Full Version: Illyrian Language
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I am currently writing a little piece on Buthrotum, a Greek-Roman town in what is now called Albania. I have a good source on the archaeology of the town, written by Neritan Ceka, one of the excavators; someone who clearly knows what he's doing. However, there's one statement I would like to see verified: Ceka proposes that the name Buthrotum may be related to an Illyrian word (rendered in Greek as bouthos) that lives on in modern Albanian as buzë, "shore". I am willing to believe this; as I said, Ceka knows what he's doing, and it sounds plausible.

Yet, to the best of my knowledge, the ancient languages of the Balkan are poorly understood, and I read in the Neue Pauly that it is open to debate whether modern Albanian is derived from ancient Illyrian. It may descend from Thracian as well. And to be honest, I have seen too many modern nations claim a relation to civilizations from the distant past, based on bad etymologies, to believe everything.

So, I will give Ceka the benefit of the doubt, but is there someone over here who can confirm that Albanian is a modern form of Illyrian?

[Edit: link to site]
I cannot verify confirm anything, but I remember that we often learn at school that the Albanians are the oldest nation at the Balkans and they are possibly the most suited people to be the direct descendants of the Illyrians, but again I don't know the origins of this hypothesis and at the moment I don't remember any usable book.
Ave Fratres,

Lots of politics in that question, and the folks in the Balkans still today get very sensitive about the boundaries of Illyria. Placing the modern politics and battles over toponyms well to the side, I think most unbiased scholars can trace a direct link back to illyrian from Albanian.

Albanian is a fascinating language, and just like Hungarian it is surrounded by languages from very different roots. Maybe because of the political problems or just that Albania was isolated for so long, not much work has been done in this area. It is a wide open field for the next generation of scholars. Albania has made it into NATO , Next step will be the EU, access to historic sites and assistance for research projects should no longer be as big a problem as before.

Regards from a very Hot Balkans, Arminius Primus aka Al
Quote:access to historic sites and assistance for research projects should no longer be as big a problem as before
Yup; and indeed, a friend of mine visited Albania and sent me many photos.

Back on topic, you more or less confirm my own idea about the relation between Albanian and Illyrian, so I feel reasured.

Anyone else?
Hi Jona

Wilkes (The Illirians) tell that the strongest evidence from a link between Illyrian and Albanian are some direct correspondences of vocabulary; the studies cited are Polomè "Balkan languages (illyrian Thracian and Daco-Mesian)" 1982 and Cimochowsky "Die sprachliche stellung des Balkan-Illyrischen im kreise der indogermanischen sprachen" 1976.

But also the logic suggest that: if the albanian are not a slavic language and not greek, nor turkish, nor neolatin what other ethnic group can have settled the region?
Hi Jona,

There's a long debate if Albanian comes from Thracian or Illyrian or from other unknown Pre-Roman language spoken in the Balkans.

In general an Illyrian origin is supported by Albanian scholars but also many Western scholars (relying on the former), while a Thracian origin is usually argued by Bulgarian and Romanian scholars. Unfortunately in Balkans (probably more than in some other corners of the world), the dogma of historical continuity and nationalism influences the study of history.

There's a certain link between Albanian and Romanian. There are some dozens non-Latin words: Alb. vjedhull(ë) = Rom. viezure = badger, Alb. thark = Rom. ?arc = pen (enclosure for animals), Alb. modhullë = Rom. maz?re = pea, etc. and many specific Latin words and post-Latin evolutions: Lat. fosattum = ditch > Alb. fshat, Old Rom. fsat (attested) > Rom. sat = village (while most other Romance languages inherited Latin villa). They also share some other features, both belonging to the Balkan Sprachbund.
This link is inconvenient for both Albanian and Romanian nationalists because it suggests these languages were formed in the same area, yet there's a considerable distance between Carpathians and the strait of Otranto. There was an attempt to save the continuity dogmas by claiming a Thraco-Illyrian homogenous linguistic area, but for several decades this position was undermined as not only Thracian and Illyrian were found to be rather distinct languages, but also Dacian and Thracian.

For the history of Albanian language check also:
Vladimir Orel, A concise historical grammar of the Albanian language. Reconstruction of Proto-Albanian (2000)
Bardhyl Demiraj's Etymological Dictionary online: ... 5Cie%5Calb

As for lexical parallels between Albanian and ancient languages they are mostly speculative. However there are possible vocabulary links not only with Illyrian, but also with Thracian or Dacian, e.g. Albanian has dhen = herd (of small cattle) < PIE *g'enH- but we know that the Thracian form of Diogenes was Diuzenus and Alb. dh < PAlb. dz so *(d)zen is the expected form.