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Albanian Language-A Historical Approach

The Albanian language is considered one of oldest (if not the oldest) language in the Balkan peninsula and beyond.  Despite a few who disagree, linguists concur that the Albanian language belongs to the largest group of languages, that of the Indo-European languages (see tree below), and thus it is related to almost all European languages (Pacarizi, 2008).   The similarities of the Albanian language with that of the main languages classified as Indo-European are well documented.  One of the first researchers to recognize the Albanian language as belonging to this group was the German linguist Franz Bopp in 1854. Bopp and other linguists used a linguistic comparative methodology to show similarities between the Albanian Language with other Indo-European languages (Bopp, 1954; see also Hamp, 1966).

The origin of the Albanian language is still debatable among linguists; the majority of Albanian and international scholars agree that the language as well as the nation has originated from the ancient Illyrians (see Pacarizi, 2008, and Elsie, n.d.).  Over 2000 years the language has gone through modifications in syntax, grammar and phonetics because of the effects of two factors: 1) ‘colonial’ languages such as Latin (Roman Empire), Greek (Byzantine Empire) and Turkish (Ottoman Empire), and 2) the languages in contact such as Slavic, Turkish, Italian - mainly in borrowing vocabulary (Elsie, n.d).


The Albanian language is spoken by over 6 million people residing mainly in the states of Albania and the Republic of Kosovo, and regions of Macedonia. Eastern Serbia, and Montenegro which are also populated by an Albanian majority. There are two major dialects that are mutually intelligible with differences mainly in pronunciation and a few morphological distinctions; the Gegë dialect spoken by two thirds of Albanian speakers in the northern regions of Albania, the Republic of Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia, and Montenegro and Toskë dialect spoken mainly in Southern Albania and a part of Greece (Pacarizi, 2008). 


Despite Albanians being one of the most ancient peoples in the peninsula, with one of the oldest languages, the written form of the Albanian language has surfaced very late in the fifteenth century.  The first document written in Albanian language to date is Formula e Pagëzimit (Baptismal Formula) written by Pal Engjëlli in 1462, while the first book written in Albanian language is Meshari (The Missal), written by a cleric Gjon Buzuku in 1555 (Pacarizi, 2008).  Today, the standard Albanian language used as a medium of instruction in Albania and the Republic of Kosovo is based on the Toske dialect. The language has 36 letters; 7 vowels and 29 consonants. 



Ajeti, I. (2017). Studime për gjuhën shqipe: vepra të zgjedhura; zgjodhi dhe përgatiti Rexhep Ismajli F. 683, Prishtinë.

Bopp, F. (1854). Uber das Albanesische in seinen verwandtschaftlichen.

Beziehungen, Kon. Preuss. Akad.d. Wiss. Berlin.


Elsie, R. (n.d) The Albanian Language, Retrieved from


Paçarizi, Rr., (2008), Gjuha Shqipe, Thesis Kosova, nr.1,  Retrieved December 21, 2017 from


Hamp. E. P. (1966). The Position of Albanian, Henrik Birnbaum/Jaan Puhvel
eds., Ancient Indo European Dialects, Berkley/ Los Angeles.


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This information was originally published on the website of the International Network for Language Education Policy Studies ( as

Sadiku, M. (2018). Albanian Language: A Historical Approach. In F. V. Tochon (Ed.), Language Education Policy Studies (online). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin—Madison. Retrieved at: (insert link) 

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