Albanian language: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Pronunciation [ʃcip]
Spoken in Albania
Region Southeastern Europe
Total speakers 7.6 million[1]
Language family Indo-European
  • Albanian
Writing system Latin alphabet (Albanian variant)
Official status
Official language in  Albania
and recognised as a minority language in:
Regulated by No official regulation
Language codes
ISO 639-1 sq
ISO 639-2 alb (B)  sqi (T)
ISO 639-3 variously:
sqi – Albanian (generic)
aln – Gheg
aae – Arbëreshë
aat – Arvanitika
als – Tosk

Albanian (Gjuha shqipe, pronounced [ˈɟuha ˈʃcipɛ], or shqip, pronounced [ˈʃcip]) is an Indo-European language spoken by nearly 7.6 million people,[1] primarily in Albania and Kosovo but also in other areas of the Balkans in which there is an Albanian population, including western Macedonia, Montenegro, southern Serbia and north-western Greece. Albanian is also spoken by native enclaves in Greece, along the eastern coast of southern Italy, and in Sicily. Additionally, speakers of Albanian can be found elsewhere throughout the latter two countries resulting from a modern diaspora, originating from the Balkans, that also includes Scandinavia, Switzerland, Germany, United Kingdom, Turkey, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.


Literary tradition

Earliest undisputed texts

The primary records in Albanian include the "Formula e pagëzimit" (baptesimal formula), dating back to 1462, authored by Pal Engjëlli (or Paulus Angelus) (ca. 1417–1470), Archbishop of Durrës and a close friend and counselor of Skanderbeg. It was written in a pastoral letter for a synond at the Holy Trinity in Mat and read in Latin characters as follows, Unte paghesont premenit Atit et birit et spertit senit ("I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost"). It was discovered and published in 1915 by Nicolae Iorga.[2] The second is Fjalori i Arnold von Harf ("Arnold von Harf vocabulary") in 1469; the third document Ungjilli i Pashkëve ("Easter Gospel") or Ungjilli i Shën Mateut ("Saint Matthew's Gospel") is dated in the 15th century.

The first book in Albanian was written by Gjon Buzuku between 20 March 1554 to 5 January 1555. In Albanian, the book is known as Meshari (The Missal). The book was written in the Gheg dialect in the Latin alphabet with some Slavic letters adapted for Albanian vowels. The book was discovered in 1740 by Gjon Nikollë Kazazi, the Albanian archbishop of Skopje. It contains the liturgies of the main holidays. There are also texts of prayers and rituals and catechetical texts. Every page contains two columns. The initials are decorated. The grammar and the vocabulary are more archaic than in the Gheg text from the 17th century. The text is very valuable from the viewpoint of the history of language. The 188 pages of the book comprise about 154,000 words with a total vocabulary of ca. 1,500 different words, and are a veritable precious source for lexicographers and historical linguists. The archaic text is easily read due to the circumstance that it is mainly a translation of known texts, in particular the Bible. Most of the Gospels of Matthew, Luke and John were translated in the book. It also contains passages from the Psalms, the Book of Isaiah, the Book of Jeremiah, the Letters to the Corinthians, and many illustrations. The consequent character of orthography and grammar seems to indicate an earlier tradition of writing. The Apostolic Library in the Vatican holds the only known copy of the book.

Disputed earliest text

Possibly the oldest surviving Albanian text, highlighted in red, from Bellifortis Manuscript, written by Konrad Kyeser around 1402-1405.

In 1967 scholar Dumitru Todericiu studied microfilms of the Bellifortis text, manuscript 663, preserved at the Musée Condé of the Chantilly Castle in France. This work was written by Konrad Kyeser around 1402-1405. The original Latin context is an astrological one, part of an initiation ritual practiced by young boys when becoming men and a vestige of the ancient phallic cult, very common in the Balkan peninsula. On page 153v Todericiu discovered a text insertion in a strange language. Until then, scholars considered it as a text without actual meaning, written in an artificial language. Believing the words were in Albanian, Todericiu, together with professor Dumitru Polena from Bucharest, after four months' work obtained a modern version of the text[3]:

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. [...] Certain evidence, both linguistic and non-linguistic, supports an Albanian origin for the Bellifortis text under study. The incantation and taboo character of such a passage involving initiation rites, however, precludes an interlinear translation. If the Bellifortis text is indeed Albanian, which remains to be proved conclusively, it would be the oldest datable text in that language"[4].

Ottoman period

In 1635 Frang Bardhi published in Rome his Dictionarum latinum-epiroticum, the first known Latin-Albanian dictionary. The evidence shows, moreover, that the study of Albanian has a tradition of 350 years and includes works of Frang Bardhi (1606–1643), Andrea Bogdani (1600–1685), Nilo Katalanos (1637–1694) and others.

History of the alphabet

The history of the Albanian alphabet is closely linked with the influence of religion among Albanians. The writers from the North of Albania used Latin letters under the influence of the Catholic Church, those from the South of Albania under the Greek Orthodox church used Greek letters, while others used Arabic letters under the influence of Islam. There were also attempts for an original Albanian alphabet in the period of 1750-1850. The current alphabet in use among Albanians is one of the two variants approved in the Congress of Manastir held by Albanian intellectuals from November 14 to 22 November 1908, in Manastir (Bitola, Macedonia).

Standard Albanian

In 1970s the publications in Tirana, followed by republication in Pristina of a book of orthographical rules, Drejtëshkrimi i gjuhës shqipe followed by a widely distributed authoritative dictionary in 1976 "Fjalori drejtshkrimor i gjuhës shqipe", created a considerable degree of phonological normalization as well as spelling reform.


Albanian was demonstrated to be an Indo-European language in 1854 by the philologist Franz Bopp. The Albanian language constitutes its own branch of the Indo-European language family.

Establishing longer relations, Albanian is often compared to Balto-Slavic and Germanic [5], both of which share a number of isoglosses with Albanian. Moreover, Albanian has undergone a vowel shift in which stressed, long o has fallen to a, much like in the former and opposite the latter. Likewise, Albanian has taken the old relative jos and innovatively used it exclusively to qualify adjectives, much in the way Balto-Slavic has used this word to provide the definite ending of adjectives. Other linguists link Albanian with Greek and Armenian, while placing Germanic and Balto-Slavic in another branch of Indo-European.[6][7][8] Nakhleh, Ringe, and Warnow found that Albanian can be placed at a variety of points within the Indo-European tree with equally good fit; determining its correct placement is hampered by the loss of much of its former diagnostic inflectional morphology and vocabulary.[9]


Traditionally scholars have seen the Albanian as the descendant of Illyrian,[10] although this hypothesis has been challenged by some linguists, who maintain that it derives from Dacian or Thracian.[11] (Illyrian, Dacian, and Thracian, however, may have formed a subgroup or a sprachbund; see Thraco-Illyrian.)

Proto-IE features

Although sometimes Albanian has been referred to as the "weird sister" for several words that do not correspond to IE cognates, it has retained many proto-IE features: for example, the demonstrative pronoun *ko is cognate to Albanian ky/kjo but not to English this or to Russian etot.

Albanian and other Indo-European languages
Albanian muaj ri nënë motër natë hundë tre zi kuq gjelbër verdhë ujk
Other Indo-European languages
English month new mother sister night nose three black red green yellow wolf
Lithuanian mėnesis naujas motina sesuo naktis nosis trys juodas raudonas žalias geltonas vilkas
Old Church Slavonic měsęcь novъ mati sestra noštь nosъ tri(je) črъnъ črъvenъ zelenъ žьltъ vlьkъ
Ancient Greek μήν
Armenian ամիս
Latin mēnsis novus māter soror nox nasus trēs āter, niger ruber viridis flāvus lupus
Irish midhe nuadh máthair siúr oidhche srón trí dubh dearg glas buidhe faolchú
Persian māh nou mādar khāhar shab biní se siāh sorkh sabz zard gorg
Sanskrit māsa nava mātṛ svasṛ nakti nasa tri kāla rudhira hari pīta vṛka

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 *dh became d). In addition the voiced stops tend to disappear when 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 *a and *o appear as a (further e if a high front vowel *i follows) while and become o, and PIE appears as e. The most remarkable is the fate of the dorsals; the palatals, velars and labiovelars all remain distinct before front vowels, a conservation found otherwise in Luvian and related Anatolian languages. Thus PIE *ḱ, *k and *kʷ become th, q and s respectively (before back vowels *ḱ becomes th while *k and *kʷ merge as k). Another remarkable retention is the preservation of initial *h4 as Alb. h (all other laryngeals disappear completely).[12]

Proto-Indo-European Labial Stops in Albanian
PIE Albanian PIE Albanian
*p p *pékʷe/o - "cook" pjek "to cook, roast, bake"
*b b *sorbéye/o - "drink, slurp" gjerb "to drink"
*bh b *bhaḱeha - "bean" bathë "bean"
Proto-Indo-European Coronal Stops in Albanian
PIE Albanian PIE Albanian
*t t *tuhx - "thou" ti "you (singular)"
ç *wet-es - "calf" viç "calf"
*d d *dihxtis - "light" ditë "day"
dh *deḱm̥ - "ten" dhjetë "ten"
gj *dlh1gho - "long" gjatë "long", dial. Tosk glatë
*dh d *dhēgʷhe/o - "burn" djeg "to burn"
Proto-Indo-European Palatal Stops in Albanian
PIE Albanian PIE Albanian
*ḱ th *éhimi - "I say" them "to say"
k *reh2u - "limb" krah "arm"
q *lew - "to hear" quhem "to be called/named", old and dial. Tosk kluhem
ç *ent - "to stick" çandër "prop"
s *uk - "horn" sutë "doe"
dh *ǵómbhos - "tooth, peg" dhëmb "tooth", Gheg dhâmb
gj *ǵenu - "knee" gju "knee", dial. Tosk glu, Gheg gjû
d *ǵeus - "to enjoy" desha "I loved, wanted"
*ǵh d *ĝhŗsdhi - "grain, barley" drithë "grain"
dh *ĝhed - "to defecate" dhjes "to defecate"
Proto-Indo-European Velar Stops in Albanian
PIE Albanian PIE Albanian
*k k *kápmi - "I take" kam "to have"
q *klau - "to weep" qaj "to weep, cry", dial. Tosk klan
*g g *h3ligos - "sick" ligë "bad"
gj *h1reug - "to retch" regj "to tan hides"
*gh g *ghordhos - "enclosure" gardh "fence"
gj *ghédnye/o - "get" gjej "to find", Gheg gjêj
Proto-Indo-European Labialized Velar Stops in Albanian
PIE Albanian PIE Albanian
*kʷ k *ehasleha - "cough" kollë "cough"
s *éle/o - "turn" sjell "to fetch, bring"
q *o - "that" që "that"
*gʷ g *ŗ - "stone" gur "stone"
z *ērhxu - "heaviness" zor "heaviness, trouble"
gj *es - "leaves" gjeth "leaf"
*gʷh g *dhégʷhe/o - "burn" djeg "to burn"
z *h1en-dhogʷhéye/o - "kindle" ndez "to kindle, turn on"
gj gʷhen - "to hit" gjuaj "to hunt"
Proto-Indo-European *s in Albanian
PIE Albanian PIE Albanian
*s gj *séḱstis - "six" gjashtë "six"
sh *septm̥tis - "seven" shtatë "seven"
sh *pumsos - "body-hair" push "fuzz, nap, pile"
th *suh1 - "swine" thi "boar"
ø *h1ésmi - "am" jam "to be"
d *sworgéye/o - "be ill" dergjet "lies ill"
h *selk - "to drag" heq "to pick up, remove", older helq
h *sḱi-eh2 - "shadow" hije "shadow"
Proto-Indo-European Sonorant Consonants in Albanian
PIE Albanian PIE Albanian
*y gj *yése/o - "ferment" gjesh "knead"
*w v *woséye/o - "dress" vesh "to wear, dress"
*m m *mehatr-eha - "maternal" motër "sister"
*n n *nos - "we" ne "we"
nj *eni-h₁ói-no - "that one" një "one", Gheg njâ, njo
ø *penkʷe - "five" pe "five"
^ *penkʷe - "five" pês "five" (Some Gheg dialects)
r *ǵheimen - "winter" dimër "winter", Gheg dimën
*l l *h3ligos - "sick" ligë "bad"
ll *kʷéle/o - "turn" sjell "to fetch, bring"
*r r *repe/o - "take" rjep "peel"
rr *wrēn - "sheep" rrunzë "female lamb"
e *h1ņmen - "name" emër "name"
*m̥ e *wiḱti - "twenty" (një)zet "twenty"
uj *wļkʷos - "wolf" ujk "wolf", older ulk
ri *ǵhŗsdom - "grain, barley" drithë "grain"
Proto-Indo-European Laryngeals in Albanian
PIE Albanian PIE Albanian
*h1 ø *h1ésmi - "am" jam "to be"
*h2 ø *h2ŗtḱos - "bear" ari "bear"
*h3 ø *h3ónŗ - "dream" ëndërr "dream"
*h4 h *h4órǵhiyeha - "testicle" herdhe "testicle"
Proto-Indo-European Vowels in Albanian
PIE Albanian PIE Albanian
*i i *sinos - "bosom" gji "bosom, breast"
e *dwighehs - "twig" de "branch"
i *dīhxtis - "light" di "day"
*e e *penkʷe - "five" pe "five", dial. Gheg pês
je *wétos - "year" (loc.) vjet "years, last year"
o *ǵhēsr - "hand" do "hand"
*a a *bhaḱeha- "bean" bathë "bean"
e *haélbhit - "barley" elb "barley"
a *ghórdhos - "enclosure" gardh "fence"
*o e *h2oḱtōtis - "eight" te "eight"
*u u *supnos - "sleep" gju "sleep"
y *suhxsos - "grandfather" gjysh "grandfather"
i *mūs - "mouse" mi "mouse"

Geographic distribution

Albanian is spoken by nearly 6 million people[1] mainly in Albania, Kosovo, Turkey, the Republic of Macedonia, Greece and Italy (Arbereshe); and by immigrant communities in many other countries, notably the United Kingdom, the USA, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland.


Albanian in a revised form of the Tosk dialect is the official language of Albania and Kosovo; and is official in the municipalities where there are more than 20% ethnic Albanian inhabitants in the Republic of Macedonia. It is also an official language of Montenegro where it is spoken in the municipalities with ethnic Albanian populations.



Standard Albanian has 7 vowels and 29 consonants. Gheg uses long and nasal vowels which are absent in Tosk. Another peculiarity is the mid-central vowel "ë" reduced at the end of the word. The stress is fixed mainly on the penultimate syllable. Another notable difference between Gheg and Tosk pronunciations is that the Tosk equivalent of the Gheg sound "n" (as in femën, emën etc.) is the sound "r" (femër, emër etc.) It is noteworthy that in loanwords, the Gheg dialect retains the original "n" sound, like in "femën" (Italian "femminile", English "feminine", etc.), while this is not the case with the Tosk, which uses "r" instead ("femër").

Phonetics and Phonology

  Bilabial Labio-
Dental Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m     n   ɲ    
Plosive p  b     t  d   c  ɟ k  ɡ  
Affricate       ts  dz tʃ  dʒ      
Fricative   f  v θ  ð s  z ʃ  ʒ     h
Trill       r        
Flap       ɾ        
Approximant       l  ɫ   j    
IPA Description Written as Pronounced as in
p Voiceless bilabial plosive p pen
b Voiced bilabial plosive b bat
t Voiceless alveolar plosive t tan
d Voiced alveolar plosive d debt
c Voiceless palatal plosive q similar to get you
ɟ Voiced palatal plosive gj similar to told you
k Voiceless velar plosive k car
ɡ Voiced velar plosive g go
ts Voiceless alveolar affricate c hats
dz Voiced alveolar affricate x goods
Voiceless postalveolar affricate ç chin
Voiced postalveolar affricate xh jet
θ Voiceless dental fricative th thin
ð Voiced dental fricative dh then
f Voiceless labiodental fricative f far
v Voiced labiodental fricative v van
s Voiceless alveolar fricative s son
z Voiced alveolar fricative z zip
ʃ Voiceless postalveolar fricative sh show
ʒ Voiced postalveolar fricative zh vision
h Voiceless glottal fricative h hat
m Bilabial nasal m man
n Alveolar nasal n not
ɲ Palatal nasal nj Spanish señor
j Palatal approximant j yes
l Alveolar lateral approximant l lean
ɫ Velarized alveolar lateral approximant ll ball
r Alveolar trill rr Spanish hierro
ɾ Alveolar tap r Spanish aro


  • The palatal stops /c/ and /ɟ/ have no English equivalent, so the pronunciation guide is approximate. Palatal stops can be found in other languages, for example, in Hungarian (where these sounds are spelled ty and gy respectively).
  • The palatal nasal /ɲ/ corresponds to the sound of the Spanish ñ or the French or Italian digraph gn (as in gnocchi). It is pronounced as one sound, not a nasal plus a glide.
  • The ll sound is a velarised lateral, close to English dark L.
  • The contrast between flapped r and trilled rr is the same as in Spanish. English does not have either of the two sounds phonemically (but tt in butter is pronounced as a flap r in most American dialects).
  • The letter ç is sometimes spelt ch where there are technological difficulties with the diacritic, both due to its English sound and by analogy to xh, sh, and zh. (Usually, however, it's spelled simply c or more rarely q. Despite that this is ambiguous, meanings are usually understood.)


IPA Description Written as Pronounced as in
i Close front unrounded vowel i bead
ɛ Open-mid front unrounded vowel e bed
a Open front unrounded vowel a Spanish casa
ə Schwa ë her
ɔ Open-mid back rounded vowel o pot
y Close front rounded vowel y French tu, German über
u Close back rounded vowel u boot


Albanian nouns are inflected by gender (masculine, feminine and neuter) and number (singular and plural). There are 5 declensions with 6 cases (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, ablative and vocative), although the vocative only occurs with a limited number of words. Some dialects also retain a locative case which is not in standard Albanian. The cases apply to both definite and indefinite nouns and there are numerous cases of syncretism. The equivalent of a genitive is formed by using the prepositions i/e/të/së with the dative.

The following shows the declension of the masculine noun mal (mountain), a masculine noun which ends with "i":

Indefinite Singular Indefinite Plural Definite Singular Definite Plural
Nominative mal (mountain) male (mountains) mali (the mountain) malet (the mountains)
Accusative mal male malin malet
Genitive i/e/të/së mali i/e/të/së maleve i/e/të/së malit i/e/të/së maleve
Dative mali maleve malit maleve
Ablative mali malesh malit maleve

The following shows the declension of the masculine noun zog (bird), a masculine noun which ends with "u":

Indefinite Singular Indefinite Plural Definite Singular Definite Plural
Nominative zog (bird) zogj (birds) zogu (the bird) zogjtë (the birds)
Accusative zog zogj zogun zogjtë
Genitive i/e/të/së zogu i/e/të/së zogjve i/e/të/së zogut i/e/të/së zogjve
Dative zogu zogjve zogut zogjve
Ablative zogu zogjsh zogut zogjve

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

Indefinite Singular Indefinite Plural Definite Singular Definite Plural
Nominative vajzë (girl) vajza (girls) vajza (the girl) vajzat (the girls)
Accusative vajzë vajza vajzën vajzat
Genitive i/e/të/së vajze i/e/të/së vajzave i/e/të/së vajzës i/e/të/së vajzave
Dative vajze vajzave vajzës vajzave
Ablative vajze vajzash vajzës vajzave

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

  • The definite article can be in the form of noun suffixes, which vary with gender and case.
    • For example in singular nominative, masculine nouns add -i, or those ending in -g/-k/-h, take -u (to avoid palatalization):
      • mal (mountain) / mali (the mountain);
      • libër (book) / libri (the book);
      • zog (bird) / zogu (the bird).
    • Feminine nouns take the suffix -(j)a:
      • veturë (car) / vetura (the car);
      • shtëpi (house) / shtëpia (the house);
      • lule (flower) / lulja (the flower).
  • Neuter nouns take -t.

Albanian has developed an analytical verbal structure in place of the earlier synthetic system, inherited from Proto-Indo-European. Its complex system of moods (6 types) and tenses (3 simple and 5 complex constructions) is distinctive among Balkan languages. There are two general types of conjugation. In Albanian the constituent order is subject verb object and negation is expressed by the particles nuk or s' in front of the verb, for example:

  • Toni nuk flet anglisht "Tony does not speak English" ;
  • Toni s'flet anglisht "Tony doesn't speak English" ;
  • Nuk e di "I do not know" ;
  • S'e di "I don't know".

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

  • Parashikohet një ndërprerje "An interruption is anticipated".

In imperative sentences, the particle mos is used :

  • Mos harro "do not forget!".

Albanian verbs, like those of other Balkan languages, have an admirative mood (Albanian: mënyra habitore) which 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 by English "apparently".

  • Ti flet shqip. "You speak Albanian." (indicative)
  • Ti fliske shqip! "You (surprisingly) speak Albanian!" (admirative)
  • Rruga është e mbyllur. "The street is closed." (indicative)
  • Rruga qenka e mbyllur. "(Apparently,) The street is closed." (admirative)


një – one dy – two
tre – three katër – four
pesë – five gjashtë – six
shtatë – seven tetë – eight
nëntë – nine dhjetë – ten
njëmbëdhjetë– eleven dymbëdhjetë – twelve
trembëdhjetë – thirteen katërmbëdhjetë – fourteen
pesëmbëdhjetë – fifteen gjashtëmbëdhjetë – sixteen
shtatëmbëdhjetë – seventeen tetëmbëdhjetë – eighteen
nëntëmbëdhjetë – nineteen njëzet – twenty
njëzetenjë– twenty-one njëzetedy – twenty-two
tridhjetë – thirty dyzet – forty
pesëdhjetë – fifty gjashtëdhjetë – sixty
shatëdhjetë – seventy tetëdhjetë – eighty
nëntëdhjetë – ninety njëqind – one hundred
pesëqind – five hundred njëmijë – one thousand
një milion – one million një miliard – one billion


Cognates with Illyrian

See Illyrian languages

  • brisa, "husk of grapes"; cf. Alb bërsí "lees, dregs; mash" (< PA *brutiā)
  • loúgeon, "pool"; cf. Alb lag "to wet, soak, bathe, wash" (< PA *lauga), lëgatë "pool" (< PA *leugatâ), lakshte "dew" (< PA *laugista)
  • mandos, "small horse"; cf. Alb mëz, mâz "poney"
  • mantía "bramblebush"; Old and dial. Alb mandë, mod. Alb mën, man "berry, mulberry"
  • rhinos, "fog, mist"; cf. OAlb ren, mod. Alb re, rê "cloud" (< PA *rina)
  • sibina, "spear"; cf. Alb thupër "bar, stick"
  • sica, "dagger"; cf. Alb thika "knife"

Early Greek loans

Early Greek loanwords borrowed into Albanian were mainly commodity items and trade goods.

  • bagëm "oil for anointment" < Gk báptisma "anointment"
  • bletë "hive; bee" < Greco-Latin < Gk (Attic) mélitta "honey-bee" (vs. Gk (Ionic) mélissa)[13].
  • brukë "tamarisk" < Gk mourikē
  • drapër "sickle" < Gk (NW) drápanon
  • kopsht "garden" < Gk (NW) kāpos
  • kumbull "plum" < Gk kokkumēlon
  • lakër "cabbage, green vegetables" < Gk lákhanon "green; vegetable"
  • lëpjetë "orach, dock" < Gk lápathon
  • lyej "to smear, oil" < *elaiwā < Gk elai(w)on "oil"
  • mokër "millstone" < Gk (NW) mākhaná "device, instrument"
  • ngjalë "eel" < Gk enchelys
  • pjepër "melon" < Gk pépon "melon"
  • presh "leek" < Gk práson
  • shpellë "cave" < Gk spēlaion "cave"
  • trumzë "thyme" < Gk thýmbra, thrýmbē

Gothic loans

Some 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"[14]
  • gomar "donkey, ass" < *margë < Goth *marh "horse"
  • horr "scoundrel", horrë "hussy, whore" < Goth hors "adulterer", *hora "whore"
  • petkë, petëk "clothes, garment", petk "herder's coat" < Goth paida; cf. OHG pfeit, OE pād
  • shkulkë "boundary marker for pastures made of branches" < Late Latin < Goth skulka "guardian"
  • shkumë "foam" < Late Latin < Goth scūma
  • tirq "trousers" < Late Latin tubrucus < Goth *þiobroc "knee-britches"; cf. OHG dioh-bruoh

The earliest accepted document in the Albanian language is from the 15th century AD. The earliest reference to a Lingua Albanesca is from a 1285 document of Ragusa. This is a time when Albanian Principalities start to be mentioned and expand inside and outside the Byzantine Empire. It is assumed that Greek and Balkan Latin (which was the ancestor of Romanian and other Balkan Romance languages), would exert a great influence on Albanian. Examples of words borrowed from Latin: qytet < civitas (city), qiell < caelum (sky), mik < amicus (friend).

After the Slavs arrived in the Balkans, another source of Albanian vocabulary were the Slavic languages. The rise of the Ottoman Empire meant an influx of Turkish words; this also entailed the borrowing of Farsi and Arabic words through Turkish. Surprisingly the Farsi words seem to have been absorbed the most. Some loanwords from Modern Greek also exist especially in the south of Albania. A lot of the loaned words have been resubstituted from Albanian rooted words or modern Latinized (international) words.


Full article: Albanian alphabet

Albanian has been written using many different alphabets since the 15th century. The earliest written Albanian records come from the Gheg area in makeshift spellings based on Italian or Greek and sometimes in Turko-Arabic characters. Originally, the Tosk dialect was written in the Greek alphabet and the Gheg dialect was written in the Latin alphabet. They have both also been written in the Ottoman Turkish version of the Arabic alphabet, the Cyrillic alphabet, and some local alphabets.

In 1908 an official, standardized Albanian spelling was developed, based on a Gheg dialect and using the Latin alphabet with the addition of the letters ë, ç, and nine digraphs. After World War II the official language changed in that it adopted the Tosk dialect as its model.


Linguistic affinities

The Albanian language is a distinct Indo-European language that does not belong to any other existing branch. Sharing lexical isoglosses with Greek, Balto-Slavic, and Germanic, the word stock of Albanian is quite distinct. Hastily tied to Germanic and Balto-Slavic by the merger of PIE *ǒ and *ǎ into *ǎ in a supposed "northern group",[15] Albanian has proven to be distinct from the other two groups as this vowel shift is only part of a larger push chain that affected all long vowels.[16] Albanian does share with Balto-Slavic two features: a lengthening of syllabic consonants before voiced obstruents and a distinct treatment of long syllables ending in a sonorant.[17] Conservative features of Albanian include the retention of the distinction between active and middle voice, present and aorist tenses, distinguishing the three original series of dorsal consonants (i.e., palatals, velars, and labio-velars) before front vowels, and initial PIE *h4 as an h.[18]

Albanian is considered to have its closest linguistic affinity to and to have evolved from an extinct Paleo-Balkan language, usually taken to be either Illyrian or Thracian. See also Thraco-Illyrian and Messapian language.

Linguistic influences

The period during which Proto-Albanian and Latin interacted was protracted and drawn out over six centuries, 1st c. AD to 6th or 7th c. AD. This is born out into roughly three layers of borrowings, the largest number belonging to the second layer. The first, with the fewest borrowings, was a time of less important interaction. The final period, probably preceding the Slavic or Germanic invasions, also has a notably smaller amount of borrowings. Each layer is characterized by a different treatment of most vowels, the first layer having several that follow the evolution of Early Proto-Albanian into Albanian; 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 7th c. AD and 9th c. AD, 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 c. AD, a period followed 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 c. AD. Their movement is probably related to the expansion of the Bulgarian empire into Albania around that time. This fact places the Albanians at a rather early date in the western or central Balkans.

Latin element of the Albanian language

Regarding the Latin loanwords, the first one who noticed the earlier influence on the Albanian language was Jernej Kopitar (1829) who claimed that "the Latin loanwords in the Albanian language had the pronunciation of the time of Emperor Augustus".[19] This scholar presented cases like "qiqer" ← cicer, "qytet" ← civitas, "peshk" ← piscis, "shëngjetë" ← sagitta etc. where we can see a Latin c- (= /k-/) or /g-/ followed by a front vowel maintained in the Albanian language as a palatal or velar stop. This was confirmed later by Gustav Meyer (1888)[20] and Wilhelm Meyer-Lübke(1914)[21]. Another scholar interested in this problem was Eqrem Çabej, who dedicated a special work[22], where he noticed among other things the indices of the archaic Latin element in the Albanian language. Among them are:

a) Evolution au → a which is noticed in the oldest Latin element of the Albanian language like aurum → "ar", gaudium → "gas", laurus → "lar". This has not happened in later borrowings like causa → "kafshë", laud → "lavd".

b) Evolution o → e, just as in the inherited IE elements of the Albanian language (*nos → "ne", *+oct- → "tetë" etc.) which is noticed in the oldest Latin loanwords like pomum → "pemë", hora → "herë".

c) The drop of the syllable between two vowels (just like in the inherited IE element), e.g. cubitus → "kut", medicus → "mjek", padul → "pyll", while in latter Latin borrowings this is not noticed anymore: paganus → "i pëganë"/"i pëgërë", plaga → "plagë" etc.

d) Palatalization of /tj-/, /dj-/, /kj-/ into /s-/, /z-/, /q-/: vitius → "ves", ratio → "(a)rësye", radius → "rreze", facies → "faqe", socius → "shoq" etc.

Another author contributing in this area was Haralambie Mihăescu, who demonstrated that some 85 Latin words have survived in Albanian, but not in any Romance language (including Romanian). Some of them are "bujk" ← bubulcus, "mërrajë" ← hibernalia, "shelqëror" ← sarcinarius, "tërfurk" ← trifurcus, "qift" ← accipiter, "mushkonjë" ← +musconea, "kulshedër" ← chersydrus, "shpnetkë"/"shpretkë" ← +spleneticum, "shullг"/"shullë" ← solanum.[23]

In addition, he identified 151 other Albanian words of Latin origin which cannot be found in Romanian. Some of them are "mik" ← amicus, "anmik"/"armik" ← inimicus, "bekoj" ← benedicere, "qelq" ← calix (calicis), "kështjellë" ← castellum, "qind" ← centum, "gjel" ← gallus, "gjymtyrë" ← iunctЇra, "mjek" ← medicus, "rjetë" ← rete, "shërbej" ← servire, "shpërej" ← sperare, "vullnet" ← voluntas (voluntatis).[24]

He also noticed that even the earliest words of church terminology in Albanian language present such phonetic changes that testify their ancient borrowing from Latin. Some of them are "lter" ← altare, "engjëll" ← angelus, "bekoj" ← benedicere, "i krishtenë"/"i krishterë" ← christianus, "kryq" ← crux (crucis), "klishë"/"kishë" ← ecclesia, "ipeshkv" ← episcopus, "ungjill" ← evangelium, "mallkoj" ← maledicere, "meshë" ← missa, "munëg"/murg" ← monacus, "i pëganë"/"i pëgërë" ← paganus.[25]

Other authors[26] have shown that in contrast to Romanian, there are also other Latin loanwords in Albanian which show a very ancient sound pattern, from the 1st century B.C.: from (Latin) cingula → "qingëlë" (Alb); from (Latin) vetus, veteris → "vjetër" (Alb) etc. while the Romance languages have inherited these words from (Vulgar Latin) *cingla → "chinga" (N. Romanian) 'belly band, saddle girth', ; from (Vulgar Latin) veteran → "batrân" (N. Romanian) 'old' , etc.

Historical presence and location

The 'origin of the Albanians has been for some time a matter of dispute among historians. Most of them conclude that they are descendants of populations of the prehistoric Balkans, such as the Illyrians, Dacians or Thracians. Little is known about these peoples, and they blended into one another in Thraco-Illyrian and Daco-Thracian contact zones even in antiquity.

The place where the Albanian language was formed is uncertain, but analysis has suggested that it was in a mountainous region, rather than in a plain or seacoast[27]: 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[28].

Historical considerations

Indeed, the center of the Albanians remained the river Mat. In 1079 AD they are recorded in the territory of the Shkumbin river.[29]

Furthermore, the major Tosk-Gheg dialect division is based on the course of the Shkumbin River, a seasonal stream that lay near the old Via Egnatia. Since rhotacism postdates the dialect division, it is reasonable that the major dialect division occurred after the Christianization of the Roman Empire (4th c. AD) and before the eclipse of the East-West land-based trade route by Venetian seapower (10th c. AD).

References to the existence of Albanian as a distinct language survive from the 1300s, but without recording any 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'Spirit 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.

The oldest known Albanian printed book, Meshari or missal, was written by Gjon Buzuku, a Roman Catholic cleric, in 1555. The first Albanian school is believed to have been opened by Franciscans in 1638 in Pdhanë. In 1635, Frang Bardhi wrote the first Latin-Albanian dictionary.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Gheg 4,156,090 + Tosk 3,035,000 + Arbereshe 260,000 + Arvanitika 150,000 = 7,601,090. (Ethnologue, 2005)
    Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.), 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International.
  2. ^ in Notes et éxtraits pour servir à l'histoire des croisades au XV-ème siècle (4-ème sèrie, 1453-1576, Bucharest, 1915, p. 194-198).
  3. ^ Dumitru Todericiu, An Albanian text older than the "Christening Formula" of 1462, in "Magazin Istoric", nr. 8, Bucharest, November 1967.
  4. ^ Dr. Robert Elsie, The Bellifortis text and early Albanian in "Zeitschrift für Balkanologie", Berlin, 22 February 1986, p. 158-162..
  5. ^ Watkins, Calvert. "Proto-Indo-European: Comparison and Reconstruction", in The Indo-European Languages, Anna Giacalone Ramat and Paolo Ramat, eds. London: Routledge, 1998.
  6. ^ [1] Mallory, J. P. and Adams, D. Q.: The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World
  7. ^ [2] Holm, Hans J.: The Distribution of Data in Word Lists and its Impact on the Subgrouping of Languages. In: Christine Preisach, Hans Burkhardt, Lars Schmidt-Thieme, Reinhold Decker (eds.): Data Analysis, Machine Learning, and Applications. Proc. of the 31st Annual Conference of the German Classification Society (GfKl), University of Freiburg, March 7–9, 2007. Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg-Berlin
  8. ^ [3] A possible Homeland of the Indo-European Languages And their Migrations in the Light of the Separation Level Recovery (SLRD) Method - Hans J. Holm
  9. ^ Perfect Phylogenetic Networks: A New Methodology for Reconstructing the Evolutionary History of Natural Languages, pg. 396
  10. ^ Fine, JA. The Early medieval Balkans. Univ. of Michigan Press, 1991. p.10. [4]
  11. ^ Fine, JA. The Early medieval Balkans. Univ. of Michigan Press, 1991. p.11. [5]
  12. ^ Encyclopedia of Indo-European culture By J. P. Mallory, Douglas Q. Adams Edition: illustrated Published by Taylor & Francis, 1997 ISBN 1884964982, 9781884964985
  13. ^ Vladimir Orel (2000) links the word to an unattested Vulgar Latin *melettum, which must be a borrowing from NW Greek mélitta. There is no real reason to posit Vulgar Latin mediation. J.P. Mallory and D.Q. Adams (1997) have the word as a native development, from *melítiā, a form also considered to underlie Greek mélissa; however, this form gave Albanian mjalcë "bee", which is a native word and derivative of mjaltë "honey" (< Proto-Albanian *melita). In any case, the word does not appear to be native to Albanian.
  14. ^ 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".
  15. ^ Calvert Watkins, "The Indo-European Linguistic Family: Genetic and Typological Perspectives", in Anna Giacalone Ramat and Paolo Ramat, eds., The Indo-European Languages (London: Routledge, 1998) 38.
  16. ^ William Labov, Principles of Linguistic Change, vol. 1: Internal Factors (Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1994) 42.
  17. ^ E.P. Hamp, "Albanian", in Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics (Oxford, UK: Persamon Press, 1994) 66-7.
  18. ^ J.P. Mallory and D.Q. Adams, "Albanian", in Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture (London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1997) 9.
  19. ^ Kopitar, B.J. Albanische, walachische und bulgarische Sprache. Wien 1829, (254)
  20. ^ Meyer, Gustav. Die lateinischen Elemente im Albanesischen. (In: Grцbers Grundriss, I; I.Auflage) (1888), (805)
  21. ^ Meyer-Lübke, Wilhelm. Rumanisch, romanisch, albanesisch. (Mitteilungen des Romanischen Instituts an der Universitet Wien. I. Heilderberg 1914), (32)
  22. ^ Çabej, Eqrem. Karakteristikat e huazimeve latine të gjuhës shqipe. SF 1974/2 (In German RL 1962/1) (13-51)
  23. ^ Mihaescu, Haralambie. Les elements latins de la langue albanaise. RESEE 1966/1, 30
  24. ^ Mihaescu, Haralambie. Les elements latins de la langue albanaise. RESEE 1966/1, 21
  25. ^ Mihaescu, Haralambie. Les elements latins de la langue albanaise. RESEE 1966/1-2
  26. ^ A. Rosetti, Istoria limbii române, 1986, pp. 195-197
  27. ^ Eric Hamp, "The position of Albanian, Ancient IE dialects, Proceedings of the Conference on IE linguistics held at the University of California, Los Angeles, April 25–27, 1963, ed. By Henrik Birnbaum and Jaan Puhvel. "It is clear that in the Middle Ages the Albanians extended farther north (Jokl, Albaner §2); that there are persuasive arguments which have been advanced against their having extended as far as the Adriatic coast — the fact that Scodra 'Scutari' (Shkodër) shows un-Albanian development (see §6 below), that there is no demonstrated old maritime vocabulary (see above), and that there are few ancient Greek loans (Jokl, Albaner §5; but see §5 below)
  28. ^ Fine, JA. The Early medieval Balkans. Univ. of Michigan Press, 1991. p.10. [6]
  29. ^ Kazhdan, Alexander (Ed.) (1991). Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Oxford University Press. pp. 52–53. ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6.


  • General Surveys
    • "Albanian language", in Encyclopædia Britannica, 15th edn. (1985).
    • Campbell, George L., ed. Compendium of the World’s Languages, 2nd edn., vol. 1: Abaza to Kurdish, s.v. “Albanian”. London and New York: Routledge, 2000, pp. 50–7.
    • Hamp, E. P. “Albanian”, in Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, edited by R. E. Asher, vol. 1. Oxford: Pergamon, 1994, pp. 65–7.
    • Price, Glanville, ed. Encyclopedia of the Languages of Europe, s.v. “Albanian”. Oxford: Blackwell, 1998, pp. 4–8.
  • Historical
    • Demiraj, Shaban. "Albanian", in The Indo-European Languages, Anna Giacalone Ramat and Paolo Ramat, eds. London: Routledge, 1998.
    • Fortson IV, Benjamin W. "Albanian", in Indo-European Language and Culture: An Introduction. London: Blackwell, 2004.
    • Huld, Martin E. Basic Albanian Etymologies. Columbus, OH: Slavica Publishers, 1984.
    • Mallory, J.P. and D.Q. Adams. "Albanian", in Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1997.
    • Orel, Vladimir. A Concise Historical Grammar of the Albanian Language: Reconstruction of Proto-Albanian. Leiden: Brill, 2000.
    • Watkins, Calvert. "Proto-Indo-European: Comparison and Reconstruction", in The Indo-European Languages, Anna Giacalone Ramat and Paolo Ramat, eds. London: Routledge, 1998.
  • Grammar
    • Camaj, Martin. Albanian Grammar. Wiesbaden, Germany: Otto Harrassowitz.
    • Newmark, Leonard et al. Standard Albanian: A Reference Grammar for Students. Standford: Stanford University Press, 1982.
  • Other
    • Gjinari, Jorgji. Dialektologjia shqiptare. Prishtinë: Universiteti, 1970.
    • Xhelal Ylli, Andrej N. Sobolev, Albanskii toskskii govor sela Leshnja. Muenchen: Biblion Verlag, 2002. ISBN 3-932331-29-X
    • Xhelal Ylli, Andrej N. Sobolev, Albanskii gegskii govor sela Muhurr. Muenchen: Biblion Verlag, 2003. ISBN 3-932331-36-2

External links

Albanian language edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Samples of various Albanian dialects
Keyboard layouts
  • Prektora 1 ISO-8859-1 standardized layout for Windows XP (Albanian language)

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