Albanian language

Albanian
shqip
gjuha shqipe
Pronunciation[ʃc͡çip]
Native toAlbania, Greece, Kosovo, Italy, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia
EthnicityAlbanians
Native speakers
5.4 million in the Balkans (2011)[1]
Early form
Dialects
Latin (Albanian alphabet)
Albanian Braille
Official status
Official language in
 Albania
 Kosovo
 North Macedonia[a]
 Montenegro[a][2]
Recognised minority
language in
Regulated byOfficially by the Social Sciences and Albanological Section of the Academy of Sciences of Albania
Language codes
sq
sqi (T)
ISO 639-3sqi – inclusive code
Individual codes:
aae – Arbëresh
aat – Arvanitika
aln – Gheg
als – Tosk
alba1267[3]
Linguasphere55-AAA-aaa to 55-AAA-ahe (25 varieties)
Albanian dialects.svg
The dialects of the Albanian language.
(The map does not indicate where the language is majority or minority.)
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Albanian (n/; shqip [ʃc͡çip] or gjuha shqipe [ɟ͡ʝuha ˈʃc͡çipɛ]) is an Indo-European language spoken by the Albanians in the Balkans and the Albanian diaspora in the Americas, Europe and Oceania.[1][4] With about 7.5 million speakers,[5] it comprises an independent branch within the Indo-European languages and is not closely related to any other language.[6]

First attested in the 15th century, it is the last Indo-European branch to appear in written records. This is one of the reasons why its still-unknown origin has long been a matter of dispute among linguists and historians.[6] Albanian is considered to be the descendant of one of the Paleo-Balkan languages of antiquity. For more historical and geographical reasons than specifically linguistic ones, there are various modern historians and linguists who believe that the Albanian language may have descended from a southern Illyrian dialect[7] spoken in much the same region in classical times. Alternative hypotheses hold that Albanian may have descended from Thracian or Daco-Moesian, other ancient languages spoken farther east than Illyrian.[6][8]Not enough is known of these languages to completely prove or disprove the various hypotheses.[9]

The two main Albanian dialects, Gheg and Tosk which are primarily distinguished by phonological differences, are mutually intelligible,[10][11] with Gheg spoken in the north and Tosk spoken in the south of the Shkumbin river.[10] Their characteristics[12] in the treatment of the native and loanwords from other languages, have led to the conclusion that the dialectal split occurred after Christianisation of the region (4th century AD) and at the time of the Slavic migration to the Balkans,[13][14] with the historic boundary between Gheg and Tosk being the Shkumbin[15] which straddled the Jireček line.[16][17] Standard Albanian is a standardised form of spoken Albanian based on the Tosk dialect. It is the official language of Albania and Kosovo[a] and a co-official language in North Macedonia as well as a minority language of Italy, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia.

Centuries-old communities speaking Albanian dialects can be found scattered in Croatia (the Arbanasi), Greece (the Arvanites and some communities in Epirus, Western Macedonia and Western Thrace),[18] Italy (the Arbëreshë)[19] as well as in Romania, Turkey, and Ukraine.[20] Two varieties of the Tosk dialect, Arvanitika in Greece and Arbëresh in southern Italy, preserved archaic elements of the language.[10]

Geographic distribution

The dialects of Albania

The language is spoken by approximately 7 million people, primarily in Albania, Kosovo, Greece, Italy, North Macedonia and Montenegro. However, due to the large Albanian diaspora, the worldwide total of speakers is much higher than in Southern Europe.[1]

Europe

The Albanian language is the official language of Albania and Kosovo, and co-official in North Macedonia. Albanian is a recognised minority language in Croatia, Italy, Montenegro, Romania and in Serbia. Albanian is also spoken by a minority in Greece, specifically in the Thesprotia and Preveza regional units and in a few villages in Ioannina and Florina regional units in Greece.[18] It is also spoken by 450,000 Albanian immigrants in Greece.

Albanian is the third most spoken language in Italy.[21] This is due to a substantial Albanian immigration to Italy. Italy has a historical Albanian minority of about 500,000, scattered across southern Italy, known as Arbëreshë. Approximately 1 million Albanians from Kosovo are dispersed throughout Germany, Switzerland and Austria. These are mainly refugees from Kosovo who migrated during the Kosovo War. In Switzerland, the Albanian language is the sixth most spoken language with 176,293 native speakers.

Albanian became an official language in North Macedonia on January 15, 2019.[22]

Americas

There are large numbers of Albanian speakers in the United States, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Canada. Some of the first ethnic Albanians to arrive in the United States were Arbëreshë. Arbëreshe have a strong sense of identity, and are unique in that they speak an archaic dialect of Tosk Albanian called Arbëreshë.

In North America (United States and Canada) there are approximately 250,000 Albanian speakers. It is spoken in the eastern area of the United States in cities like New York City, New Jersey, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Detroit, as well as in parts of the states of Ohio and Connecticut. Greater New Orleans has a large Arbëresh community. Oftentimes, wherever there are Italians, there are a few Arbëreshe mixed with them. Arbëreshe Americans, therefore are often indistinguishable from Italian Americans due to being assimilated into the Italian American community.[23]

In Argentina there are nearly 40,000 Albanian speakers, mostly in Buenos Aires.[24]

Asia and Oceania

Approximately 1.3 million people of Albanian ancestry live in Turkey, and more than 500,000 recognizing their ancestry, language and culture. There are other estimates, however, that place the number of people in Turkey with Albanian ancestry and or background upward to 5 million. However, the vast majority of this population is assimilated and no longer possesses fluency in the Albanian language, though a vibrant Albanian community maintains its distinct identity in Istanbul to this day.

In Egypt there are around 18,000 Albanians, mostly Tosk speakers.[25] Many are descendants of the Janissary of Muhammad Ali Pasha, an Albanian who became Wāli, and self-declared Khedive of Egypt and Sudan. In addition to the dynasty that he established, a large part of the former Egyptian and Sudanese aristocracy was of Albanian origin. In addition to the recent emigrants, there are older diasporic communities around the world.

Albanian is also spoken by Albanian diaspora communities residing in Australia and New Zealand.