Gheg Albanian

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RegionAlbania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia
Native speakers
3.45 million to 3.47[1][2][3][4] (2000[5] – 2001 censuses)[6]
Language codes
ISO 639-3aln
Albanian dialects.svg
A map showing Gheg speakers in green
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For a guide to IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Gheg or Geg (Gheg Albanian: gegnisht, Standard Albanian: gegë or gegërisht) 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.[8][9]

Gheg is spoken in Northern Albania, Kosovo, northwestern Republic of Macedonia, southeastern Montenegro and southern Serbia, by the ethnic group known as Ghegs.[9]

Gheg does not have any official status as a written language in any country. Publications in Kosovo and Macedonia are in Standard Albanian, which is based on Tosk. However, some authors continue to write in Gheg.


The Ghegs speak Gheg, one of the two main Albanian dialects. Before World War II, there was no official attempt at legislating a unified Albanian literary language; both literary Gheg and literary Tosk was used.[9] The communist regime imposed a Tosk-based unified standard with basis in the Korçë speech, in all of Albania.[9] The same standard was adopted by the Albanians in Yugoslavia, who had until then used the Gheg standard, in a process that began in 1968, with culmination in 1972 when the first unified Albanian orthographic handbook and dictionary was agreed upon in 1972.[9]

The Albanian communist regime based Standard Albanian mostly on Tosk. That practice has been criticized, notably by Arshi Pipa, who claimed that this decision deprived Albanian of its richness at the expense of the Ghegs,[10] and he referred to the literary Albanian language as a "monstrosity" produced by the Tosk communist leadership that conquered anti-communist northern Albania militarily and imposed its Tosk Albanian dialect on the Ghegs.[11]

Although Albanian writers in former Yugoslavia were almost all Ghegs, they chose to write in Tosk for political reasons.[12] The change of literary language has significant political and cultural consequences because the Albanian language is the main criterion for self-identification of the Albanians.[13]


The Gheg dialect is divided by four sub-dialects: Central Gheg, Southern Gheg, Northwestern Gheg (or Western Gheg), and Northeastern Gheg (or Eastern Gheg).

Southern Gheg[edit]

Southern Gheg is spoken in Albania (Durrës, Elbasan, Tiranë) and western Macedonia.[14]

A subdialect is Central Gheg, spoken in Tiranë (sometimes included), Krujë, Burrel.[14] The transnational Dibra region speaks Central Gheg dialects as well, and there is one particularly divergent dialect in Upper Reka, the Upper Reka Albanian dialect.[15] Additional included regions include Lura, Tetova, Gostivari, Skopje and Kumanova [16]

The dialect of parts of Mirdita is also sometimes classified as a subdialect of Southern Gheg.[17]

Southern Gheg proper is said to include the prominent dialects of Durres, Elbasan and Tirana.[17]

Northern Gheg[edit]

The Italian linguist Carlo Tagliavini puts the Gheg of Kosovo and Macedonia in Eastern Gheg.[21]

Northeastern Gheg[edit]

Northeastern Gheg, sometimes known as Eastern Gheg, is a variant or sub-dialect of Gheg Albanian spoken in Northeastern Albania, Kosovo, and Serbia.

The Northeastern Gheg dialectal area begins roughly down from the eastern Montenegrin-Albanian border, including the Albanian districts (Second-level administrative country subdivisions) of Tropojë, Pukë, Has, Mirditë and Kukës; the whole of Kosovo[a], and the municipalities of Bujanovac and Preševo in Serbia. The tribes in Albania speaking the dialect include Nikaj-Merturi, Puka, Gashi, and Tropoja.

The Albanian speech in roughly around Tetovo and Skopska Crna Gora, in the Republic of Macedonia, is sometimes regarded part of Northeastern Gheg.[citation needed]

Calques of Serbian origin are evident in the areas of syntax and morphology.[22] The Northeastern Gheg slightly differs from Northwestern Gheg (spoken in Shkodër),[9], as the pronunciation is deeper and more prolonged[clarification needed]. Northeastern Gheg is considered to be the autonomous branch of Gheg Albanian[23] in turn, the Northeastern Gheg dialects themselves differ greatly among themselves.[24]

The dialect is also split in a few other minority dialects, where the phoneme [y] of standard Albanian is pronounced as [i], i.e "ylberi" to "ilberi" (both meaning rainbow); "dy" to "di" (both meaning two).[citation needed] In Northeastern Gheg, the palatal stops of standard Albanian, such as [c] (as in qen, "dog") and [ɟ] (as in gjumë, "sleep"), are realised as palato-alveolar affricates, [t͡ʃ] and [d͡ʒ] respectively.[25]

Northwestern Gheg[edit]

Northwestern Gheg, is a sub-dialect of Gheg Albanian spoken in Northwestern Albania, Southern Montenegro, and Western Kosovo. The inhabitants of the renowned region of Malësia are Northwestern Gheg speakers. The tribes that speak this dialect are the Malësor, Dukagjin and other highlander tribes which include (Malësia) : Hoti, Gruda, Triepshi, Kelmendi, Kastrati, Shkreli, Lohja, etc., (Dukagjin) : Shala, Shoshi, Shllaku, Dushmani, etc., etc..(Mirdita, Lezhë),...(see Tribes of Albania).

The main contrast between Northwestern Gheg and Northeastern Gheg is the slight difference in the tone and or pronunciation of the respective dialects. Northwestern Gheg does not have the more deeper sounding a's, e's, etc. and is considered by some to sound slightly more soft and clear in tone compared to Northeastern Gheg, yet still spoken with a rough Gheg undertone compared to the Southern Albanian dialects. Other differences include different vocabulary, and the use of words like "kon" (been), and "qysh" (how?) which are used in Northeastern Gheg, and not often used in Northwestern Gheg. Instead Northwestern Gheg speakers say "kjen or ken" (been), and use the adverb "si" to say (how?). For example in Northeastern Gheg to say "when I was young", you would say, "kur jam kon i ri", while in Northwestern Gheg you would say "kur kam kjen i ri."

Although there is a degree of variance, Northwestern Gheg and Northeastern Gheg are still very much similar, and speakers of both sub-dialects have no problem understanding and having a conversation with one another.

Differentiations between the Northwestern Gheg dialects themselves are minuscule, unlike the Northeastern Gheg dialects where there is more differentiation.


Assimilations are common in Gheg but are not part of the Albanian literary language, which is a standardized form of Tosk Albanian.[26]



IPA Written as
[ə] ë (nër: 'under')
[a] a (mas: 'after')
[ɑ] â (prâpë: 'back')
[ɒ] ä (knäqët: 'having fun')
[e] e (dere: 'door')
[ɛ] ê (mênôj: 'I think')
[i] i (dritë: 'light')
[o] o (kos: 'yoghurt')
[u] u (kur: 'when')
[y] y (ylli: 'star')
[ɔ] ô (dôrë: 'hand')


IPA Written as[27]
[ĩ] ĩ (hĩna: 'I entered')
[ɛ̃] ẽ (mrẽna: 'within')
[ɑ̃] ã (hãna: 'moon')
[ɔ̃] õ (fõ: 'satiated', some dialects)
[ỹ] ỹ (gjỹs: 'half')
[ũ] ũ (hũna: 'nose')


Standard Tosk Arberesh South Gheg Central Gheg Northeastern Gheg Northwestern Gheg English
Shqipëri Shqipëri Shkjipërí Shqiprí Shqipní Shqypní/Shipni Shipní "Albania"
Një Një Një Nji, njo Ni Ni, njo/nja Nja, nji "One"
Bëj Bëj Bunj Bôj Bôj Bâj, boj Bâj "I do"
Qenë Qënë Klënë Qên Kên Kôn, kân Kjen "Been"
Pleqëri Pleqrĩ Plekjërí Pleqni Pleqni Pleçni Pleçni "Old age"
Është Është or Ësht' Isht or ë Ôsht or ô Ôsht or ô Osht or o/Âsht or â Âsht or â "Is"
Nëntë Nëntë Nëntë Nônt Nôn Non, Nond/Nân Nând "Nine"
Shtëpi Shtëpi Shpi Shpí Shp(e)j Shp(a)j/Shpi,Shpí Shp(e)i "Home"

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "South Serbia Albanians Seek Community of Municipalities". Retrieved 17 July 2013. South Serbia is home to 50,000 or so Albanians.
  2. ^ "Presevo valley tension". BBC. 2 February 2001. Retrieved 24 October 2013. Initially, the guerrillas' publicly acknowledged objective was to protect the local ethnic Albanian population of some 70,000 people from the repressive actions of the Serb security forces.
  3. ^ "The Presevo Valley of Southern Serbia alongside Kosovo The Case for Decentralisation and Minority Protection" (PDF). Retrieved 24 October 2013. The total population of the Valley is around 86,000 inhabitants of whom around 57,000 are Albanians and the rest are Serbs and Roma
  4. ^ "Yugoslavia: Serbia Offers Peace Plan For Presevo Valley". Retrieved 24 October 2013. The Serbian peace proposal calls for integrating the Presevo valley's 70,000 ethnic Albanian residents into mainstream Serbian political and social life.
  5. ^ Figure for Serbia appears to be taken from 2000 figure for Serbia and Montenegro.
    Gheg Albanian at Ethnologue (15th ed., 2005)
  6. ^ Gheg at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  7. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Gheg Albanian". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  8. ^ Brown and Ogilvie (2008), p. 23. 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.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Joseph 2003, When Languages Collide: Perspectives on Language Conflict, Language Competition, and Language Coexistence, p. 266: "Northeastern Geg"
  10. ^ Canadian review of studies in nationalism: Revue canadienne des études sur le nationalisme, Volume 19. University of Prince Edward Island. 1992. p. 206. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
  11. ^ Canadian review of studies in nationalism: Revue canadienne des études sur le nationalisme, Volume 19. University of Prince Edward Island. 1992. p. 207. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
  12. ^ Pipa, p. 173: Although the Albanian population in Yugoslavia is almost exclusively Gheg, the Albanian writers there have chosen, for sheer political reasons, to write in Tosk
  13. ^ Telos. Telos Press. 1989. p. 1. Retrieved 16 July 2013. The political-cultural relevance of the abolition of literary Gheg with literary Tosk.... Albanians identify themselves with language...
  14. ^ a b Hinrichs, Uwe; Buttner, Uwe (1999). Handbuch der Sudosteuropa-Linguistik. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 285. ISBN 978-3-447-03939-0. Retrieved 5 April 2011.
  15. ^ Friedman, Victor A (2006). "Balkanizing the Balkan Linguistic Sprachbund" in Aichenwald et al, Grammars in Contact: A Cross-Linguistic Typology. Pages 209.
  16. ^ Meniku, Linda (2008). Gheg Albanian Reader. Page 8
  17. ^ a b Meniku, Linda(2008). Gheg Albanian Reader. Page 9
  18. ^ a b Meniku, Linda (2008). Gheg Albanian Reader. Page 7
  19. ^ Meniku (2008). Gheg Albanian Reader. Page 7
  20. ^ Matasović, Ranka (2012). "A Grammatical Sketch of Albanian for students of Indo-European". Page 42-43
  21. ^ Tagliavini, Carlo (1942). Le parlate albanesi di tipo Ghego orientale: (Dardania e Macedonia nord-occidentale). Reale Accademia d'Italia.
  22. ^ Pipa, p. 56
  23. ^ Pipa, p. 57: Northern Gheg is divided vertically. Later this proved to be appropriate chiefly for methodological reasons, seeing that Eastern Gheg is considered to be an autonomous branch.
  24. ^ Van Coetsem, Frans (1980), Contributions to Historical Linguistics: Issues and Materials, Brill Archive, ISBN 9004061304. p. 274: "Northeastern Geg ... differed greatly among themselves"
  25. ^ Pipa, p. 59
  26. ^ Martin Camaj; Leonard Fox (January 1984). Albanian Grammar: With Exercises, Chrestomathy and Glossaries. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 4. ISBN 978-3-447-02467-9.
  27. ^ Fialuur i voghel Sccyp e ltinisct [sic] (Small Dictionary of Albanian and Latin), 1895, Shkodër


External links[edit]