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Albanian language

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Albanian or Gjuha shqipe is a language spoken by more than six million inhabitants of the western Balkan peninsula (Albania, Serbia and Montenegro, Macedonia, Greece) in south-eastern Europe (Albanians) and by a small number of people in Calabria and Sicily, southern Italy.

Albanian (Gjuha shqipe)
Spoken in: Albania, Serbia and Montenegro, Republic of Macedonia, Greece, Turkey, Italy, and other countries
Region: Eastern Europe
Total speakers: 6,169,000 (Ethnologue, 2000)
Ranking: Not in top 100
Genetic classification: Indo-European


Official status
Official language of: Albania, Serbia and Montenegro, Republic of Macedonia
Regulated by: -
Language codes
ISO 639-1sq
ISO 639–2sqi
See also: Language – List of languages

Table of contents


The oldest known Albanian printed book, Meshari [1] or missal, was written by Gjon Buzuku, a Catholic cleric, in 1555. The first Albanian school is believed to have been opened by Franciscans in 1638 in Pdhanë.


Albanian was proved to be an Indo-European language in the 1850s. The Albanian language is on its own branch of the Indo-European language family. Some suggest that Albanian may be the survival of an Illyrian language once spoken in the southwestern Balkans. Others suggest Albanian may be related more to the ancient Dacian language once spoken in Moesia and Dacia. It is unclear whether Dacian and Illyrian were on different branches of the Indo-European family, but most scholars consider that they were.

Albanian is divided into four dialects, grouped into two dialect groups as follows:

  • Gheg Albanian
  • Tosk group
    • Arbëreshë Albanian
    • Arvanatika Albanian
    • Tosk Albanian


Some eminent scholars in the field of Albanian language have been Johann Georg von Hahn, Franz Bopp, Gustav Meyer, Norbert Jokl, Eqrem Çabej, Stuart Edward Mann, Carlo Tagliavini, Wacław Cimochowski, Eric Pratt Hamp, Agnija Desnickaja and Gjovalin Shkurtaj who is probably the most distinguished socio-linguist in Albania today. He is the head of the Department of Linguistics at Tirana University.

Geographic distribution


There are two principal dialects of limited mutual intelligibility: Tosk and Gheg. The geographical border of the two dialects has traditionally been the Shkumbini River in Albania, with Gheg being spoken north of the river, and Tosk south of the river. The two dialects have phonological as well as lexicological differences.

Tosk is spoken in southern and central Albania, by the Arbëreshë of Italy, among the Albanian minority of Greece: the Çam and the Arvanites, and in small communities of Albanian immigrants in Ukraine, Turkey, Egypt, and United States.

Gheg (or Geg) is spoken in northern Albania and by the Albanians of Serbia and Montenegro (Southern Montenegro and Southern Serbia), the UN protectorate of Kosovo, as well as those of the Republic of Macedonia.

Since after World War II there have been efforts to standardize on one dialect called Standard or Literary Albanian that borrows most heavily from the Tosk dialect (at the behest of the Dictator Enver Hoxha, himself a Tosk speaker). Two books that were published in the 1970s, Drejtshkrimi i gjuhës shqipe and Fjalori drejtshkrimor i gjuhës shqipe, contained prescribed orthographical rules and dictionary definitions respectively.

Official status

Albanian, in the Tosk dialect, is the official language of Albania. Albanian is also one of the official languages of Kosovo, and of the Republic of Macedonia.


Albanian has seven vowels: /i ɛ a ə ɔ y u/ and 29 phonemic consonants.


Albanian vowels
Phoneme Written as... Pronunciation as in...
/i/ i English bead
/ɛ/ e English let
/a/ a Spanish la
/ə/ ë English alone (schwa)
/ɔ/ o English four
/y/ y French du
/u/ u English doom


The following is a table of the Albanian phonemic consonants. Orthography and pronunciation are shown later.

Albanian consonants
DentalLabialAlveolarPostalv. Palatal Velar Glottal
Stop p b t d c ɟ k g
Affricate ts dz tʃ dʒ
Fricative θ ðf vs z ʃ ʒ h
Nasal m n ɲ
Approximant l j
Flap/trill ɾ r

Albanian consonants (writing and pronunciation)
Phoneme Written as... Pronunciation as in...
/p/ p English pen
/b/ b English bat
/t/ t English tan
/d/ d English debt
/c/ q similar to English hot year
/ɟ/ gj similar to English did you
/k/ k English car
/g/ g English go
/ts/ c similar to English hats, Japanese tsuki
/dz/ x similar to English goods
/tʃ/ ç (1) English chat
/dʒ/ xh English jet
/θ/ th English thin
/ð/ dh English this
/f/ f English far
/v/ v English van
/s/ s English son
/z/ z English zip
/ʃ/ sh English show
/ʒ/ zh English vision, French jour
/h/ h English hat
/m/ m English man
/n/ n English none
/ɲ/ nj similar to English canyon, Spanish ñ
/l/ l English law
/j/ j English yes, German j
/lˠ/ ll English mill ("dark L")
/r/ rr Spanish rosa, hierro (trilled)
/ɾ/ r Spanish aro, Japanese hara (flapped)


  • The affricates are pronounced as one sound (a stop and a fricative at the same point).
  • The palatal stops q and gj are completely unknown to English, so the pronunciation guide is approximate. Among major languages, palatal stops can be found, for example, in Hungarian (where these sounds are spelt ty and gy respectively) or Mandarin Chinese (q and j).
  • The palatal nasal nj corresponds to the sound of the Spanish ñ or the French or Italian digraph gn (as in gnocchi). It is pronounced as one sound, not a nasal plus a glide.
  • The ll sound is a velarized lateral, close to English "dark L".
  • The contrast between flapped r and trilled rr is the same as in Spanish. English does not have any of the two sounds phonemically (but tt in butter is often pronounced as a flap r in rapid speech).
  • (1) The letter ç can be spelt ch on American English keyboards, both due to its English sound, but more importantly, due to analogy with Albanian xh, sh, zh. (Usually, however, it's spelt simply c, which may cause confusion; however, meanings are usually understood).


Albanian split from the Proto-Indo-European language about 4000 years ago and most of the basic words are derived directly from it. Some of these words have cognates in Romanian and there is a theory that the language spoken by the Dacians before the Romanization was a language related to proto-Albanian.

It is not certain whether ancient Greek influenced the early Albanian language. With the expansion of the Roman Empire, Latin, more specifically, the Balkan Latin (which was the ancestor of Romanian), 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, another source of Albanian vocabulary were the Slavic languages, especially Bulgarian. Like for all Balkan languages, the rise of the Ottoman Empire meant an influx of Turkish words.

Writing system

The Albanian alphabet is based on the Latin alphabet, with the addition of the letters ë, ç, and nine digraphs to account for certain sounds in pronunciations. Until 1908, when the Latin alphabet was introduced in Albanian, the Greek alphabet, Cyrillic alphabet, and the Ottoman Turkish version of the Arabic alphabet had been used to write Albanian.


hellotungjatjeta/tun gʲat jɛ ta/(tUhn-ngIAt-IEta)listen
good-byemirupafshim/mi ru paf ʃim/(mEEr-Uh-pA-fshEEm)listen
pleaseju lutem/ju lu tɛm/(iU LU-tehm)listen
thank youfaleminderit/fa ɫɛ min dɛ rit/(fAh-leh-mEE-nde-rEEt)listen
that oneatë/a tə/(ATEH)listen
how much?sa është?/sa əʃ tə/(sAh ush-te)listen
Englishanglisht/an gliʃt/(ahn-GLEE-sht)listen
sorrymë fal/mə fal/(mUh FAL)listen
I don't understandnuk kuptoj/nuk kup toj/(nUhk KUP-toi)listen
where's the bathroom?ku është banjoja?/ku əʃ tə ba ɲo ja/(kuh ush-tEh bA-nio-jA)listen
generic toastgëzuar/gə zu ar/ (gUh-zuh-ar)listen
Do you speak English?flisni Anglisht?/flis ni an gliʃt/(flee-snEE ahn-GLEE-sht)listen

Note: All the sounds above are in the Ogg Vorbis format.

See also

External links " title="sq:">Albanian language edition of Wikipedia

Sample of 3 different type of Albanian Language:

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