Dr. Petru Ciocani

COMMUNITY CONSULTANT - BANAT BULGARIAN

I am a Field Archaeologist working in Baden-Württemberg and I hold a PhD in Prehistoric Archaeology from the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen. Besides my enthusiasm in studying the distant past, I also have linguistic and ethnographic interests.

Born into a Bulgarian family in Dudeștii Vechi (Banat Bulg. Stár Bišnov), a village with a predominantly Bulgarian speaking population in the Romanian Banat Region, like most of the village’s inhabitants I grew up bilingual. I spoke a Bulgarian variety (known as Palćensći) with my parents, relatives and friends, whilst I used Romanian at kindergarten and school. Even at a young age I was fascinated by foreign languages and different cultures, which was largely due to Banat’s multi-ethnic society, and because of the location of my hometown close to the borders with Hungary and Serbia.

As a teenager, I also began to pay attention to the Banat Bulgarian dialect. My interest was growing during repeated visits to Breștea (Brišća), another village inhabited by Banat Bulgarians, where I enjoyed speaking with people in my mother tongue and was fascinated by the slight linguistic differences that I heard.

My curiosity about the origins of the Banat Bulgarians was the main reason I decided to continue my studies in Veliko Tarnovo (Bulgaria) after high school. There, during the bachelor’s and master’s programme in Archaeology, I also had the opportunity to improve my knowledge of standard Bulgarian and to study Old Bulgarian (including epigraphy). In recent years spent in Germany, I had the chance to improve my German, allowing me to easily identify German lexical borrowings in the Banat Bulgarian dialect. I have found that these are relatively numerous, since by the time the Bulgarians settled in the Banat Region it belonged to the Habsburg Empire.

Returning to my hometown for archaeological research, in 2014, I collaborated with Andreea Pascaru and Thede Kahl in interviewing local people, and since then I have been actively involved in transcribing, translating and editing Banat Bulgarian interviews. The published interviews will hopefully contribute to the preservation of this endangered Bulgarian variety.