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1. the official language of Albania: of uncertain relationship within the Indo-European family, but thought to be related to ancient Illyrian
a. a native, citizen, or inhabitant of Albania
b. a native speaker of Albanian
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the language of the Albanians. The largest centers of Albanian-speaking people outside Albania are in Yugoslavia in the autonomous province of Kosovo and Metohija and in Macedonia and Montenegro. There are large Albanian-speaking groups in Italy and Greece. The total number of Albanian-speaking people is about 3,000,000.

Albanian belongs to the Indo-European language family. It is reasonable to assume that Albanian is a direct extension of one of the extinct ancient Balkan languages such as Illyrian or Thracian. The Illyrian hypothesis is supported mostly by historical and linguistic arguments. As in most modern Indo-European languages, elements of ancient inflections in Albanian have undergone great changes, primarily through the reduction of vowels in unstressed syllables. In the course of time a secondary inflected system has developed in which vestiges of ancient Indo-European inflection have combined with new morphological series. Analytic constructions have also been important in expressing grammatical meaning. The typological links of Albanian with the languages of other peoples of the Balkan Peninsula is of particular interest. There are some similarities in the grammatical forms of Albanian, Rumanian, Bulgarian, and modern Greek. The study of these relations is a main concern of Balkan linguistics.

The Albanian language has borrowed heavily from other languages: Latin, the Romance languages, ancient and modern Greek, south Slavic languages, and Turkish. Ancient word roots of Indo-European origin are predominant in the Albanian vocabulary; these roots include the most common stems that express elementary concepts and form numerous word-building families. The modern Albanian vocabulary has also enriched itself with loanwords, formed mainly from Greek and Latin stems, to express scientific and political concepts.

The Albanian language group is divided into two major dialects: the Gheg (northern) and the Tosk (southern). The differences between these dialects are small. The oldest fragments of texts in the Albanian language are from the end of the 15th century. The first Albanian book, Meshari (Official Manual), written in 1555, was translated by Y. Buzuku. Modern Albanian literature emerged in the late 19th century from Gheg and Tosk. These two dialects had a parallel development and are gradually moving closer together. In the People’s Republic of Albania the Tosk form of the literary language is commonly used in the schools, press, and radio broadcasting. The Gheg form is used with Tosk in belles lettres and scientific literature.


Desnitskaia, A. V. Albanskii yazyk i ego dialekty. Leningrad, 1968.
Kochi, R. D., A. Kostallari, and D. I. Skendi. Kratkii albansk-russkii slovar’, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1951.
Pekmezi, G. Grammatik der albanesischen Sprache. Vienna, 1908.
Meyer, G. Etymologisches Worterbuch der albanesischen Sprache. Strasbourg, 1891.
Jokl, N. Linguistisch-kulturhistorische Untersuchungen aus dem Bereiche des Albanischen. Berlin-Leipzig, 1923.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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