Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu (commonly known as "Skanderbeg") was born to a noble Albanian family in the early 15th century. As a child, he was forced to serve in the Ottoman Army. After great success as an Ottoman general, Skanderbeg left the army to lead the Albanians against the Ottoman forces. In 1444 he formed the League of Lezhë, an alliance of Albanian nobles who agreed to resist the Ottoman conquest of Albania. Skanderbeg fought the Ottomans in Albania and abroad until his death two decades later. Though the Ottoman advances were held off by Skanderbeg's efforts, all of modern Albania was under Ottoman control by the turn of the century.
While Albania and Kosovo remained under Ottoman rule until 1912, efforts were started to revive Albanian identity in the 19th century. Among other efforts, Skanderbeg was adopted as a national hero. Skanderbeg remains the most visible symbol of Albanian cultural identity, with his family's symbol (a double-headed eagle) on the flag of Albania and a prominent statue of Skanderbeg present in every major Albanian city's main square.
Marin Barleti, a native of Shkodër in northern Albania, near the modern Montenegrin border, lived through the loss of Albania to the Ottoman Empire in the late 15th century. He later went on to write a biography of Skanderbeg, which was first published in Latin as Historia de vita et gestis Scanderbegi epirotarum principis (The history of the life and deeds of Skanderbeg, prince of the Epirots).
The following text is from the 1960 Albanian translation of Barleti's biography of Skanderbeg. After abandoning the Ottoman army in 1443, Skanderbeg led Albanian forces to drive the invading Ottoman army out of what is now northern Albania. The final step of this process was to capture the last Ottoman stronghold in the area, the town of Svetigrad (now known as Kodzhadzhik, a town in what is now western Macedonia). Several years later, the Ottomans embarked on another attempt to take Albania, an early and essential part of which involved retaking Svetigrad, then under Albanian control. To motivate the troops, Skanderbeg arrived in Svetigrad and gave the following speech.
Ishte e pamundur, o sfetigradas, që Zoti i madh e i vërtetë t'ju jepte juve sot
një rast më të mirë, të jepte për zëmrat e flakta dhe për ushtarët e zjarrtë
një rast më të bukur se sa ky që me plot të drejtë ju ka dhënë,
të rrëmbeni tani armët për ta lënë të vulosur për gjithëmonë
me shëmbëllën e lartë besnikërinë tuaj edhe kundrejt meje, edhe kundrejt mbarë Epirit.
Gjer tani ne kemi luftuar për fitoren, për nderin e mbretërisë; tani ju duhet të luftoni për shpëtimin, për lirinë, për muret e atdheut.
Tani ju duhet të përpiqeni që lavdet, të cilat i kini merituar në sa e sa luftra të kryera me sukses nën udhëheqjen time
të mos i ktheni në turp të madh nga plogështia dhe në pjesën më të madhe fati i kësaj varet nga ju,
sepse nga ju do t'ia fillojë Murati hyrjes për në Epir.
Ishte e pamundur, o sfetigradas, që Zoti i madh e i vërtetë t'ju jepte juve sot një rast më të mirë, të jepte për zëmrat e flakta dhe për ushtarët e zjarrtë një rast më të bukur se sa ky që me plot të drejtë ju ka dhënë, të rrëmbeni tani armët për ta lënë të vulosur për gjithëmonë me shëmbëllën e lartë besnikërinë tuaj edhe kundrejt meje, edhe kundrejt mbarë Epirit. Gjer tani ne kemi luftuar për fitoren, për nderin e mbretërisë; tani ju duhet të luftoni për shpëtimin, për lirinë, për muret e atdheut. Tani ju duhet të përpiqeni që lavdet, të cilat i kini merituar në sa e sa luftra të kryera me sukses nën udhëheqjen time të mos i ktheni në turp të madh nga plogështia dhe në pjesën më të madhe fati i kësaj varet nga ju, sepse nga ju do t'ia fillojë Murati hyrjes për në Epir.
It was impossible, O men of Svetigrad, that the great and true God would give you all today a better opportunity, that he would give to burning hearts and passionate soldiers a more beautiful opportunity than this that he has rightfully given you all to seize your weapons in order that it be marked forever with the high example of your loyalty towards me, as well as towards all of Epirus. Up to now we have fought for victory and the honor of the kingdom. Now you all must fight for salvation, for freedom, for the walls of the fatherland. Now you should strive beyond the praises that you have earned with success in many many wars carried out under my leadership, lest you return in great shame from lethargy; and in the larger part, the fate of this depends on you all because, through you all, Murad will begin it as far as the entrance into Epirus is concerned.
Like several other Indo-European languages, in particular Indo-Iranian, Armenian and Greek, Albanian has different negators depending on whether or not the verb is in the indicative mood. When the verb is in the indicative mood, either nuk or s' is used in negating the verb. Nuk and s' are synonymous, e.g. nuk ha = s'ha 'I do not eat'. The negator mos is used with subjunctives, imperatives, optatives, and any participial formation, e.g., mos ha! 'don't eat!', për të mos ngrënë 'in order not to eat', etc.
The most common subordinators in indicative clauses are se or që, which have the same meaning and function (both translate to 'that'). Camaj (1984) claims that se originally held this function, but që (originally used with subjunctives and as a relative pronoun) has become used under these conditions as well.
Consider the following examples from Lesson 2's text. The first, "...it was written that in Albania autumn is...," uses the subordinator se, while the second, "The general knew that in Albania autumn is...," uses the subordinator që.
As discussed in Lesson 1, the subjunctive always occurs preceded by the subordinator të. Clearly, të is the subordinator for subjunctive clauses. Recall that Tosk Albanian, like many of the other languages of the Balkan Sprachbund, does not have an infinitival form that can be the complement of a verb. For example, in a sentence like 'I want to learn Albanian," an infinitival form of "to learn" would be used in English, Russian, French and most other European languages (even Geg Albanian, see below). However, in Tosk/Standard Albanian, a structure would have to be used that would roughly translate to "I want that I learn Albanian," with the second verb in the subjunctive.
In saying something like "It is not difficult to learn Albanian," a similar construction is used. Instead of an infinitive, a finite verb is used.
|nuk||është||e veshtirë||TË mesojë||gjuhën||shqipe|
In some cases, a construction që + SUBJECT + të + VERB is used. This would be roughly equivalent to a construction like "for SUBJECT INFINITIVE" in English. For example, "It is not difficult for John to learn Albanian" would be expressed as the following:
|Nuk||është||e veshtirë||QË||Gjoni||TË mesojë||gjuhën||shqipe|
Note that the constructions above, while representative of Tosk and Standard Albanian, are rare in Geg. In these situations, an infinitival form would be used in Geg. For example, the Geg equivalent of Standard Albanian Dua të flas gjuhën shqipe. 'I want to speak Albanian' would be Due me folë gjuhën shqipe, where me folë is the infinitive of flas 'speak'. More information about the Geg infinitive (along with other participial constructions) is given in Lesson 4.
In Standard Albanian, the relative pronoun is declined. The following are the forms of the relative pronoun; the genitive forms must take an additional nyje particle.
|nominative||i cili||të cilët||e cila||të cilat|
|accusative||të cilin||të cilët||të cilën||të cilat|
|gen/dat.||të cilit||të cilëve||së cilës||të cilave|
|ablative||të cilit||të cilëve||së cilës||të cilave|
The relative pronoun appears in first position in the relative clause, and has the case that is appropriate to its use in the relative clause, but with the gender and number determined by the head noun (the noun that is modified by the relative clause). For example, from the text in Lesson 1, "The flag, the seal, and the anthem are... symbols... that reflect..."
In this example the form of the relative pronoun is të cilat, and is feminine nominative plural. It modifies the noun simbolet, which is the nominative plural form of the ambigeneric noun simbol (which, being ambigeneric and plural, has feminine agreement).
Note that, in spoken Albanian, it is more common to use invariant që (Geg qi) instead of the relative pronoun cili, e. This is much more common in the texts presented in these lessons, for example in the following phrase from Lesson 2:
When the object being described is not specified for gender, the default form of the pronouns is the feminine form. Thus, in an impersonal construction in which there is an adjective predicated of an understood (unexpressed) expletive subject along with a clausal complement (thus equivalent to English "extraposed" sentential subject), the adjective takes the feminine form, e.g. është e veshtirë të mesoni shqip '(it)-is difficult/FEM that you-learn Albanian' (that veshtirë is feminine is shown by the nyje e rather than masculine i -- see Lesson 1).
Forms of ai, ajo 'that' are used when the object being described is not near the speaker. These are also used as the third person personal pronouns.
When the object discussed is near the speaker, forms of ky, kjo 'this' are used.
As discussed above, the function of the 3rd person personal pronouns is filled by the distal demonstrative pronouns. Unlike 3rd person pronouns, the rest of the personal pronouns are not marked for gender.
|1st person||2nd person|
The following are the forms of the Albanian weak pronouns (also commonly called "clitic pronouns"):
|3rd person||e (acc.)||i (acc.)|
|i (dat.)||u (dat.)|
With the exception of imperatives (on which see below), weak pronouns always come before the verb, regardless of mood, tense, etc. For example, in the following examples meaning "I eat it" and "I have eaten it," the weak pronoun e comes directly before the verb.
When using a verb form obligatorily preceded by a particle of some sort, such as të in the subjunctive or do të in the future and conditional, the clitics still occur directly before the verb (i.e., between the particle and the verb). For example, in the sentence "I will eat it," the clitic e is positioned between the subordinator të and the verb ha. The combination of të and e actually gives a contraction ta (on such contractions, see below).
Weak pronoun placement is more complicated in the imperative, where there is some variability as to where they appear. In negative imperatives, weak pronouns still come directly before the verb (i.e., between the negator and the verb). In positive imperatives, weak pronouns can come either before or after the verb: if they come before the verb, they are written as separate words; if they come after the verb, the clitics are attached to the verb. If clitics come after a plural imperative, they are placed between the stem and the 2nd person plural imperative ending -ni. In the following examples meaning "Open the door for me!" from Newmark et al. (1982), where the weak pronouns are capitalized, the example on the left has the clitic combination ma (dative më plus accusative e) as a separate word placed before the verb, while the example on the right has the clitic combination ma attached to the end of the verb.
|for me-it||open!||the-door||open!-for me-it||the-door|
In the following examples meaning "Write to me!" the clitic either comes before the verb (as in the example on the left) or between the stem and the 2PL imperative ending -ni (as in the example on the right).
|to me||write!||write!-to me|
Direct object weak pronouns are not obligatory, but optional when the direct object is overtly expressed. For example, both of the following are acceptable for "I saw the dog."
If the direct object is not overtly expressed, then the weak pronoun is obligatory. For example, if saying "I saw it" (where 'it' is 'the dog'), the clitic must be present.
Indirect object weak pronouns are obligatory when there is an indirect object, even if it is overtly expressed. For example, in the sentence "I wrote to John," the indirect object weak pronoun is required.
Where the indirect object is a pronoun, an overt form of the pronoun is optional but not obligatory. For example, in the sentence "I wrote to you all," both of the following are acceptable:
|I||to-you (pl.)||wrote||I||to-you (pl.)||wrote||to-you (pl.)|
When a dative and an accusative weak pronoun are used together, they often combine. The dative weak pronoun always comes before the accusative weak pronoun. The following chart shows the different possible combinations.
|na||na e||na i||na u|
In addition to weak pronouns combining to give special forms, weak pronouns (or combinations thereof) can combine with the subordinator të:
These forms are originally the combination of a nyje particle and a pronoun. In most instances they have combined to form a single word, but in others they have not. The following are the forms for the 1st and 2nd person possessive pronouns. Note that e preceding some forms signals that an appropriate nyje particle is required: in some instances it will actually be e, in others it will not.
|Pl.||nom.||e mi||tanë||e tu||tuaj|
|acc.||e mi||tanë||e tu||tuaj|
|gen/dat/abl.||e mi||tanë||e tu||tuaj|
|Pl.||nom.||e mia||tona||e tua||tuaja|
|acc.||e mia||tona||e tua||tuaja|
|gen/dat/abl.||e mia||tona||e tua||tuaja|
The third person possessive adjectives tij, e 'his', saj, e 'her', tyre, e 'their' are treated like typical adjectives.
Possessive pronouns nearly always follow the noun they modify, e.g. gjuha jonë 'our language', miku im 'my friend', etc. The only cases where the possessive pronouns can precede the noun they modify is with a small group of kinship terms (e.g., vella 'brother', motër 'sister', and several others). When the possessive pronoun follows the noun, the noun is always in the definite form (e.g., vëllai im 'my brother', motra jotë 'your (pl.) sister'). In the rare cases where it can precede the noun, the noun is in the indefinite form (e.g., im vëlla, jotë motër). The 3rd person possessive pronouns never precede the noun.
As briefly discussed in Lesson 1, the Albanian future tense is formed from the particle do followed by the subordinator të and a present subjunctive form of the verb.
Future paradigm of shkruaj 'write':
|1st person||do të shkruaj||do të shkruajmë|
|2nd person||do të shkruash||do të shkruani|
|3rd person||do të shkruajë||do të shkruajnë|
The future perfect is formed with the invariant particle do followed by the subordinator të and a present perfect subjunctive form of the verb. The future perfect is used to describe events that will occur in the future before another specified point in the future. For example, it would be used in a phrase like ai do të ketë shkruar librin... "he will have written the book..."
Future perfect paradigm of shkruaj 'write':
|1st person||do të kem shkruar||do të kemi shkruar|
|2nd person||do të kesh shkruar||do të keni shkruar|
|3rd person||do të ketë shkruar||do të kenë shkruar|
Note that there is substantial variation across Albanian dialects in the formation of the future tense. In other (non-standard) Tosk dialects, the subordinator të is often omitted, and even in the standard language it can be omitted in colloquial usage or fast speech. Constructions with the future marker do are seen in Geg dialects. They are used to show obligation, rather than future time reference (as seen in the texts presented in Lessons 4 and 5). Geg dialects have a completely different future tense construction, which is composed of a conjugated present tense form of kam 'have' followed by the infinitive, which is formed from the preposition me followed by the participle (note that the Geg infinitive is a distinct formation from the Tosk/Standard Albanian "infinitive," discussed in Lesson 4). The equivalent of do të jenë in Geg would be kanë me qenë, where kanë is the 3rd person plural present form of kam 'have' and me qenë is the infinitive of jam 'be'. The Geg future perfect is formed with a present perfect form of kam plus the infinitive.
The conditional is formed in the same way as the future, except that an imperfect subjunctive form of the verb is used. The present conditional is also often referred to as the "Future Imperfect" due to the fact that its formation is similar to that of the future. The conditional is used to describe a potential or hypothetical event, and verbs in the conditional mood are often translated into English as 'would VERB', e.g. 'I would read the book' would be Do të lexuaja librin.
Present conditional paradigm of shkruaj 'write':
|1st person||do të shkruaja||do të shkruanim|
|2nd person||do të shkruaje||do të shkruanit|
|3rd person||do të shkruante||do të shkruanin|
The Albanian past conditional is formed with do plus the subordinator të plus a past perfect subjunctive verb form. The past conditional is translated into English as 'would have VERBed', e.g. 'I would have read the book' would be Do të kisha lexuar librin.
Past conditional paradigm of shkruaj 'write':
|1st person||do të kisha shkruar||do të kishim shkruar|
|2nd person||do të kishe shkruar||do të kishit shkruar|
|3rd person||do të kishte shkruar||do të kishin shkruar|
Similar to the Geg future tense, the Geg conditional is formed from a conjugated imperfect form of kam plus the infinitive. For example, the Geg equivalent of do të lexoja librin 'I would read' would be kisha me lexuë librin (where me lexuë is the infinitive of lexoj).