Lab Albanian dialect

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Distribution of Albanian language dialects, with Lab in light brown

The Lab Albanian dialect (Albanian: Labërishtja or Dialekti lab) is a Tosk Albanian dialect associated with the wider definition of the ethnographic region of Labëria, spoken by Lab Albanians. Under this wider definition of Labëria, Lab Albanian stretches from Vlorë and Mallakastër south and east up to Gjirokastër, Lunxhëria and Sarandë. Notable aspects of Lab in Albanian and wider Balkan areal linguistics include its peculiar mix of conservative and innovative features, the lack (in some varieties) of typical Albanian Balkanisms like the admirative[1], and the presence of features typical of Northern Gheg dialects despite it being a Southern dialect.


Labërishtja is a subdivision of the Southern Tosk group, which is itself a subdivision of Tosk Albanian, the collection of Albanian dialects south of the Shkumbin River. As such, it is most closely related to the Cham dialect of Chamëria, the Arbereshe of the old Albanian diaspora in Italy, and the Arvanitika of Arvanites in Greece.



Features typical of Lab include the unrounding of Albanian /y/ ([y]) to /i/ ([i]), thus merging it with the /i/ phoneme, and a velar articulation for Albanian gj ([ɟ]) and q ([c]). As such, in areas where Lab is less influenced by Standard Albanian, Albanians from elsewhere may be shocked to hear words like gjyshi ([ɟyʃi], grandfather) pronounced as gishi ([ɡiʃi]). Likewise, Lab Albanians may say they speak "shkip" ([ʃkip]), not shqip ([ʃcip]).

Lab also has some features that are more typical of Gheg dialects than Tosk ones: it preserves the Old Albanian vowel length distinction (lost elsewhere in Tosk). Although the loss of nasal vowels in Tosk is said to be a diagnostic feature separating Southern (Tosk) Albanian from Northern (Gheg) Albanian, Albanian linguists Dilo Sheper and Gjinari have reported that there are nasal vowels present in the Lab dialects of Kurvelesh and Himare, which would mean there are in fact Tosk dialects with nasal vowels, contrary to prior assumptions, although some Albanian writers like Paçarizi expressed uncertainty about the reports[2]. Menela Totoni, meanwhile, has detected the presence of nasal vowels in the extreme southern town of Borsh[3]. Paçarizi notes that the presence of nasal vowels in Lab might imply that the loss of nasals in Tosk can no longer be viewed as the taxonomical difference between Gheg and Tosk, and that it may have occurred in the majority of Tosk dialects after Tosk had already split from Gheg.[4]

Standard Albanian dh ([ð]) may also be represented as a dark ll ([ɫ]) in many Lab dialects, leading madhe (/maðɛ/, "large") to be pronounced as [maɫɛ].

Certain Lab dialects shift the Albanian schwa to a back vowel, [ʌ] (as in English nut), while others merge it with e /ɛ/ . Many Lab dialects also pronounce the schwa at the end of words, saying [pɛsʌ] instead of [pɛs] for pesë ("five"). Albanian e/ɛ/ may also become a schwa in Lab before nasal consonants.


Lab Albanian uses different past participles than Standard Albanian, which is based on a dialect of Tosk proper, specifically the one from the ethnographic region of Dangellia due to its usage by Albanian nationalist writers. The past participle of marr (to take) is marrur (not marrë as in standard) and the past participle of them is themur, rather than thënë.

Morphological and syntactical[edit]

Lab and its sister dialect, Cham, have been found to lack many of the particularities that wider Albanian has in morphological rules and syntactical patterns.[citation needed] Some [5] but not all [6] Lab dialects lack the admirative mood, typically considered a curious and unique particularism of Albanian although there are also related phenomena in some Bulgarian dialects.

Lab has exerted some influence on Standard Albanian, for example causing the emergence of the short particle due to its use (in Lab) for compound past tenses.[7]

Laberishtja also is peculiar in that certain Lab dialects may have (limited) use of a "have"(kam) + subjunctive formation of the future tense, which is more typically characteristic of remote Gheg dialects such as the Upper Reka dialect.[8][9]

Although the idea that the Gheg/Tosk split is the oldest and most significant dialectal division in Albanian is widely viewed as canon,[10] Lab has been found to exhibit certain "Gheg" grammatical characteristics (in addition to limited phonological characteristics such as retention of nasalization in selected Lab subdialects). Features that are typical of Gheg but not Tosk dialects but which are nevertheless found in Lab include the presence of the compound perfect and the pluperfect.[11]


It is believed that Lab Albanian split from its sibling dialects of Cham, Arvanitika and Arbereshe some time in the Middle Ages.[citation needed] Since then, its features have evolved through a variety of influences: language contact with Greek and specifically the Himariote dialect[citation needed], isolation in mountainous regions[citation needed] and influence from Gheg dialects as Gheg speakers migrated to Lab areas in the Late Middle Ages and during the Ottoman era[citation needed].



  1. ^ Friedman 2005, p. 39.
  2. ^ Paçarizi 2008, pp. 101-102: "Second difference is the existence of nasal vocals in Gheg which is not a characteristic of Tosk even sometimes the nasality is not really stressed. This nasal-oral feature, according to Desnickaja, forms one of the elements which differentiate the Albanian dialects whereas Gjinari cites Dilo Sheper who said that there are also some nasal vocals in some places of Eastern Albania such as in Kurvelesh and Himarë but the information at that time did not confirmed that".
  3. ^ Totoni 1964, p. 136.
  4. ^ Paçarizi 2008, p. 102.
  5. ^ Friedman 2005, p. 39.
  6. ^ Totoni 1971, p. 74.
  7. ^ Friedman 2005, p. 38.
  8. ^ Totoni 1971, p. 73.
  9. ^ Friedman 2005, p. 37.
  10. ^ Friedman 2005, p. 33.
  11. ^ Friedman 2005, p. 38.


  • Friedman, Victor (2005). Albanian in the Balkan Linguistic League: A Consideration of Theoretical Implications (PDF). Studia Albanica.
  • Kapović, Mate (2017). The Indo-European Languages (2nd ed.). Routledge. ISBN 978-1-315-67855-9.
  • Gjinari, Jorgji (1970). Dialektologjia shqiptare (in Albanian). Prishtinë: Universiteti.
  • Lowman, G. S. (1932). Language. 8. pp. 271–293.
  • Paçarizi, Rrahman (2008). Albanian Language (PDF). University of Pristina.
  • Totoni, Menela (1964). "E folmja e bregdetit të poshtëm". Studime Filologjike I (in Albanian). Tirana: Universiteti i Tiranës.
  • Totoni, Menela (1971). "Vëzhgime rreth të folmeve të Kurveleshit". Dialektologjia shqiptare I, In Domi, Mahir (ed.) (in Albanian). Tirana: Universiteti i Tiranës. pp. 31–117.