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Albanian (also known as Shqip), forms a branch of the Indo-European language ifamily all by itself. It is spoken by 7.3 million people in Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Greece, Turkey, and by immigrant communities world-wide. Albanian was finally proven to be an Indo-European language only in 1854.

Albanian mapAlthough there is no consensus among scholars about its origin, it is generally believed that the ancestors of Albanian split from Proto-Indo-European about 4,000 years ago.

Where did the Albanian language and Albanians come from?

  • Standard Albanian (based on  the Tosk dialect) is the national language of Albania where it is spoken by 2.9 million people (Ethnologue).
  • Albanian (based on the Gheg dialect) is the de facto provincial language of Kosovo (Ethnologue).



There are two principal dialects of Albanian that are mutually unintelligible due to significant linguistic differences between the two. The Shkumbin River in Albania divides the country into two dialect areas.

  • Tosk (toskërishtja) is spoken by around 3 million people south of the Shkumbin River. It is also spoken in Italy, Greece and in small communities of Albanian immigrants in Ukraine, Turkey, Egypt, and the United States (Ethnologue). Standard Albanian is based on the Tosk dialect. Tosk has three varieties: Arbereshe  spoken in Italy; Arvanitika spoken in Greece, and Tosk spoken in Albania.
  • Gheg (gegërishtja) is spoken by 2.8 million people north of the Shkumbin River. It is also spoken in Serbia and Montenegro and in the Republic of Macedonia (Ethnologue).



Sound system

Tosk dialects have 7 vowel and 29 consonant phonemes, i.e., sounds that make a difference in word meaning. Gheg dialects have between 14 and 19 vowel phonemes.

Tosk has seven vowel phonemes which are given below. Gheg differentiates between short and long and between oral and nasal varieties of these vowels. The vowel phonemes of Tosk are  given below (based on Wikipedia).

  • /y/ = ue in statue
  • /əa in about
  • /ɔ/ =in bog


Tosk has a rich system of consonants. They are presented in the table below (based on Wikipedia).

l ɬ
  • /θ/ = th in thin
  • /ð/ = th in that
  • /ʃ/ = sh in shop
  • /ʒ/ = s in treasure
  • /tʃ/ = ch in chap
  • /dʒ/ = j in jam
  • /c/ = no equivalent in English
  • /ɟ/ = no equivalent in English
  • /ɲ/ = first n in canyon
  • /ɬ/ = ll in bull
  • /r/ = rr in Spanish perro ‘dog’
  • /ɾ/ = r in Spanish pero ‘but’


Stress normally falls on the last syllable of the stem.


The grammar of Albanian is quite complex. It shares some features with the grammars of other Balkan languages, such as Romanian and Greek.

Nouns, adjectives, articles, and pronouns
Albanian nouns are marked for the following grammatical categories:

  • There are three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter.
  • Tehre are two two numbers: singular and plural.
  • There are 4 declensions.
  • There are 6 cases: nominativegenitivedativeaccusativeablativevocative. The vocative case occurs in only a few nouns.
  • Definite articles are attached to the end of nouns (as in Bulgarian, Macedonian, and Romanian), e.g., zog ‘bird’, zogu ‘the bird’, shtëpi ‘house’, shtëpia ‘the house’.
  • Adjectives generally follow the noun they modify and agree with it in gender, number and case.
  • Adjectives require a particle preceding them that agrees with the noun they modify, e.g., in një burrë i madh ‘a big man’, the noun burrë ‘man’ is modified by madh ‘big’ which is preceded by i which agrees with burrë ‘man’.


The verb system of Albanian is extremely complex due to the large number of moods, each of which has several tenses. Verbs agree with their subjects in person and number. Verbs have the following grammatical categories:

  • three persons: 1st, 2nd, 3rd
  • two numbers: singular, plural
  • six moods: indicativesubjunctiveadmirativeconditionaloptativeimperative
  • Each mood has several tenses, e.g., Indicative – 8; subjunctive – 4, admirative – 4, conditional – 2, optative – 2, imperative – 1.
  • Verbs have two forms, e.g., laj/ ‘I wash’, and lahem ‘I am washed’, or ‘I wash myself”.
  • An unusual feature of the verb phrase is that when a definite noun is the direct object of the sentence, a pronoun in the objective case that repeats this information is inserted into the verb phrase; e.g., i-a dhash‘ librin atij is literally ‘him it I gave the book to him’.


Word order
The normal word order in Albanian sentences is Subject-Verb-Object.


Albanian has borrowed a great number of words from its neighbors. As a result of close contact with the Romans, Albanian has many Latin loanwords such as mik ‘friend,’ from Latin amicus. Another source of borrowed vocabulary are  Slavic languages, especially Bulgarian. The rise of the Ottoman Empire also brought many Turkish words into the language.

Below is a list of common phrases and words in Albanian Tosk.

Tungjatjeta (tung) Hello
Mirupafshim Good bye
Ju lutem Please
Faleminderit Thank you
Më fal Sorry
Yes Po
No Jo
Burrë Man
Grua Woman
 Mirë Good
 Bad Keq


Basic Albanian phrases

Below are the numerals 1-10 in Albanian Tosk.



The oldest surviving document in Albanian was written in 1462 in the Gheg dialect. The oldest known Albanian printed book was a missal written by a Catholic cleric in 1555. The first Albanian school is believed to have been opened by Franciscans in 1638. The first Latin-Albanian dictionary was written in 1635.

The modern Albanian alphabet is based on an extended Latin alphabet which was introduced in 1908. It consists of 36 letters some of which were adapted to represent Albanian sounds. Before that, Albanian was written using the Greek alphabet, the Cyrillic alphabet, and the Turkish version of the Arabic alphabet. The table below lists the letters of the modern Albanian alphabet and their approximate pronunciation in English.

A a
B b
C c
Ç ç
D d
Dh dh
E e
Ë ë
F f
G g
Gj gj
H h
I i
J j
K k
L l
LL, ll
M m
N n
Nj nj
O o
P p
Q q
R r
R r
S s
T t
Th th
U u
V v
X x
Xh xh
Y y
Z z
Zh zh
  • ç = ch in chat
  • dh = th in these
  • gj = g in geese
  • j = y in yam
  • ll = ll in bull
  • nj = first n in canyon
  • r = Spanish r in pero ‘but’
  • rr = Spanish rr in perro ‘dog’
  • th = th in thin
  • x = ds in cads
  • xh = j in joy
  • zh = s in vision


Take a look at Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Albanian Tosk.

Deklarata e pergjithshme mbi te drejtat e njeriut
Neni 1.
Të gjithë njerëzit lindin të lirë dhe të barabartë në dinjitet dhe në të drejta. Ata kanë arsye dhe ndërgjegje dhe duhet të sillen ndaj njëri tjetrit me frymë vëllazërimi.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 1
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.


Language Difficulty
questionHow difficult is it to learn Albanian?
Albanian is considered to be a Category II language in terms of difficulty for speakers of English.


Basic resources

Albanian Language (Wikipedia)

Albanian (Ethnologue)

OLAC Resources in and about the Albanian language

9 Responses to Albanian

  1. georgeios

    Since when does greek add the articles after the subject and in which parallel universe?
    Romanian yes but dont write random stuff

    • Irene Thompson

      Your comment is appreciated, but not your language. If you want to participate in this blog, please use language appropriate to the professional tone of this discussion. I hope that you will take this seriously.

  2. Diane

    Your site is very nice.

    You might want to comment on the Arbëreshë in Italy who still speak their Albanian after 500 years. Also, theret is a relatively large USA population of Gheg and Tosk since 1999

    In the alphabet table you are missing rr and sh and r is there twice.

    For consonants, there is no semivowel w: u and a are put together to approximate this sound in foreign words (e.g., Uashington). In the list below the table, add c with the sound ts in cats and add single l (L, l ɬ) with no English equivalent. To me, gj is pronounced more as xh in practice but never as g in geese but perhaps softer than xh like the dj in adjutant. Q should be in the list of sounds with no English equivalent.

    Tabled vocabulary words are reversed in a couple of instances (yes, no, bad)

    Gheg has so many differences from Tosk that it is almost like another language to me. I would argue that Albanian is a 3 rather than a 2 in difficulty. My reasoning is as follows. Regular verbs are very complicated (one verb could have 274 active and nonactive forms) and there are many irregular verbs. There are also many irregular nouns and irregular plurals. Each noun has about 15-20 forms.. The list of pronouns is seemingly endless (20 clitic forms, 16 subject and object forms, 28 possessive forms, 7 dative/clitic pair forms (71 pronouns?). And to top it off, the numerous prepositions take different cases or the same preposition with different object cases have different meanings.
    Well it is a beautiful language and worth learning, but to me it is a 3.

    • Irene Thompson

      Thank you for your comments. We are very happy to receive all the help we can get. You may be right about Albanian being a Category III language, but we go by the data from the Foreign Service Institute, and it may be unreliable in the case of Less Commonly Taught languages such as Albanian.

  3. Graham Howe

    Greek does not have an enclitic definite article; besides Albanian and Romanian, the other Balkan languages that do have it are Bulgarian and Macedonian.

    Apple: the apple:
    Albanian: Mollë – molla
    Bulgarian: ябълка – ябълката:
    Macedonian: јаболко – јаболкото
    Romanian: măr – mărul –
    but Greek: μήλο – Το μήλο

  4. Christo Tamarin

    There are no speakers of Albanian in Bulgaria. About a hundred years ago, the only village in Bulgaria whose population spoke Albanian was abandoned by religious reasons:

  5. Noreg itruk

    If youlern to speak Albanian you just lerned to write it. No one say it. Its not english or other languages. It is writen as it is spoken. No rules like in writen language like no other language. As you speak it you can whrite it. Simple as that.

    • Irene Thompson

      Thank you. But I seriously doubt that any language can fully represent its sound system in writing, no matter how closely the orthography attempts to match the spoken language.


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