Albanian language

Albanian language
Pronunciation [ʃcip]
Spoken in Primarily in Southeastern Europe and by the Albanian diaspora worldwide.
Native speakers ca. 5.8 million  (1989–2007)[1]
Language family
  • Albanian
Writing system Latin (Albanian alphabet)
Official status
Official language in  Albania
and recognised as a 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 sqi – Macrolanguage
individual codes:
aln – Gheg
aae – Arbëreshë
aat – Arvanitika
als – Tosk
Linguasphere 55-AAA-aaa to 55-AAA-ahe (25 varieties)

Albanian (gjuha shqipe, pronounced [ˈɟuha ˈʃcipɛ], or shqip Albanian pronunciation: [ʃcip]) is an Indo-European language spoken by approximately 5.8 million people,[1] primarily in Albania and Kosovo but also in other areas of the Balkans in which there is an Albanian population, including western Macedonia, southern Montenegro, southern Serbia and northwestern Greece. Albanian is also spoken in centuries-old Albanian colonies in southern Greece and in southern Italy and Sicily. Additionally, speakers of Albanian can be found elsewhere throughout the latter two countries resulting from a modern diaspora, originating from the Balkans, that also includes Scandinavia, Switzerland, Germany, United Kingdom, Turkey, Australia, New Zealand, Netherlands, Singapore, Brazil, Canada and the United States.



Linguistic affinities

The Albanian language is a distinct Indo-European language that does not belong to any other existing branch. Sharing lexical isoglosses with Greek, Balto-Slavic, and Germanic, the word stock of Albanian is quite distinct. Once hastily grouped with Germanic and Balto-Slavic by the merger of PIE *ǒ and *ǎ into *ǎ in a supposed "northern group",[2] Albanian has proven to be distinct from these two, as this vowel shift is only part of a larger push chain that affected all long vowels.[3] Albanian does share with Balto-Slavic two features: (1) a lengthening of syllabic consonants before voiced obstruents and (2) a distinct treatment of long syllables ending in a sonorant.[4] Conservative features of Albanian include the retention of the distinction between active and middle voice, present tense and aorist.

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

Linguistic influences

The earliest loanwords attested in Albanian are from Doric Greek while the heaviest influence was that of Latin. The period during which Proto-Albanian and Latin interacted was protracted and drawn out roughly from 2nd century BC to 5th century AD.[5] This is born out into roughly three layers of borrowings, the largest number belonging to the second layer. The first, with the fewest borrowings, was a time of less important interaction. The final period, probably preceding the Slavic or Germanic invasions, also has a notably smaller amount of borrowings. Each layer is characterized by a different treatment of most vowels, the first layer having several that follow the evolution of Early Proto-Albanian into Albanian; later layers reflect vowel changes endemic to Late Latin and presumably Proto-Romance. Other formative changes include the syncretism of several noun case endings, especially in the plural, as well as a large scale palatalization.

A brief period followed, between 7th c. AD and 9th c. AD, that was marked by heavy borrowings from Southern Slavic, some of which predate the "o-a" shift common to the modern forms of this language group. Starting in the latter 9th c. AD, 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 c. AD. Their movement is probably related to the expansion of the Bulgarian empire into Albania around that time. This fact places the Albanians in the western or central Balkans at a rather early date.

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. Albanian 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.[6]

Latin element of the Albanian language

Jernej Kopitar (1829) 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".[7] Kopitar gave examples such as Albanian "qiqer" from Latin cicer, "qytet" from civitas, "peshk" from piscis, and "shëngjetë" from sagitta. The hard pronunciations of Latin ⟨c⟩ and ⟨g⟩ are retained as palatal and velar stops in the Albanian loanwords. Gustav Meyer (1888)[8] and Wilhelm Meyer-Lübke (1914)[9] later corroborated this.

Eqrem Çabej also noticed, among other things, the archaic Latin elements in Albanian:[10]

  1. Latin /au/ becomes Albanian /a/ in the earliest borrowings: aurum → "ar", gaudium → "gas", laurus → "lar". But Latin /au/ is retained in later borrowings: causa → "kafshë", laud → "lavd".
  2. 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 *ōkt- became Albanian "tetë" etc.
  3. Latin unstressed internal syllable becomes lost in Albanian: cubitus → "kut", medicus → "mjek", padul → "pyll". An analogous mutation occurred from Proto-Indo-European to Albanian. In contrast, in later Latin borrowings, the internal syllable is retained: paganus → "i pëganë"/"i pëgërë", plaga → "plagë" etc.
  4. Latin /tj/, /dj/, /kj/ palatalized to Albanian /s/, /z/, /c/: vitius → "ves", ratio → "(a)rësye", radius → "rreze", facies → "faqe", socius → "shoq" etc.

Haralambie Mihăescu demonstrated that

  • some 85 Latin words have survived in Albanian but not in any Romance language. A few examples include bubulcusbujk, hibernaliamërrajë, sarcinariusshelqëror , trifurcustërfurk, accipiterqift, *musconeamushkonjë, chersydruskulshedër, spleneticumshpnetkë/shpretkë, solanumshullг/shullë.[11]
  • 151 Albanian words of Latin origin cannot be found in Romanian. A few examples include Albanian mik from Latin amicus, anmik or armik from inimicus, bekoj from benedicere, qelq from calix (calicis), kështjellë from castellum, qind from centum, gjel from gallus, gjymtyrë from iunctЇra, mjek from medicus, rjetë or rrjetë from rete, shërbej from servire, shpërej or shpresoj from sperare, vullnet from voluntas (voluntatis).[12]
  • some Albanian church terminology have phonetic features which demonstrate their very early borrowing from Latin. A few examples include Albanian lterll from Latin altare, engjëll from angelus, bekoj from benedicere, i krishtenë or i krishterë from christianus, kryq from crux (crucis), klishë or kishë from ecclesia, ipeshkv from episcopus, ungjill from evangelium, mallkoj from maledicere, meshë from missa, munëg or murg from monacus, i pëganë or i pëgërë from paganus.[13]

Other authors[14] have detected Latin loanwords in Albanian with an ancient sound pattern from the first century B.C., for example, Albanian qingëlë from Latin cingula and Albanian 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 batrân meaning 'old'.

Illyrians, Dacians, Getae and Thracians at 200 BC

Historical presence and location

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

The place where the Albanian language was formed is uncertain, but analysis has suggested that it was in a mountainous region, rather than in a plain or seacoast:[15] 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.[16]

Historical considerations

The center of Albanian settlement remained the Mat River. In 1079 AD they are recorded farther south in the valley of the Shkumbin river.[17] The Shkumbin, a seasonal stream that lay near the old Via Egnatia, is approximately the boundary of the primary dialect division for Albanian, Tosk-Gheg. The characteristics of Tosk and Geg in the treatment of the native and loanwords from other languages are evidence that the dialectal split preceded the Slavic migration to the Balkans[18] [19] [5] which means that in that period (5th to 6th century AD) Albanians were occupying pretty much the same area around Shkumbin river, which straddled the Jirecek line.[20] [15]

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.


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.[21][22] The earliest written Albanian records come from the Gheg area in makeshift spellings based on Italian or Greek and sometimes in Turko-Arabic characters. Originally, the Tosk dialect was written in the Greek alphabet and the Gheg dialect was written in the Latin alphabet. Both dialects had also been written in the Ottoman Turkish version of the Arabic alphabet, the Cyrillic alphabet, and some local 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 Monastir held by Albanian intellectuals from 14 to 22 November 1908, in Monastir (present day Bitola), which decided the alphabet and standardized spelling for standard Albanian down to the present. The alphabet is the Latin alphabet with the addition of the letters ë, ç, and nine digraphs.

Literary tradition

A 1332 document written in Latin by a monk, variously identified as either Guillaume Adam (Archbishop of Antivari in the Principality of Serbia from 1324 to 1341), or Brocardus Monacus (Frère Brochard), testifies to the existence of written Albanian prior to the earliest records so far discovered.[23]

Earliest undisputed texts

The earliest known texts in Albanian:

  • the "Formula e pagëzimit" (English: baptismal formula), which dates back to 1462 and was authored by Pal Engjëlli (or Paulus Angelus) (ca. 1417–1470), Archbishop of Durrës. Engjëlli was a close friend and counselor of Skanderbeg.[24] 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 ("I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost"). It was discovered and published in 1915 by Nicolae Iorga.[25]
  • the Fjalori i Arnold von Harfit (English: Arnold Ritter von Harff's lexicon), which dates 1496.[26]
  • a song recorded on a piece of paper in the Greek alphabet which was retrieved from an old Codex that was written in Greek. The document is also called Albanian: Perikopeja e Ungjillit të Pashkëve or e Ungjillit të Shën Mateut, (English: The song of the Easter Gospel, or The song of the Saint Matthew's Gospel). Although the codex is dated 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.[27]

The first book in Albanian is the Meshari (English: The Missal), written by Gjon Buzuku between 20 March 1554 to 5 January 1555. The book was written in the Gheg dialect in the Latin alphabet with some Slavic letters adapted for Albanian vowels. The book was discovered in 1740 by Gjon Nikollë Kazazi, the Albanian archbishop of Skopje. It contains the liturgies of the main holidays. There are also texts of prayers and rituals and catechetical texts. 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 ca. 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.[28] 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.[29]

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[30]

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.[31]

Standard Albanian

Standard Albanian is based on the Tosk dialect. 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),[32] Fjalori i Bashkimit (1908),[32] Gazulli (1941).[21][22] After World War II standardization was directed by the Institute of Albanian Language and Literature of the Academy of Sciences of Albania.[33][34] Two dictionaries were published in 1954, an Albanian language dictionary and a Russian–Albanian dictionary. New orthography rules were eventually published in 1967[34] and 1973 (Drejtshkrimi i gjuhës shqipe (Orthography of the Albanian Language),[35]) More recent dictionaries from the Albanian government are Fjalori drejtshkrimor i gjuhës shqipe (1976) (Orthographic Dictionary of the Albanian Language)[36] and Dictionary of Today's Albanian language (1980) (Albanian: Fjalori i sotëm i gjuhës shqipe).[34][37]


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.[38]

Albanian was formerly compared by some Indo-Europeanists with Balto-Slavic and Germanic,[39] 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.[40][41][42] 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.[43]


Albanian is often seen as the descendant of Illyrian,[44] although this hypothesis has been challenged by some linguists, who maintain that it derives from Dacian or Thracian.[45] (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.[46]

Proto-IE features

The demonstrative pronoun *ko is ancestral to Albanian ky/kjo and English he.

Albanian and other Indo-European languages
Albanian muaj ri nënë motër natë hundë tre zi kuq gjelbërt verdhë ujk
Other Indo-European languages
English month new mother sister night nose three black red green yellow wolf
Lithuanian mėnesis naujas motina sesuo naktis nosis trys juodas raudonas žalias geltonas vilkas
Old Church Slavonic měsęcь novъ mati sestra noštь nosъ tri(je) črъnъ črъvenъ zelenъ žьltъ vlьkъ
Czech měsíc nový matka sestra noc nos tři černý červený zelený žlutý vlk
Ancient Greek μήν
Armenian ամիս
Latin mēnsis novus māter soror nox nāsus trēs āter, niger ruber viridis flāvus lupus
Irish nuadh máthair siúr oidhche srón trí dubh ruadh glas buidhe faolchú
Sanskrit māsa nava mātṛ svasṛ nakta/nish nasa tri kāla rudhira hari pīta vṛka

Albanian-PIE phonological correspondences

Phonologically Albanian is not so conservative. Like many IE stocks it has merged the two series of voiced stops (e.g. both *d and *dh became d). In addition the voiced stops tend to disappear when between vowels. There is almost complete loss of final syllables and very widespread loss of other unstressed syllables (e.g. mik "friend" from Lat. amicus). PIE *a and *o appear as a (further e if a high front vowel *i follows) while and become o, and PIE appears as e. The 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).[47]

Proto-Indo-European Labial Stops in Albanian
PIE Albanian PIE Albanian
*p p *pékʷe/o—"cook" pjek "to cook, roast, bake"
*b b *sorbéi̯e/o—"drink, slurp" gjerb "to drink"
*bh b *bhaḱeha—"bean" bathë "bean"
Proto-Indo-European Coronal Stops in Albanian
PIE Albanian PIE Albanian
*t t *tuhx—"thou" ti "you (singular)"
*d d *dihxtis—"light" ditë "day"
dh[* 1] *pérde/o—"fart" pjerdh "to fart"
g *dlh1gho—"long" gjatë "long" (Tosk dial. glatë)
*dh d *dhégʷhe/o—"burn" djeg "to burn"
dh[* 1] *ghórdhos—"enclosure" gardh "fence"
  1. ^ a b Between vowels or after r
Proto-Indo-European Palatal Stops in Albanian
PIE Albanian PIE Albanian
*ḱ th *éh1mi—"I say" thom "I say"
s[* 1] *uk—"horn" sutë "doe"
k[* 2] *reh2u—"limb" krah "arm"
ç/c[* 3] *entro—"to stick" çandër "prop"
dh *ǵómbhos—"tooth, peg" dhëmb "tooth"
d[* 4] *ǵēusnō—"to enjoy" dua "to love, want"
*ǵh dh *ĝhedi̯e/o—"to defecate" dhjes "to defecate"
d[* 4] *ĝhr̥sdhi—"grain, barley" drithë "grain"
  1. ^ Before u̯/u or i̯/i
  2. ^ Before sonorant
  3. ^ Archaic relic
  4. ^ a b Syllable-initial and followed by sibilant
Proto-Indo-European Velar Stops in Albanian
PIE Albanian PIE Albanian
*k k *kághmi—"I catch, grasp" kam "I have"
q *klau-ei̯e/o—"to weep" qaj "to weep, cry" (Gheg qanj, Salamis kla)
*g g *h3gos—"sick" ligë "bad"
gj *h1reug—"to retch" regj "to tan hides"
*gh g *ghórdhos—"enclosure" gardh "fence"
gj *ghédni̯e/o—"get" gjej "to find" (Gheg gjêj)
Proto-Indo-European Labialized Velar Stops in Albanian
PIE Albanian PIE Albanian
*kʷ k *ehasleha—"cough" kollë "cough"
s *éle/o—"turn" sjell "to fetch, bring"
q *ṓd—"that" që "that"
*gʷ g *—"stone" gur "stone"
z *ērhxu—"heaviness" zor "heaviness; trouble"
*gʷh g *dhégʷhe/o—"to burn" djeg "to burn"
z *h1en-dhogʷhéi̯e/o—"to ignite" ndez "to kindle, turn on"
Proto-Indo-European *s in Albanian
PIE Albanian PIE Albanian
*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"
  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
Proto-Indo-European Sonorant Consonants in Albanian
PIE Albanian PIE Albanian
*i̯ gj[* 1] *ése/o—"to ferment" gjesh "to knead"
j[* 2] *uhxs—"you" (nom.) ju "you (plural)"
[* 3] *bhérō—"bear, carry" bie(r) "to bring"
h[* 4] *strehaeha—"straw" strohë "kennel"
*u̯ v *oséi̯e/o—"to dress" vesh "to wear, dress"
*m m *mehatr-eha—"maternal" motër "sister"
*n n *nos—"we" ne "we"
nj *eni-h₁ói-no—"that one" një "one" (Gheg njâ, njo)
∅/^ *pénkʷe—"five" pe, Gheg pês "five"
r *ǵheimen—"winter" dimër "winter" (Gheg dimën)
*l l *h3lígos—"sick" ligë "bad"
ll *kʷéle/o—"turn" sjell "to fetch, bring"
*r r *repe/o—"take" rjep "peel"
rr *u̯rēn—"sheep" rrunzë "female lamb"
*n̥ e *h1men—"name" emër "name"
*m̥ e *u̯iḱti—"twenty" (një)zet "twenty"
*l̥ uj *u̯kʷos—"wolf" ujk "wolf" (Chamian ulk)
*r̥ ri, ir *ǵhsdom—"grain, barley" drithë "grain"
  1. ^ Before i, e, a
  2. ^ Before back vowels
  3. ^ After front vowels
  4. ^ After all other vowels
Proto-Indo-European Laryngeals in Albanian
PIE Albanian PIE Albanian
*h1 *h1ésmi—"am" jam "to be"
*h2 *h2r̥tḱos—"bear" ari "bear"
*h3 *h3ónr̥—"dream" ëndërr "dream"
*h4 h *h4órǵhii̯eha—"testicle" herdhe "testicle"
Proto-Indo-European Vowels in Albanian
PIE Albanian PIE Albanian
*i i *sinos—"bosom" gji "bosom, breast"
e *du̯igheha—"twig" de "branch"
i *dīhxtis—"light" di "day"
*e e *pénkʷe—"five" pe "five" (Gheg pês)
je *u̯étos—"year" (loc.) vjet "last year"
o *ǵhēsr—"hand" do "hand"
*a a *bhaḱeha- "bean" bathë "bean"
e *haélbhit—"barley" elb "barley"
*o a *ghórdhos—"enclosure" gardh "fence"
e *h2oḱtōtis—"eight" te "eight"
*u u *supnos—"sleep" gju "sleep"
y *suhxsos—"grandfather" gjysh "grandfather"
i *mūs—"mouse" mi "mouse"

Geographic distribution

Albanian is spoken by nearly 7.6 million people[48] mainly in Albania, Kosovo, Turkey, the Republic of Macedonia, Greece and Italy (Arbereshe); and by immigrant communities in many other countries, notably the United Kingdom, the USA, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland.


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 the municipalities with ethnic Albanian populations.


Albanian is divided into three major dialects: Gheg, Tosk, and a transitional dialect zone between them.[49] The Shkumbin river is roughly the dividing line, with Gheg spoken north of the Shkumbin and Tosk south of it.[50]


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 penultimate syllable. Gheg n (femën: compare English feminine) changes to r by rhotacism in Tosk (femër).


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


  • The palatal stops /c/ and /ɟ/ occur in English as allophones of /k/ and /ɡ/ before front vowels.
  • 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 contrast between flapped r and trilled rr is the same as in Spanish.
  • 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.


IPA Description Written as Pronounced as in
i Close front unrounded vowel i seed
ɛ Open-mid front unrounded vowel e bed
a Open front unrounded vowel a father, Spanish casa
ə Schwa ë about, Dutch de
ɔ Open-mid back rounded vowel o law, toss
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.[51] 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.[52][53] The schwa in Albanian has a great degree of variability from extreme back to extreme front articulation.[54] Within the borders of Albania the phoneme is pronounced about the same in in both the Tosk and the Gheg dialect due to the influence of standard Albanian. But in the Gheg dialects spoken in the neighbouring Albanian-speaking areas of Kosovo and Macedonia, the phoneme is still pronounced as back and rounded.[54]


Albanian has a canonical word order of SVO (subject–verb–object) like English and many other Indo-European languages.[55] 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. Some dialects also retain a locative case which is not in standard Albanian. The cases apply to both definite and indefinite nouns and there are numerous cases of syncretism. The equivalent of a genitive is formed by using the prepositions i/e/të/së with the dative.

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

Indefinite Singular Indefinite Plural Definite Singular Definite Plural
Nominative 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 ends with "u":

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 një i/e/të/së 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, for example Romanian and Bulgarian.

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

Albanian has developed an analytical verbal structure in place of the earlier synthetic system, inherited from Proto-Indo-European. Its complex system of moods (6 types) and tenses (3 simple and 5 complex constructions) is distinctive among Balkan languages. There are two general types of conjugation.

Albanian word order

In Albanian the constituent order is subject–verb–object and negation is expressed by the particles nuk or s' in front of the verb, for example:

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

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

  • Parashikohet një ndërprerje "An interruption is anticipated".

In imperative sentences, the particle mos is used :

  • Mos harro "do not forget!".
  • 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.

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

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


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


Cognates with Illyrian

  • mal, "mountain"; cf. Alb mal[56]
  • bardi, "white"; cf. Alb bardhë[57]
  • drenis, "deer"; cf. Alb dre, dreni[58]
  • delme (sheep); cf. Alb dele (sheep)[59]
  • dard, "pear"; cf. Alb dardhë[60]
  • sīca, "dagger"; cf. Alb thikë or thika "knife"[61]
  • delme (sheep); cf. Alb dele (sheep)[59]
  • Ulc-, "wolf" (pln. Ulcinium); cf. Alb ujk "wolf":[62]
  • brisa, "husk of grapes"; cf. Alb bërsí "lees, dregs; mash" (< PA *brutiā)[63]
  • loúgeon, "pool"; cf. Alb lag, legen "to wet, soak, bathe, wash" (< PA *lauga), lëgatë "pool" (< PA *leugatâ), lakshte "dew" (< PA laugista)[64]
  • mantía "bramblebush"; Old and dial. Alb mandë "berry, mulberry" (mod. Alb mën, man)[citation needed]
  • rhinos, "fog, mist"; cf. OAlb ren "cloud" (mod. Alb re, rê) (< PA *rina)[65]

Early Greek loans

There are some 30 ancient-Greek loanwords in Albanian, of which some relate to north-western Doric Greek, which point to contacts with Doric colonies in Albanian coast and inland.[66] Early Greek loanwords borrowed into Albanian mainly denoted commodity items and trade goods.

  • mokër "millstone" < Doric Greek mākhaná "device, instrument"[67]
  • mollë "apple" < Doric Greek mālon "device, instrument"[67]
  • drapër "sickle" < Doric Greek drápanon[68]
  • kumbull "plum" < Doric Greek kokkúmelon[68]
  • brukë "Tamariske" < Doric Greek murikh[68]
  • trumzë "thyme" < Doric Greek thýmbrā, thrýmbrē[68]
  • lakër "cabbage, green vegetables" < Gk lákhanon "green; vegetable"[69]
  • presh "leek" < Gk práson[69]
  • bagëm "oil for anointment" < Gk báptisma "anointment"[69]
  • lëpjetë "orach, dock" < Gk lápathon[70]
  • bletë "hive; bee" < Greco-Latin < Gk (Attic) mélitta "honey-bee" (vs. Gk (Ionic) mélissa).[71]
  • çiklamin "purple"[72] < Ancient Greek kyklā́mīnos[73][verification needed]

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.

  • fat "groom, husband" < Goth brūþfaþs "bridegroom"[74]
  • gomar "donkey, ass" < *margë < Goth *marh "horse"[citation needed]
  • horr "scoundrel", horrë "hussy, whore" < Goth hors "adulterer", *hora "whore"[citation needed]
  • petkë, petëk "clothes, garment", petk "herder's coat" < Goth paida; cf. OHG pfeit, OE pād[citation needed]
  • shkulkë "boundary marker for pastures made of branches" < Late Latin sculca < Goth skulka "guardian"[citation needed]
  • shkumë "foam" < Late Latin < Goth skūma[citation needed]
  • tirq "trousers" < Late Latin tubrucus < Goth *þiobrok "knee-britches"; cf. OHG dioh-bruoh, Eng thigh, breeches[citation needed]

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

After the Slavs arrived in the Balkans, 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. Surprisingly the Persian words seem to have been absorbed the most. Some loanwords from Modern Greek also exist especially in the south of Albania. A lot of the borrowed words have been resubstituted from Albanian rooted words or modern Latinized (international) words.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Albanian language". SIL International. 2009. 
  2. ^ Watkins & 1998 38.
  3. ^ Labov & 1994 42.
  4. ^ Hamp & 1994 66-67.
  5. ^ a b Mallory, Adams & 1997 9.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Kopitar & 1829 254.
  8. ^ Meyer & 1888 805.
  9. ^ Meyer-Lübke & 1914 32.
  10. ^ Çabej & 1962 13-51.
  11. ^ Mihaescu & 1966 1, 30.
  12. ^ Mihaescu & 1966 1, 21.
  13. ^ Mihaescu & 1966 1-2.
  14. ^ Rosetti & 1986 195-197.
  15. ^ a b Hamp 1963.
  16. ^ Fine & 1991 10.
  17. ^ Kazhdan & 1991 52-53.
  18. ^ Brown, Ogilvie & 2008 23.
  19. ^ Fortson & 2004 392.
  20. ^ Demiraj 1999.
  21. ^ a b Lloshi & 12.
  22. ^ a b Lloshi, p.12
  23. ^ Elsie & 2003 28-30.
  24. ^ Prifti & 1982 3.
  25. ^ Iorga & 1971 102.
  26. ^ Anamali & 2002 311.
  27. ^ Lloshi & 2008 97.
  28. ^ "Meshari". National Library of Albania. Retrieved 2010-05-14. 
  29. ^ Todericiu 1967.
  30. ^ Elsie & 1986 158-162.
  31. ^ Marmullaku & 1975 17.
  32. ^ a b Lloshi, p.9
  33. ^ Lloshi & 10.
  34. ^ a b c Lloshi, p.10
  35. ^ Kostallari, Androkli (1973). Drejtshkrimi i gjuhës shqipe. Instituti i Gjuhësisë dhe i Letërsisë (Akademia e Shkencave e RPS të Shqipërisë),. 
  36. ^ Kostallari, Androkli (1976). Fjalori+drejtshkrimor+i+gjuh%C3%ABs+shqipe&cd=2 Fjalori drejtshkrimor i gjuhës shqipe. Instituti i Gjuhësisë dhe i Letërsisë (Akademia e Shkencave e RPS të Shqipërisë),. 
  37. ^ Akademia e Shkencave e RPS të Shqipërisë, Instituti i Gjuhesise dhe i Letersise (Albania). (1980). Fjalor i Gjuhes se Sotme Shqipe. Tirana: Academy of Sciences of Albania. Retrieved 2010-07-07. 
  38. ^ Fortson, Benjamin W (2004). Indo-European language and culture: an introduction. Blackwell Publishing. p. 390. ISBN 1405103159.'Indo-European+Language+and+Culture:++An+Introduction'&cd=1#v=onepage&q&f=false. Retrieved 2010-05-28.  Albanian forms its own separate branch of Indo-European; it is the last branch to appear in written records
  39. ^ Watkins, Calvert. "Proto-Indo-European: Comparison and Reconstruction", in The Indo-European Languages, Anna Giacalone Ramat and Paolo Ramat, eds. London: Routledge, 1998.
  40. ^ Google Books, Mallory, J. P. and Adams, D. Q.: The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World
  41. ^, Holm, Hans J.: The Distribution of Data in Word Lists and its Impact on the Subgrouping of Languages. In: Christine Preisach, Hans Burkhardt, Lars Schmidt-Thieme, Reinhold Decker (eds.): Data Analysis, Machine Learning, and Applications. Proc. of the 31st Annual Conference of the German Classification Society (GfKl), University of Freiburg, March 7–9, 2007. Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg-Berlin
  42. ^ A possible Homeland of the Indo-European Languages And their Migrations in the Light of the Separation Level Recovery (SLRD) Method - Hans J. Holm
  43. ^ "Perfect Phylogenetic Networks: A New Methodology for Reconstructing the Evolutionary History of Natural Languages, pg. 396" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-09-22. 
  44. ^ Fine, JA. The Early medieval Balkans. University of Michigan Press, 1991. p.10. Google Books
  45. ^ Fine, JA. The Early medieval Balkans. University of Michigan Press, 1991. p.11. Google Books
  46. ^ "FWF Austrian Science Fund - Press - (Old) Albanian - Living legacy of a dead language?". Retrieved 2010-09-22. 
  47. ^ Encyclopedia of Indo-European culture By J. P. Mallory, Douglas Q. Adams Edition: illustrated Published by Taylor & Francis, 1997 ISBN 1884964982, 9781884964985
  48. ^ Gheg 4,156,090 + Tosk 3,035,000 + Arbereshe 260,000 + Arvanitika 150,000 = 7,601,090. (Ethnologue, 2005)
    Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.), 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International.
  49. ^ Gjinari, Jorgji. Dialektologjia shqiptare
  50. ^ Concise Encyclopedia of Languages of the World By Keith Brown, Sarah Ogilvie Contributor Keith Brown, Sarah Ogilvie Edition: illustrated Published by Elsevier, 2008 ISBN 0080877745, 9780080877747
  51. ^ Orel, Vladimir (2000). A concise historical grammar of the Albanian language: reconstruction of Proto-Albanian. BRILL. p. 3. ISBN 9789004116474. Retrieved 15 December 2010
  52. ^ de Vaan, Michiel. "PIE *e in Albanian". p. 72. Retrieved 16 December 2010. 
  53. ^ Elsie, Robert; (London, Centre for Albanian Studies; England) (2005). Albanian literature: a short history. I.B.Tauris. p. 16. ISBN 9781845110314. Retrieved 15 December 2010. 
  54. ^ a b Granser, Thedor; Moosmüller (Sylvia). "The schwa in Albanian". Institute of Acoustics of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 15 December 2010. 
  55. ^ Maxwell, Daniel Newhall. (1979). A Crosslinguistic Correlation between Word Order and Casemarking institution. Bloomington: Indiana University Pub.
  56. ^ Stipčević, Aleksandar (1977). The Illyrians: history and culture. Noyes Press. Retrieved 2011-06-25. 
  57. ^ Language, Volumes 1-3. Linguistic Society of America. 1964. Retrieved 2011-06-25. 
  58. ^ Mayani, Zĕchariă (1962). The Etruscans begin to speak. Souvenir Press. Retrieved 2011-06-25. 
  59. ^ a b Diokletian und die Tetrarchie: Aspekte einer Zeitenwende. Millenium Studies. Retrieved 2011-06-25. 
  60. ^ Homeric whispers: intimations of orthodoxy in the Iliad and Odyssey. Retrieved 2011-06-25. 
  61. ^ Albanien: Schätze aus dem Land der Skipetaren. Retrieved 2011-06-25. 
  62. ^ Ancient Indo-European dialects: proceedings, Volume 1963. Millenium Studies. Retrieved 2011-06-25. 
  63. ^ "Illyrian Glossary". 
  64. ^ An Albanian historical grammar. 1977. Retrieved 2011-06-26. 
  65. ^ Indo-european language and culture: an introduction Blackwell textbooks in linguistics Author Benjamin W. Fortson Edition 2, illustrated, reprint Publisher John Wiley and Sons, 2009 ISBN 1405188960, 9781405188968 p.465
  66. ^ 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 3110220253, 9783110220254 p.412
  67. ^ a b 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 3110220253, 9783110220254 p.412
  68. ^ a b c d 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
  69. ^ a b c A concise historical grammar of the Albanian language: reconstruction of Proto-Albanian Author Vladimir Ė. Orel Publisher BRILL, 2000 ISBN 9004116478, 9789004116474 p.23
  70. ^ A concise historical grammar of the Albanian language: reconstruction of Proto-Albanian Author Vladimir Ė. Orel Publisher BRILL, 2000 ISBN 9004116478, 9789004116474 p.102
  71. ^ Vladimir Orel (2000) links the word to an unattested Vulgar Latin *melettum, which must be a borrowing from NW Greek mélitta. There is no real reason to posit Vulgar Latin mediation. J. P. Mallory and D. Q. Adams (1997) have the word as a native development, from *melítiā, a form also considered to underlie Greek mélissa; however, this form gave Albanian mjalcë "bee", which is a native word and derivative of mjaltë "honey" (< Proto-Albanian *melita). In any case, the word does not appear to be native to Albanian.
  72. ^ "Detailed information about the translation of "purple"". PhraseBASE. Retrieved February 2, 2011. 
  73. ^ κυκλάμινος. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at Perseus Project
  74. ^ 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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Samples of various Albanian dialects
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