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About Albanian Language

Albanian (Gjuha shqipe, pronounced [ˈɟuha ˈʃcipɛ], or shqip, pronounced [ˈʃcip]) is an Indo-European language spoken by nearly 7.6 million people,[1] primarily in Albania and Kosovo but also in other areas of the Balkans in which there is an Albanian population, including western Macedonia, Montenegro, southern Serbia and north-western Greece. Albanian is also spoken by native enclaves in Greece, along the eastern coast of southern Italy, and in Sicily. Additionally, speakers of Albanian can be found elsewhere throughout the latter two countries resulting from a modern diaspora, originating from the Balkans, that also includes Scandinavia, Switzerland, Germany, United Kingdom, Turkey, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.

History of the alphabet

The history of the Albanian alphabet is closely linked with the influence of religion among Albanians. The writers from the North of Albania used Latin letters under the influence of the Catholic Church, those from the South of Albania under the Greek Orthodox church used Greek letters, while others used Arabic letters under the influence of Islam. There were also attempts for an original Albanian alphabet in the period of 1750-1850. The current alphabet in use among Albanians is one of the two variants approved in the Congress of Manastir held by Albanian intellectuals from November 14 to 22 November 1908, in Manastir (Bitola, Macedonia).

Classification

Albanian was demonstrated to be an Indo-European language in 1854 by the philologist Franz Bopp. The Albanian language constitutes its own branch of the Indo-European language family.

Establishing longer relations, Albanian is often compared to Balto-Slavic and Germanic, both of which share a number of isoglosses with Albanian. Moreover, Albanian has undergone a vowel shift in which stressed, long o has fallen to a, much like in the former and opposite the latter. Likewise, Albanian has taken the old relative jos and innovatively used it exclusively to qualify adjectives, much in the way Balto-Slavic has used this word to provide the definite ending of adjectives. Other linguists link Albanian with Greek and Armenian, while placing Germanic and Balto-Slavic in another branch of Indo-European. Nakhleh, Ringe, and Warnow found that Albanian can be placed at a variety of points within the Indo-European tree with equally good fit; determining its correct placement is hampered by the loss of much of its former diagnostic inflectional morphology and vocabulary.

Origin

Traditionally scholars have seen the Albanian as the descendant of Illyrian, although this hypothesis has been challenged by some linguists, who maintain that it derives from Dacian or Thracian. (Illyrian, Dacian, and Thracian, however, may have formed a subgroup or a sprachbund; see Thraco-Illyrian.)

Geographic distribution

Albanian is spoken by nearly 6 million people, mainly in Albania, Kosovo, Turkey, the Republic of Macedonia, Greece and Italy (Arbereshe); and by immigrant communities in many other countries, notably the United Kingdom, the USA, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Standard

Albanian in a revised form of the Tosk dialect is the official language of Albania and Kosovo; and is official in the municipalities where there are more than 20% ethnic Albanian inhabitants in the Republic of Macedonia. It is also an official language of Montenegro where it is spoken in the municipalities with ethnic Albanian populations.

Sounds

Standard Albanian has 7 vowels and 29 consonants. Gheg uses long and nasal vowels which are absent in Tosk. Another peculiarity is the mid-central vowel "ë" reduced at the end of the word. The stress is fixed mainly on the penultimate syllable. Another notable difference between Gheg and Tosk pronunciations is that the Tosk equivalent of the Gheg sound "n" (as in femën, emën etc.) is the sound "r" (femër, emër etc.) It is noteworthy that in loanwords, the Gheg dialect retains the original "n" sound, like in "femën" (Italian "femminile", English "feminine", etc.), while this is not the case with the Tosk, which uses "r" instead ("femër").

Script

Albanian has been written using many different alphabets since the 15th century. The earliest written Albanian records come from the Gheg area in makeshift spellings based on Italian or Greek and sometimes in Turko-Arabic characters. Originally, the Tosk dialect was written in the Greek alphabet and the Gheg dialect was written in the Latin alphabet. They have both also been written in the Ottoman Turkish version of the Arabic alphabet, the Cyrillic alphabet, and some local alphabets.

In 1908 an official, standardized Albanian spelling was developed, based on a Gheg dialect and using the Latin alphabet with the addition of the letters ë, ç, and nine digraphs. After World War II the official language changed in that it adopted the Tosk dialect as its model.

Linguistic affinities

The Albanian language is a distinct Indo-European language that does not belong to any other existing branch. Sharing lexical isoglosses with Greek, Balto-Slavic, and Germanic, the word stock of Albanian is quite distinct. Hastily tied to Germanic and Balto-Slavic by the merger of PIE *ǒ and *ǎ into *ǎ in a supposed "northern group", Albanian has proven to be distinct from the other two groups as this vowel shift is only part of a larger push chain that affected all long vowels. Albanian does share with Balto-Slavic two features: a lengthening of syllabic consonants before voiced obstruents and a distinct treatment of long syllables ending in a sonorant. Conservative features of Albanian include the retention of the distinction between active and middle voice, present and aorist tenses, distinguishing the three original series of dorsal consonants (i.e., palatals, velars, and labio-velars) before front vowels, and initial PIE *h4 as an h.

Albanian is considered to have its closest linguistic affinity to and to have evolved from an extinct Paleo-Balkan language, usually taken to be either Illyrian or Thracian.

 

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