Origin of the Albanians
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The origin of the Albanians has long been a matter of debate within scholarship. The Albanians first appear in the historical record in Byzantine sources of the 11th century. At this point, they were already fully Christianized. The Albanian language forms a separate branch of Indo-European, first attested in the 15th century, and is considered to have evolved from one of the Paleo-Balkan languages of antiquity. The surviving pre-Christian Albanian culture shows that Albanian mythology and folklore are of Paleo-Balkanic origin and that almost all of their elements are pagan.
The main theories on Albanian origins all suppose a Paleo-Balkanic main origin, but they vary between attributing this origin to Illyrians, Thracians, Dacians, or another Paleo-Balkan people whose language was unattested; among those who support an Illyrian origin, there is a distinction between the theory of continuity from Illyrian times, and those proposing an in-migration of a different Illyrian population. These propositions are however not mutually exclusive. The Albanians are also one of Europe's populations with the highest number of common ancestors within their own ethnic group even though they share ancestors with other ethnic groups.
- 1 Debate
- 2 Linguistic evidence
- 3 Primary sources
- 4 Archaeological evidence
- 5 Paleo-Balkanic theories
- 6 Pre-Indo-European linguistic substratum
- 7 Genetic studies
- 8 Obsolete theories
- 9 See also
- 10 Footnotes
- 11 Sources
Those who argue in favour of an Illyrian origin maintain that the indigenous Illyrian tribes dwelling in South Illyria went up into the mountains when Slavs occupied the lowlands, while another version of this hypothesis states that the Albanians are the descendants of Illyrian tribes located between Dalmatia and the Danube who spilled south.
Scholars who support a Dacian origin maintain on their side that Albanians moved southwards between the 3rd and 6th centuries AD from the Moesian area, in present-day Romania. Others argue instead for a Thracian origin and maintain that the proto-Albanians are to be located in the area between Niš, Skopje, Sofia and Albania or between the Rhodope and Balkan Mountains, from which they moved to present-day Albania before the arrival of the Slavs.
The general consensus is that Albanians, ethnically and linguistically, originate from one or possibly a mixture of Paleo-Balkan peoples but which specific peoples is a matter of continuing debate.
The first attested mention of the Albanian language occurred in 1285 at the Venetian city of Ragusa (present-day Dubrovnik, Croatia) when a crime witness named Matthew testified: "I heard a voice crying in the mountains in the Albanian language" (Latin: Audivi unam vocem clamantem in monte in lingua albanesca).
The earliest attested written specimens of Albanian are Formula e pagëzimit (1462) and Arnold Ritter von Harff's lexicon (1496). The first Albanian text written with Greek letters is a fragment of the Ungjilli i Pashkëve (Passover Gospel) from the 15 or 16th century. The first printed books in Albanian are Meshari (1555) and Luca Matranga's E mbsuame e krështerë (1592).
However, as Fortson notes, Albanian written works existed before this point; they have simply been lost. The existence of written Albanian is explicitly mentioned in a letter attested from 1332, and the first preserved books, including both those in Gheg and in Tosk, share orthographic features that indicate that some form of common literary language had developed.
The Albanian language is attested in a written form beginning only in the 15th century AD, when the Albanian ethnos was already formed. In the absence of prior data on the language, scholars have used the Latin and Slav loans into Albanian for identifying its location of origin. The proto-Albanian language had likely emerged before the 1st century CE, when contacts with Romance languages began to occur intensively. Some scholars have attempted to conjecture the unattested language, and have eventually drawn up interpretations on the assumed proto-Albanian Urheimat and society based on the reconstructed lexicon.
That Albanian possesses a rich and "elaborated" pastoral vocabulary which has been taken to suggest Albanian society in ancient times was pastoral, with widespread transhumance, and stock-breeding particularly of sheep and goats. Joseph takes interest in the fact that some of the lexemes in question have "exact counterparts" in Romanian.
They appear to have been cattle breeders given the vastness of preserved native vocabulary pertaining to cow breeding, milking and so forth, while words pertaining to dogs tend to be loaned. Many words concerning horses are preserved, but the word for horse itself is a Latin loan.
Hydronyms present a complicated picture; the term for "sea" (det) is native and an "Albano-Germanic" innovation referring to the concept of depth, but a large amount of maritime vocabulary is loaned. Words referring to large streams and their banks tend to be loans, but lumë ("river") is native, as is rrymë (the flow of river water). Words for smaller streams and stagnant pools of water are more often native, but the word for "pond", pellg is in fact a semantically shifted descendant of the old Greek word for "high sea", suggesting a change in location after Greek contact. Albanian has maintained since Proto-Indo-European a specific term referring to a riverside forest (gjazë), as well as its words for marshes. Curiously, Albanian has maintained native terms for "whirlpool", "water pit" and (aquatic) "deep place", leading Orel to speculate that the Albanian Urheimat likely had an excess of dangerous whirlpools and depths. However, all the words relating to seamanship appear to be loans.
Regarding forests, words for most conifers and shrubs are native, as are the terms for "alder", "elm", "oak", "beech", and "linden", while "ash", "chestnut", "birch", "maple", "poplar", and "willow" are loans.
Main article: Albanian tribes
The original kinship terminology of Indo-European was radically reshaped; changes included a shift from "mother" to "sister", and were so thorough that only three terms retained their original function, the words for "son-in-law", "mother-in-law" and "father-in-law". All the words for second-degree blood kinship, including "aunt", "uncle", "nephew", "niece", and terms for grandchildren, are ancient loans from Latin.
Overall patterns in loaning
Openness to loans has been called a "characteristic feature" of the Albanian language. The Albanian original lexical items directly inherited from Proto-Indo-European are far fewer in comparison to the loanwords, though loans are considered to be "perfectly integrated" and not distinguishable from native vocabulary on a synchronic level. Although Albanian is characterized by the absorption of many loans, even, in the case of Latin, reaching deep into the core vocabulary, certain semantic fields nevertheless remained more resistant. Terms pertaining to social organization are often preserved, though not those pertaining to political organization, while those pertaining to trade are all loaned or innovated.
While the words for plants and animals characteristic of mountainous regions are entirely original, the names for fish and for agricultural activities are often assumed to have been borrowed from other languages. However, considering the presence of some preserved old terms related to the sea fauna, some have proposed that this vocabulary might have been lost in the course of time after proto-Albanian tribes were pushed back into the inland during invasions. Wilkes holds that the Slavic loans in Albanian suggest that contacts between the two populations took place when Albanians dwelt in forests 600–900 metres above sea level. Rusakov notes that almost all lexemes related to seamanship in the Albanian language are loan-words, which may indicate that speakers of the proto-language did not live on the Adriatic coast or in close proximity to it.
Latin and early Romance loans
Latin loans are particularly numerous and reflect different chronological layers. From Latin specifically, loans are dated to the period of 167 BCE to 400 CE. The Christian religious vocabulary of Albanian is mostly Latin as well including even the basic terms such "to bless", "altar" and "to receive communion", leading Joseph (2018) to argue that Albanians were Christianized under Roman Catholic influence.
Some scholars believe that the Latin influence over Albanian is of Eastern Romance origin, rather than of Dalmatian origin, which would exclude Dalmatia as a place of origin. Adding to this the several hundred words in Romanian that are cognate only with Albanian cognates (see Eastern Romance substratum), these scholars assume that Romanians and Albanians lived in close proximity at one time. According to the historian Fine, an area where this might have happened is the Morava Valley in eastern Serbia.
It has long been recognized that there are two treatments of Latin loans in Albanian, of Old Dalmatian type and Romanian type, but that would point out to two geographic layers, coastal Adriatic and inner Balkan region. Romanian scholars Vatasescu and Mihaescu, using lexical analysis of the Albanian language, have concluded that Albanian was also heavily influenced by an extinct Romance language that was distinct from both Romanian and Dalmatian. Because the Latin words common to only Romanian and Albanian are significantly less than those that are common to only Albanian and Western Romance, Mihaescu argues that the Albanian language evolved in a region with much greater contact to Western Romance regions than to Romanian-speaking regions, and located this region in present-day Albania, Kosovo and Western Macedonia, spanning east to Bitola and Pristina.
Greek loans have various chronological origins, with two distinct periods identified by Huld (1986); it has been known since the 1910 work of Thumb that Albanian possesses a compact set of Greek loans at least as old as its earliest Latin loans.
The earliest Greek loans began to enter the Albanian language at circa 600 BCE, and are of Doric provenance, tending to refer to vegetables, fruits, spices, animals and tools. Joseph argues that this stratum reflects contacts between Greeks and Proto-Albanians from the 8th century BCE onward, with the Greeks being either colonists on the Adriatic coast or Greek merchants inland in the Balkans. The second wave of Greek loans began after the split of the Roman empire in 395 and continued throughout the Byzantine, Ottoman and modern periods.
An argument in favor of a northern origin for the Albanian language is the relatively small number of load-words from Ancient Greek, mostly from Doric dialect, even though Southern Illyria neighbored the Classical Greek civilization and there were a number of Greek colonies along the Illyrian coastline. According to Hermann Ölberg, the modern Albanian lexicon may only include 33 words of ancient Greek origin.
However, in view of the amount of Albanian-Greek isoglosses, which the scholar Vladimir Orel considers surprisingly high (in comparison with the Indo-Albanian and Armeno-Albanian ones), the author concludes that this particular proximity could be the result of intense secondary contacts of two proto-dialects.
Curtis (2012) does not consider the number of surviving loanwords to be a valid argument, as many Greek loans were likely lost through replacement by later Latin and Slavic loans, just as notoriously happened to most native Albanian vocabulary. Some scholars such as Çabej and Huld[a] have challenged the argument that Greek evidence implies a "northern" origin, instead suggesting the opposite, that the specifically Northwestern/Doric affiliations and ancient dating of Greek loans imply a specifically Western Balkan Albanian presence to the north and west of Greeks specifically in antiquity, though Huld cautions that the classical "precursors" of the Albanians would be "'Illyrians' to classical writers", but that the Illyrian label is hardly "enlightening" since classical ethnology was imprecise. Example include Ancient Greek λάχανον and its Albanian reflex lakër because it would appear to have been loaned before <χ> changed from an aspirated stop /kʰ/ to a fricative /x/, μᾱχανά and its Albanian reflex mokër which likewise seems to reflect a stop /kʰ/ for <χ> and also must be specifically Doric or Northwestern (other Greek dialects have <e> or <η> rather than <ά>), and θωράκιον and its Albanian reflex targozë which would appear to have predated the frication of Greek <θ> (before the shift in Koine, representing /tʰ/).
The contacts began after the South Slavic invasion into the Balkans in the 6th and 7th centuries. The modern Albanian lexicon contains around 250 Slavic borrowings that are shared among all the dialects. Slavic invasion probably shaped the present geographic spread of the Albanians. It is likely that Albanians took refuge in the mountainous areas of northern and central Albania, eastern Montenegro, western North Macedonia and Kosovo. Long-standing contact between Slavs and Albanians might have been common in mountain passages and agriculture or fishing areas, in particular in the valleys of the White and Black branches of the Drin and around the Shkodër and Ohrid lakes. The contact with one another in these areas have caused many changes in Slavic and Albanian local dialects.
Unidentified Romance language hypothesis
It has been concluded that the partial Latinization of Roman-era Albania was heavy in coastal areas, the plains and along the Via Egnatia, which passed through Albania. In these regions, Madgearu notes that the survival of Illyrian names and the depiction of people with Illyrian dress on gravestones is not enough to prove successful resistance against Romanization, and that in these regions there were many Latin inscriptions and Roman settlements. Madgearu concludes that only the northern mountain regions escaped Romanization. In some regions, Madgearu concludes that it has been shown that in some areas a Latinate population that survived until at least the seventh century passed on local placenames, which had mixed characteristics of Eastern and Western Romance, into the Albanian language.
Main article: Shqiptar
The ethnic name Albanian was used by Byzantine and Latin sources in the forms arb- and alb- since at least the 2nd century A.D,[b] and eventually in Old Albanian texts as an endonym. It was later replaced in Albania proper by the term Shqiptar, a change most likely trigged by the Ottoman conquests of the Balkans during the 15th century. However, the ancient attestation of the ethnic designation is not considered a strong evidence of an Albanian continuity in the Illyrian region, since there are many examples in history of an ethnic name shifting from one ethnos to another.
There are various theories of the origin of the word shqiptar:
- A theory by Ludwig Thallóczy, Milan Šufflay and Konstantin Jireček, which is today considered obsolete, derived the name from a Drivastine family name recorded in varying forms during the 14th century: Schepuder (1368), Scapuder (1370), Schipudar, Schibudar (1372), Schipudar (1383, 1392), Schapudar (1402), etc.
- Gustav Meyer derived Shqiptar from the Albanian verbs shqipoj ‘to speak clearly’ and shqiptoj ‘to speak out, pronounce’, which are in turn derived from the Latin verb excipere, denoting brethren who speak the Albanian language, similar to the ethno-linguistic dichotomies slovene-nemac and deutsch-welsch. This theory is preferred by linguists, such as Oleg Trubachyov and Vladimir Orel, and historians like Robert Elsie.
- Petar Skok suggested that the name originated from Scupi (mod. Skopje, Albanian: Shkup), the capital of the Roman province of Dardania.
- Among Albanians the most popular theory is that of Demetrio Camarda who derived the word from the Albanian noun shqipe or shqiponjë ‘eagle’, which, according to Albanian folk etymology, denoted a bird totem dating from the times of Skanderbeg, as displayed on the Albanian flag. According to Albanologist Robert Elsie the eagle depicted in the Albanian flag derives from the Byzantine banner.
Location of the Albani at 150 AD in Roman Macedon
The first well-documented mention of Albanians as a separate ethnic entity is encountered in the Historia by Byzantine historian Michael Attaleiates, where they are mentioned as living in the Durrës region in the year 1078. Earlier references are disputed.
References to "Albania"
- In the 2nd century BC, the History of the World written by Polybius, mentions a location named Arbona (Greek: Ἄρβωνα; Latinised form: Arbo) in which some Illyrian troops, under Queen Teuta, scattered and fled to in order to escape the Romans. Arbona was perhaps an island in Liburnia or another location within Illyria.[non-primary source needed]
- In the 2nd century AD, Ptolemy, the geographer and astronomer from Alexandria, drafted a map that shows the city of Albanopolis, located Northeast of Durrës) in the Roman province of Macedonia and the tribe of Albanoi, which were viewed as Illyrians by later historians.
- In the 6th century AD, Stephanus of Byzantium, in his important geographical dictionary entitled Ethnica (Ἐθνικά), mentions a city in Illyria called Arbon (Greek: Ἀρβών), and gives an ethnic name for its inhabitants, in two singular number forms, i.e. Arbonios (Greek: Ἀρβώνιος; pl. Ἀρβώνιοι Arbonioi) and Arbonites (Greek: Ἀρβωνίτης; pl. Ἀρβωνῖται Arbonitai). He cites Polybius (as he does many other times in Ethnica).
References to the "Albanians"
- The Arbanasi people are recorded as being 'half-believers' and speaking their own language in a Bulgarian text found in a Serbian manuscript dating to 1628; the text was written by an anonymous author that according to Radoslav Grujić (1934) dated to the reign of Samuel of Bulgaria (997–1014), or possibly, according to R. Elsie, 1000–1018.
- In History written in 1079–1080, Byzantine historian Michael Attaliates referred to the Albanoi as having taken part in a revolt against Constantinople in 1043 and to the Arbanitai as subjects of the duke of Dyrrhachium. It is disputed, however, whether the "Albanoi" of the events of 1043 refers to Albanians in an ethnic sense or whether "Albanoi" is a reference to folks from southern Italy under an archaic name (there was also a tribe of Italy by the name of Albani). However a later reference to Albanians from the same Attaliates, regarding the participation of Albanians in a rebellion in 1078, is undisputed.
- Some authors (like Alain Ducellier, 1968) believe that Arvanoi are mentioned in Book IV of the Alexiad by Anna Comnena (c. 1148). Others believe that this is a wrong reading and interpretation of the Greek phrase ἐξ Ἀρβάνων (i.e. ‘from Arvana’) found in the original manuscript and in one edition (Bonn, 1839) of the Alexiad.
- The earliest Serbian source mentioning "Albania" (Ar'banas') is a charter by Stefan Nemanja, dated 1198, which lists the region of Pilot (Pulatum) among the parts Nemanja conquered from Albania (ѡд Арьбанась Пилоть, "de Albania Pulatum").
- In the 12th to 13th centuries, Byzantine writers used the name Arbanon (Medieval Greek: Ἄρβανον) for a principality in the region of Kruja.
- The oldest reference to Albanians in Epirus is from a Venetian document dating to 1210, which states that “the continent facing the island of Corfu is inhabited by Albanians”.
- A Ragusan document dating to 1285 states: “I heard a voice crying in the mountains in the Albanian language” (Audivi unam vocem clamantem in monte in lingua albanesca).
The Koman culture theory, which is generally viewed by Albanian archaeologists as archaeological evidence of evolution from "Illyrian" ancestors to medieval Albanians, has found little support outside Albania. Indeed, Anglo-American anthropologists highlight that even if regional population continuity can be proven, this does not translate into linguistic, much less ethnic continuity. Both aspects of culture can be modified or drastically changed even in the absence of large-scale population flux.
Prominent in the discussions are certain brooch forms, seen to derive from Illyrian prototypes. However, a recent analysis revealed that whilst broad analogies are indeed evident to Iron Age Illyrian forms, the inspiration behind Komani fibulae is more closely linked to Late Roman fibulae, particularly those from Balkan forts in the present-day Serbia and northwestern Bulgaria. This might suggest that after the general collapse of the Roman limes in the early 7th century, some late Roman population withdrew to Epirus. However, assemblages also have many "barbarian" artefacts, such as Slavic bow-fibulae, Avar-styled belt mounts and Carolingian glass vessels. By contrast, beyond the immediate Adriatic littoral, most of the west Balkans (including Dardania) appears to have been depopulated after the early 7th century from almost a century. Another aspect of discontinuity is the design of the tombs: pits lined by limestone rocks, a construction used in the region since the Iron Age period. However the tombs in the 7th century, such burials are in a Christian context (placed next to churches) rather than reversion to a pagan Illyrian past.
A further argument against a proto-Albanian affinity of the Koman culture is that very similar material is found in central Dalmatia, Montenegro, western Macedonia and south-eastern Bulgaria, along the Via Egnatia; and even islands such as Corfu and Sardinia. The "late Roman" character of the assemblages has led some to hypothesize that it represented Byzantine garrisons. However, already by this time, literary sources give testimony of widespread Slavic settlements in the central Balkans. Specifically for Albania, the study of lexicon and toponyms might suggest that speakers of proto-Albanian, Slavic and Romance co-existed but occupied specific ecologic/ economic niches.
While Albanian (shqip) ethnogenesis clearly postdates the Roman era, an element of continuity from the pre-Roman provincial population is widely held to be plausible on linguistic and archaeological grounds.
The three chief candidates considered by historians are Illyrian, Dacian, or Thracian, but there were other non-Greek groups in the ancient Balkans, including the Paionians (who lived north of Macedon) and the Agrianians.
However, the ancient Indo-European languages grouped under the Paleo-Balkan designation are scarcely attested, and the linguistic evidences insufficient to draw definitive conclusions regarded the relationship between the Albanian, Thracian and Illyrian languages. Based on the available evidence, it is preferable to consider them as separate branches within the Indo-European family.
There is debate on whether the Illyrian language was a centum or a satem language. It is also uncertain whether Illyrians spoke a homogeneous language or rather a collection of different but related languages that were wrongly considered the same language by ancient writers. The Venetic tribes, formerly considered Illyrian, are no longer considered categorised with Illyrians. The same is sometimes said of the Thracian language. For example, based on the toponyms and other lexical items, Thracian and Dacian were probably different but related languages.
The debate is often politically charged, and to be conclusive, more evidence is needed. Such evidence unfortunately may not be easily forthcoming because of a lack of sources. Curtis, echoing Fine and Cabej before him, cautions that Albanians as well as "all Balkan peoples" are "almost certainly not made up of the descendants of (only) one ancestral group".
See also: Illyrians
The theory that Albanians were related to the Illyrians was proposed for the first time by the Swedish historian Johann Erich Thunmann in 1774. The scholars who advocate an Illyrian origin are numerous. There are two variants of the theory: one is that the Albanians are the descendants of indigenous Illyrian tribes dwelling in what is now Albania. The other is that the Albanians are the descendants of Illyrian tribes located north of the Jireček Line and probably north or northeast of Albania.
Arguments for Illyrian origin
- The national name Albania is derived from Albanoi, an Illyrian tribe mentioned by Ptolemy about 150 AD.
- From what is known from the old Balkan populations territories (Greeks, Illyrians, Thracians, Dacians), the Albanian language is spoken in a region where Illyrian was spoken in ancient times.
- There is no evidence of any major migration into Albanian territory since the records of Illyrian occupation. Because descent from Illyrians makes "geographical sense" and there is no linguistic or historical evidence proving a replacement, then the burden of proof lies on the side of those who would deny a connection of Albanian with Illyrian.
- The Albanian tribal society has preserved the ancient Illyrian social structure based on tribal units.
- Many of what remain as attested words to Illyrian have an Albanian explanation and also a number of Illyrian lexical items (toponyms, hydronyms, oronyms, anthroponyms, etc.) have been linked to Albanian.
- Words borrowed from Greek (e.g. Gk (NW) mākhaná "device, instrument" > mokër "millstone", Gk (NW) drápanon > drapër "sickle" etc.) date back before the Christian era and are mostly of the Doric Greek dialect, which means that the ancestors of the Albanians were in contact with the northwestern part of Ancient Greek civilization and probably borrowed words from Greek cities (Dyrrachium, Apollonia, etc.) in the Illyrian territory, colonies which belonged to the Doric division of Greek, or from contacts in the Epirus area.
- Words borrowed from Latin (e.g. Latin aurum > ar "gold", gaudium > gaz "joy" etc.) date back before the Christian era, while the Illyrians on the territory of modern Albania were the first from the old Balkan populations to be conquered by Romans in 229–167 BC, the Thracians were conquered in 45 AD and the Dacians in 106 AD.
- The ancient Illyrian place-names of the region have achieved their current form following Albanian phonetic rules e.g. Durrachion > Durrës (with the Albanian initial accent), Aulona > Vlorë (with rhotacism), Scodra > Shkodër, etc.
The characteristics of the Albanian dialects Tosk and Geg in the treatment of the native and loanwords from other languages, have led to the conclusion that the dialectal split occurred after Christianisation of the region (4th century AD) and at the time of the Slavic migration to the Balkans or thereafter between the 6th to 7th century AD with the historic boundary between the Geg and Tosk dialects being the Shkumbin river which straddled the Jireček line.
Arguments against Illyrian origin
The theory of an Illyrian origin of the Albanians is challenged on archaeological and linguistic grounds.
- Although the Illyrian tribe of the Albanoi and the place Albanopolis could be located near Krujë, nothing proves a relation of this tribe to the Albanians, whose name appears for the first time in the 11th century in Byzantine sources.
- According to Bulgarian linguist Vladimir I. Georgiev, the theory of an Illyrian origin for the Albanians is weakened by a lack of any Albanian names before the 12th century and the limited Greek influence in the Albanian language (See Jireček Line). If the Albanians had been inhabiting a homeland situated near modern Albania continuously since ancient times, the number of Greek loanwords in the Albanian language should be higher.
- Local or personal names considered Illyrian were not passed down to Albanian without interruption (for example Scodra > Shkodra, a loan from Latin, and various other toponyms and hydronyms in modern Albania are Slavic loans, in the view of Schramm including Vlorë and Vjosë). As such, Klein et al (2018) argue that while Albanian cannot be considered a linguistic descendant of Illyrian or Thracian, but rather from an undocumented Balkan Indo-European language closely related to Illyrian and Messapic. This is why Albanian has nonetheless in certain instances been able to explain Illyrian and Messapic words, including the Illyrian tribe Taulantioi : Albanian dallëndyshe (swallow), the Messapic word βρένδο/brendo- (stag) and the toponym Brundisium (modern Brindisi) : Old Gheg bri, Messapic ῥινός/rinos (clouds) : Old Gheg/Old Tosk re (cloud). Some toponyms that follow a phonetic development consistent with sound laws of the Albanian language are located within the inner Balkans such as Nish < Naissus, Ναισσός though that etymology is a matter of dispute.
- According to Georgiev, although some Albanian toponyms descend from Illyrian, Illyrian toponyms from antiquity have not changed according to the usual phonetic laws applying to the evolution of Albanian. Furthermore, placenames can be a special case and the Albanian language more generally has not been proven to be of Illyrian stock.
- Many linguists have tried to link Albanian with Illyrian, but without clear results. Albanian shows traces of satemization within the Indo-European language tree, however the majority of Albanologists hold that unlike most satem languages it has preserved the distinction of /kʷ/ and /gʷ/ from /k/ and /g/ before front vowels (merged in satem languages), and there is a debate whether Illyrian was centum or satem. On the other hand, Dacian and Thracian seem to belong to satem.
- There is a lack of clear archaeological evidence for a continuous settlement of an Albanian-speaking population since Illyrian times. For example, while Albanians scholars maintain that the Komani-Kruja burial sites support the Illyrian-Albanian continuity theory, most scholars reject this and consider that the remains indicate a population of Romanized Illyrians who spoke a Romance language.
Thracian or Daco-Moesian origin
Aside from an Illyrian origin, a Dacian or Thracian origin is also hypothesized. There are a number of factors taken as evidence for a Dacian or Thracian origin of Albanians. According to Vladimir Orel, for example, the territory associated with proto-Albanian almost certainly does not correspond with that of modern Albania, i.e. the Illyrian coast, but rather that of Dacia Ripensis and farther north.
The Romanian historian I. I. Russu has originated the theory that Albanians represent a massive migration of the Carpi population pressed by the Slavic migrations. Due to political reasons the book was first published in 1995 and translated in German by Konrad Gündisch.
Rival "immigrationist" view of Romanian origins where Albanian-Romanian contact occurred either in Dardania/Northeast Albania or in Western Thrace, assuming that Albanian would have been spoken in and/or near one or both of these two regions during the 6th to 9th centuries
The German historian Gottfried Schramm (1994) suggests an origin of the Albanians in the Bessoi, a non-Romanized Thracian tribe that lived in the mountain regions of Dacia Mediterranea and Dardania, located in southern Serbia, Kosovo and north-western North Macedonia, and was Christianized as early as during the 4th century. Schramm argues that such an early Christianization would explain the otherwise surprising virtual absence of any traces of a pre-Christian pagan religion among the Albanians as they appear in history during the Late Middle Ages. According to this theory, the Bessoi were deported en masse by the Byzantines at the beginning of the 9th century to central Albania for the purpose of fighting against the Bulgarians. In their new homeland, the ancestors of the Albanians took the geographic name Arbanon as their ethnic name and proceeded to assimilate local populations of Slavs and Romans.
Cities whose names follow Albanian phonetic laws – such as Shtip (Štip), Shkupi (Skopje) and Nish (Niš) – lie in the areas, believed to historically been inhabited by Thracians, Paionians and Dardani; the latter is most often considered an Illyrian tribe by ancient historians. While there still is no clear picture of where the Illyrian-Thracian border was, Niš is mostly considered Illyrian territory.
There are some close correspondences between Thracian and Albanian words. However, as with Illyrian, most Dacian and Thracian words and names have not been closely linked with Albanian (v. Hamp). Also, many Dacian and Thracian placenames were made out of joined names (such as Dacian Sucidava or Thracian Bessapara; see List of Dacian cities and List of ancient Thracian cities), while the modern Albanian language does not allow this.
Bulgarian linguist Vladimir I. Georgiev posits that Albanians descend from a Dacian population from Moesia, now the Morava region of eastern Serbia, and that Illyrian toponyms are found in a far smaller area than the traditional area of Illyrian settlement. According to Georgiev, Latin loanwords into Albanian show East Balkan Latin (proto-Romanian) phonetics, rather than West Balkan (Dalmatian) phonetics. Combined with the fact that the Romanian language contains several hundred words similar only to Albanian, Georgiev proposes the Albanian language formed between the 4th and 6th centuries in or near modern-day Romania, which was Dacian territory. He suggests that Romanian is a fully Romanised Dacian language, whereas Albanian is only partly so. Albanian and Eastern Romance also share grammatical features (see Balkan language union) and phonological features, such as the common phonemes or the rhotacism of "n".
Apart from the linguistic theory that Albanian is more akin to East Balkan Romance (i.e. Dacian substrate) than West Balkan Romance (i.e. Illyrian/Dalmatian substrate), Georgiev also notes that marine words in Albanian are borrowed from other languages, suggesting that Albanians were not originally a coastal people. According to Georgiev the scarcity of Greek loan words also supports a Dacian theory – if Albanians originated in the region of Illyria there would surely be a heavy Greek influence. According to historian John Van Antwerp Fine, who does define "Albanians" in his glossary as "an Indo-European people, probably descended from the ancient Illyrians", nevertheless states that "these are serious (non-chauvinistic) arguments that cannot be summarily dismissed."
Hamp, on the other hand, seems to agree with Georgiev in relation to Albania with Dacian but disagrees on the chronological order of events. Hamp argues that Albanians could have arrived in Albania through present-day Kosovo sometime in the late Roman period. Also, contrary to Georgiev, he indicates there are words that follow Dalmatian phonetic rules in Albanian, giving as an example the word drejt 'straight' < d(i)rectus matching developments in Old Dalmatian traita < tract.
There are no records that indicate a major migration of Dacians into present-day Albania, but two Dacian cities existed: Thermidava close to Scodra and Quemedava in Dardania. Also, the Thracian settlement of Dardapara existed in Dardania. Phrygian tribes such as the Bryges were present in Albania near Durrës since before the Roman conquest (v. Hamp). An argument against a Thracian origin (which does not apply to Dacian) is that most Thracian territory was on the Greek half of the Jireček Line, aside from varied Thracian populations stretching from Thrace into Albania, passing through Paionia and Dardania and up into Moesia; it is considered that most Thracians were Hellenized in Thrace (v. Hoddinott) and Macedonia.
The Dacian theory could also be consistent with the known patterns of barbarian incursions. Although there is no documentation of an Albanian migration, "during the fourth to sixth centuries the Rumanian region was heavily affected by large-scale invasion of Goths and Slavs, and the Morava valley (in Serbia) was a possible main invasion route and the site of the earliest known Slavic sites. Thus this would have been a region from which an indigenous population would naturally have fled".
Pre-Indo-European linguistic substratum
Pre-Indo-European (PIE) sites are found throughout the territory of Albania. Such PIE sites existed in Maliq, Vashtëm, Burimas, Barç, Dërsnik in Korçë District, Kamnik in Kolonja, Kolsh in Kukës District, Rashtan in Librazhd and Nezir in Mat District. As in other parts of Europe, these PIE people joined the migratory Indo-European tribes that entered the Balkans and contributed to the formation of the historical Paleo-Balkan tribes to which Albanians trace their origin. [..] At any rate, in this case, as in other similar cases, one should take into account that the previous populations during the process of assimilation by the immigrating IE tribes have played an important part in the formation of the various ethnic groups generated by their long symbiosis. Consequently, the IE languages developed in the Balkan Peninsula, in addition to their natural evolution, have also undergone a certain impact by the idioms of the assimilated Pre-IE peoples. In terms of linguistics, the pre-Indo-European substrate language spoken in the southern Balkans has probably influenced pre-Proto-Albanian, the ancestor idiom of Albanian. The extent of this linguistic impact cannot be determined with precision due to the uncertain position of Albanian among Paleo-Balkan languages and their scarce attestation. Some loanwords, however, have been proposed such as shegë ("pomegranate") or lëpjetë ("orach", compare with Pre-Greek lápathon, λάπαθον, "monk's rhubarb"). Albanian is also the only language in the Balkans which has retained elements of the vigesimal numeral system - njëzet ("twenty"), dyzet ("forty") - which was prevalent in the Pre-Indo-European languages of Europe as the Basque language which broadly uses vigesimal numeration, highlights.
This pre-Indo-European substratum has also been identified as one of the contributing cultures to the customs of Albanians.
Further information: Genetic history of Europe
Various genetic studies have been done on the European population, some of them including current Albanian population, Albanian-speaking populations outside Albania, and the Balkan region as a whole. Albanians share similar genetics with neighbouring ethnic populations with close clusters forming primarily with mainland Greeks and southern Italian populations.
The three haplogroups most strongly associated with Albanian people are E-V13, R1b and J-M172. E-V13 and J2-M12 (the parent clade of J-M172) are considered by Cruciani et al to both indicate a particular "range expansion in the Bronze Age of southeastern Europe", having experienced considerable in situ population growth after having being introduced in an earlier period with the spread of the Neolithic into Europe. R1b, meanwhile, has been associated with the spread of Indo-European languages in Europe. Within the Balkans, all three have a local peak in Kosovo, and are overall more common among Albanians, Greeks and Vlachs than South Slavs (albeit with some representation among Macedonians and Bulgarians). R1b has much higher frequencies in areas of Europe further to the West, while E1b1b and J2 are widespread at lower frequencies throughout Europe, and also have very large frequencies among Greeks, Italians, Macedonians and Bulgarians.
- Haplogroups in the modern Albanian population is dominated by E-V13, the most common European sub-clade of E1b1b1a (E-M78). E-M78 most likely originated in northeastern Africa, while its subclade E-V13 originated in western Asia, and first expanded into Europe some 5300 years ago. The current distribution of this lineage might be the result of several demographic expansions from the Balkans, such as that associated with the Balkan Bronze Age, and more recently, during the Roman era with the so-called "rise of Illyrican soldiery". The peak of the haplogroup in Kosovo, however, has been attributed to genetic drift.
- Haplogroup R1b is common all over Europe but especially common on the western Atlantic coast of Europe, and is also found in the Middle East, the Caucasus and some parts of Africa. In Europe including the Balkans, it tends to be less common in Slavic speaking areas, where R1a is often more common. It shows similar frequencies among Albanians and Greeks at around 20% of the male population, but is much less common elsewhere in the Balkans.
- Y haplogroup J in the modern Balkans is mainly represented by the sub-clade J2b (also known as J-M12 or J-M102). Like E-V13, J2b is spread throughout Europe with a seeming centre and origin in the Balkans. Its relatives within the J2 clade are also found in high frequencies elsewhere in Southern Europe, especially Greece and Italy, where it is more diverse. J2b itself is fairly rare outside of ethnic Albanian territory (where it hovers around 14-16%), but can also be found at significant frequencies among Romanians (8.9%) and Greeks (8.7%). A skeleton dated 1631-1521BC found in a tumulus in Veliki Vanik, Croatia was tested positive for J2b2a-L283.
- Y haplogroup I is represented by I1 more common in northern Europe and I2 where several of its sub-clades are found in significant amounts in the South Slavic population. The specific I sub-clade which has attracted most discussion in Balkan studies currently referred to as I2a1b, defined by SNP M423 This clade has higher frequencies to the north of the Albanophone area, in Dalmatia and Bosnia. The expansion of I2a-Din took place during Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages and today is common in Slavic speaking peoples.
- Haplogroup R1a is common in Central and Eastern Europe, especially in Slavic nations, (and is also common in Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent). In the Balkans, it is strongly associated with Slavic areas.
A study by Battaglia et al. in 2008 found the following haplogroup distributions among Albanians in Albania itself:
|N||E-M78* E1b1b1a*||E-M78 V13 E1b1b1a2||G P15* G2a*||I-M253* I1*||I M423 I2a1*||I M223 I2b1||J M267* J1*||J M67* J2a1b*||J M92 J2a1b1||J M241 J2b2||R M17* R1a1*||R M269 R1b1b2|
The same study by Battaglia et al. (2008) also found the following distributions among Albanians in North Macedonia:
|N||E-M78* E1b1b1a*||E-M78 V13 E1b1b1a2||E-M123 E1b1b1c||G P15* G2a*||I M253* I1*||I P37.2* I2a*||I M423 I2a1*||I M26 I2a2||J M267* J1*||J M67* J2a1b*||J M241 J2b2||R M17* R1a1*||R M269 R1b1b2|
The same study by Battaglia et al. (2008) also found the following distributions among Albanians in Albania itself and Albanians in North Macedonia:
|N||E-M78* E1b1b1a*||E-M78 V13 E1b1b1a2||E-M123 E1b1b1c||G P15* G2a*||I M253* I1*||I P37.2* I2a*||I M423 I2a1*||I M26 I2a2||I M223 I2b1||J M267* J1*||J M67* J2a1b*||J M92 J2a1b1||J M241 J2b2||R M17* R1a1*||R M269 R1b1b2|
A study by Peričić et al. in 2005 found the following Y-Dna haplogroup frequencies in Albanians from Kosovo with E-V13 subclade of haplogroup E1b1b representing 43.85% of the total (note that Albanians from other regions have slightly lower percentages of E-V13, but similar J2b and R1b):
|N||E-M78* E3b1||E-M78* α* E3b1-α||E-M81* E3b2||E-M123* E3b3||J-M241* J2e1||I-M253* I1a||I-P37* I1b*(xM26)||R-M173* R1b||R SRY-1532* R1a||R P*(xQ,R1)|
The same study by Peričić et al. in 2005 found the following Y-Dna haplogroup frequencies in Albanians from Kosovo with E-V13 subclade of haplogroup E1b1b representing 43.85% of the total (note that Albanians from other regions have slightly lower percentages of E-V13, but similar J2b and R1b):
|N||E3b1-M78||R1b-M173||J2e-M102||R1a-M17||I1b* (xM26)-P37||I-M253* I1a|
Comparison of haplogroups among Albanian subgroups
Comparison of haplogroups among Albanian subgroups
- First column gives the amount of total Sample Size studied
- Second column gives the Percentage of the particular haplogroup among the Sample Size
A study on the Y chromosome haplotypes DYS19 STR and YAP and on mitochondrial DNA found no significant difference between Albanians and most other Europeans.
Larger samples collected by volunteer-led projects, show the Albanians belong largely to Y-chromosomes J2b2-L283, R1b-Z2103/BY611 and EV-13 from Ancient Balkan populations. Ancient graves found in Croatia dating back to the Bronze Age were found to also belong to the Y-chromosomes J2b2-L283 and R1b-Z2103, the latter of which was assigned to Vučedol culture. The findings are believed possibly to be from Proto-Illyrian migrations to the Balkans. The findings further demonstrate that Indo-European migrations occurred to the Balkans already during the Bronze Age, with intermittent genetic contact with steppe populations occurring up to 2,000 years earlier than the migrations from the steppe that ultimately replaced much of the population of Northern Europe.
In a 2013 study which compared one Albanian sample to other European samples, the authors concluded that it didn't differ significantly to other European populations, especially groups such as Greeks, Italians and Macedonians.
Another study of old Balkan populations and their genetic affinities with current European populations was done in 2004, based on mitochondrial DNA on the skeletal remains of some old Thracian populations from SE of Romania, dating from the Bronze and Iron Age. This study was during excavations of some human fossil bones of 20 individuals dating about 3200–4100 years, from the Bronze Age, belonging to some cultures such as Tei, Monteoru and Noua were found in graves from some necropoles SE of Romania, namely in Zimnicea, Smeeni, Candesti, Cioinagi-Balintesti, Gradistea-Coslogeni and Sultana-Malu Rosu; and the human fossil bones and teeth of 27 individuals from the early Iron Age, dating from the 10th to 7th centuries BC from the Hallstatt Era (the Babadag culture), were found extremely SE of Romania near the Black Sea coast, in some settlements from Dobruja, namely: Jurilovca, Satu Nou, Babadag, Niculitel and Enisala-Palanca. After comparing this material with the present-day European population, the authors concluded:
Computing the frequency of common point mutations of the present-day European population with the Thracian population has resulted that the Italian (7.9%), the Albanian (6.3%) and the Greek (5.8%) have shown a bias of closer [mtDna] genetic kinship with the Thracian individuals than the Romanian and Bulgarian individuals (only 4.2%).
Analysis of autosomal DNA, which analyses all genetic components has revealed that few rigid genetic discontinuities exist in European populations, apart from certain outliers such as Saami, Sardinians, Basques, Finns and Kosovar Albanians. They found that Albanians, on the one hand, have a high amount of identity by descent sharing, suggesting that Albanian-speakers derived from a relatively small population that expanded recently and rapidly in the last 1,500 years. On the other hand, they are not wholly isolated or endogamous because Greek and Macedonian samples shared much higher numbers of common ancestors with Albanian speakers than with other neighbors, possibly a result of historical migrations, or else perhaps smaller effects of the Slavic expansion in these populations. At the same time the sampled Italians shared nearly as much IBD with Albanian speakers as with each other.
Laonikos Chalkokondyles (c. 1423–1490), the Byzantine historian, considered the Albanians to be an extension of the Italians. The theory has its origin in the first mention of the Albanians, disputed whether it refers to Albanians in an ethnic sense, made by Attaliates (11th century): "...For when subsequent commanders made base and shameful plans and decisions, not only was the island lost to Byzantium, but also the greater part of the army. Unfortunately, the people who had once been our allies and who possessed the same rights as citizens and the same religion, i.e. the Albanians and the Latins, who live in the Italian regions of our Empire beyond Western Rome, quite suddenly became enemies when Michael Dokeianos insanely directed his command against their leaders..."
One of the earliest theories on the origins of the Albanians, now considered obsolete, incorrectly identified the proto-Albanians with an area of the eastern Caucasus, separately referred to by classical geographers as Caucasian Albania, located in what roughly corresponds to modern-day southern Dagestan, northern Azerbaijan and bordering Caucasian Iberia to its west. This theory conflated the two Albanias supposing that the ancestors of the Balkan Albanians (Shqiptarët) had migrated westward in the late classical or early medieval period. The Caucasian theory was first proposed by Renaissance humanists who were familiar with the works of classical geographers, and later developed by early 19th-century French consul and writer François Pouqueville. It was soon rendered obsolete in the 19th century when linguists proved Albanian as being an Indo-European, rather than Caucasian language.
In terms of historical theories, an outdated theory  is the 19th century theory that Albanians specifically descend from the Pelasgians, a broad term used by classical authors to denote the autochthonous, pre-Indo-European inhabitants of Greece and the southern Balkans in general. However, there is no evidence about the possible language, customs and existence of the Pelasgians as a distinct and homogeneous people and thus any particular connection to this population is unfounded. This theory was developed by the Austrian linguist Johann Georg von Hahn in his work Albanesische Studien in 1854. According to Hahn, the Pelasgians were the original proto-Albanians and the language spoken by the Pelasgians, Illyrians, Epirotes and ancient Macedonians were closely related. In Hahn's theory the term Pelasgians was mostly used as a synonym for Illyrians. This theory quickly attracted support in Albanian circles, as it established a claim of predecence over other Balkan nations, particularly the Greeks. In addition to establishing "historic right" to territory this theory also established that the ancient Greek civilization and its achievements had an "Albanian" origin. The theory gained staunch support among early 20th-century Albanian publicists. This theory is rejected by scholars today. In contemporary times with the Arvanite revival of the Pelasgian theory, it has also been recently borrowed by other Albanian speaking populations within and from Albania in Greece to counter the negative image of their communities.
- Albanian language
- Albanian nationalism
- Albanian-Romanian linguistic relationship
- List of Romanian words of possible Dacian origin with correspondence in Albanian
- Historiography and nationalism
- Origin of the Romanians
- Paleo-Balkan languages
- Prehistoric Balkans
- " The presence of ancient West Greek loans in Albanian implies that in classical antiquity the precursors of the Albanians were a Balkan tribe to the north and west of the Greeks. Such people would probably have been 'Illyrians' to classical writers. This conclusion is neither very surprising nor very enlightening since the ethnographic terminology of most classical authors is not very precise. An Illyrian label does little to solve the complex problems of the origins of the Albanian language"
- As the tribe of the Albanoi (Ἀλβανοί) in Ptolemy’s Geography. The name Arbōn (Ἄρβων) had been used by Polybius in 2nd century BC to designate a city in Illyria.