The grammatical categories of
Albanian are much like those of other European languages. Nouns show overt
gender, number, and three or four cases. An unusual feature is that nouns
are further inflected obligatorily with suffixes to show definite or indefinite
meaning; e.g., buk "bread," buka "the bread." Adjectives--except
numerals and certain quantifying expressions--and dependent nouns follow
the noun they modify; and they are remarkable in requiring a particle
preceding them that agrees with the noun. Thus, in nj burr i madh, meaning
"a big man," burr "man" is modified by madh "big,"
which is preceded by i, which agrees with the term for "man";
likewise, in dy burra t mdhenj"two big men," mdhenj, the
plural masculine form for "big," follows the noun burra "men"
and is preceded by a particle t that agrees with the noun. Verbs have
roughly the number and variety of forms found in French or Italian and
are quite irregular in forming their stems. Noun plurals are also notable
for the irregularity of a large number of them. When a definite noun or
one taken as already known is the direct object of the sentence, a pronoun
in the objective case that repeats this information must also be inserted
in the verb phrase; e.g., i-a dhash librin atij is literally "him-it
I-gave the-book to-him," which in standard English would be "I
gave the book to him." In general, the grammar and formal distinctions
of Albanian are reminiscent of Modern Greek and the Romance languages,
especially of Romanian. The sounds suggest Hungarian or Greek, but Gheg
with its nasal vowels strikes the ear as distinctive. Although Albanian
has a host of borrowings from its neighbors, it shows exceedingly few
evidences of contact with ancient Greek; one such is the Gheg moken; (Tosk
mokr) "millstone," from the Greek mekhane'. Obviously close
contacts with the Romans gave many Latin loans; e.g., mik "friend,"
from Latin amicus; kndoj "sing, read" from cantare. Furthermore,
such loanwords in Albanian attest to the similarities in development of
the Latin spoken in the Balkans and of Romanian, a Balkan Romance tongue.
For example, Latin paludem "swamp" became padulem, and then
padure in Romanian and pyll in Albanian, both with a modified meaning,
Conversely, Romanian also shares
some apparently non-Latin indigenous terms with Albanian; e.g., Romanian
brad, Albanian bredh "fir." Thus these two languages reflect
special historical contacts of early date. Early communication with the
Goths presumably contributed tirq "trousers, breeches" (from
an old compound "thigh-breech"), while early Slavic contacts
gave gozhd "nail." Many Italian, Turkish, Modern Greek, Serbian,
and Macedonian-Slav loans can be attributed to cultural contacts of the
past 500 years with Venetians, Ottomans, Greeks (to the south), and Slavs
(to the east).
A fair number of features--e.g.
the formation of the future tense and of the noun phrase--are shared with
other languages of the Balkans but are of obscure origin and development;
Albanian or its earlier kin could easily be the source for at least some
of these. The study of such regional features in the Balkans has become
a classic case for research on the phenomena of linguistic diffusion.
Albanian finite verbs has morphological subject indexing and, in most cases, object indexing by clitic pronouns resulting in doubling, cf. the examples already glossed above:
Subject indexing is fused with the TAM inflections, as in the following indicative paradigm (after Zymberi 1991: 250) of laj 'wash (tr.)' (in Albanian verbs are cited by the first person singular of the present tense):
sample indicative paradigm: laj
[V2] There is an active and a medio-passive voice. The latter has "passive and reflexive" uses, and is to a large extent realized inflectionally, e.g. (lahem 'to get washed', medio-passive of laj):
medio-passive indicative paradigm: lahem
In the present and imperfect the medio-passive is characterized by the morpheme -he- and special subject suffixes in the singular; in the perfective past, by the clitic u and a zero-form in the third-person-singular (compare the active). In the periphrastic perfect, the auxiliary is kam 'have' for the active but jam 'be' for the medio-passive. There are "deponent" verbs with no active voice.
[V3] Verbs are negated by nuk or s' preceding them: Nuk flas anglisht 'I don't speak English'.
[V4] There is a single non-finite form, the participle, which usually ends in -ur, -r(ė), or -nė. There are a number of verbs with a completely irregular or suppletive stem for the participle and the perfective past tense, e.g. vij 'come', perfective erdha, participle ardhur; jap 'give', perfective dhashė, participle dhėnė, etc. etc. (see also jam and kam below). The participle has a wide range of uses. It has an adjectival use with a passive or medio-passive, resultative meaning:
(from lodhem 'get tired'), and is a component of the perfect tenses. Preceded by one of several particles, the same form functions as a verbal noun: duke larė 'while washing', pa larė 'without washing', pėr tė larė '(in order) to wash' (Zymberi 1991: 226-7):
In this function, the medio-passive participle-cum-verbal-noun is preceded by u:
[V5] The copula, jam (participle qenė), is irregular. [V6] For possessive predicates there is a 'have'-type verb, kam (participle pasur). Their paradigms are as follows:
[V7] These have auxiliary uses in the formation of the perfect tenses.
[N1] There are two genders, masculine and feminine; gender affects agreement throughout the nominal system, including the ligature morpheme (see below). [N2] There are two numbers, singular and plural; although noun inflections do not distinguish gender in the plural, adjective and demonstrative inflections differentiate masculine and feminine plural. Some nouns change gender between singular and plural (Zymberi 1991: 45).
Plural formation for nouns is irregular, as a few examples show (Zymberi 1991: 85):
Nonetheless, "the typical masculine endings are -ė and -a, and the typical feminine endings are -e and -a. Many nouns... have the same form in the singular and plural" (Zymberi 1991: 45).
[N3] There are five morphological cases. Both inflectional and ligature paradigms (cf. below) work in terms of variation for gender, number and case simultaneously, with a great deal of syncretism. Some sample paradigms for indefinite nouns follow (adapted from Zymberi 1991: 51):
indefinite noun paradigms
For these indefinite forms, nominative and accusative are not distinct. The ablative (mainly used with prepositions) is not distinct from the dative except optionally in the plural. The definite declension is discussed below.
[N4] Subject and object are differentiated by word order, case marking, and person-number indexing on verbs (by inflection for subjects, and through the use of obligatory clitic pronouns for objects):
For indefinite direct objects there is zero case inflection which is not distinct from the subject (see the above paradigms), and clitic pronoun doubling is not obligatory for indefinite direct objects either; but even then word order and subject indexing differentiate the subject and the object, e.g.
Indirect objects are distinguished from direct objects by use of the dative case and distinct pronoun clitics in the third person (these are always obligatory for indirect objects):
[N5] Other relations are expressed by prepositions, most of which govern the ablative case, while some take the accusative, and two the nominative (Zymberi 1991: 186).
[N6] Definitelness is highly grammaticalized: nouns, including even proper names (Zymberi 1991: 45), have contrasting indefinite and definite case paradigms. (Indefinite forms of proper names are used as vocatives and in the sentence 'My name is X'.) The definite paradigms corresponding to the indefinite forms tabulated above are as follows:
definite noun paradigms
Indefinite NPs may or may not include the determiner and numeral njė 'one' (and in the plural, ca 'some') in an indefinite article function, hence there is a contrast between Unė bleva libėr 'I bought a book' (non-specific) and:
(The object is here indexed by the clitic pronoun e because the object, although indefinite, is specific: Zymberi 1991: 55.)
Demonstrative determiners precede nouns:
(Albturist 1969: 70)
The same items can function as pronouns. Their forms are:
[N7] The attributive adjective normally follows the head and is minimally inflected to agree in gender and number (not case). The adjective is in most cases preceded by a clitic particle here referred to as a "ligature", one of the most salient features of Albianian grammar: njė vajzė e mirė 'a good girl'. A minority of adjectives are used attributively without a ligature (Zymberi 1991: 102), e.g. rruga kryesore 'the main street'.
The form of the ligature varies for gender, number, case and definiteness, although only a small range of forms (i, e, tė, sė) are employed through multiple syncretisms:
Although the usual order is noun + ligature + adjective, for stylistic purposes the attributive adjective may also precede the head. In this case the order is ligature + adjective + noun, and case suffixes are added to the adjective rather than the noun. Predicative adjectives also keep the ligature.
[N8] With possessive attributes the pattern is possessum + ligature + possessor, e.g. nėna e Agim-i-t 'Agim's mother', njė student i njė kolegj-i 'a college student'. The ligature agrees with the possessed item, and the possessor NP is in the genitive case. Pronominal possessives follow a similar basic pattern but in some forms the ligature and pronoun are fused, e.g. Ky ėshtė libri im 'This is my book'. The nominative definite possessive forms are:
[N9] Personal pronouns have distinct independent forms in the nominative, accusative, dative and ablative, and clitic accusative and dative forms. The independent forms of the third person pronouns are identical to the remote demonstrative (see above), except that the initial a- is sometimes dropped in the pronoun.
personal pronouns (independent and clitic)
Ju is also used as polite singular 'you'. The clitic pronouns precede finite verbs. When dative and accusative clitic pronouns occur together they fuse, e.g.