I'm off to Albania tomorrow so starting to get more and more interested in the language.

It's one of the outliers on the Indo-European family tree. It's not hard to see a relationship but it's not easy to say what that relationship is.

As well as the distant genetic relationship it coexists in the Balkan sprachbund which might blur the picture a little.

Have linguists come to agree to any extent which other branch(es) are most closely related to Albanian? Greek? Balto-Slavic? If you Google you even see Romanian suggested.

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    I've seen at least three attempted reconstructions of the sequence of branchings of the IE family, each of which tried to minimize the number of independent innovations. In the oldest of these (2009 or before), Albanian's nearest cousin is Germanic, surprisingly. In the others (2012 and 2016), it's Greek or the common ancestor of Greek and Armenian. Sorry I didn't save any citation. Nov 25 '19 at 2:49

I'm sure you've found enough information on Wikipedia and other places that make it clear that Albanian isn't closely related to any other living language, but for those who haven't the most concise summary I've found is at Krysstal's Language Families ( http://www.krysstal.com/langfams_indoeuro.html):

"The Illyric Branch [of Indo European]. Only Albanian (called Shqip by its speakers) belongs to this branch. It has been written in the Latin script since 1909; this replaced a number of writing systems including Greek and Arabic scripts."

"There are two dialects that have been diverging for 1000 years. They are mostly mutually intelligible. Geg is spoken in the north of Albania and Kosovo (Kosova). Tosk is spoken in southern Albania and north west Greece."

"The ancient Illyric and Mesapian languages, spoken in parts of Italy, are considered by some to be an extinct member of this branch."

So we have to go back to this Illyric branch, which it is argued is part of the Paleo-Balkan group. The only other surviving member of this group is Modern Greek (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleo-Balkans_languages). Given how completely dissimilar Modern Greek and Albanian are this answer appears rather unsatisfying - until you realise how amazing it is that Albanian managed to survive this long when any closely related languages died out so long ago!

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    Yes it doesn't feel like Greek at all. In fact I visited another Indo European outlier last year, Armenian and found it's tenuous Greek influences a bit more obvious! Sep 29 '11 at 14:38
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    I guess that's what a couple of thousand years of linguistic divergence will do! Still, it definitely fits into an Indo-European schema, unlike something like Basque!
    – LaurenG
    Sep 30 '11 at 2:11
  • Yes the IE link is more obvious with Albanian with its numbers and word for "is". For Armenian I only seem to recall some words similar to Greek words and I don't remember which ones. Sep 30 '11 at 4:21
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    Nothing or close to nothing is known of the languages from which Albanian evolved, and which are supposed close to Greek. Albanian itself is not closer to Greek than to other languages that now exist in the same Balkan area (the same area where the Albanians lived, as well as their ancestors and the ancestors of other Balkan peoples). Given that the Balkan Sprachbund trends are shared by Albanian more with Bulgarian and Romanian than with Greek, makes Greek only one of the candidates.
    – cipricus
    Nov 19 '19 at 15:41

Albanian is not a Romance language but has a large Latin vocabulary. It also shares, along with Romanian (also Bulgarian and Macedonian), the core features of the Balkan Sprachbund.

Dan Alexe in Dacopatia şi alte rătăciri româneşti (part of that here) argues that beside the few tens of terms only common to Albanian and Romanian, Albanian has a Latin vocabulary that is not only comparable in number to the Romanian, but is also common to Romanian. He also argues that many Latin, Slavic and other words common to both languages have been transformed in the same way in both, and according to the same rules.

Funny enough (but also interestingly) he mentions many Romanian terms normally marked as having unknown origin which can be explained through Albanian — e.g. bordei (small village house with an underground chamber), from borde ("hole" in Albanian); the odd Romanian expression eu unul, which means in fact "as for me", but very unusual for Romanian (literally "I the one"), from Albanian üne which means "I"; the odd form of the first person singular of "to have" in Romanian, eu am (I have) is explained through the influence of the Albanian kam (meaning "I have"). Etc.

From the Albanian point of view, Romanian is close, given no closer related languages survive. From the Romanian point of view, other languages (the other neo-Latin languages) are obviously closer relatives than Albanian, that is, considering the entire family of Romance languages. But that being said, and considering only the area of Eastern Romance, Albanian is close even if it is not part of the Romance family: essential features of Eastern Romance are only present in Romanian and Albanian. (At the same time these features are connected to those that define all members of the Balkan Sprachbund).

That doesn't make the two languages closely related, but makes them at least relatively close.


From what I've read, the clear consensus among linguists is that Albanian is a descendant of the Paleo-Balkan language, which has already been mentioned. What hasn't been mentioned is the ancient Dacian language. The Pre-Roman Romanians seem to have been Dacians. There also seems to be a strong relationship between Dacian and Albanian. Romanian seems to be a Latinization of a Dacian substrate. Dacian, Thracian (or Daco-Thracian as a single language group), Illyrian and Albanian have a close relationship that linguists haven't been able to agree on though. Greek, Macedonian (or Macedonian as an archaic northern branch of Greek), Armenian and Phrygian would be other, more distantly related branches of the Paleo-Balkan branches of the Indo-European languages. The relationship of Greek and Armenian with Indo-Iranic languages is another complicating factor.

Hope this helps.


I have seen a lot of dendrograms of the Indogermanic language family and it seems that Albanian is rather randomly grouped with respect to other branches, sometimes it is closest to Hellenic/Greek, sometimes to Armenian. What I find rather striking is a grouping together with Germanic as in this diagram

enter image description here A chart of the history of the evolution of Proto-Indo-European, with approximate/hypothetical dates. (Image taken from this answer)

and I find this grouping particularly appealing, since Germanic and Albanian share some innovations such as the word for "and" based on a word meaning "before" (like Latin ante) in other branches.

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