The Macedonian language belongs to the eastern sub-branch of the South Slavic branch of the Slavic languages of the Indo-European family of languages, and hence is not descended from Ancient Macedonian. Its closest relative is Bulgarian, with which it has a high degree of mutual intelligibility. Prior to their codification in 1945, Macedonian dialects were for the most part classified as Bulgarian and some linguists consider them still as such, but this view is politically controversial. The next-closest language is Serbo-Croatian (often known by the names of its standard languages, Serbian, Montenegrin, Bosnian, and Croatian). All South Slavic languages, including Macedonian, form a dialect continuum. The Torlakian dialect group is intermediate between Bulgarian, Macedonian and Serbo-Croatian.
Together with its immediate Slavic neighbours, Macedonian also forms a constituent language of the Balkan Sprachbund, a group of languages which share typological, grammatical and lexical features based on geographical convergence, rather than genetic proximity. Its other principal members are Romanian, Greek and Albanian, all of which belong to different genetic branches of the Indo-European family of languages (Romanian is a Romance language, while Greek and Albanian each comprise their own separate branches). Macedonian and Bulgarian are sharply divergent from the remaining South Slavic languages, Serbo-Croatian and Slovene, and indeed all other Slavic languages, in that they don't use noun cases (except for the vocative, and apart from some traces of once productive inflections still found scattered throughout the languages). They are also the only Slavic languages with any definite articles (there are three: unspecified, proximate and distal). This last feature is shared with Romanian, Greek, and Albanian.