Arvanitika or Arvanitic (Albanian: Arbërisht, Greek: αρβανίτικα arvanitika) is the variety of Albanian traditionally spoken by the Arvanites, a population group in Greece. Arvanitika is sometimes also described as Graeco-Albanian or similarly, although today such designations are considered offensive by many Arvanites themselves, who identify nationally and ethnically as Greeks and not Albanians (GHM 1995). Arvanitika is today an endangered language, as its speakers have been shifting to the use of Greek and most younger members of the community no longer speak it fluently.
The name Arvanítika
and its native equivalent Arbërishte are derived from the ethnonym Arvanites
, which in turn comes from the toponym Arbëna (Greek: Άρβανα), which in the Middle Ages
referred to a region in what is today Albania
(Babiniotis 1998). Its native equivalents (Arbërorë, Arbëreshë
and others) formerly were the self-designation of Albanians in general. Both Arbëna
go further back to name forms attested since antiquity, and may be ultimately variants of the same root, although this is debated.
Arvanitika was brought to southern Greece during the late Middle Ages by settlers from what is today Albania. Arvanitika is also closely related to Arbëresh, the dialect of Albanian in Italy, which largely go back to Arvanite settlers from Greece. Italian Arbëresh has retained some words identical to Greek words (for instance Haristis 'thank you', from ευχαριστώ; dhrom 'road', from δρόμος; Ne 'yes', from ναι, in certain villages). Italo-Arbëresh and Graeco-Arvanitika have a mutually intelligible vocabulary base, the unintelligible elements of the two dialects stem from the usage of Italian or Greek modernisms in the absence of native ones.
While linguistic scholarship unanimously describes Arvanitika as a dialect of Albanian many Arvanites are reported to dislike the use of the name "Albanian" to designate it, as it carries the connotation of Albanian nationality and is thus felt to call their Greek identity into question.
Owing to its special social circumstances and ethnolinguistic identity, Arvanitika is currently listed as a separate entry ("Arvanitika Albanian", code "aat") in the draft international ISO 639-3 catalogue of language names, where it is categorised as part of an Albanian "macrolanguage. Similarly, the Ethnologue lists a separate sub-entry for "Albanian, Arvanitika" (), along with parallel entries for Gheg Albanian, Tosk Albanian and Arbëresh. There is no entry for Arvanitika in parts 1 and 2 of the international ISO 639 standard of language codes, which only has a single entry for Albanian (codes "alb", "sqi", or "sq").
Sociolinguistic work has described Arvanitika within the conceptual framework of "ausbausprachen" and "abstandssprachen". In terms of "abstand" (objective difference of the linguistic systems), linguists' assessment of the degree of mutual intelligibility between Arvanitika and Standard Tosk range from fairly high to only partial (Ethnologue). The Ethnologue also mentions that mutual intelligibility may even be problematic between different subdialects within Arvanitika. Mutual intelligibility between Standard Tosk and Arvanitika is higher than that between the two main dialect groups within Albanian, Tosk and Gheg. See below for a sample text in the three language forms. Trudgill (2004: 5) sums up that "[l]inguistically, there is no doubt that [Arvanitika] is a variety of Albanian".
In terms of "ausbau" (sociolinguistic "upgrading" towards an autonomous standard language), the strongest indicator of autonomy is the existence of a separate writing system, the Greek-based Arvanitic alphabet. A very similar system was formerly in use also by other Tosk Albanian speakers between the 16th and 18th century. However, this script is very rarely used in practice today, as Arvanitika is almost exclusively a spoken language confined to the private sphere. There is also some disagreement amongst Arvanites (as with the Aromanians) as to whether the Latin alphabet should be used to write their language. Spoken Arvanitika is internally richly diversified into sub-dialects, and no further standardization towards a common (spoken or written) Standard Arvanitika has taken place. At the same time, Arvanites do not use Standard Albanian as their standard language either, as they are generally not literate in the Latin-based standard Albanian orthography, and are not reported to use spoken-language media in Standard Albanian. In this sense, then, Arvanitika is not functionally subordinated to Standard Albanian as a dachsprache ("roof language"), in the way dialects of a national language within the same country usually are.
There are three main groups of Arvanitic settlements in Greece. Most Arvanites live in the south of Greece, across Attica, Boeotia, the Peloponnese and some neighbouring areas and islands. A second, smaller group live in the northwest of Greece, in a zone contiguous with the Albanian-speaking lands proper. A third, outlying group is found in the northeast of Greece, in a few villages in Thrace.
According to some authors, the term "Arvanitika" in its proper sense applies only to the southern group or to the southern and the Thracian groups together i.e. to those dialects that have been separated from the core of Albanian for several centuries. The dialects in the northwest are reported to be more similar to neighbouring Tosk dialects within Albania and to the speech of the former Muslim Cham Albanians (Çamërishte), who used to live in the same region . These dialects are classified by Ethnologue as part of core Tosk Albanian, as opposed to "Arvanitika Albanian" in the narrow sense, although Ethnologue notes that the term "Arvanitika" is also often applied indiscriminately to both forms in Greece. In their own language, some groups in the north-west are reported to use the term Shqip ("Albanian") to refer to their own language as well as to that of Albanian nationals, and this has sometimes been interpreted as implying that they are ethnically Albanians.
The Arvanitika of southern Greece is richly sub-divided into local dialects. Sasse (1991) distinguishes as many as eleven dialect groups within that area: West Attic, Southeast Attic, Northeast-Attic-Boeotian, West Boeotian, Central Boeotian, Northeast Peloponnesian, Northwest Peloponnesian, South Peloponnesian, West Peloponnesian, Euboean, and Andriote.
Estimated numbers of speakers of Arvanitika vary widely, between 30,000 and 150,000. These figures include "terminal speakers" (Tsitsipis 1998) of the younger generation, who have only acquired an imperfect command of the language and are unlikely to pass it on to future generations. The number of villages with traditional Arvanite populations is estimated to 300. There are no monolingual Arvanitika-speakers, as all are today bilingual in Greek. Arvanitika is considered an endangered language due to the large-scale language shift towards Greek among the descendants of Arvanitika-speakers in recent decades.
Arvanitika shares many features with the Tosk
dialect spoken in Southern Albania
. However, it has received a great deal of influence from Greek
, mostly related to the vocabulary and the phonological system. At the same time, it is reported to have preserved some conservative features that were lost in mainstream Albanian Tosk. For example, it has preserved certain syllable-initial consonant clusters which have been simplified in Standard Albanian (cf. Arvanitika gljuhë
ˈgljuhə ('language/tongue'), vs. Standard Albanian gjuhë
[ˈɟuhə]). In recent times, linguists have observed signs of accelerated structural convergence towards Greek and structural simplification of the language, which have been interpreted as signs of "language attrition", i.e. effects of impoverishment leading towards language death
Arvanitika has rarely been written. Reportedly (GHM 1995
), it has been written in both the Greek alphabet
(often with the addition of the letters b, d, e and j, or diacritics, e.g.
) and the Latin alphabet. Orthodox Tosk Albanians also used to write with a similar form of the Greek alphabet (e.g.
Source: Arvanitikos Syndesmos Ellados
|| mine |
|| yours |
|| his |
|| hers |
|| ours |
|| yours |
|| they (m.)
|| theirs (m.) |
|| they (f.)
|| theirs (f.) |
||The verb HAVE
||The verb BE
|| Subj.Perf. |
|| të kem
|| të keshë
|| të jem
|| të jeshë |
|| të kesh
|| të keshe
|| të jesh
|| të jëshe |
|| të ket
|| të kish
|| ishtë, është
|| të jet
|| të ish |
|| të kemi
|| te keshëm
|| të jeshëm
|| të jeshëm |
|| të kini
|| te keshëtë
|| të jeshëtë
|| të jeshëtë |
|| të kenë
|| të kishnë
|| të jenë
|| të ishnë |
Comparison with other forms of Albanian
|The Lord's Prayer in Arvanitika Compared with Standard Tosk Albanian (second row),|
and Gheg Albanian (third row).
|| që jé
|| ýt. |
|| që je
|| u shënjtëroftë
|| yt. |
|| që je
|| shejtnue kjoftë
|| yt. |
|Our father who art in heaven
||hallowed be thy name
|| ýt, |
|| u bëftë
|| jote, |
|| u baftë
|| jote, |
|thy kingdom come
||thy will be done
|| dhét; |
|| dhe. |
|| dhe. |
|on earth as it is in heaven
|| të përdítëshimen'
|| sót; |
|| të përditëshme
|| sot; |
|| të përditshme
|| sot; |
|give us this day our daily bread
|| tóna, |
|| tona, |
|e ndiejna ne fajet e mëkatet
|| tona, |
|and forgive us our trespasses
|| tánë; |
|| tanë; |
|si i ndiejmë na
|| tanë; |
|as we forgive those who trespass against us
|| ljígu; |
|| ligu; |
|| len me ra
||prej gjith së keq;
|and lead us not into temptation
||but deliver us from evil
|| jétëvet. |
|| jetëvet. |
|| jetëvet. |
|for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.
Source: Η Καινή Διαθήκη στα Αρβανίτικα; "Christus Rex" website
Some common phrases
Source: Arvanitikos Syndesmos Ellados
|Flet fare arbërisht?
|| Do you speak Arvanitika at all? |
|Flas shumë pak.
|| I speak very little. |
|| Are you well? |
|Jam shumë mirë.
|| I am very well. |
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