose after the Byzantine Emperors' wars with the Paulicians and their deportations to Thrace, southern Italy, and Sicily. The first Paulicians, who probably may have included unconverted Armenian Zoroastrians, were deported to Thrace in 747.

In 844, the Paulicians constructed the fortress-town Tephrike, called by the Arabs "Al-Abrik" (modern Divrigi, Turkey), which became the capital of their state. In 878, after some years of the fall of Tephrike, the Paulician state ceased to exist. The Byzantine Emperor deported over again thousands of Paulicians to Thrace.

The Armenian language of the Paulicians, under the influence of the language of the tribes around, is largely slavicized. Thus, arises the Paulician language. Some Morphology models of the Armenian language Slavicisation are:
1. Armenian root + Slavic suffix = Paulician language word.
2. Slavic root + Armenian suffix = Paulician language word.
3. Slavic root + Slavic suffix - replacement of the Armenian root and suffix = Paulician language word.

The Paulician language was preserved during many centuries of Ottoman Turkish rule in southeastern Europe. From its dialects, some modern dialects and languages were formed.

After the liberation of the Ottoman rule, the Paulicians converted to Roman faith (the "Catholics"), used their slavicized language, which nowadays is the well known Paulician dialect in Bulgaria with the northern and southern group of dialects, spoken in the area of the towns: Belene, Nikopol, Svishtov, Chiprovtsi, Vratsa, Hisarya, Rakovski, and many other settlements in the country. Phonology and morphology identical to the Paulician dialect is the Paulician Banat language, used in the area of Banat, Romania and Serbia by the Paulician immigrants from Bulgaria. This language has it's own Latin alphabet, literature, and press with some German and Hungarian influence in his vocabulary.

As well, the Paulicians converted to Islam (the "Pomaks"), used their slavicized language - the Pomak language. Its dialects include many branches in southeastern Europe. For example, in Bulgaria, the Pomak language has two branches: northern and southern dialect group. Members of the northern dialect group of the Pomak language are the Pomac dialects of the provinces: Lovech, Razgrad, Shumen, Targovishte, and Veliko Tarnovo in northern Bulgaria. Members of the southern dialect group of the Pomak language are the Pomak dialects of the provinces: Gotse Delchev (Nevrokop), Burgas, Kardjali, Pazardzhik, Plovdiv, Smolyan, Stara Zagora, and Haskovo in southern Bulgaria.

Some typical Armenian words are still used in the Pomak language. Champion in respect of the formation of different words in the Pomak language is the Armenian word "chur" or "dzhur" ("water") which is in the root of Pomak words and settlement names. Also, identical to the Armenian language grammar forms of demonstrative pronouns, indicative adjectives, and deixis (-s, -t, and -n for spatial-pragmatic and temporal-modal reference in nominal) are used by the Pomak language in Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey.

Some believe that the Pomaks use a dialect or a conversational norm of the Bulgarian language. Others consider that the Pomaks use a Balkan Slavic dialect with some innovations. The truth is that the Pomak language is an original Slavic language, that originated from a dialect of the Paulician language-basis in Byzantium.

The Pomak language dialects are located in many countries of southeastern Europe: Albania, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Greece, Republic of Macedonia, and Turkey. Also, the Pomak language is related to other Slavic languages and dialects that have phonology and morphology connections with the Paulician language.

About Author / Additional Info:
I am a philologist, former professor of the State University in Sofia, Bulgaria. Currently, I am working in Los Angeles.

Comments on this article: (3 comments so far)

Comment Comment By Comment Date
Fantastic article. Very interesting information about languages that have evolved from Armenian. Also interesting comment on religion, and that this group converted to Islam. How diverse the Balkans are! Lena 2013-09-24 21:30:28 1940
This is a very interesting article. More research and attention is definitely needed on this topic. This is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of Armenians, the Balkans, and the Paulicians. Arnold 2013-12-06 18:56:40 1985
Quora: How-is-Pomak-related-to-other-Bulgarian-dialects/answer/Christo-Tamarin In brief, modern Paulicians are true Catholic Christians and have nothing in common with the medieval Paulicians. Yes, modern-days Pomaks could be descendants of the medieval Paulicians. However, its dialect is just a local Slavic dialect inside the South Slavic dialect continuum. The term Paulicians had and has religious meaning only, it should not be assigned any linguistic meaning. Christo Tamarin 2017-05-18 02:00:49 2263

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