Albanian language

Pronunciation [ʃcip]
Native to Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Greece[1] and Albanian diaspora
Native speakers
5.4 million (ca. 2011)[2]
  • Albanian
Latin (Albanian alphabet)
Albanian Braille
Official status
Official language in
Recognised minority
language in
Regulated by Officially by the Social Sciences and Albanological Section of the Academy of Sciences of Albania
Language codes
ISO 639-1 sq
ISO 639-2 alb (B)
sqi (T)
ISO 639-3 sqiinclusive code
Individual codes:
aae  Arbëreshë
aat  Arvanitika
aln  Gheg
als  Tosk
Glottolog alba1267[3]
Linguasphere 55-AAA-aaa to 55-AAA-ahe (25 varieties)

Albanian (shqip [ʃcip] or gjuha shqipe [ˈɟuha ˈʃcipɛ], meaning Albanian language) is an Indo-European language spoken by over five million people,[2] primarily in Albania, Kosovo, the Republic of Macedonia, and Greece,[1] but also in other areas of Southeastern Europe in which there is an Albanian population, including Montenegro and the Preševo Valley of Serbia.[lower-alpha 1] Centuries-old communities speaking Albanian-based dialects can be found scattered in Greece, Southern Italy,[4] Sicily, and Ukraine.[5] 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, Belgium, the Scandinavian countries, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Turkey.

Due to the large Albanian diaspora the total number of speakers is much higher than the native speakers in the Balkan region.[6]


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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).[7][8] The first audio recording of Albanian was made by Norbert Jokl on 4 April 1914 in Vienna.[9] 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.[10]

Linguistic affinities

The Albanian language is an Indo-European language which has evolved from an unknown Paleo-Balkan language. These are usually taken to be either Illyrian and/or Thracian. (See also Thraco-Illyrian and Messapian language.)

Albanian is now an isolate within Indo-European; no extant language shares the same branch. The only other languages that are the sole surviving member of a branch of Indo-European are Armenian and Greek.

Although Albanian shares lexical isoglosses with Greek, Balto-Slavic, and Germanic languages, the vocabulary of Albanian is quite distinct. In 1995, Ann Taylor, Donald Ringe and Tandy Warnow described as "surprising" their finding, using quantitative linguistic techniques, that Albanian appears to comprise a "subgroup with Germanic".[11] This theory is reinforced by subsequent research by the same authors.[12]

However, this hypothetical subgroup is no longer "significant" to the modern descendant languages, according to Taylor, Ringe and Tarnow, because "Albanian has lost so much of its original vocabulary and morphology".[11] Albanian also shares 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.[13] Other conservative features of Albanian include the retention of the distinction between active and middle voice, present tense and aorist. In another but uncommon hypothesis, Albanian is grouped with both Balto-Slavic and Germanic based on the merger of Proto-Indo-European *ǒ and *ǎ into *ǎ in a supposed "northern group".[14] However, this vowel shift is now regarded as only part of a larger push chain that affected all long vowels.[15]

Linguistic influences

The earliest loanwords attested in Albanian come from Doric Greek,[16] 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.[17] This is borne out into roughly three layers of borrowings, the largest number belonging to the second layer, 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 the 9th centuries, that was marked by heavy borrowings from Southern Slavic, some of which predate the "o-a" shift common to the modern forms of this language group. Starting in the latter 9th century, there was a period characterized by protracted contact with the Proto-Romanians, or Vlachs, though lexical borrowing seems to have been mostly one sided—from Albanian into Romanian. Such borrowing indicates that the Romanians migrated from an area where the majority was Slavic (i.e. Middle Bulgarian) to an area with a majority of Albanian speakers (i.e. Dardania, where Vlachs are recorded in the 10th century). Their movement is probably related to the expansion of the Bulgarian Empire into Albania around that time.

Latin influence

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".[18] 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)[19] and Wilhelm Meyer-Lübke (1914)[20] 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, had proposed the same theory in 1854.[21]

Eqrem Çabej also noticed, among other things, the archaic Latin elements in Albanian:[22]

  1. Latin /au/ becomes Albanian /a/ in the earliest borrowings: aurumar ; gaudiumgaz ; lauruslar. Latin /au/ is retained in later borrowings, but is altered in a way similar to Greek: causakafshë ; laudlavd.
  2. Latin /ō/ becomes Albanian /e/ in the oldest Latin borrowings: pōmumpemë ; hōraherë. An analogous mutation occurred from Proto-Indo-European to Albanian; PIE *nōs became Albanian ne, PIE *oḱtō + suffix -ti- became Albanian tetë etc.
  3. Latin unstressed internal and initial syllables become lost in Albanian: cubituskub ; medicusmjek ; paludem > V. Latin padulepyll. An analogous mutation occurred from Proto-Indo-European to Albanian. In contrast, in later Latin borrowings, the internal syllable is retained: paganuspagan ; plagaplagë etc.
  4. Latin /tj/, /dj/, /kj/ palatalized to Albanian /s/, /z/, /c/: vitiusves ; ratioarsye ; radiusrreze ; faciesfaqe ; sociusshoq etc.

Haralambie Mihăescu demonstrated that:

Other authors[26] 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).

Illyrians, Dacians, Getae and Thracians at 200 BC

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:[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] 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', 'navigation', 'sea shelves' and a few names of fish kinds, but not the words for 'sail', 'row' and 'harbor' — objects pertaining to navigation itself and a large part of sea fauna. This rather shows that Proto-Albanians were pushed away from coastal areas in early times (probably after the Latin conquest of the region) thus losing large parts (or the majority) of sea environment lexicon. A similar phenomenon could be observed with agricultural terms. While the words for 'arable land', 'corn', 'wheat', 'cereals', 'vineyard', 'yoke', 'harvesting', 'cattle breeding', etc. are native, the words for 'ploughing', 'farm' and 'farmer', agricultural practices, and some harvesting tools are foreign. This, again, points to intense contact with other languages and people, rather than providing evidence of a possible Urheimat.

October 1899 issue of the magazine Albania, the most important Albanian periodical of the early 20th century

The centre of Albanian settlement remained the Mat river. In 1079, they were recorded farther south in the valley of the Shkumbin river.[29] 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,[30][31][17] which means that in that period (the 5th to 6th centuries AD), Albanians were occupying nearly the same area around the Shkumbin river, which straddled the Jireček Line.[32][27]

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 which was an Italian language manuscript authored by Montenegrin sea captain Julije Balović Pratichae Schrivaneschae and includes a multilingual dictionary of hundreds of the most often used words in everyday life in the Italian, Slavo-Illirico, Greek, Albanian and Turkish languages.[33]


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.[34]

Albanian was formerly compared by some Indo-Europeanists with Balto-Slavic and Germanic,[35] 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.[36][37][38] 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.[39]


Albanian is often seen as the descendant of Illyrian,[40] although this hypothesis has been challenged by some linguists, who maintain that it derives from Dacian or Thracian.[41] (Illyrian, Dacian, and Thracian, however, may have formed a subgroup or a Sprachbund; see Thraco-Illyrian.)

(Old) Albanian

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.[42]

Proto-IE features

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).

Albanian-PIE phonological correspondences

Phonologically Albanian is not so conservative. Like many IE stocks it has merged the two series of voiced stops (e.g. both *d and * became d). In addition 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 *, *k, and * become th, q, and s, respectively (before back vowels * becomes th, while *k and * merge as k). Another remarkable retention is the preservation of initial *h4 as Alb. h (all other laryngeals disappear completely).[43]

  1. 1 2 Between vowels or after r
  1. Before u̯/u or i̯/i
  2. Before sonorant
  3. Archaic relic
  4. 1 2 Syllable-initial and followed by sibilant
  1. Initial
  2. Between vowels
  3. Between vowels and after u̯/i̯/r/k (ruki law)
  4. Cluster -sd-
  5. Cluster -sḱ-
  6. Cluster -sp-
  7. Cluster -st-
  8. Dissimilation with following vowel
  1. Before i, e, a
  2. Before back vowels
  3. After front vowels
  4. After all other vowels


Main article: Albanian dialects

Albanian is divided into two major dialects: Gheg, Tosk, and a transitional dialect zone between them.[44] The Shkumbin river is roughly the dividing line, with Gheg spoken north of the Shkumbin and Tosk south of it.[45] 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.

Standard Albanian

Since World War II, standard Albanian used in Albania has been based on the Tosk dialect. Kosovo and other areas where Albanian is official adopted the Tosk standard in 1969.[46]

Elbasan-based standard

Until the early 20th century, Albanian writing developed in three main literary traditions: Gheg, Tosk, and Arbëreshë. Throughout this time, an intermediate subdialect spoken around Elbasan served as lingua franca among the Albanians, but was less prevalent in writing. The Congress of Manastir of Albanian writers held in 1908 recommended the use of the Elbasan subdialect for literary purposes and as a basis of a unified national language. While technically classified as a southern Gheg variety, the Elbasan speech is closer to Tosk in phonology and practically a hybrid between other Gheg subdialects and literary Tosk.[46]

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.[46]

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

Tosk standard

At the end of World War II, however, the new communist regime radically imposed the use of the Tosk dialect in all facets of life: administration, education, and literature. Most Communist leaders were Tosks from the south.[46] Standardization was directed by the Institute of Albanian Language and Literature of the Academy of Sciences of Albania.[47] Two dictionaries were published in 1954: an Albanian language dictionary and a Russian–Albanian dictionary. New orthography rules were eventually published in 1967[47] and 1973 Drejtshkrimi i gjuhës shqipe (Orthography of the Albanian Language).[48]

More recent dictionaries from the Albanian government are Fjalori Drejtshkrimor i Gjuhës Shqipe (1976) (Orthographic Dictionary of the Albanian Language)[49] and Dictionary of Today's Albanian language (Fjalori Gjuhës së Sotme Shqipe) (1980).[47][50] 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),[51] Fjalori i Bashkimit (1908),[51] and "Fjalori i Gazullit" (1941).[52]

Calls for reform

Further information: Albanian Orthography Congress

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.

Geographic distribution

Albanian is spoken by approximately 5.4 million people,[2] 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.[53] 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).


Labial Dental Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Glottal
plain velar.
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Plosive voiceless p t k
voiced b d ɡ
Affricate voiceless t͡s t͡ʃ c͡ç
voiced d͡z d͡ʒ ɟ͡ʝ
Fricative voiceless f θ s ʃ h
voiced v ð z ʒ
Approximant l k j
Flap ɾ
Trill ɲ
IPA Description Written as Pronounced as in
m Bilabial nasal m man
n Alveolar nasal n not
ɲ Palatal nasal nj ~onion
ŋ Velar nasal ng bang
p Voiceless bilabial plosive p spin
b Voiced bilabial plosive b bat
t Voiceless alveolar plosive t stand
d Voiced alveolar plosive d debt
k Voiceless velar plosive k scar
ɡ Voiced velar plosive g go
t͡s Voiceless alveolar affricate c hats
d͡z Voiced alveolar affricate x goods
t͡ʃ Voiceless postalveolar affricate ç chin
d͡ʒ Voiced postalveolar affricate xh jet
c͡ç Voiceless palatal affricate q ~cute (RP)
ɟ͡ʝ Voiced palatal affricate gj ~gules (RP)
f Voiceless labiodental fricative f far
v Voiced labiodental fricative v van
θ Voiceless dental fricative th thin
ð Voiced dental fricative dh then
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
ɲ Alveolar trill rr Spanish perro
ɾ Alveolar tap r Spanish pero
l Alveolar lateral approximant l lean
k Velarized alveolar lateral approximant ll ball
j Palatal approximant j yes



IPA Description Written as Pronounced as in
i Close front unrounded vowel i seed
ɛ Open-mid front unrounded vowel e bed
ɡ Open central unrounded vowel a father, Spanish casa
ə Schwa ë about, the
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.[55] 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.[56][57] The schwa in Albanian has a great degree of variability from extreme back to extreme front articulation.[58] 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.[58]


Albanian has a canonical word order of SVO (subject–verb–object) like English and many other Indo-European languages.[59] 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)
Accusative një mal male malin malet
Genitive i/e/të/së një Mali i/e/të/së maleve i/e/të/së malit i/e/të/së maleve
Dative një Mali maleve malit 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)
Accusative një zog zogj zogun zogjtë
Genitive i/e/të/së një zogu i/e/të/së zogjve i/e/të/së zogut i/e/të/së zogjve
Dative një zogu zogjve zogut 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)
Accusative një vajzë vajza vajzën vajzat
Genitive i/e/të/së një vajze i/e/të/së vajzave i/e/të/së vajzës i/e/të/së vajzave
Dative një vajze vajzave vajzës vajzave
Ablative (prej) një vajze (prej) vajzash (prej) vajzës (prej) vajzave

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

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

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

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

Word order

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

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

In imperative sentences, the particle mos is used:


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


Albanian keyboard layout.

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.[52] 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.

Literary tradition

Earliest undisputed texts

The earliest known texts in Albanian:

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.[65] In 1968 the book was published with transliterations and comments by linguists.

Disputed earlier text

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

In 1967 two scholars claimed to have found a brief text in Albanian inserted into the Bellifortis text, a book written in Latin dating to 1402–1405.[66]

"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."[67]

Ottoman period

In 1635, Frang Bardhi (1606–1643) published in Rome his Dictionarum latinum-epiroticum, the first known Latin-Albanian dictionary. Other scholars who studied the language during the 17th century include Andrea Bogdani (1600–1685), author of the first Latin-Albanian grammar book, Nilo Katalanos (1637–1694) and others.[68]


Cognates with Illyrian


Early Greek loans

There are some 30 Ancient Greek loanwords in Albanian.[84] 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.[16]

Gothic loans

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

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.

See also


  1. Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia. The Republic of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence on 17 February 2008, but Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. The two governments began to normalise relations in 2013, as part of the Brussels Agreement. Kosovo has received recognition as an independent state from 110 out of 193 United Nations member states.


  1. 1 2 Euromosaic project (2006). "L'arvanite/albanais en Grèce" (in French). Brussels: European Commission. Retrieved 2016-12-05.
  2. 1 2 3 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)
  3. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Albanian". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  7. Nicholas Geoffrey Lemprière Hammond (1976). Migrations and invasions in Greece and adjacent areas. Noyes Press. p. 57. ISBN 978-0-8155-5047-1. Retrieved 23 January 2013.
  8. Zeitschrift für Balkanologie. R. Trofenik. 1990. p. 102. Retrieved 23 January 2013.
  9. Robert Elsie (2010). Historical Dictionary of Albania. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 216. ISBN 978-0-8108-6188-6. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
  10. Torte, Rexhep (2009-08-04). "Përfundoi shënimi i 100-vjetorit të Kongresit të Dibrës". Albaniapress.
  11. 1 2 Ann Taylor, Donald Ringe and Tandy Warnow, 2000, "Character Based Reconstruction of a Linguistic Cladogram", in (eds) John Charles Smith, Delia Bentley Historical Linguistics 1995: Volume 1: General issues and non-Germanic Languages. Selected papers from the 12th International Conference on Historical Linguistics, Manchester, August 1995, Amsterdam, John Benjamins Publishing, p. 400.
  12. See, for example, CPHL: Computational Phylogenetics In Historical Linguistics, an ongoing collaborative project that has involved Don Ringe, Tandy Warnow, Luay Nakhleh & Steven N. Evans since 2004.
  13. Hamp 1994, pp. 66–67.
  14. Watkins 1998, p. 38.
  15. Labov 1994, p. 42.
  16. 1 2 Huld, Martin E. (1986). "Accentual Stratification of Ancient Greek Loanwords in Albanian". Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschung (99.2): 245–253.
  17. 1 2 Mallory & Adams 1997, p. 9.
  18. Kopitar 1829, p. 254.
  19. Meyer 1888, p. 805.
  20. Meyer-Lübke 1914, p. 32.
  21. Bardhyl Demiraj (2010). Wir sind die Deinen. Studien zur albanischen Sprache, Literatur und Kulturgeschichte, dem Gedenken an Martin Camaj (1925–1992) gewidmet. Harrassowitz Verlag. ISBN 978-3-447-06221-3.
  22. Çabej 1962, pp. 13–51.
  23. Mihaescu 1966, pp. 1, 30.
  24. Mihaescu 1966, pp. 1, 21.
  25. Mihaescu 1966, pp. 1–2.
  26. Rosetti 1986, pp. 195–197.
  27. 1 2 Hamp 1963.
  28. Fine 1991, p. 10.
  29. Kazhdan 1991, pp. 52–53.
  30. Brown & Ogilvie 2008, p. 23.
  31. Fortson 2004, p. 392.
  32. Demiraj 1999.
  33. Pantić, Miroslav (1990). Književnost na tlu Crne Gore i Boke Kotorske od XVI do XVIII veka. Srpska književna zadruga. p. 98.
  34. Fortson, Benjamin W (2004). Indo-European language and culture: an introduction. Blackwell Publishing. p. 390. ISBN 1-4051-0315-9. Retrieved 28 May 2010. Albanian forms its own separate branch of Indo-European; it is the last branch to appear in written records
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  36. Google Books, Mallory, J. P. and Adams, D. Q.: The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World
  37., 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, 7–9 March 2007. Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg-Berlin
  38. A possible Homeland of the Indo-European Languages And their Migrations in the Light of the Separation Level Recovery (SLRD) Method – Hans J. Holm
  39. "Perfect Phylogenetic Networks: A New Methodology for Reconstructing the Evolutionary History of Natural Languages, pg. 396" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 5 November 2010. Retrieved 22 September 2010.
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  44. Gjinari, Jorgji. Dialektologjia shqiptare
  45. Concise Encyclopedia of Languages of the World By Keith Brown, Sarah Ogilvie Contributor Keith Brown, Sarah Ogilvie Edition: illustrated Published by Elsevier, 2008 ISBN 0-08-087774-5, ISBN 978-0-08-087774-7
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  47. 1 2 3 Lloshi, p. 10.
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  49. Kostallari, Androkli (1976). Fjalori+drejtshkrimor+i+gjuh%C3%ABs+shqipe&cd=2 Fjalori drejtshkrimor i gjuhës shqipe. "Instituti i Gjuhësisë dhe i Letërsisë" (in "Akademia e Shkencave e RPS të Shqipërisë", today "Akademia e Shkencave e Republikës së Shqipërisë"),.
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  52. 1 2 Lloshi, p. 12.
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  82. 1 2 The Field of Linguistics, Volume 2 Volume 1 of World of linguistics Authors Bernd Kortmann, Johan Van Der Auwera Editors Bernd Kortmann, Johan Van Der Auwera Publisher Walter de Gruyter, 2010 ISBN 3-11-022025-3, ISBN 978-3-11-022025-4 p.412
  83. Vladimir Orel (2000) postulates a Vulgar Latin intermediary for no good reason. Mallory & Adams (1997) erroneously give the word as native, from *melítiā, the protoform underlying Greek mélissa; however, this protoform gave Albanian mjalcë "bee", which is a natural derivative of Proto-Albanian *melita "honey" (mod. mjaltë).
  84. 1 2 3 Ancient Indo-European dialects: proceedings, Volume 1963 Ancient Indo-European Dialects: Proceedings, University of California, Los Angeles. Center for Research in Languages and Linguistics Authors Henrik Birnbaum, Jaan Puhvel, University of California, Los Angeles. Center for Research in Languages and Linguistics Editors Henrik Birnbaum, Jaan Puhvel Publisher University of California Press, 1966 p.102
  85. 1 2 A concise historical grammar of the Albanian language: reconstruction of Proto-Albanian Author Vladimir Ė. Orel Publisher BRILL, 2000 ISBN 90-04-11647-8, ISBN 978-90-04-11647-4 p.23
  86. A concise historical grammar of the Albanian language: reconstruction of Proto-Albanian Author Vladimir Ė. Orel Publisher BRILL, 2000 ISBN 90-04-11647-8, ISBN 978-90-04-11647-4 p.102
  87. Guillaum Bonnet, Les mots latins de l'albanais (Paris: L'Harmattan, 1998), 324.
  88. The word fat has both the meaning of "fate, luck" and "groom, husband". This may indicate two separate words that are homophones, one derived from Gothic and the other from Latin fātum; although, Orel (2000) sees them as the same word. Similarly, compare Albanian shortë "fate; spouse, wife" which mirrors the dichotomy in meaning of fat but is considered to stem from one single source—Latin sortem "fate".


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  • Ylli, Xhelal; Sobolev, Andrej N. Albanskii gegskii govor sela Muhurr. Muenchen: Biblion Verlag, 2003. ISBN 3-932331-36-2

External links

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.
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