Albanian language

Last updated

gjuha shqipe
Pronunciation [ʃcip]
Native to Albania, Greece, Italy, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Albanian diaspora
Ethnicity Albanians
Native speakers
5.4 million in the Balkans (2011) [1]
  • Albanian
Early form
Latin (Albanian alphabet)
Albanian Braille
Official status
Official language in
Flag of Albania.svg  Albania
Flag of Kosovo.svg  Kosovo
Flag of Montenegro.svg  Montenegro [a]
Flag of North Macedonia.svg  North Macedonia [a] [2]
Recognised minority
language in
Regulated by Officially by the Social Sciences and Albanological Section of the Academy of Sciences of Albania
Language codes
ISO 639-1 sq
ISO 639-2 alb  (B)
sqi  (T)
ISO 639-3 sqi – inclusive code
Individual codes:
aae    Arbëresh
aat    Arvanitika
aln    Gheg
als    Tosk
Glottolog alba1267 [3]
Linguasphere 55-AAA-aaa to 55-AAA-ahe (25 varieties)
Albanian dialects.svg
The dialects of the Albanian language.
(The map does not indicate where the language is majority or minority.)
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Albanian ( /ælˈbniən/ ; shqip [ʃcip] or gjuha shqipe [ˈɟuha ˈʃcipɛ] ) is an Indo-European language spoken by the Albanians in the Balkans and the Albanian diaspora in the Americas, Europe and Oceania. [1] [4] With about 7.5 million speakers, [5] it comprises an independent branch within the Indo-European languages and is not closely related to any other language in Europe. [6]

Indo-European languages language family

The Indo-European languages are a language family of several hundred related languages and dialects.

Albanians ethnic group native to Southeast Europe

The Albanians are an ethnic group native to the Balkan Peninsula and are identified by a common Albanian ancestry, culture, history and language. They primarily live in Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia as well as in Croatia, Greece and Italy. They also constitute a diaspora with several communities established in the Americas, Europe and Oceania.

Balkans Geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe

The BalkansBAWL-kənz, also known as the Balkan Peninsula, is a geographic area in southeastern Europe with various definitions and meanings, including geopolitical and historical. The region takes its name from the Balkan Mountains that stretch throughout the whole of Bulgaria from the Serbian-Bulgarian border to the Black Sea coast. The Balkan Peninsula is bordered by the Adriatic Sea on the northwest, the Ionian Sea on the southwest, the Aegean Sea in the south and southeast, and the Black Sea on the east and northeast. The northern border of the peninsula is variously defined. The highest point of the Balkans is Mount Musala, 2,925 metres (9,596 ft), in the Rila mountain range, Bulgaria.


First attested in the 15th century, it is the last Indo-European branch to appear in written records. This is one of the reasons why its still-unknown origin has long been a matter of dispute among linguists and historians. [6] Albanian is considered to be the descendant of one of the Paleo-Balkan languages of antiquity. For more historical and geographical reasons than specifically linguistic ones, there are various modern historians and linguists who believe that the Albanian language may have descended from a southern Illyrian dialect [7] spoken in much the same region in classical times. Alternative hypotheses hold that Albanian may have descended from Thracian or Daco-Moesian, other ancient languages spoken farther east than Illyrian. [6] [8] Not enough is known of these languages to completely prove or disprove the various hypotheses. [9]

Paleo-Balkan languages various extinct Indo-European languages that were spoken in the Balkans in ancient times

The Paleo-Balkan languages are the various extinct Indo-European languages that were spoken in the Balkans in ancient times. Hellenization, Romanization and Slavicization in the region caused their only modern descendants to be Modern Greek, which is descended from Ancient Greek, and Albanian, which evolved from either Illyrian, Thracian, Dacian or another similar tongue.

Illyrian languages language family

The Illyrian languages were a group of Indo-European languages that were spoken in the western part of the Balkans in former times by groups identified as Illyrians: Ardiaei, Delmatae, Pannonii, Autariates, Taulantii. Some sound changes from Proto-Indo-European to Illyrian and other language features are deduced from what remains of the Illyrian languages, but because there are no examples of ancient Illyrian literature surviving, it is difficult to clarify its place within the Indo-European language family. Because of the uncertainty, most sources provisionally place Illyrian on its own branch of Indo-European, though its relation to other languages, ancient and modern, continues to be studied.

Thracian language language

The Thracian language is an extinct and poorly attested language, generally considered to be Indo-European, spoken in ancient times in South-East Europe by the Thracians. The linguistic affinities of the Thracian language are poorly understood, but it is generally agreed that it exhibited satem features.

The two main Albanian dialects, Gheg and Tosk which are primarily distinguished by phonological differences, are mutually intelligible, [10] [11] with Gheg spoken in the north and Tosk spoken in the south of the Shkumbin river. [10] Their characteristics [12] in the treatment of the native and loanwords from other languages, have led to the conclusion that the dialectal split occurred after Christianisation of the region (4th century AD) and at the time of the Slavic migration to the Balkans, [13] [14] with the historic boundary between Gheg and Tosk being the Shkumbin [15] which straddled the Jireček line. [16] [17] Standard Albanian is a standardised form of spoken Albanian based on the Tosk dialect. It is the official language of Albania and Kosovo [a] and a co-official language in North Macedonia as well as a minority language of Italy, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia.

Albanian dialects

The Albanian language is composed of many dialects, divided into two major groups: Gheg and Tosk. The Shkumbin river is roughly the geographical dividing line, with Gheg spoken north of the Shkumbin and Tosk south of it.

Gheg Albanian dialect

Gheg Albanian is one of the two major varieties of Albanian. The other is Tosk on which Standard Albanian is based. The geographic dividing line between the two varieties is the Shkumbin River, which winds its way through central Albania.

Tosk Albanian dialect

Tosk Albanian is the southern dialect group of the Albanian language, spoken by the ethnographic group known as Tosks. The line of demarcation between Tosk and Gheg is the Shkumbin River. Tosk is the basis of the standard Albanian language.

Centuries-old communities speaking Albanian dialects can be found scattered in Croatia (the Arbanasi), Greece (the Arvanites and some communities in Epirus, Western Macedonia and Western Thrace), [18] Italy (the Arbëreshë) [19] as well as in Romania, Turkey, and Ukraine. [20] Two varieties of the Tosk dialect, Arvanitika in Greece and Arbëresh in southern Italy, preserved archaic elements of the language. [10]

Croatia sovereign republic in Southeast Europe

Croatia, officially the Republic of Croatia, is a country at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, on the Adriatic Sea. It borders Slovenia to the northwest, Hungary to the northeast, Serbia to the east, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro to the southeast, sharing a maritime border with Italy. Its capital, Zagreb, forms one of the country's primary subdivisions, along with twenty counties. Croatia has an area of 56,594 square kilometres and a population of 4.28 million, most of whom are Roman Catholics.

Arbanasi is a community in the Zadar region, Croatia, of Albanian origin, who traditionally speak the Arbanasi dialect of Gheg Albanian. Their name means Albanians in Croatian and is the toponymy of the first Arbanasi settlement in the region, which today is a suburb of Zadar. In Albanian literature, they are known as "Albanians of Zadar".

Greece republic in Southeast Europe

Greece, officially the Hellenic Republic, also known as Hellas, is a sovereign state located in Southern and Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of 2018; Athens is the nation's capital and largest city, followed by Thessaloniki.

Geographic distribution

The dialects of Albania Dialect map albania.png
The dialects of Albania

The language is spoken by approximately 7 million people, primarily in Albania, Kosovo, Greece, Italy, North Macedonia and Montenegro. However, due to the large Albanian diaspora, the worldwide total of speakers is much higher than in Southern Europe. [1]

Kosovo Partially-recognised state in Southeast Europe

Kosovo, officially the Republic of Kosovo, is a partially recognized state and disputed territory in Southeastern Europe.

Italy republic in Southern Europe

Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a European country consisting of a peninsula delimited by the Alps and surrounded by several islands. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean sea and traversed along its length by the Apennines, Italy has a largely temperate seasonal and Mediterranean climate. The country covers a total area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi), and land area of 294,140 km2 (113,570 sq mi), and shares open land borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, and the enclaved microstates of Vatican City and San Marino. Italy has a territorial exclave in Switzerland (Campione) and a maritime exclave in the Tunisian Sea (Lampedusa). With around 60 million inhabitants, Italy is the fourth-most populous member state of the European Union.

North Macedonia Republic in Southeast Europe

North Macedonia, officially the Republic of North Macedonia, is a country in the Balkan Peninsula in Southeast Europe. It is one of the successor states of Yugoslavia, from which it declared independence in September 1991 under the name Republic of Macedonia. A landlocked country, North Macedonia has borders with Kosovo to the northwest, Serbia to the northeast, Bulgaria to the east, Greece to the south, and Albania to the west. It constitutes approximately the northern third of the larger geographical region of Macedonia, and is defined primarily by mountains, valleys, and rivers. The capital and largest city, Skopje, is home to roughly a quarter of the nation's 2.06 million inhabitants. The majority of the residents are ethnic Macedonians, a South Slavic people. Albanians form a significant minority at around 25%, followed by Turks, Romani, Serbs, Bosniaks, and Aromanians.


The Albanian language is the official language of Albania and Kosovo, and co-official in North Macedonia. Albanian is a recognised minority language in Croatia, Italy, Montenegro, Romania and in Serbia. Albanian is also spoken by a minority in Greece, specifically in the Thesprotia and Preveza regional units and in a few villages in Ioannina and Florina regional units in Greece. [18] It is also spoken by 450,000 Albanian immigrants in Greece.

Montenegro Republic in Southeastern Europe

Montenegro is a country in Southeast Europe on the Adriatic Sea. It borders Bosnia and Herzegovina to the northwest; Serbia and Kosovo to the east, Albania to the south and Croatia to the west. Montenegro has an area of 13,812 square kilometres and a population of 620,079. Its capital Podgorica is one of the twenty-three municipalities in the country. Cetinje is designated as the Old Royal Capital.

Romania Sovereign state in Europe

Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. It borders the Black Sea to the southeast, Bulgaria to the south, Ukraine to the north, Hungary to the west, Serbia to the southwest, and Moldova to the east. It has a predominantly temperate-continental climate. With a total area of 238,397 square kilometres (92,046 sq mi), Romania is the 12th largest country and also the 7th most populous member state of the European Union, having almost 20 million inhabitants. Its capital and largest city is Bucharest, and other major urban areas include Cluj-Napoca, Timișoara, Iași, Constanța, Craiova, and Brașov.

Serbia Republic in Southeastern Europe

Serbia, officially the Republic of Serbia, is a country situated at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe in the southern Pannonian Plain and the central Balkans. It borders Hungary to the north, Romania to the northeast, Bulgaria to the southeast, North Macedonia to the south, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to the west, and Montenegro to the southwest. The country claims a border with Albania through the disputed territory of Kosovo. Serbia's population numbers approximately seven million, most of whom are Orthodox Christians. Its capital, Belgrade, ranks among the longest inhabited and largest citiеs in southeastern Europe.

Albanian is the third most spoken language in Italy. [21] This is due to a substantial Albanian immigration to Italy. Italy has a historical Albanian minority of about 500,000, scattered across southern Italy, known as Arbëreshë. Approximately 1 million Albanians from Kosovo are dispersed throughout Germany, Switzerland and Austria. These are mainly refugees from Kosovo who migrated during the Kosovo War. In Switzerland, the Albanian language is the sixth most spoken language with 176,293 native speakers.

Albanian became an official language in North Macedonia on January 15, 2019. [22]


There are large numbers of Albanian speakers in the United States, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Canada. Some of the first ethnic Albanians to arrive in the United States were Arbëreshë. Arbëreshe have a strong sense of identity, and are unique in that they speak an archaic dialect of Tosk Albanian called Arbëreshë.

In North America (United States and Canada) there are approximately 250,000 Albanian speakers. It is spoken in the eastern area of the United States in cities like New York City, New Jersey, Boston, Philadelphia, Ohio, Connecticut and Detroit. Greater New Orleans has a large Arbëresh community. Oftentimes, wherever there are Italians, there are a few Arbëreshe mixed with them. Arbëreshe Americans, therefore are often indistinguishable from Italian Americans due to being assimilated into the Italian American community. [23]

In Argentina there are nearly 40,000 Albanian speakers, mostly in Buenos Aires. [24]

Asia and Oceania

Approximately 1.3 million people of Albanian ancestry live in Turkey, and more than 500,000 recognizing their ancestry, language and culture. There are other estimates, however, that place the number of people in Turkey with Albanian ancestry and or background upward to 5 million. However, the vast majority of this population is assimilated and no longer possesses fluency in the Albanian language, though a vibrant Albanian community maintains its distinct identity in Istanbul to this day.

In Egypt there are around 18,000 Albanians, mostly Tosk speakers. [25] Many are descendants of the Janissary of Muhammad Ali Pasha, an Albanian who became Wāli, and self-declared Khedive of Egypt and Sudan. In addition to the dynasty that he established, a large part of the former Egyptian and Sudanese aristocracy was of Albanian origin. In addition to the recent emigrants, there are older diasporic communities around the world.

Albanian is also spoken by Albanian diaspora communities residing in Australia and New Zealand.


The dialects of the Albanian language. Albanian-dialects.svg
The dialects of the Albanian language.

The Albanian language has two distinct dialects, Tosk which is spoken in the south, and Gheg spoken in the north. [26] Standard Albanian is based on the Tosk dialect. The Shkumbin river is the rough dividing line between the two dialects. [27]

Gheg is divided into four sub-dialects, in Northwest Gheg, Northeast Gheg, Central Gheg, and Southern Gheg. It is primarily spoken in northern Albania and throughout Montenegro, Kosovo and northwestern North Macedonia. One fairly divergent dialect is the Upper Reka dialect, which is however classified as Central Gheg. There is also a diaspora dialect in Croatia, the Arbanasi dialect.

Tosk is divided into five sub-dialects, including Northern Tosk (the most numerous in speakers), Labërisht, Çam, Arvanitika, and Arbëresh. Tosk is spoken in southern Albania, southwestern North Macedonia and northern and southern Greece. Cham Albanian is spoken in North-western Greece, while Arvanitika is spoken by the Arvanites in southern Greece. In addition Arbëresh is spoken by the Arbëreshë people, descendants of 15th and 16th century migrants who settled in southeastern Italy, in small communities in the regions of Sicily and Calabria.


Albanian keyboard layout. Albanian keyboard layout.jpg
Albanian keyboard layout.

The Albanian language has been written using many different alphabets since the earliest records from the 14th century. The history of Albanian language orthography is closely related to the cultural orientation and knowledge of certain foreign languages among Albanian writers. [28] The earliest written Albanian records come from the Gheg area in makeshift spellings based on Italian or Greek. Originally, the Tosk dialect was written in the Greek alphabet and the Gheg dialect was written in the Latin script. Both dialects had also been written in the Ottoman Turkish version of the Arabic script, Cyrillic, and some local alphabets (Elbasan, Vithkuqi, Todhri, Veso Bey, Jan Vellara and others, see original Albanian alphabets). More specifically, the writers from northern Albania and under the influence of the Catholic Church used Latin letters, those in southern Albania and under the influence of the Greek Orthodox church used Greek letters, while others throughout Albania and under the influence of Islam used Arabic letters. There were initial attempts to create an original Albanian alphabet during the 1750–1850 period. These attempts intensified after the League of Prizren and culminated with the Congress of Manastir held by Albanian intellectuals from 14 to 22 November 1908, in Manastir (present day Bitola), which decided on which alphabet to use, and what the standardized spelling would be for standard Albanian. This is how the literary language remains. The alphabet is the Latin alphabet with the addition of the letters <ë>, <ç>, and ten digraphs: dh, th, xh, gj, nj, ng, ll, rr, zh and sh.

According to Robert Elsie: [29]

The hundred years between 1750 and 1850 were an age of astounding orthographic diversity in Albania. In this period, the Albanian language was put to writing in at least ten different alphabets – most certainly a record for European languages. ... the diverse forms in which this old Balkan language was recorded, from the earliest documents to the beginning of the twentieth century ... consist of adaptations of the Latin, Greek, Arabic, and Cyrillic alphabets and (what is even more interesting) a number of locally invented writing systems. Most of the latter alphabets have now been forgotten and are unknown, even to the Albanians themselves. [29]


Tree of Indo-European languages. IndoEuropeanTree.svg
Tree of Indo-European languages.

The Albanian language occupies an independent branch of the Indo-European language tree. [30] In 1854, Albanian was demonstrated to be an Indo-European language by the philologist Franz Bopp. Albanian was formerly compared by a few Indo-European linguists with Germanic and Balto-Slavic, all of which share a number of isoglosses with Albanian. [31] Other linguists linked the Albanian language with Latin, Greek and Armenian, while placing Germanic and Balto-Slavic in another branch of Indo-European. [32] [33] [34]


The first written mention of the Albanian language was on 14 July 1284 in Dubrovnik in modern Croatia when a crime witness named Matthew testified: "I heard a voice shouting on the mountainside in the Albanian language" (Latin : Audivi unam vocem, clamantem in monte in lingua albanesca). [35] [36] The first audio recording of Albanian was made by Norbert Jokl on April 4, 1914 in Vienna. [37]

During the five-century period of the Ottoman presence in Albania, the language was not officially recognized until 1909, when the Congress of Dibra decided that Albanian schools would finally be allowed. [38]

Linguistic affinities

Albanian is considered an isolate within the Indo-European language family; no other language has been conclusively linked to its branch. The only other language that is a sole surviving member of a branch of Indo-European is Armenian.

The Albanian language is part of the Indo-European language group and is considered to have evolved from one of the Paleo-Balkan languages of antiquity, [39] [40] [41] although it is still uncertain which particular Paleo-Balkan language represents the ancestor of Albanian, or where in Southern Europe that population lived. [42] In general there is insufficient evidence to connect Albanian with one of those languages, whether one of the Illyrian languages (which historians mostly confirm), or Thracian and Dacian. [43] Among these possibilities, Illyrian is typically held to be the most probable, though insufficient evidence still clouds the discussion. [44]

Although Albanian shares lexical isoglosses with Greek, Germanic, and to a lesser extent Balto-Slavic, the vocabulary of Albanian is quite distinct. In 1995, Taylor, Ringe and Warnow, using quantitative linguistic techniques, found that Albanian appears to comprise a "subgroup with Germanic". However, they argued that this fact is hardly significant, as Albanian has lost much of its original vocabulary and morphology, and so this "apparently close connection to Germanic rests on only a couple of lexical cognates hardly any evidence at all". [45]

Historical presence and location

The location of the Albanoi tribe 150 AD Albani150ADRomanEmpire.png
The location of the Albanoi tribe 150 AD
Illyrians, Dacians, Getae and Thracians at 200 BC Getae 200bc.jpg
Illyrians, Dacians, Getae and Thracians at 200 BC

The place and the time where the Albanian language was formed is uncertain. [46] American linguist Eric Hamp stated that during an unknown chronological period a pre-Albanian population (termed as "Albanoid" by Hamp) inhabited areas stretching from Poland to the southwestern Balkans. [47] Further analysis has suggested that it was in a mountainous region rather than on a plain or seacoast: [48] while the words for plants and animals characteristic of mountainous regions are entirely original, the names for fish and for agricultural activities (such as ploughing) are borrowed from other languages. [49]

A deeper analysis of the vocabulary, however, shows that this could be a consequence of a prolonged Latin domination of the coastal and plain areas of the country, rather than evidence of the original environment where the Albanian language was formed. For example, the word for 'fish' is borrowed from Latin, but not the word for 'gills', which is native. Indigenous are also the words for 'ship', 'raft', 'navigation', 'sea shelves' and a few names of fish kinds, but not the words for 'sail', 'row' and 'harbor' – objects pertaining to navigation itself and a large part of sea fauna. This rather shows that Proto-Albanians were pushed away from coastal areas in early times (probably after the Latin conquest of the region) thus losing large parts (or the majority) of sea environment lexicon. A similar phenomenon could be observed with agricultural terms. While the words for 'arable land', 'corn', 'wheat', 'cereals', 'vineyard', 'yoke', 'harvesting', 'cattle breeding', etc. are native, the words for 'ploughing', 'farm' and 'farmer', agricultural practices, and some harvesting tools are foreign. This, again, points to intense contact with other languages and people, rather than providing evidence of a possible Urheimat.[ citation needed ]

1905 issue of the magazine Albania, the most important Albanian periodical of the early 20th century Revista Albania.jpg
1905 issue of the magazine Albania, the most important Albanian periodical of the early 20th century

The centre of Albanian settlement remained the Mat river. In 1079, they were recorded farther south in the valley of the Shkumbin river. [50] The Shkumbin, a seasonal stream that lies near the old Via Egnatia, is approximately the boundary of the primary dialect division for Albanian, Tosk and Gheg. The characteristics of Tosk and Gheg in the treatment of the native and loanwords from other languages are evidence that the dialectal split preceded the Slavic migration to the Balkans, [51] [52] [53] which means that in that period (the 5th to 6th centuries AD), Albanians were occupying nearly the same area around the Shkumbin river, which straddled the Jireček Line. [54] [48]

References to the existence of Albanian as a distinct language survive from the 14th century, but they failed to cite specific words. The oldest surviving documents written in Albanian are the "formula e pagëzimit" (Baptismal formula), Un'te paghesont' pr'emenit t'Atit e t'Birit e t'Spertit Senit. ("I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit") recorded by Pal Engjelli, Bishop of Durrës in 1462 in the Gheg dialect, and some New Testament verses from that period.

Linguists Stefan Schumacher and Joachim Matzinger (University of Vienna) assert that the first literary records of Albanian date from the 16th century. [55] [56] The oldest known Albanian printed book, Meshari , or "missal", was written in 1555 by Gjon Buzuku, a Roman Catholic cleric. In 1635 Frang Bardhi wrote the first Latin–Albanian dictionary. The first Albanian school is believed to have been opened by Franciscans in 1638 in Pdhanë.

One of the earliest dictionaries of Albanian language was written in 1693 which was an Italian language manuscript authored by Montenegrin sea captain Julije Balović Pratichae Schrivaneschae and includes a multilingual dictionary of hundreds of the most often used words in everyday life in the Italian, Slavo-Illirico, Greek, Albanian and Turkish languages. [57]

Proto-IE features

Although Albanian has several words that do not correspond to IE cognates, it has retained many proto-IE features: for example, the demonstrative pronoun *ḱi- is ancestral to Albanian ky/kjo, English he, and Russian sej but not to English this or Russian etot.

Albanian is compared to other Indo-European languages below, but note that Albanian has exhibited some notable instances of semantic drift (such as motër meaning "sister" rather than "mother".

Vocabulary of Albanian and other Indo-European languages
Albanianmuajrinënëmotërnatëhundëtre / trizikuqverdhëkaltërujk
Proto-Indo-European *meh₁ns-*neu-(i)o-*méh₂tēr*swésōr*nókʷts*neh₂-s-*treies*kʷr̥snós
*h₁reudʰ-ó- ~
English monthnewmothersisternightnosethreeblackredyellowbluewolf
Latin mēnsisnovusmātersorornoct-nāsustrēsāter, nigerruberhelvusflāvuslupus
Lithuanian mė́nuonaũjasmotėsesuõnaktìsnósistrỹsjúodasraűdasgel̃tasmė́lynasvil̃kas
Old Church Slavonic мѣсѧць
три, триѥ
tri, trije
Ancient Greek μην-
Armenian ամիս
Irish nuamáthairdeirfiúroíchesróntrídubhdeargbuígormfaolchú
Sanskrit मास

Albanian–PIE phonological correspondences

Phonologically, Albanian is not so conservative. Like many IE stocks, it has merged the two series of voiced stops (e.g. both *d and * became d). In addition, voiced stops tend to disappear in between vowels. There is almost complete loss of final syllables and very widespread loss of other unstressed syllables (e.g. mik 'friend' from Lat. amicus). PIE *o appears as a (also as e if a high front vowel i follows), while *ē and *ā become o, and PIE *ō appears as e. The palatals, velars, and labiovelars all remain distinct before front vowels, a conservation found otherwise in Luwian and related Anatolian languages. Thus PIE *, *k, and * become th, q, and s, respectively (before back vowels * becomes th, while *k and * merge as k).[ citation needed ] A minority of scholars reconstruct a fourth laryngeal *h₄ allegedly surfacing as Alb. h word-initially, e.g. Alb. herdhe ‘testicles’ presumably from PIE *h₄órǵʰi- [58] (rather than the usual reconstruction *h₃erǵʰi-), but this is generally not followed elsewhere. [59] [60]

Reflexes of PIE bilabial plosives in Albanian
*pp*pékʷ- 'to cook'pjek 'to bake'
*bʰ / bb*sro-éi̯e- 'to sip, gulp'gjerb 'to sip'
Reflexes of PIE coronal plosives in Albanian
*tt*túh₂ 'thou'ti 'you (singular)'
*dd*dih₂tis 'light'ditë 'day'
dh [* 1] *pérd- 'to fart'pjerdh 'to fart'
g*dl̥h₁-tó- 'long'gjatë 'long' (Tosk dial. glatë)
*dʰd*égʷʰ- 'burn'djeg 'to burn'
dh [* 1] *gʰóros 'enclosure'gardh 'fence'
  1. 1 2 Between vowels or after r
Reflexes of PIE palatal plosives in Albanian
*ḱth*éh₁smi 'I say'them 'I say'
s [* 1] *upo- 'shoulder'sup 'shoulder'
k [* 2] *sme-r̥ 'chin'mjekër 'chin; beard'
ç/c [* 3] *entro- 'to stick'çandër 'prop'
dh*ǵómbʰos 'tooth, peg'dhëmb 'tooth'
*ǵʰdh*ǵʰed-ioH 'I defecate'dhjes 'I defecate'
d [* 4] *ǵʰr̥sdʰi 'grain, barley'drithë 'grain'
  1. Before u̯/u or i̯/i
  2. Before sonorant
  3. Archaic relic
  4. Syllable-initial and followed by sibilant
Reflexes of PIE velar plosives in Albanian
*kk*kágʰmi 'I catch, grasp'kam 'I have'
q*kluH-i̯o- 'to weep'qaj 'to weep, cry' (dial. kla(n)j)
*gg*h₃lígos 'sick'ligë 'bad'
gj*h₁reug- 'to retch'regj 'to tan hides'
*gʰg*órdʰos 'enclosure'gardh 'fence'
gj*édn-i̯e/o- 'to get'gjej 'to find' (Old Alb. gjãnj)
Reflexes of PIE labiovelar plosives in Albanian
*kʷk*eh₂sleh₂ 'cough'kollë 'cough'
s*élH- 'to turn'sjell 'to fetch, bring'
q*ṓdqë 'that, which'
*gʷg*r̥H 'stone'gur 'stone'
z*réh₂us 'heavy'zor 'hard, difficult'
*gʷʰg*dʰégʷʰ- 'to burn'djeg 'to burn'
z*dʰogʷʰéi̯e- 'to ignite'ndez 'to kindle, light a fire'
Reflexes of PIE *s in Albanian
*sgj [* 1] *séḱstis 'six'gjashtë 'six'
h [* 2] *nosōm 'us' (gen.)nahe 'us' (dat.)
sh [* 3] *bʰreusos 'broken'breshër 'hail'
th [* 4] *suh₁s 'swine'thi 'pig'
h₁ésmi 'I am'jam 'I am'
*-sd-th*gʷésdos 'leaf'gjeth 'leaf'
*-sḱ-h*sḱi-eh₂ 'shadow'hije 'shadow'
*-sp-f*spélnom 'speech'fjalë 'word'
*-st-sht*h₂osti 'bone'asht 'bone'
*-su̯-d*su̯eíd-r̥- 'sweat'dirsë 'sweat'
  1. Initial
  2. Between vowels
  3. Between u/i and another vowel (ruki law)
  4. Dissimilation with following s
Reflexes of PIE sonorants in Albanian
*i̯gj [* 1] *éh₃s- 'to gird'(n)gjesh 'I gird; squeeze, knead'
j [* 2] *uH 'you' (nom.)ju 'you (plural)'
[* 3] *trees 'three' (masc.)tre 'three'
*u̯v*os-éi̯e- 'to dress'vesh 'to wear, dress'
*mm*meh₂tr-eh₂ 'maternal'motër 'sister'
*nn*nōs 'we' (acc.)ne 'we'
nj*eni-h₁ói-no 'that one'një 'one' (Gheg njâ, njo, nji )
∅ (Tosk) ~ nasal vowel (Gheg)*pénkʷe 'five'pe 'five' (vs. Gheg pês)
r (Tosk only)*ǵʰeimen 'winter'dimër 'winter' (vs. Gheg dimën)
*ll*h₃lígos 'sick'ligë 'bad'
ll*kʷélH- 'turn'sjell 'to fetch, bring'
*rr*repe/o 'take'rjep 'peel'
rr*u̯rh₁ḗn 'sheep'rrunjë 'yearling lamb'
*n̥e*h₁men 'name'emër 'name'
*m̥e*u̯iḱti 'twenty'(një)zet 'twenty'
*l̥li, il [* 4] / lu, ul*u̯ĺ̥kʷos 'wolf'ujk 'wolf' (Chamian ulk)
*r̥ri, ir [* 4] / ru, ur*ǵʰsdom 'grain, barley'drithë 'grain'
  1. Before i, e, a
  2. Before back vowels
  3. Between vowels
  4. 1 2 Before C clusters, i, j
Reflexes of PIE laryngeals in Albanian
*h₁*h₁ésmi 'I am'jam 'to be'
*h₂*h₂r̥tḱos 'bear'ari 'bear'
*h₃*h₃ónr̥ 'dream'ëndërr 'dream'
Reflexes of PIE vowels in Albanian
*ii*sínos 'bosom'gji 'bosom, breast'
e*dwigʰeh₂ 'twig'de 'branch'
*ī < *iHi*dih₂tis 'light'di 'day'
*ee*pénkʷe 'five'pe 'five' (Gheg pês)
je*wétos 'year' (loc.)vjet 'last year'
o*ǵʰēsreh₂ 'hand'do 'hand'
*aa*bʰaḱeh₂ 'bean'bathë 'bean'
e*h₂élbʰit 'barley'elb 'barley'
*oa*gʰórdʰos 'enclosure'gardh 'fence'
e*h₂oḱtōtis 'eight'te 'eight'
*uu*súpnom 'sleep'gju 'sleep'
*ū < *uHy*suHsos 'grandfather'gjysh 'grandfather'
i*muh₂s 'mouse'mi 'mouse'

Standard Albanian

Since World War II, standard Albanian used in Albania has been based on the Tosk dialect. Kosovo and other areas where Albanian is official adopted the Tosk standard in 1969. [61]

Elbasan-based standard

Until the early 20th century, Albanian writing developed in three main literary traditions: Gheg, Tosk, and Arbëreshë. Throughout this time, an intermediate subdialect spoken around Elbasan served as lingua franca among the Albanians, but was less prevalent in writing. The Congress of Manastir of Albanian writers held in 1908 recommended the use of the Elbasan subdialect for literary purposes and as a basis of a unified national language. While technically classified as a southern Gheg variety, the Elbasan speech is closer to Tosk in phonology and practically a hybrid between other Gheg subdialects and literary Tosk. [61]

Between 1916 and 1918, the Albanian Literary Commission met in Shkodër under the leadership of Luigj Gurakuqi with the purpose of establishing a unified orthography for the language. The Commission, made up of representatives from the north and south of Albania, reaffirmed the Elbasan subdialect as the basis of a national tongue. The rules published in 1917 defined spelling for the Elbasan variety for official purposes. The Commission did not, however, discourage publications in one of the dialects, but rather laid a foundation for Gheg and Tosk to gradually converge into one. [61]

When the Congress of Lushnje met in the aftermath of World War I to form a new Albanian government, the 1917 decisions of the Literary Commission were upheld. The Elbasan subdialect remained in use for administrative purposes and many new writers embraced for creative writing. Gheg and Tosk continued to develop freely and interaction between the two dialects increased.

Tosk standard

At the end of World War II, however, the new communist regime radically imposed the use of the Tosk dialect in all facets of life in Albania: administration, education, and literature. Most Communist leaders were Tosks from the south. [61] Standardization was directed by the Albanian Institute of Linguistics and Literature of the Academy of Sciences of Albania. [62] Two dictionaries were published in 1954: an Albanian language dictionary and a Russian–Albanian dictionary. New orthography rules were eventually published in 1967 [62] and 1973 Drejtshkrimi i gjuhës shqipe (Orthography of the Albanian Language). [63]

Until 1968, Kosovo and other Albanian-speaking areas in the former Yugoslavia followed the 1917 standard based on the Elbasan dialect, though it was gradually infused with Gheg elements in an effort to develop a Kosovan language separate from communist Albania's Tosk-based standard. [64] Albanian intellectuals in the former Yugoslavia consolidated the 1917 twice in the 1950s, culminating with a thorough codification of orthographic rules in 1964. [65] The rules already provided for a balanced variety that accounted for both Gheg and Tosk dialects, but only lasted through 1968. Viewing divergences with Albania as a threat to their identity, Kosovars arbitrarily adopted the Tosk project that Tirana had published the year before. Although it was never intended to serve outside of Albania, the project became the "unified literary language" in 1972, when approved by a rubberstamp Orthography Congress. [61] Only about 1 in 9 participants were from Kosovo. The Congress, held at Tirana, authorized the orthography rules that came out the following year, in 1973.

More recent dictionaries from the Albanian government are Fjalori Drejtshkrimor i Gjuhës Shqipe (1976) (Orthographic Dictionary of the Albanian Language) [66] and Dictionary of Today's Albanian language (Fjalori Gjuhës së Sotme Shqipe) (1980). [62] [67] Prior to World War II, dictionaries consulted by developers of the standard have included Lexikon tis Alvanikis glossis (Albanian: Fjalori i Gjuhës Shqipe (Kostandin Kristoforidhi, 1904), [68] Fjalori i Bashkimit (1908), [68] and Fjalori i Gazullit (1941). [28]

Calls for reform

Since the fall of the communist regime, Albanian orthography has stirred heated debate among scholars, writers, and public opinion in Albania and Kosovo, with hardliners opposed to any changes in the orthography, moderates supporting varying degrees of reform, and radicals calling for a return to the Elbasan dialect. Criticism of Standard Albanian has centred on the exclusion of the 'me+' infinitive and the Gheg lexicon. Critics say that Standard Albanian disenfranchises and stigmatizes Gheg speakers, affecting the quality of writing and impairing effective public communication. Supporters of the Tosk standard view the 1972 Congress as a milestone achievement in Albanian history and dismiss calls for reform as efforts to "divide the nation" or "create two languages." Moderates, who are especially prevalent in Kosovo, generally stress the need for a unified Albanian language, but believe that the 'me+' infinitive and Gheg words should be included. Proponents of the Elbasan dialect have been vocal, but have gathered little support in the public opinion. In general, those involved in the language debate come from diverse backgrounds and there is no significant correlation between one's political views, geographic origin, and position on Standard Albanian.

Many writers continue to write in the Elbasan dialect but other Gheg variants have found much more limited use in literature. Most publications adhere to a strict policy of not accepting submissions that are not written in Tosk. Some print media even translate direct speech, replacing the 'me+' infinitive with other verb forms and making other changes in grammar and word choice. Even authors who have published in the Elbasan dialect will frequently write in the Tosk standard.

In 2013, a group of academics for Albania and Kosovo proposed minor changes to the orthography. [69] Hardline academics boycotted the initiative, [70] while other reformers have viewed it as well-intentioned but flawed and superficial. [69] Media such as Rrokum and Java have offered content that is almost exclusively in the Elbasan dialect. Meanwhile, author and linguist Agim Morina has promoted Shqipe e Përbashkët or Common Albanian, a neostandard or a reformed version of the Tosk standard that aims at reflecting the natural development of the language among all Albanians. [71] [61] Common Albanian incorporates the 'me+' infinitive, accommodates for Gheg features, provides for dialect-neutral rules that favor simplicity, predictability, and usage trends. [72] [73] Many modern writers have embraced Common Albanian to various extents, especially in less formal writing. [74]


Albanian is the medium of instruction in most Albanian schools. The literacy rate in Albania for the total population, age 9 or older, is about 99%. Elementary education is compulsory (grades 1–9), but most students continue at least until a secondary education. Students must pass graduation exams at the end of the 9th grade and at the end of the 12th grade in order to continue their education.


Standard Albanian has 7 vowels and 29 consonants. Like English, Albanian has dental fricatives /θ/ (like the th in thin) and /ð/ (like the th in this), written as th and dh, which are rare cross-linguistically.

Gheg uses long and nasal vowels, which are absent in Tosk, and the mid-central vowel ë is lost at the end of the word. The stress is fixed mainly on the last syllable. Gheg n (femën: compare English feminine) changes to r by rhotacism in Tosk (femër).


Labial Dental Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Glottal
plain velar.
Nasal mnɲ(ŋ)
Plosive voiceless ptk
voiced bdɡ
Affricate voiceless t͡st͡ʃc͡ç
voiced d͡zd͡ʒɟ͡ʝ
Fricative voiceless fθsʃh
voiced vðzʒ
Approximant lɫj
Flap ɾ
Trill r
IPA DescriptionWritten asEnglish approximation
m Bilabial nasal mman
n Alveolar nasal nnot
ɲ Palatal nasal nj~onion
ŋ Velar nasal ngbang
p Voiceless bilabial plosive pspin
b Voiced bilabial plosive bbat
t Voiceless alveolar plosive tstand
d Voiced alveolar plosive ddebt
k Voiceless velar plosive kscar
ɡ Voiced velar plosive ggo
t͡s Voiceless alveolar affricate chats
d͡z Voiced alveolar affricate xgoods
t͡ʃ Voiceless postalveolar affricate çchin
d͡ʒ Voiced postalveolar affricate xhjet
c͡ç Voiceless palatal affricate q~china (RP)
ɟ͡ʝ Voiced palatal affricate gj~gem (RP)
f Voiceless labiodental fricative ffar
v Voiced labiodental fricative vvan
θ Voiceless dental fricative ththin
ð Voiced dental fricative dhthen
s Voiceless alveolar fricative sson
z Voiced alveolar fricative zzip
ʃ Voiceless postalveolar fricative shshow
ʒ Voiced postalveolar fricative zhvision
h Voiceless glottal fricative hhat
r Alveolar trill rrSpanish perro
ɾ Alveolar tap rSpanish pero
l Alveolar lateral approximant llean
ɫ Velarized alveolar lateral approximant llball
j Palatal approximant jyes



IPA DescriptionWritten asEnglish approximation
i Close front unrounded vowel iseed
ɛ Open-mid front unrounded vowel ebed
a Open central unrounded vowel aand (British Eng.)
ə Schwa ëabout, the
ɔ Open-mid back rounded vowel olaw
y Close front rounded vowel yFrench tu, German Lüge
u Close back rounded vowel uboot


Although the Indo-European schwa (ə or -h2-) was preserved in Albanian, in some cases it was lost, possibly when a stressed syllable preceded it. [76] Until the standardization of the modern Albanian alphabet, in which the schwa is spelled as ë, as in the work of Gjon Buzuku in the 16th century, various vowels and gliding vowels were employed, including ae by Lekë Matrënga and é by Pjetër Bogdani in the late 16th and early 17th century. [77] [78] The schwa in Albanian has a great degree of variability from extreme back to extreme front articulation. [79] Within the borders of Albania, the phoneme is pronounced about the same in both the Tosk and the Gheg dialect due to the influence of standard Albanian. However, in the Gheg dialects spoken in the neighbouring Albanian-speaking areas of Kosovo and North Macedonia, the phoneme is still pronounced as back and rounded. [79]


Albanian has a canonical word order of SVO (subject–verb–object) like English and many other Indo-European languages. [80] Albanian nouns are categorized by gender (masculine, feminine and neuter) and inflected for number (singular and plural) and case. There are five declensions and six cases (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, ablative, and vocative), although the vocative only occurs with a limited number of words, and the forms of the genitive and dative are identical (a genitive is produced when the prepositions i/e/të/së are used with the dative). Some dialects also retain a locative case, which is not present in standard Albanian. The cases apply to both definite and indefinite nouns, and there are numerous cases of syncretism.

The following shows the declension of mal (mountain), a masculine noun which takes "i" in the definite singular:

Indefinite singularIndefinite pluralDefinite singularDefinite plural
Nominative një mal (a mountain)male (mountains)mali (the mountain)malet (the mountains)
Accusative një malmalemalinmalet
Genitive i/e/të/së një malii/e/të/së malevei/e/të/së maliti/e/të/së maleve
Dative një malimalevemalitmaleve
Ablative (prej) një mali(prej) malesh(prej) malit(prej) maleve

The following shows the declension of the masculine noun zog (bird), a masculine noun which takes "u" in the definite singular:

Indefinite singularIndefinite pluralDefinite singularDefinite plural
Nominative një zog (a bird)zogj (birds)zogu (the bird)zogjtë (the birds)
Accusative një zogzogjzogunzogjtë
Genitive i/e/të/së një zogui/e/të/së zogjvei/e/të/së zoguti/e/të/së zogjve
Dative një zoguzogjvezogutzogjve
Ablative (prej) një zogu(prej) zogjsh(prej) zogut(prej) zogjve

The following table shows the declension of the feminine noun vajzë (girl):

Indefinite singularIndefinite pluralDefinite singularDefinite plural
Nominative një vajzë (a girl)vajza (girls)vajza (the girl)vajzat (the girls)
Accusative një vajzëvajzavajzënvajzat
Genitive i/e/të/së një vajzei/e/të/së vajzavei/e/të/së vajzësi/e/të/së vajzave
Dative një vajzevajzavevajzësvajzave
Ablative (prej) një vajze(prej) vajzash(prej) vajzës(prej) vajzave

The definite article is placed after the noun as in many other Balkan languages, like in Romanian, Macedonian and Bulgarian.

Albanian has developed an analytical verbal structure in place of the earlier synthetic system, inherited from Proto-Indo-European. Its complex system of moods (six types) and tenses (three simple and five complex constructions) is distinctive among Balkan languages. There are two general types of conjugations.

Albanian verbs, like those of other Balkan languages, have an "admirative" mood (mënyra habitore) that is used to indicate surprise on the part of the speaker or to imply that an event is known to the speaker by report and not by direct observation. In some contexts, this mood can be translated using English "apparently".

For more information on verb conjugation and on inflection of other parts of speech, see Albanian morphology.

Word order

Albanian word order is relatively free. [81] To say 'Agim ate all the oranges' in Albanian, one may use any of the following orders, with slight pragmatic differences:

However, the most common order is subject–verb–object, and negation is expressed by the particles nuk or s' in front of the verb, for example:

However, the verb can optionally occur in sentence-initial position, especially with verbs in the non-active form (forma joveprore):

In imperative sentences, the particle mos is used for negation:


trembëdhjetë—thirteennjëqind—one hundred
katërmbëdhjetë—fourteenpesëqind—five hundred
pesëmbëdhjetë—fifteennjëmijë—one thousand
gjashtëmbëdhjetë—sixteennjë milion—one million
shtatëmbëdhjetë—seventeennjë miliard—one billion

Literary tradition

Earliest undisputed texts

Meshari of Gjon Buzuku 1554-1555 Buzuku meshari.jpg
Meshari of Gjon Buzuku 1554–1555

The earliest known texts in Albanian:

Albanian scripts were produced earlier than the first attested document, “formula e pagëzimit”, but none yet have been discovered. We know of their existence by earlier references. For example, a French monk signed as "Broccardus" notes, in 1332, that "Although the Albanians have another language totally different from Latin, they still use Latin letters in all their books". [87]

Disputed earlier texts

Possibly the oldest surviving Albanian text, highlighted in red, from the Bellifortis manuscript, written by Konrad Kyeser around 1402-1405. Oldest Surviving Albanian Text.jpg
Possibly the oldest surviving Albanian text, highlighted in red, from the Bellifortis manuscript, written by Konrad Kyeser around 1402–1405.

In 1967 two scholars claimed to have found a brief text in Albanian inserted into the Bellifortis text, a book written in Latin dating to 1402–1405. [88]

A star has fallen in a place in the woods, distinguish the star, distinguish it.

Distinguish the star from the others, they are ours, they are.
Do you see where the great voice has resounded? Stand beside it
That thunder. It did not fall. It did not fall for you, the one which would do it.
Like the ears, you should not believe ... that the moon fell when ...
Try to encompass that which spurts far ...
Call the light when the moon falls and no longer exists ...

Dr. Robert Elsie, a specialist in Albanian studies, considers that "The Todericiu/Polena Romanian translation of the non-Latin lines, although it may offer some clues if the text is indeed Albanian, is fanciful and based, among other things, on a false reading of the manuscript, including the exclusion of a whole line." [89]

Ottoman period

In 1635, Frang Bardhi (1606–1643) published in Rome his Dictionarum latinum-epiroticum, the first known Latin-Albanian dictionary. Other scholars who studied the language during the 17th century include Andrea Bogdani (1600–1685), author of the first Latin-Albanian grammar book, Nilo Katalanos (1637–1694) and others. [90]


Albanian is known within historical linguistics as a case of a language which, although surviving through many periods of foreign rule and multilingualism, saw a "disproportionately high" influx of loans augmenting and replacing much of its vocabulary. [91] Other languages influenced Albanian and high-end estimates classify the majority of Albanian vocabulary as loanwords, suggesting that Albanian lost more than 90% of its original vocabulary in favour of Latin, Greek, Slavic, Italian and Turkish loanwords. [92] Of all the foreign influences in Albanian, the deepest reaching and most impactful was the absorption of loans from Latin in the Classical period and its Romance successors afterward, with over 60% of Albanian vocabulary consisting of Latin roots, causing Albanian to once have been mistakenly identified as a Romance language. [93]

Major work in reconstructing Proto-Albanian has been done with the help of knowledge of the original forms of loans from Ancient Greek, Latin and Slavic, while Ancient Greek loanwords are scarce the Latin loanwords are of extreme importance in phonology. [94] The presence of loanwords from more well-studied languages from time periods before Albanian was attested, reaching deep back into the Classical Era, has been of great use in phonological reconstructions for earlier ancient and medieval forms of Albanian. [91] Some words in the core vocabulary of Albanian have no known etymology linking them to Proto-Indo-European or any known source language, and as of 2018 are thus tentatively attributed to an unknown, unattested, pre-Indo-European substrate language; some words among these include zemër (heart) and hekur (iron). [95] Some among these putative pre-IE words are thought to be related to putative pre-IE substrate words in neighboring Indo-European languages, such as lule (flower), which has been tentatively linked to Latin lilia and Greek leirion [96]

Lexical distance of Albanian in a lexicostatistical analysis of the Ukrainian linguist Tyshchenko (the lower figure - the higher similarity): 49% Slovenian, 53% Romanian, 56% Greek, 82% French, 86% Macedonian, 86% Bulgarian. [97] [98]

Cognates with Illyrian

Early linguistic influences

The earliest loanwords attested in Albanian come from Doric Greek, [113] whereas the strongest influence came from Latin. According to Matthew C. Curtis, the loanwords do not necessarily indicate the geographical location of the ancestor of Albanian language. [114] However, according to other linguists, the borrowed words can help to get an idea about the place of origin and the evolution of the Albanian language. [115] [116] According to another group of linguists, Albanian originates from an area located east of its present geographic spread due to the several common lexical items found between the Albanian and Romanian languages. [117]

The period during which Proto-Albanian and Latin interacted was protracted, lasting from the 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD. [53] Over this period, the lexical borrowings can be roughly divided into three layers, the second of which is the largest. The first and smallest occurred at the time of less significant interaction. The final period, probably preceding the Slavic or Germanic invasions, also has a notably smaller number of borrowings. Each layer is characterized by a different treatment of most vowels: the first layer follows the evolution of Early Proto-Albanian into Albanian; while later layers reflect vowel changes endemic to Late Latin (and presumably Proto-Romance). Other formative changes include the syncretism of several noun case endings, especially in the plural, as well as a large-scale palatalization.

A brief period followed, between the 7th and the 9th centuries, that was marked by heavy borrowings from Southern Slavic, some of which predate the "o-a" shift common to the modern forms of this language group. Starting in the latter 9th century, there was a period characterized by protracted contact with the Proto-Romanians, or Vlachs, though lexical borrowing seems to have been mostly one sided: from Albanian into Romanian. Such borrowing indicates that the Romanians migrated from an area where the majority was Slavic (i.e. Middle Bulgarian) to an area with a majority of Albanian speakers (i.e. Dardania, where Vlachs are recorded in the 10th century).[ citation needed ] Their movement is presumably related to the expansion of the Bulgarian Empire into Albania around that time.

Early Greek loans

There are some 30 Ancient Greek loanwords in Albanian. [118] Many of these reflect a dialect which voiced its aspirants, as did the Macedonian dialect. Other loanwords are Doric; these words mainly refer to commodity items and trade goods and probably came through trade with a now-extinct intermediary. [113]

  • bletë; "hive, bee" < Attic mélitta "bee" (vs. Ionic mélissa). [119]
  • drapër; "sickle" < (NW) drápanon [120]
  • kumbull; "plum" < kokkúmelon [120]
  • lakër; "cabbage, green vegetables" < láchanon "green; vegetable" [121]
  • lëpjetë; "orach, dock" < lápathon [122]
  • leva (lyej); "to smear, oil" < *liwenj < *elaiwā < Gk elai(w)ṓn "oil"[ clarification needed ]
  • mokër; "millstone" < (NW) māchaná "device, instrument" [118]
  • mollë; "apple" < mēlon "fruit" [123]
  • pjepër; "melon" < pépōn
  • presh; "leek" < práson [121]
  • shpellë; "cave" < spḗlaion
  • trumzë; "thyme" < (NW) thýmbrā, thrýmbrē [120]

Latin influence

,, In total Latin roots comprise over 60% of the Albanian lexicon. [93] They include many frequently used core vocabulary items, including shumë ("very", from Latin summus), pak ("few", Latin paucus), ngushtë ("narrow", Latin angustus), pemë ("tree", Latin poma), vij ("to come", Latin venio), rërë ("sand", Latin arena), drejt ("straight", Latin "directus"), kafshë ("beast", Latin causa, meaning "thing"), and larg ("far away", Latin largus).

Jernej Kopitar (1780–1844) was the first to note Latin's influence on Albanian and claimed "the Latin loanwords in the Albanian language had the pronunciation of the time of Emperor Augustus". [124] Kopitar gave examples such as Albanian qiqer ‘chickpea’ from Latin cicer, qytet ‘city, town’ from civitas, peshk ‘fish’ from piscis, and shigjetë ‘arrow’ from sagitta. The hard pronunciations of Latin c and g are retained as palatal and velar stops in the Albanian loanwords. Gustav Meyer (1888) [125] and Wilhelm Meyer-Lübke (1914) [126] later corroborated this. Meyer noted the similarity between the Albanian verbs shqipoj "to speak clearly, enunciate" and shqiptoj "to pronounce, articulate" and the Latin word excipio (meaning "to welcome"). Therefore, he believed that the word Shqiptar "Albanian person" was derived from shqipoj, which in turn was derived from the Latin word excipere. Johann Georg von Hahn, an Austrian linguist, had proposed the same hypothesis in 1854. [127]

Eqrem Çabej also noticed, among other things, the archaic Latin elements in Albanian: [128]

  1. Latin /au/ becomes Albanian /a/ in the earliest loanwords: aurumar ‘gold’; gaudiumgaz ‘joy’; lauruslar ‘laurel’. Latin /au/ is retained in later loans, but is altered in a way similar to Greek: causa ‘thing’ → kafshë ‘thing; beast, brute’; laudlavd.
  2. Latin /oː/ becomes Albanian /e/ in the oldest Latin loans: pōmuspemë ‘fruit tree’; hōraora ‘hour’. An analogous mutation occurred from Proto-Indo-European to Albanian; PIE *nōs became Albanian ne ‘we’, PIE *oḱtō + suffix -ti- became Albanian tetë ‘eight’, etc.
  3. Latin unstressed internal and initial syllables become lost in Albanian: cubituskub ‘elbow’; medicusmjek ‘physician’; palūdem ‘swamp’ → VL padūlepyll ‘forest’. An analogous mutation occurred from Proto-Indo-European to Albanian. In contrast, in later Latin loanwords, the internal syllable is retained: paganuspagan; plagaplagë ‘wound’, etc.
  4. Latin /tj/, /dj/, /kj/ palatalized to Albanian /s/, /z/, /c/: vitiumves ‘vice; worries’; rationemarsye ‘reason’; radiusrreze ‘ray; spoke’; faciesfaqe ‘face, cheek’; sociusshok ‘mate, comrade’, shoq ‘husband’, etc. In turn, Latin /s/ was altered to /ʃ/ in Albanian.

Haralambie Mihăescu demonstrated that:

  • Some 85 Latin words have survived in Albanian but not (as inherited) in any Romance language. A few examples include Late Latin celsydri → dial. kulshedërkuçedër ‘hydra’, hībernusvërri ‘winter pasture’, sarcinārius ‘used for packing, loading’ → shelqëror ‘forked peg, grapnel, forked hanger’, solanum ‘nightshade’, lit. ‘sun plant’ → shullë(r) ‘sunny place out of the wind, sunbathed area’, splēnēticusshpretkë ‘spleen’, trifurcustërfurk ‘pitchfork’. [129]
  • 151 Albanian words of Latin origin were not inherited in Romanian. A few examples include Latin amicus → Albanian mik ‘friend’, inimicusarmik ‘foe, enemy’, rationemarsye, benedicerebekoj, bubulcus ‘ploughman, herdsman’ → bulk, bujk ‘peasant’, calicisqelq ‘drinking glass’, castellumkështjellë ‘castle’, centumqind ‘hundred’, gallusgjel ‘rooster’, iunctūragjymtyrë ‘limb; joint’, medicusmjek ‘doctor’, retemrrjetë ‘net’, spērāre → dial. shp(ë)rejshpresoj ‘to hope’ pres ‘await’, voluntās (voluntātis) → vullnet ‘will; volunteer’. [130]
  • Some Albanian church terminology has phonetic features which demonstrate their very early borrowing from Latin. A few examples include Albanian bekoj ‘to bless’ from benedīcere, engjëll ‘angel’ from angelus, kishë ‘church’ from ecclēsia, i krishterë ‘Christian’ from christiānus, kryq ‘cross’ from crux (crucis), (obsolete) lter ‘altar’ from Latin altārium, mallkoj ‘to curse’ from maledīcere, meshë ‘mass’ from missa, murg ‘monk’ from monacus, peshkëp ‘bishop’ from episcopus, and ungjill ‘gospel’ from ēvangelium. [131]

Other authors [132] have detected Latin loanwords in Albanian with an ancient sound pattern from the 1st century BC,[ clarification needed ] for example, Albanian qingël(ë) ‘saddle girth; dwarf elder’ from Latin cingula and Albanian e vjetër ‘old, aged; former’ from vjet but influenced by Latin veteris. The Romance languages inherited these words from Vulgar Latin: cingula became Romanian chinga ‘girdle; saddle girth’, and Vulgar Latin veterānus became Romanian bătrân ‘old’.

Albanian, Basque, and the surviving Celtic languages such as Breton and Welsh are the non-Romance languages today that have this sort of extensive Latin element dating from ancient Roman times, which has undergone the sound changes associated with the languages. Other languages in or near the former Roman area either came on the scene later (Turkish, the Slavic languages, Arabic) or borrowed little from Latin despite coexisting with it (Greek, German), although German does have a few such ancient Latin loanwords (Fenster ‘window’, Käse ‘cheese’, Köln).

Romanian scholars such as Vatasescu and Mihaescu, using lexical analysis of the Albanian language, have concluded that Albanian was heavily influenced by an extinct Romance language that was distinct from both Romanian and Dalmatian. Because the Latin words common to only Romanian and Albanian are significantly fewer in number than those that are common to only Albanian and Western Romance, Mihaescu argues that the Albanian language evolved in a region with much greater contact with Western Romance regions than with Romanian-speaking regions, and located this region in present-day Albania, Kosovo and Western Macedonia, spanning east to Bitola and Pristina. [133]

Gothic loans

Some Gothic loanwords were borrowed through Late Latin, while others came from the Ostrogothic expansion into parts of Praevalitana around Nakšić and the Gulf of Kotor in Montenegro.

  • fat; "groom, husband" < Goth brūþfaþs "bridegroom" [134]
  • horr; "scoundrel", horrë; "hussy, whore" < Goth hors "adulterer", *hora "whore"[ citation needed ]
  • shkulkë; "boundary marker for pastures made of branches" < Late Latin sculca < Goth skulka "guardian"[ citation needed ]
  • shkumë; "foam" < Late Latin < Goth skūma[ citation needed ]
  • tirq; "trousers" < Late Latin tubrucus < Goth *þiobrok "knee-britches"; cf. OHG dioh-bruoh, Eng thigh, breeches[ citation needed ]

Other loans

It is assumed[ by whom? ] that Greek and Balkan Latin (the ancestor of Romanian and other Balkan Romance languages) exerted a great influence on Albanian. Examples of words borrowed from Latin: qytet < civitas (city), qiell < caelum (sky), mik < amicus (friend), kape ditën < carpe diem (seize the day).

After the Slavs arrived in the Balkans, the Slavic languages became an additional source of loanwords. The rise of the Ottoman Empire meant an influx of Turkish words; this also entailed the borrowing of Persian and Arabic words through Turkish. Some Turkish personal names, such as Altin, are common. There are some loanwords from Modern Greek, especially in the south of Albania. Many borrowed words have been replaced by words with Albanian roots or modern Latinized (international) words.

Patterns in loaning

Although Albanian is characterized by the absorption of many loans, even, in the case of Latin, reaching deep into the core vocabulary, certain semantic fields nevertheless remained more resistant. Terms pertaining to social organization are often preserved, though not those pertaining to political organization, while those pertaining to trade are all loaned or innovated. [135]

Hydronyms present a complicated picture; the term for "sea" (det) is native and an "Albano-Germanic" innovation referring to the concept of depth, but a large amount of maritime vocabulary is loaned. Words referring to large streams and their banks tend to be loans, but lumë ("river") is native, as is rrymë (the flow of water). Words for smaller streams and stagnant pools of water are more often native, but the word for "pond", pellg is in fact a semantically shifted descendant of the old Greek word for "high sea", suggesting a change in location after Greek contact. Albanian has maintained since Proto-Indo-European a specific term referring to a riverside forest (gjazë), as well as its words for marshes. Curiously, Albanian has maintained native terms for "whirlpool", "water pit" and (aquatic) "deep plaec", leading Orel to speculate that the Albanian urheimat likely had an excess of dangerous whirlpools and depths. [136]

Regarding forests, words for most conifers and shrubs are native, as are the terms for "alder", "elm", "oak", "beech", and "linden", while "ash", "chestnut", "birch", "maple", "poplar", and "willow" are loans. [137]

The original kinship terminology of Indo-European was radically reshaped; changes included a shift from "mother" to "sister", and were so thorough that only three terms retained their original function, the words for "son-in-law", "mother-in-law" and "father-in-law". All the words for second-degree blood kinship, including "aunt", "uncle", "nephew", "niece", and terms for grandchildren, are ancient loans from Latin. [138]

The Proto-Albanians appear to have been cattle breeders given the vastness of preserved native vocabulary pertaining to cow breeding, milking and so forth, while words pertaining to dogs tend to be loaned. Many words concerning horses are preserved, but the word for horse itself is a Latin loan. [139]

See also


^ Co-official language.

a.   ^ Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia . The Republic of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence on 17 February 2008, but Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory . The two governments began to normalise relations in 2013, as part of the 2013 Brussels Agreement . Kosovo has been recognized as an independent state by 112 out of 193 United Nations member states , while 12 states have recognized Kosovo only to later withdraw their recognition.


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  11. In Tosk /a/ before a nasal has become a central vowel (shwa), and intervocalic /n/ has become /r/. These two sound changes have affected only the pre-Slav stratum of the Albanian lexicon, that is the native words and loanwords from Greek and Latin (page 23) Concise Encyclopedia of Languages of the World By Keith Brown, Sarah Ogilvie Contributor Keith Brown, Sarah Ogilvie Edition: illustrated Published by Elsevier, 2008 ISBN   0-08-087774-5, ISBN   978-0-08-087774-7
  12. Douglas Q. Adams (January 1997). Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. Taylor & Francis. pp. 9, 11. ISBN   978-1-884964-98-5. The Greek and Latin loans have undergone most of the far-reaching phonological changes which have so altered the shape of inherited words while Slavic and Turkish words do not show those changes. Thus Albanian must have acquired much of its present form by the time Slavs entered into Balkans in the fifth and sixth centuries AD [...] borrowed words from Greek and Latin date back to before Christian era [...] Even very common words such as mik "friend" (<Lat. amicus) or këndoj "sing" (<Lat. cantare) come from Latin and attest to a widespread intermingling of pre-Albanian and Balkan Latin speakers during the Roman period, roughly from the second century BC to the fifth century AD.
  13. The dialectal split into Geg and Tosk happened sometime after the region become Christianized in the fourth century AD; Christian Latin loanwords show Tosk rhotacism, such as Tosk murgu "monk" (Geg mungu) from Lat. monachus. (page 392) Indo-European language and culture: an introduction By Benjamin W. Fortson Edition: 5, illustrated Published by Wiley-Blackwell, 2004 ISBN   1-4051-0316-7, ISBN   978-1-4051-0316-9
  14. The river Shkumbin in central Albania historically forms the boundary between those two dialects, with the population on the north speaking varieties of Geg and the population on the south varieties of Tosk. (page 23) Concise Encyclopedia of Languages of the World By Keith Brown, Sarah Ogilvie Contributor Keith Brown, Sarah Ogilvie Edition: illustrated Published by Elsevier,2008 ISBN   0-08-087774-5, ISBN   978-0-08-087774-7
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  16. See also Hamp 1963 The isogloss is clear in all dialects I have studied, which embrace nearly all types possible. It must be relatively old, that is, dating back into the post-Roman first millennium. As a guess, it seems possible that this isogloss reflects a spread of the speech area, after the settlement of the Albanians in roughly their present location, so that the speech area straddled the Jireček Line.
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  91. Millar, Robert McColl; Trask, Larry (2015). Trask's Historical Linguistics. Routledge. p. 292. ISBN   9781317541776. Albanian seems to have lost more than 90 per cent of its original vocabulary in favour of loans from Latin, Greek, Hungarian, Slavonic, Italian and Turkish.
  92. 1 2 Sawicka, Irena. "A Crossroad Between West, East and Orient–The Case of Albanian Culture." Colloquia Humanistica. No. 2. Instytut Slawistyki Polskiej Akademii Nauk, 2013. Page 97: "Even according to Albanian linguists, Albanian vocabulary is composed in 60 percent of Latin words from different periods... When albanological studies were just emerging, it happened that Albanian was classified as a Romance language. Already there exists the idea of a common origin of both Albanian and Rumanian languages. The Rumanian grammar is almost identical to that of Albanian, but it may be as well the effect of later convergence within the Balkan Sprachbund.."
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  113. Curtis, Matthew Cowan. "Slavic-Albanian language contact, convergence, and coexistence". ProQuest LLC. p. 16. The number of loanwords is not necessarily a compelling argument for geographical placement, as loanwords may be replaced in subsequent developments of the language (especially considering the copious borrowing that Albanian later did from Latin and Slavic before any lexicon of Albanian was ever compiled) ... regarding the homeland of the Albanians.
  114. Douglas Q. Adams (January 1997). Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. Taylor & Francis. p. 11. ISBN   978-1-884964-98-5. The loan words from Greek and Latin date back to before the Christian era and suggest that the ancestors of the Albanians must have occupied Albania by then to have absorbed such loans from their historical neighbors. As the Illyrians occupied the Albanian territory at this time, they are the most likely recipients of such loans.
  115. Vladimir Orel (2000). A concise historical grammar of the Albanian language: reconstruction of Proto-Albanian. BRILL. p. 23. ISBN   978-90-04-11647-4. Latin loanwords are of extreme importance for the history of Albanian phonology, especially its vocalism. The duration of the borrowing was so long that loanwords reflect several distinct chronological stages.
  116. Curtis, Matthew Cowan. "Slavic-Albanian language contact, convergence, and coexistence". ProQuest LLC. p. 17. One other point that some scholars make is the fact that Albanian and Romanian share many lexical items; this has led some to believe that Albanian originated east of its present geographical spread (Georgiev 1957; Hamp 1994).
  117. 1 2 The Field of Linguistics, Volume 2 Volume 1 of World of linguistics Authors Bernd Kortmann, Johan Van Der Auwera Editors Bernd Kortmann, Johan Van Der Auwera Publisher Walter de Gruyter, 2010 ISBN   3-11-022025-3, ISBN   978-3-11-022025-4 p.412
  118. Vladimir Orel (2000) postulates a Vulgar Latin intermediary for no good reason. Mallory & Adams (1997) erroneously give the word as native, from *melítiā, the protoform underlying Greek mélissa; however, this protoform gave Albanian mjalcë "bee", which is a natural derivative of Proto-Albanian *melita "honey" (mod. mjaltë).
  119. 1 2 3 Ancient Indo-European dialects: proceedings, Volume 1963 Ancient Indo-European Dialects: Proceedings, University of California, Los Angeles. Center for Research in Languages and Linguistics Authors Henrik Birnbaum, Jaan Puhvel, University of California, Los Angeles. Center for Research in Languages and Linguistics Editors Henrik Birnbaum, Jaan Puhvel Publisher University of California Press, 1966 p.102
  120. 1 2 A concise historical grammar of the Albanian language: reconstruction of Proto-Albanian Author Vladimir Ė. Orel Publisher BRILL, 2000 ISBN   90-04-11647-8, ISBN   978-90-04-11647-4 p.23
  121. A concise historical grammar of the Albanian language: reconstruction of Proto-Albanian Author Vladimir Ė. Orel Publisher BRILL, 2000 ISBN   90-04-11647-8, ISBN   978-90-04-11647-4 p.102
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  133. The word fat has both the meaning of "fate, luck" and "groom, husband". This may indicate two separate words that are homophones, one derived from Gothic and the other from Latin fātum; although, Orel (2000) sees them as the same word. Similarly, compare Albanian shortë "fate; spouse, wife" which mirrors the dichotomy in meaning of fat but is considered to stem from one single source—Latin sortem "fate".
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  137. Orel 2012: p262
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