Albanian/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.

A hypothesis: The Albanian language is spoken by Albanians who descend from the ancient Illyrian tribes that lived in the western part of the Balkan peninsula. It is believed to be the continuation of the Illyrian language. Unfortunately, there are no written documents to prove this hypothesis so the connection between the two languages is only indirectly supported through the names of people, places and historical studies. There are strong arguments against the hypothesis that Albanians are descendants if Illyrians, as for example the fact that the origin of many Albanian words connected to maritime are Slavic which should not be the case since Illyrians had strong maritime tradition. For example Illyrian queen Teuta supporting the piratical raids of her subjects.

During the middle-ages, there was a large exodus/occupation 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. 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 Arbëresh 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 dialect, Tosk.

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.