||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (July 2016)|
|Native to||Southeastern Europe and Albanian diaspora|
|5.4 million (ca. 2011)|
|Latin (Albanian alphabet)
Official language in
|Regulated by||Officially by the Social Sciences and Albanological Section of the Academy of Sciences of Albania|
aae – Arbëreshë
aat – Arvanitika
aln – Gheg
als – Tosk
Albanian (shqip [ʃcip] or gjuha shqipe [ˈɟuha ˈʃcipɛ], meaning Albanian language) is an Indo-European language spoken by five million people, primarily in Albania, Kosovo, the Republic of Macedonia, and Greece, but also in other areas of Southeastern Europe in which there is an Albanian population, including Montenegro and the Preševo Valley of Serbia. Centuries-old communities speaking Albanian-based dialects can be found scattered in Greece, Southern Italy, Sicily, and Ukraine. As a result of a modern diaspora, there are also Albanian speakers elsewhere in those countries as well as in other parts of the world, including Austria, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, the Scandinavian countries, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Turkey.
- 1 History
- 2 Classification
- 3 Dialects
- 4 Standard Albanian
- 5 Geographic distribution
- 6 Phonology
- 7 Grammar
- 8 Orthography
- 9 Literary tradition
- 10 Vocabulary
- 11 See also
- 12 Notes
- 13 References
- 14 Bibliography
- 15 External links
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The first written mention of the Albanian language was on 14 July 1285 in Dubrovnik (modern-day Croatia), when a certain Matthew, witness of a crime, stated "I heard a voice shouting on the mountainside in the Albanian tongue" (Latin: Audivi unam vocem, clamantem in monte in lingua albanesca). The first audio recording of Albanian was made by Norbert Jokl on 4 April 1914 in Vienna. 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.
The Albanian language is an Indo-European language in a branch by itself, sharing its branch with no other extant language. The other extant Indo-European languages in a branch by themselves are Armenian and, in some classifications, Greek. Though sharing lexical isoglosses with Greek, Balto-Slavic, and Germanic, the vocabulary of Albanian is quite distinct. Once hastily grouped with Germanic and Balto-Slavic based on the merger of Proto-Indo-European *ǒ and *ǎ into *ǎ in a supposed "northern group", Albanian has been proven to be distinct from these two because this vowel shift is only part of a larger push chain that affected all long vowels. Albanian does share two features with Balto-Slavic languages: a lengthening of syllabic consonants before voiced obstruents and a distinct treatment of long syllables ending in a sonorant. Conservative features of Albanian include the retention of the distinction between active and middle voice, present tense, and aorist.
The earliest loanwords attested in Albanian come from Doric Greek, whereas the strongest influence came from Latin. The period during which Proto-Albanian and Latin interacted was protracted and drawn out roughly from the 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD. This is borne out into roughly three layers of borrowings, the largest number belonging to the second layer (and which may be compared to, for example, the layers of Chinese borrowings into Japanese). 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 number 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 the 7th and 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). Their movement is probably related to the expansion of the Bulgarian Empire into Albania around that time.
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". Kopitar gave examples such as Albanian "qiqer" from Latin cicer (meaning chickpeas), "qytet" from civitas (meaning city), "peshk" from piscis (meaning fish) and "shigjetë" from sagitta (meaning arrow). The hard pronunciations of Latin ⟨c⟩ and ⟨g⟩ are retained as palatal and velar stops in the Albanian loanwords. Gustav Meyer (1888) and Wilhelm Meyer-Lübke (1914) later corroborated this. Meyer noted the similarity between the Albanian verbs shqipoj and shqiptoj (both meaning to enunciate) and the Latin word excipio (meaning to welcome). Therefore, he believed that the word Shqiptar (meaning Albanian) was derived from shqipoj, which in turn was derived from the Latin word excipio. Johann Georg von Hahn, an Austrian linguist, previously proposed the same theory in 1854.
- Latin /au/ becomes Albanian /a/ in the earliest borrowings: "aurum" > "ar" ; "gaudium" > "gaz" ; "laurus" > "lar". Latin /au/ is retained in later borrowings, but is altered in a way similar to Greek: "causa" > "kafshë" ; "laud" > "lavd".
- Latin /ō/ becomes Albanian /e/ in the oldest Latin borrowings: "pōmum" > "pemë" ; "hōra" > "herë". An analogous mutation occurred from Proto-Indo-European to Albanian; PIE *nōs became Albanian "ne", PIE *oḱtō + suffix -ti- became Albanian "tetë" etc.
- Latin unstressed internal and initial syllables become lost in Albanian: "cubitus" > "kub" ; "medicus" > "mjek" ; "paludem" > V. Latin "padule" > "pyll". An analogous mutation occurred from Proto-Indo-European to Albanian. In contrast, in later Latin borrowings, the internal syllable is retained: "paganus" > "pagan" ; "plaga" > "plagë" etc.
- Latin /tj/, /dj/, /kj/ palatalized to Albanian /s/, /z/, /c/: "vitius" > "ves" ; "ratio" > "arsye" ; "radius" > "rreze" ; "facies" > "faqe" ; "socius" > "shoq" etc.
Haralambie Mihăescu demonstrated that:
- Some 85 Latin words have survived in Albanian but not (as inherited) in any Romance language. A few examples include bubulcus > bujk, hibernalia > mërrajë, sarcinarius > shelqëror, trifurcus > tërfurk, accipiter > skifter, musconea > mushkonjë, chersydrus > kuçedër, spleneticum > shpretkë, solanum > shullë.
- 151 Albanian words of Latin origin were not inherited in Romanian. A few examples include Albanian mik from Latin amicus, or armik from inimicus, arsye from rationem, bekoj from benedicere, qelq from calix (calicis), kështjellë from castellum, qind from centum, gjel from gallus, gjymtyrë from iunctura, mjek from medicus, rrjetë from rete, shpresoj from sperare, vullnet from voluntas (voluntatis).
- Some Albanian church terminology have phonetic features which demonstrate their very early borrowing from Latin. A few examples include Albanian altar from Latin altare, engjëll from angelus, bekoj from benedicere,i krishterë from christianus, kryq from crux (crucis), kishë from ecclesia, ipeshkv from episcopus, ungjill from evangelium, mallkoj from maledicere, meshë from missa, murg from monacus, "pagan" from paganus.
Other authors have detected Latin loanwords in Albanian with an ancient sound pattern from the 1st century BC, for example, Albanian qingëlë from Latin cingula and Albanian e vjetër from Latin vetus/veteris. The Romance languages inherited these words from Vulgar Latin: Vulgar *cingla became N. Romanian chinga, meaning "belly band, saddle girth", and Vulgar veteran became N. Romanian bătrân, meaning "old".
Albanian, Basque, and the surviving Celtic languages such as Irish and Welsh are the non-Romance languages today that have this sort of extensive Latin element dating from ancient Roman times, which have 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 borrowings (Fenster, Käse, Köln).
Historical presence and location
The place where the Albanian language was formed is uncertain, but analysis has suggested that it was in a mountainous region rather than on a plain or seacoast: 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. A deeper analysis of the vocabulary, however, shows that this could be a consequence of the 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' and 'navigation', 'sea shelves' and a few names of fish kinds, but not the words for 'sail', 'row', 'harbor', objects pertaining 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 contacts with other languages and people, rather than providing evidence of a possible Urheimat.
The centre of Albanian settlement remained the Mat river. In 1079, they were recorded farther south in the valley of the Shkumbin river. The Shkumbin, a seasonal stream that lies near the old Via Egnatia, is approximately the boundary of the primary dialect division for Albanian, Tosk-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, which means that in that period (5th to 6th centuries AD) Albanians were occupying nearly the same area around the Shkumbin river, which straddled the Jireček Line.
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.
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 Italian language manuscript authored by Montenegrin sea captain Julije Balović Pratichae Schrivaneschae which includes a multilingual dictionary of hundreds of the most often used words in the everydays life on Italian, Slavo-Illirico, Greek, Albanian and Turkish language.
Albanian was formerly compared by some Indo-Europeanists with Balto-Slavic and Germanic, 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. Nakhleh, Ringe, and Warnow argued 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.
Albanian is often seen as the descendant of Illyrian, although this hypothesis has been challenged by some linguists, who maintain that it derives from Dacian or Thracian. (Illyrian, Dacian, and Thracian, however, may have formed a subgroup or a Sprachbund; see Thraco-Illyrian.)
According to the central hypothesis of a project undertaken by the Austrian Science Fund FWF, Old Albanian had a significant influence on the development of many Balkan languages. Intensive research now aims to confirm this theory. This little-known language is being researched using all available texts before a comparison with other Balkan languages is carried out. The outcome of this work will include the compilation of a lexicon providing an overview of all Old Albanian verbs.[needs update]
The demonstrative pronoun ko is ancestral to Albanian ky/kjo and English he.
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" or the Latin loans gjelbër and verdhë having become switched in meaning).
|Other Indo-European languages|
|Old Church Slavonic||мѣсѧць
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 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 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).[dubious ]
|*p||p||*pékʷo—"cook"||pjek "to cook, roast, bake"|
|*b||b||*sorbéi̯e/o—"drink, slurp"||gjerb "to drink"|
|*bʰ||b||*bʰaḱeh₂—"bean"||bathë "broad bean"|
|*t||t||*túh₂—"thou"||ti "you (singular)"|
|dh[* 1]||*pérde/o—"fart"||pjerdh "to fart"|
|g||*dl̥h₁gʰós—"long"||gjatë "long" (Tosk dial. glatë)|
|*dʰ||d||*dʰégʷʰe/o—"burn"||djeg "to burn"|
|dh[* 1]||*gʰórdʰos—"enclosure"||gardh "fence"|
- Between vowels or after r
|*ḱ||th||*ḱéh₁mi—"I say"||them "I say"|
|s[* 1]||*ḱuk—"horn"||sutë "doe"|
|k[* 2]||*ḱreh₂u—"limb"||krah "arm"|
|ç/c[* 3]||*ḱentro—"to stick"||çandër "prop"|
|*ǵ||dh||*ǵómbʰos—"tooth, peg"||dhëmb "tooth"|
|d[* 4]||*ǵēusnō—"to enjoy"||dua "to love, want"|
|*ǵʰ||dh||*ǵʰedi̯e/o—"to defecate"||dhjes "to defecate"|
|d[* 4]||*ǵʰr̥sdʰi—"grain, barley"||drithë "grain"|
|*k||k||*kágʰmi—"I catch, grasp"||kam "I have"|
|q||*klau-ei̯e/o—"to weep"||qaj "to weep, cry" (Gheg qanj, Salamis kla)|
|gj||*h₁reuge—"to retch"||regj "to tan hides"|
|gj||*gʰédni̯e/o—"get"||gjej "to find" (Gheg gjêj)|
|s||*kʷéle/o—"turn"||sjell "to fetch, bring"|
|z||*gʷērHu—"heaviness"||zor "heaviness; trouble"|
|*gʷʰ||g||*dʰégʷʰe/o—"to burn"||djeg "to burn"|
|z||*h1en-dʰogʷʰéi̯e/o—"to ignite"||ndez "to kindle, turn on"|
|*s||gj[* 1]||*séḱstis—"six"||gjashtë "six"|
|h[* 2]||*nosōm—"us" (gen.)||nahe "us" (dat.)|
|sh[* 3]||*bʰreusinos—"break"||breshër "hail"|
|th[* 4]||*gʷésdos—"leaf"||gjeth "leaf"|
|h[* 5]||*sḱi-eh₂—"shadow"||hije "shadow"|
|f[* 6]||*spélnom—"speech"||fjalë "word"|
|sht[* 7]||*h₂osti "bone"||asht "bone"|
|th[* 8]||*suh₁s—"swine"||thi "boar"|
|∅||h₁ésmi—"am"||jam "to be"|
- Between vowels
- Between vowels and after u̯/i̯/r/k (ruki law)
- Cluster -sd-
- Cluster -sḱ-
- Cluster -sp-
- Cluster -st-
- Dissimilation with following vowel
|*i̯||gj[* 1]||*i̯ése/o—"to ferment"||gjesh "to knead"|
|j[* 2]||*i̯uHs—"you" (nom.)||ju "you (plural)"|
|∅[* 3]||*bʰéri̯ō—"bear, carry"||bie(r) "to bring"|
|h[* 4]||*streh₂i̯eh₂—"straw"||strohë "kennel"|
|*u̯||v||*u̯oséi̯e/o—"to dress"||vesh "to wear, dress"|
|*n||n||*nōs—"we" (acc.)||ne "we"|
|nj||*eni-h₁ói-no—"that one"||një "one" (Gheg njâ, njo)|
|∅/^||*pénkʷe—"five"||pesë, Gheg pês "five"|
|r||*ǵʰeimen—"winter"||dimër "winter" (Gheg dimën)|
|ll||*kʷéle/o—"turn"||sjell "to fetch, bring"|
|rr||*u̯rh₁ḗn—"sheep"||rrunjë "yearling lamb"|
|*l̥||uj||*u̯ĺ̥kʷos—"wolf"||ujk "wolf" (Chamian ulk)|
|*r̥||ri, ir||*ǵʰr̥sdom—"grain, barley"||drithë "grain"|
- Before i, e, a
- Before back vowels
- After front vowels
- After all other vowels
|*h1||∅||*h₁ésmi—"am"||jam "to be"|
|*i||i||*sínos—"bosom"||gji "bosom, breast"|
|*e||e||*pénkʷe—"five"||pesë "five" (Gheg pês)|
|je||*u̯étos—"year" (loc.)||vjet "last year"|
|*a||a||*bʰaḱeh₂- "bean"||bathë "bean"|
Albanian is divided into two major dialects: Gheg, Tosk, and a transitional dialect zone between them. The Shkumbin river is roughly the dividing line, with Gheg spoken north of the Shkumbin and Tosk south of it. There are also other dialects like Arbëresh and Arvanitika, which are mixtures between Gheg and Tosk with some archaic features of Albanian. They are spoken in some areas of Italy and Greece.
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. A congress of Albanian writers held in 1909 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.
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.
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.
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: administration, education, and literature. Most Communist leaders were Tosks from the south. Standardization was directed by the Institute of Albanian Language and Literature of the Academy of Sciences of Albania. Two dictionaries were published in 1954: an Albanian language dictionary and a Russian–Albanian dictionary. New orthography rules were eventually published in 1967 and 1973 Drejtshkrimi i gjuhës shqipe (Orthography of the Albanian Language).
More recent dictionaries from the Albanian government are Fjalori Drejtshkrimor i Gjuhës Shqipe (1976) (Orthographic Dictionary of the Albanian Language) and Dictionary of Today's Albanian language (Fjalori Gjuhës së Sotme Shqipe) (1980). 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), Fjalori i Bashkimit (1908), and "Fjalori i Gazullit" (1941).
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 contend 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 have continued to write in the Elbasan dialect, which is somewhat erroneously referred to as Gheg (other Gheg variants have found much more limited use in literature). But 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 the recent years, a group of academics for Albania and Kosovo have proposed minor changes in the orthography. Hardline academics boycotted the initiative, while other reformers have viewed it as superficial. 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 a reformed version of the Tosk standard that aims at reflecting the natural development of the language among all Albanians. Morina's variant incorporates the 'me+' infinitive, accommodates for Gheg features, and provides for simpler and dialect-neutral rules.
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.
Albanian is spoken by approximately 5.4 million people, 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 United States, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.
Standard Albanian, based on the Tosk dialect of southern Albania, is the official language of Albania and Kosovo and is also official in municipalities of the Republic of Macedonia where ethnic Albanians form more than 20% of the municipal population. It is also an official language of Montenegro, where it is spoken in municipalities with ethnic Albanian populations.
Standard Albanian has 7 vowels and 29 consonants. 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).
- The contrast between flapped r and trilled rr is the same as in Spanish or Armenian. In most of the dialects, as also in standard Albanian, the single "r" merges from an alveolar flap /ɾ/ into a retroflex flap [ɽ], or even an alveolar approximant [ɹ] when it is at the end of a word.
- The palatal nasal /ɲ/ corresponds to the Spanish ñ and the French and Italian gn. 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 letter ç is sometimes written ch due to technical limitations because of its use in English sound and its analogy to the other digraphs xh, sh, and zh. Usually it is written simply c or more rarely q with context resolving any ambiguities.
- Many speakers merge the palatal sounds q and gj into the palatoalveolar sounds ç and xh. This is especially common in Northern Gheg, but is increasingly the case in Tosk as well.
|IPA||Description||Written as||Pronounced as in|
|i||Close front unrounded vowel||i||seed|
|ɛ||Open-mid front unrounded vowel||e||bed|
|a||Open central unrounded vowel||a||father, Spanish casa|
|ɔ||Open-mid back rounded vowel||o||law|
|y||Close front rounded vowel||y||French tu, German über|
|u||Close back rounded vowel||u||boot|
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. 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. The schwa in Albanian has a great degree of variability from extreme back to extreme front articulation. 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 Macedonia, the phoneme is still pronounced as back and rounded.
Albanian has a canonical word order of SVO (subject–verb–object) like English and many other Indo-European languages. Albanian nouns are inflected by gender (masculine, feminine and neuter) and number (singular and plural). There are five declensions with 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 singular||Indefinite plural||Definite singular||Definite plural|
|Nominative||një mal (a mountain)||male (mountains)||mali (the mountain)||malet (the mountains)|
|Genitive||i/e/të/së një mali||i/e/të/së maleve||i/e/të/së malit||i/e/të/së maleve|
|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 singular||Indefinite plural||Definite singular||Definite plural|
|Nominative||një zog (a bird)||zogj (birds)||zogu (the bird)||zogjtë (the birds)|
|Genitive||i/e/të/së një zogu||i/e/të/së zogjve||i/e/të/së zogut||i/e/të/së zogjve|
|Ablative||(prej) një zogu||(prej) zogjsh||(prej) zogut||(prej) zogjve|
The following table shows the declension of the feminine noun vajzë (girl):
|Indefinite singular||Indefinite plural||Definite singular||Definite plural|
|Nominative||një vajzë (a girl)||vajza (girls)||vajza (the girl)||vajzat (the girls)|
|Genitive||i/e/të/së një vajze||i/e/të/së vajzave||i/e/të/së vajzës||i/e/të/së vajzave|
|Ablative||(prej) një vajze||(prej) vajzash||(prej) vajzës||(prej) vajzave|
- 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 -(i/j)a:
- veturë (car) / vetura (the car);
- shtëpi (house) / shtëpia (the house);
- lule (flower) / lulja (the flower).
- For example, in singular nominative, masculine nouns add -i, or those ending in -g/-k/-h take -u (to avoid palatalization):
- 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 (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".
- 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)
For more information on verb conjugation and on inflection of other parts of speech, see Albanian morphology.
- 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!".
- SVO: Agimi i hëngri të gjithë portokallët.
- SOV: Agimi të gjithë portokallët i hëngri.
- OVS: Të gjithë portokallët i hëngri Agimi.
- OSV: Të gjithë portokallët Agimi i hëngri.
- VSO: I hëngri Agimi të gjithë portokallët.
The Albanian language has been written using many different alphabets since the earliest records from the 15th century. The history of Albanian language orthography is closely related to the cultural orientation and knowledge of certain foreign languages among Albanian writers. The earliest written Albanian records come from the Gheg area in makeshift spellings based on Italian or Greek and sometimes in Arabic characters. 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, Büthakukye/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 nine digraphs.
Earliest undisputed texts
The earliest known texts in Albanian:
- a 208-page parchment written by Theodor of Shkodra discovered in the secret archives of Vatican . The work is a manuscript decorated with golden miniatures and colored initials, divided in three parts. Pages 1–97 deal with theology, 98–146 with philosophy, and pages 147–208 with a history of the known world from AD 153 to 1209. On the final page of the manuscript we find a note by the author "With the assistance and great love of the blessed Lord, I finished this in the year 1210 on the 9th day of March."
- the "formula e pagëzimit" (baptismal Formula), which dates back to 1462 and was authored by Pal Engjëlli (or Paulus Angelus) (c. 1417 – 1470), Archbishop of Durrës. Engjëlli was a close friend and counsellor of Skanderbeg. It was written in a pastoral letter for a synod at the Holy Trinity in Mat and read in Latin characters as follows: Unte paghesont premenit Atit et Birit et Spertit Senit (standard Albanian: "Unë të pagëzoj në emër të Atit, të Birit e të Shpirtit të Shenjtë" "I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit"). It was discovered and published in 1915 by Nicolae Iorga.
- the Fjalori i Arnold von Harfit (Arnold Ritter von Harff's lexicon), a short list of Albanian phrases with German glosses, dated 1496.
- a song, recorded in the Greek alphabet, retrieved from an old codex that was written in Greek. The document is also called Perikopeja e Ungjillit të Pashkëve" or "Perikopeja e Ungjillit të Shën Mateut ("The Song of the Easter Gospel, or "The Song of Saint Matthew's Gospel"). Although the codex is dated to during the 14th century, the song, written in Albanian by an anonymous writer, seems to be a 16th-century writing. The document was found by Arbëreshë people who had emigrated to Italy in the 15th century.
The first book in Albanian is the Meshari ("The Missal"), written by Gjon Buzuku between 20 March 1554 and 5 January 1555. The book was written in the Gheg dialect in the Latin script 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. The grammar and the vocabulary are more archaic than those in the Gheg texts from the 17th century. The 188 pages of the book comprise about 154,000 words with a total vocabulary of c. 1,500 different words. The text is archaic yet easily interpreted because it is mainly a translation of known texts, in particular portions of the Bible. The book also contains passages from the Psalms, the Book of Isaiah, the Book of Jeremiah, the Letters to the Corinthians, and many illustrations. The uniformity of spelling seems to indicate an earlier tradition of writing. The only known copy of the Meshari is held by the Apostolic Library. In 1968 the book was published with transliterations and comments by linguists.
Disputed earlier text
"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."
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.
Cognates with Illyrian
- Andena/Andes/Andio/Antis — personal Illyrian names based on a root-word and- or ant-, found in both the southern and the Dalmatian-Pannonian (including modern Bosnia and Herzegovina) onomastic provinces; cf. Alb. andë (northern Albanian dialect, or Gheg) and ëndë (southern Albanian dialect or Tosk) "appetite, pleasure, desire, wish"; Andi proper name, Andizetes, an Illyrian people inhabiting the Roman province of Panonia.
- aran "field"; cf. Alb. arë; plural ara
- Ardiaioi/Ardiaei, name of an Illyrian people, cf. Alb. ardhja "arrival" or "descent", connected to hardhi "vine-branch, grape-vine", with a sense development similar to Germanic *stamniz, meaning both stem, tree stalk and tribe, lineage. However, the insufficiency of this theory is that so far there is no certainty as to the historical or etymological development of either ardhja/hardhi or Ardiaioi, as with many other words.
- Bilia "daughter"; cf. Alb. bijë, dial. bilë
- Bindo/Bindus, an Illyrian deity from Bihać, Bosnia and Herzegovina; cf. Alb. bind "to convince" or "to make believe", përbindësh "monster".
- bounon, "hutt, cottage"; cf. Alb bun
- brisa, "husk of grapes"; cf. Alb bërsí "lees, dregs; mash" ( < PA *brutiā)
- Barba- "swamp", a toponym from Metubarbis; possibly related to Alb. bërrakë "swampy soil"
- can- "dog"; related to Alb. qen
- Daesitiates, a name of an Illyrian people, cf. Alb. dash "ram", corresponding contextually with south Slavonic dasa "ace", which might represent a borrowing and adaptation from Illyrian (or some other ancient language).
- mal, "mountain"; cf. Alb mal
- bardi, "white"; cf. Alb bardhë
- drakoina "supper"; cf. Alb. darke, dreke
- drenis, "deer"; cf. Alb dre, dreni
- delme "sheep"; cf. Alb dele, Gheg dialect delme
- dard, "pear"; cf. Alb dardhë
- Hyllus (the name of an Illyrian king); cf. Alb. yll (hyll in some northern dialects) "star", also Alb. hyj "god", Ylli proper name.
- sīca, "dagger"; cf. Alb thikë or thika "knife"
- Ulc-, "wolf" (pln. Ulcinium); cf. Alb ujk "wolf", ulk (Northern Dialect)
- loúgeon, "pool"; cf. Alb lag, legen "to wet, soak, bathe, wash" ( < PA *lauga), lëgatë "pool" ( < PA *leugatâ), lakshte "dew" ( < PA laugista)
- mag- "great"; cf. Alb. i madh "big , great"
- mantía "bramblebush"; Old and dial. Alb mandë "berry, mulberry" (mod. Alb mën, man)
- rhinos, "fog, mist"; cf. Old Alb ren "cloud" (mod. Alb re, rê) ( < PA *rina)
- Vendum "place"; cf. Proto-Alb. wen-ta (Mod. Alb. vend)
Early Greek loans
There are some 30 Ancient Greek loanwords in Albanian. 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.
- bletë; "hive, bee" < Attic mélitta "bee" (vs. Ionic mélissa).
- drapër; "sickle" < (NW) drápanon
- kumbull; "plum" < kokkúmelon
- lakër; "cabbage, green vegetables" < láchanon "green; vegetable"
- lëpjetë; "orach, dock" < lápathon
- leva (lyej); "to smear, oil" < *liwenj < *elaiwā < Gk elai(w)ṓn "oil"[clarification needed]
- mokër; "millstone" < (NW) māchaná "device, instrument"
- mollë; "apple" < mēlon "fruit"
- pjepër; "melon" < pépōn
- presh; "leek" < práson
- shpellë; "cave" < spḗlaion
- trumzë; "thyme" < (NW) thýmbrā, thrýmbrē
- fat; "groom, husband" < Goth brūþfaþs "bridegroom"
- horr; "scoundrel", horrë; "hussy, whore" < Goth hors "adulterer", *hora "whore"
- shkulkë; "boundary marker for pastures made of branches" < Late Latin sculca < Goth skulka "guardian"
- shkumë; "foam" < Late Latin < Goth skūma
- tirq; "trousers" < Late Latin tubrucus < Goth *þiobrok "knee-britches"; cf. OHG dioh-bruoh, Eng thigh, breeches
The earliest accepted document in the Albanian language is from the 15th century. 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, 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. Many Albanian names (such as Enver Hoxha) are of Turkish origin. Some loanwords from Modern Greek also exist especially in the south of Albania. A lot of the borrowed words have been re-substituted from Albanian rooted words or modern Latinized (international) words.
- Arbëresh language
- Gheg Albanian
- Tosk Albanian
- Illyrian languages
- List of Romanian words of possible Dacian origin – occasional correspondence in Albanian
- Dacian language
- Albanian at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
Arbëreshë at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
Arvanitika at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
Gheg at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
Tosk at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
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|Albanian edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia|
|Wikibooks has more on the topic of: Albanian language|
|For a list of words relating to Albanian language, see the Albanian language category of words in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Albanian language.|
|Wikivoyage has a phrasebook for Albanian.|
- Albanian Lessons (free online through the Linguistics Research Center at UT Austin)
- Albanian Translation
- Albanian Dictionary
- Albanian Swadesh list of basic vocabulary words (from Wiktionary's Swadesh-list appendix)
- Albanian basic lexicon at the Global Lexicostatistical Database
- on YouTube
- The emblematic figure of the Albanian linguist, Pr. Eqrem ÇABEJ (1908–1980, by Prof. Remzi Përnaska on the cultural website Albania (fr), (sh), (en)
- Albanian Online Dictionary (40 000 lemmas)
- English – Albanian / Albanian – English
- Dictionary on Western Barbarisms and Albanian Responsible Words entry on the National Library of Albania (Hysenbegasi, Arion. Fjalor i barbarizmave perëndimore në gjuhën shqipe dhe fjalëve përgjegjëse shqipe. Ombra GVG, Tirana, 2011)