Gheg Albanian

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"Geg" redirects here. For Spokane International Airport (IATA: GEG), see Spokane International Airport.
Region Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia
Native speakers
3.45 million to 3.47[1][2][3][4] (2000[5] – 2001 censuses)[6]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 aln
Glottolog gheg1238[7]
Linguasphere 55-AAA-aaa to 55-AAA-aag
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.

Gheg (or Geg) (Albanian: Gegë) 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 ethnographic 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, Krujë and Burrel.[14]

Northern Gheg[edit]

The Italian linguist Carlo Tagliavini puts the Gheg of Kosovo and Macedonia in Eastern Gheg.[15]

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.[16] The Northeastern Gheg is significantly different from Northwestern Gheg (spoken in Shkodër),[9] and it has been considered an autonomous branch of Gheg Albanian.[17] In turn, the Northeastern Gheg dialects themselves differ greatly among themselves.[18]

The dialect is also split in a few other minority dialects, where the letter "Y" is spoken as "I", like "Ylberi" (Rainbow) to "Ilberi", "Dy" (Two) to "Di".[citation needed] In Northeastern Gheg, *q (as in qen, "dog") and gj (as in gjumë, "sleep"), to palato-alveolar affricates ç and xh.[19]


Assimilations are common in Gheg but are not part of the Albanian literary language, which is a standardized form of Tosk Albanian.[20]



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[21]
[ĩ] ĩ (hĩna: 'I entered')
[ɛ̃] ẽ (mrẽna: 'within')
[ɑ̃] ã (hãna: 'moon')
[ɔ̃] õ (some dialects)
[ỹ] ỹ (gjỹs: 'half')
[ũ] ũ (hũna: 'nose')


Standard Tosk Gheg Northeastern Gheg English
Shqipëri Shqipëri Shqypní Shipní "Albania"
Një Një Nja/Ni Njo "one"
Bëj Bëj Baj Boj "I do"
Qenë Qënë Kenë Kôn "been"
Pleqëri Pleqrĩ Pleqni Pleçni "elders"
Është Është or Ësht' Âsht or â Osht or o "is"

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. ^ . BBC 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.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  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; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Gheg Albanian". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: 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. ^ Arshi Pipa (1978). Albanian literature: social perspectives. R. Trofenik. p. 173. ISBN 978-3-87828-106-1. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 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. ^ Carlo Tagliavini (1942), Le parlate albanesi di tipo Ghego orientale: Dardania e Macedonia nord-occidentale
  16. ^ Sami-Repishti 1984, p. 56
  17. ^ Pipa-Repishti 1984, 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."
  18. ^ Frans Van Coetsem 1980, Contributions to Historical Linguistics: Issues and Materials, Brill Archive, ISBN 9004061304, 9789004061309, p. 274: "Northeastern Geg ... differed greatly among themselves"
  19. ^ Pipa-Repishti 1984, p. 59: "Northeastern Gheg"
  20. ^ Camaj 1984, p. 4
  21. ^ Fialuur i voghel Sccyp e ltinisct [sic] (Small Dictionary of Albanian and Latin), 1895, Shkodër


External links[edit]