Macedonian phonology

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This article discusses the phonological system of Standard Macedonian (unless otherwise noted) based on the Prilep-Bitola dialect. For discussion of other dialects, see Macedonian dialects. Macedonian possesses five vowels, one semivowel, three liquid consonants, three nasal stops, three pairs of fricatives, two pairs of affricates, a non-paired voiceless fricative, nine pairs of voiced and unvoiced consonants and four pairs of stops.


Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid ɛ (ə) ɔ
Open a


The schwa is phonemic in many dialects (varying in closeness to [ʌ] or [ɨ]) but its use in the standard language is marginal.[3] When writing a dialectal word and keeping the schwa for aesthetic effect, an apostrophe is used; for example, ⟨к’смет⟩, ⟨с’нце⟩, etc. When spelling aloud, each consonant is followed by the schwa. The individual letters of acronyms are pronounced with the schwa in the same way: ⟨МПЦ⟩ ([mə.pə.t͡sə]). The lexicalized acronyms ⟨СССР⟩ ([ɛs.ɛs.ɛs.ɛr]) and ⟨МТ⟩ ([ɛm.tɛ]) (a brand of cigarettes), are among the few exceptions.

Vowel length

Vowel length is not phonemic. Vowels in stressed open syllables in disyllablic words with stress on the penult can be realized as long, e.g. ⟨Велес⟩ [ˈvɛːlɛs] 'Veles'. The sequence /aa/ is often realized phonetically as [aː]; e.g. ⟨саат⟩ /saat/ [saːt] 'colloq. hour'.


Map of the use of the intervocalic phoneme kj in the Macedonian language (1962)
Map of the use of the intervocalic phoneme gj in the Macedonian language (1962)
Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar
Nasal m 1 ɲ
Plosive voiceless p c k
voiced b ɟ ɡ
Affricate voiceless t̪͡s̪ t͡ʃ
voiced d̪͡z̪ d͡ʒ
Fricative voiceless f ʃ x
voiced v ʒ
Approximant ɫ̪1 j
Trill r1

^1 The alveolar trill (/r/) is syllabic between two consonants; for example, ⟨прст⟩ [ˈpr̩st] 'finger'. The dental nasal (/n/) and dental lateral (/ɫ/) are also syllabic in certain foreign words; e.g. ⟨њутн⟩ [ˈɲutn̩] 'newton', ⟨Попокатепетл⟩ [pɔpɔkaˈtɛpɛtɫ̩] 'Popocatépetl', etc.

The labiodental nasal [ɱ] occurs as an allophone of /m/ before /f/ and /v/ (e.g. ⟨трамвај⟩ [ˈtraɱvaj] 'tram'). The velar nasal [ŋ] similarly occur as an allophone of /n/ before /k/ and /ɡ/ (e.g. ⟨англиски⟩ [ˈaŋɡliski] 'English'). The latter realization is avoided by some speakers who enunciate.

Phonological processes

At morpheme boundaries (represented in spelling) and at the end of a word (not represented in spelling), voicing opposition is neutralized.


The word stress in Macedonian is antepenultimate, meaning it falls on the third from last syllable in words with three or more syllables, and on the first or only syllable in other words. This is sometimes disregarded when the word has entered the language more recently or from a foreign source. The following rules apply:

  • Disyllabic words are stressed on the second-to-last syllable.

For example, ⟨дете⟩ [ˈdɛtɛ] 'child', ⟨мајка⟩ [ˈmajka] 'mother' and ⟨татко⟩ [ˈtatkɔ] 'father'.

For example, ⟨планина⟩ [ˈpɫanina] 'mountain', ⟨планината⟩ [pɫaˈninata] 'the mountain' and ⟨планинарите⟩ [pɫaniˈnaritɛ] 'the mountaineers'.

Exceptions include:

  • Verbal adverbs: e.g. ⟨викајќи⟩ [viˈkajci] 'shouting', ⟨одејќи⟩ [ɔˈdɛjci] 'walking'.
  • Foreign loanwords: e.g. ⟨клише⟩ [kliˈʃɛ] 'cliché', ⟨генеза⟩ [ɡɛˈnɛza] 'genesis', ⟨литература⟩ [litɛraˈtura] 'literature', ⟨Александар⟩ [alɛkˈsandar], 'Alexander', etc.



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