Albanian Dialects

The two principal dialects, Gheg in the north and Tosk in the south, are separated roughly by the Shkumbin River. Gheg and Tosk have been diverging for at least a millennium, and their less extreme forms are mutually intelligible. Gheg has the more marked subvarieties, the most striking of which are the northernmost and eastern types, which include those of the city of Shkod‘r (Scutari), the neighbouring mountains along the Montenegro border, Kosova, Macedonia, and the isolated village of Arbanasi (formerly Borgo Erizzo) on the Croatian coast of Dalmatia outside Zara (Zadar). Arbanasi, founded in the early 18th century by refugees from near Tivar (formerly Antivari, Bar), has about 2,000 speakers.

All of the Albanian dialects spoken in Italian and Greek enclaves are of the Tosk variety, and seem to be related most closely to the dialect of ‚am‘ria in the extreme south of Albania. These dialects resulted from incompletely understood population movements of the 13th and 15th centuries. The Italian enclaves–nearly 50 scattered villages– probably were founded by emigrants from Turkish rule in Greece. A few isolated outlying dialects of south Tosk origin are spoken in Bulgaria and Turkish Thrace but are of unclear date. The language is still in use in Mandritsa, Bulgaria, at the border near Edirne, and in an offshoot of this village surviving in M‡ndres, near Kilk’s in Greece, that dates from the Balkan Wars. A Tosk enclave near Melitopol in the Ukraine appears to be of moderately recent settlement from Bulgaria. The Albanian dialects of Istria, for which a text exists, and of Syrmia (Srem), for which there is none, have become extinct.