Albanian/History of the Albanian Language

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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 in 1555.

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 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. 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.