The Albanian Language – The History Through the 21st Century

Shqip is the Albanian language. Albanian’s origin is thought by some researchers to be a descendant of Illyrian, a group of Indo-European languages spoken in the Western Balkans until perhaps the 6th century AD. Others believe that Albanian descended from Thracian or Dacian, Indo-European languages are spoken in parts of the Balkans until about the 5th century AD.

Albanian absorbed certain words from Greek and many words from Latin between the 2nd century BC and the 5th century AD. After that, it was influenced by the languages of Slavic and Germanic people who settled in the Balkans. There were also borrowings from the Proto-Romanians or Vlachs from the 9th century AD. The Indo- European character of the language was first recognized in 1854 by the German linguist Franz Bopp.

Today the Albanian language is known as Shqip and spoken by over 7.6 million people in the southwestern Balkans, primarily in the Republic of Albania and in the neighboring countries Kosovo. Other countries with communities that speak Albanian are Macedonia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Greece, Turkey, Serbia, and other immigrant communities worldwide.

Albanian has two major dialects called Gheg and Tosk.

The Albanian language has two principal dialects, Gheg and Tosk have linguistic differences between the two. Gheg is spoken in the north of the country, and Tosk is spoken in the south part. The dialects are divided by the Shkumbin River in central Albania, flowing past Elbasan into the Adriatic. Both dialects are mutually intelligible, but still strikingly different in many ways and enjoying different histories.

For centuries, Gheg was the prevailing dialect in Albania, a literary language used by the educated and the elite since the 15th century. It changed in the 20th century when the Communists took power in Albania and put their support behind the Tosk dialect, which was less elitist and more for the working class. Whether this was true or not remains up for debate, but for decades, the government’s patronage placed Tosk in a superior position to Gheg.

Gheg survived perfectly well. Today both dialects flourish. The main differences between the two dialects are pronunciation and sentence structure, so it is perfectly comfortable for speakers of both dialects to understand each other.

In pronunciation, the significant difference is in each dialect’s rhotacism – Tosk is much more rhotic than Gheg. For Americans, a symbolic way to imagine this difference is to think of the classic Boston accent, where the “R” sound is distorted and emphasized.

There are also some spelling differences, and regionally within each dialect, you will find odd stress differences, with some Gheg speakers trailing off at the end of sentences where Tosk speakers hit a definitive stress point on the final syllable.

Tosk is spoken by around 3 million people (2000 – 2001 censuses). It is spoken in Italy, Greece, and in small Albanian immigrants in Ukraine, Turkey, Egypt, and the United States. The Tosk dialects have seven vowels and twenty-nine consonant phonemes.

Gheg is spoken by 3.45 million to 3.47 (2000 – 2001 censuses). It is spoken in the region of Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia. The Gheg dialects have between fourteen and nineteen vowel phonemes.

Mixing the dialects in the 21st century

Standard Albanian is based on the Tosk dialect. As time goes on, the two dialects are slowly being mixed. This process likely began under the Communist regime when educated Albanians took up the Tosk dialect to blend in better, resulting in a slurry of language that continues to advance today. Of course, this is a good thing, a healthy way for a single culture to deal with regional dialect differences like these. Towards the goal of a single, united Albanian, every citizen of this beautiful country.

Words and vocabulary

Albanian has been written with various alphabet since the 15th century. Originally the Tosk dialect was written with the Greek alphabet, while the Gheg dialect was written with the Latin alphabet. They have both also been written with the Turkish version of the Arabic alphabet. The Latin alphabet for Albanian was standardized in 1909, and a unified literary version of Albanian, based on the Tosk dialect, was established in 1972.

Structure of a sentence

The usual word order in Albanian sentences is Subject-Verb-Object.  Stress falls typically on the last syllable of the stem. Nouns are marked for gender, number, case, and have definite and indefinite forms.  Most nouns are masculine or feminine, though there are rare examples of neuter nouns, which now function increasingly as masculine in the singular and feminine in the plural. Definite articles are attached to the end of nouns as in Bulgarian, Macedonian, and Romanian. Adjectives generally follow the noun they modify and agree with it in gender, number, and case. Albanian’s verb system is too complicated due to many moods, each of which has several tenses. Verbs agree with their subjects in person and number.

We hope this information provides you a better understanding of the Albanian language.

Where can I learn how to speak Shqip (Albanian)?

Right here at LingoHut. You can learn to speak Albanian from your own language


Albanian Language – Wikipedia
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