To my parents and my sister Bardha
A Brief History of the Albanian Language
The Albanian language belongs to the Indo-European family of
languages but has its own specifics, similar to Greek or Armenian,
which means it does not have any direct similarities with other
languages in the same family.
The Albanian language is spoken by Albanians who descend from
the ancient Illyrian tribes that occupied the western part of
the Balkan peninsula. It is recognized to be the continuation
of the Illyrian language. Unfortunately, there are no written
documents to prove this theory so the connection between the
two languages is only indirectly supported through the names
of people, places and historical studies.
The first document in written Albanian dates from the 16th
century when the book, Meshari by Gjon Buzuku, was published
During the middle-ages, there was a large exodus of Albanians
into Greece, where today, an archaic dialect of Albanian is
still spoken. The Albanian language was also spoken in the Chameria
region of northern Greece, but due to the ethnic cleansing of
Albanians by Greeks there, many Albanians took refuge in Turkey
or returned to Albania. The remaining population has been forbidden
to speak Albanian.
After the death of the great Albanian national hero, Skenderbeg,
and the occupation of Albania by the Ottoman Empire, thousands
of Albanians migrated to southern Italy and Sicily. Today, some
200,000 Albanians called Arb‘resh remain there and speak
a very old Albanian dialect.
The national literary Albanian language was formed during the
middle of the last century. At that time, there were two main
dialects used: the northern dialect, Gege, and the southern
Both dialects were incorporated into one in 1972 during a language
congress held in Tirane where most of the Gege dialect was incorporated
into the Tosk dialect and was declared the official, unified
Albanian language and was subsequently accepted by all Albanians
of the former Yugoslavia.
Where is the Albanian language spoken today?
Today, the Albanian language is spoken in Albania and within
the ethnic Albanian areas of the former Yugoslavia, such as
Kosova, Macedonia, Montenegro and South Serbia. But in these
regions, where daily political repression has become a way of
life, the Albanian language is also suffering setbacks as a
result of the widespread discrimination against Albanians.
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