Upper Reka dialect

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Mesoni guhen e vet (Learn your language). Poem by Josif Bageri, a native of Upper Reka, 1909

The Upper Reka Albanian dialect is a member of the wider northern Albanian Gheg dialect subgroup of the Albanian language spoken by northern Albanians.[1] Speakers of the dialect are mainly located within the territory of the sub-region of Upper Reka in north-western Macedonia. Due to the geographical isolation of the Upper Reka region, the Upper Reka dialect also developed linguistic peculiarities that differentiate it from other varieties of Albanian. Within the Gheg dialects, the Upper Reka dialect is classified as a Central Gheg dialect,[2] along with the dialects of the Kruja, Mati and Dibra regions.

Linguistic characteristics[edit]


The Upper Reka Albanian dialect contains phonological and morphological characteristics that are unique of speakers in Albanian within Upper Reka. For example, the Albanian letter q (in Standard Albanian, /c/) often voiced as a hard ç (/t͡ʃ/) sound in some Northern dialects is articulated as a soft ç[specify] sound in Upper Reka.[3] Unlike Northern Albanian dialects, which mainly pronounce the Albanian characters gj(/ɟ/) as a hard xh(/d͡ʒ/) sound, in Upper Reka it is at times rendered as a soft gj(/ɟ/) sound, reminiscent of some Southern Albanian dialects.[3] The cluster dj(/dj/) as in the word djathë (cheese) are also substituted for a gj sound (i.e. *gjathë) in certain instances.[3] The consonant cluster pl as in plak (old), pleh (manure) and plis (pileus) of the Reka dialect has been replaced in certain instances with pt causing words to be pronounced as ptak, pteh and ptis.[3] The sound cluster ps word internally like tepsi (large baking pan/tray) is in the Upper Reka dialect partially nasalized into mts making words to be pronounced for example as temtsi.[3]

Unlike in some Albanian dialects (typically Northern), where the sound cluster nd has contracted into n, in Upper Reka it is maintained in words like katund (spread out village), nder (honour) and vend (place).[4] Like most Gheg dialects, the Upper Reka dialect has also retained the nasal vocalisation of vowels ā (often a schwa: ë /ə/ in Standard Albanian) and ō, so that words like dhëmb (tooth), dhëndër (groom) and këmb (foot) are pronounced as dhāmb, dhōndr and kōmb.[4] The sound a (often a schwa: ë in Standard Albanian) in words like baballak is also substituted at times for o (i.e. baballoku) when in definite form.[1][4] The sound cluster mj in words like mjeker (beard) and mjalt (honey) has evolved into a mnj sound in Upper Reka, causing articulations of mnjekrr and mnjalt.[4] Also the h sound which in most Albanian dialects is pronounced as a glottal fricative, is realized as a guttural[specify] "hard" h in Upper Reka.[4]

Kinship Terminology
English Standard Macedonian[5] Standard Albanian[6] Upper Reka Albanian dialect (Doda, 1900s)[7] Upper Reka Albanian dialect (Mirčevska, 2000s)[5]
Mother Majka Nënë Non (definite: Nona), Uc Daad
Father Tatko Babë Baba Baab
Sister Sestra Motër Motr (referred to by individual's name)
Brother Brat Vëlla Vlla Vlla (usage: O, Vlla)
Grandmother Baba Gjyshe (also: Nënëgjyshe) Nana Ptak None
Grandfather Dedo Gjysh (also: Babagjysh) Baba Ptak Ded
Aunty (Mother's sister) Tetka Teze (also: Teto, Motërmëmë) Kek Kek (usage: O, Kek)
Aunt's husband (Mother's side) Tetin Enishte / Tetin (usage: O, Tetin)
Uncle (Father's brother) Čičko Xhaxha (also: Xha) Mixh (definite: Mixha) Miiç (usage: O, mixha Metodi)
Uncle's wife (Father's side) Strina Xhaxheshë Minxhavic Striin (usage: O, Striin)
Uncle (Mother's brother) Vujko Dajë Dajxh (definite: Dajxha) Dajxh (usage: O, Dajxh)
Uncle's wife (Mother's side) Vujna Dajeshë Dajxhevic Dajxhevic (usage: O, Dajxhevic)
Husband's sister (Sister-in-law) Zolva ? / Zolva (usage: Zolva jeme)
Brother-in-law Dever Kunat Kunat Kunati
Sister-in-law Jatrva Kunatë / Kunata
Wife's sister's husband Badžanak Baxhanak / Baxhanak
Wife's brother, (Brother-in-law) Šura ? / Shuraku
Cousin Bratučedi Kushëri Kusheri (definite: Kusherini) Kusheriin
Father in Law Dedo Vjehërri / Ded (usage: O, Ded)
Godparents Kumovi Kumbarë (also: Nun and Nunëri) / Nun
In law (male) Svat Krushk Krushk Krushk
In law (female) Svaća Krushkë / Kruushk

Morphology and Syntax[edit]

The Upper Reka dialect uses do to create its future tense, as do most Tosk dialects as well as certain other Gheg dialects, including all of Southern Gheg (i.e. Tirana and Elbasan dialects), the Northwestern Gheg dialect of Shkreli, the Northeastern Gheg dialects of the Has and Luma regions, and the Northern Gheg of Mirdita.[8]

Education and Literature[edit]

The earliest known example of the Upper Reka Albanian dialect being employed in writing is from an Orthodox graveyard headstone inscription written in Cyrillic script at Duf which dates from 1889.[9] While an ethnographic work by Bajazid Elmaz Doda from Štirovica titled Albanisches Bauerleben im oberen Rekatal bei Dibra (Makedonien)/Albanian Peasant Life in the Upper Reka Valley near Dibra (Macedonia) was completed in 1914.[10] It contains information about culture, customs, language and other facets of life of Upper Reka during the late Ottoman period.[10] Found within the Austrian archives in 2007, Robert Elsie postulates that the original script may have been translated into German from Albanian due to the amount of Albanian vocabulary contained in the German version.[10] Elsie contends that the work was the first to employ the Upper Reka Albanian dialect in literature and composed at a time when little Albanian literature had been produced.[10] The work has been praised by Elsie and other scholars like Andrea Pieroni for its detailed and important information of Upper Reka.[10][11] The first attested example of Albanian literature being present in Upper Reka is a 19th-century Albanian language gospel text (New Testament) written in the Greek alphabet held in a church in the village of Duf.[12] During the monarchist Yugoslav era, schooling was done in the Serbian language and none existed in Albanian.[13]

Language usage[edit]

Men of Štirovica conversing on a hillside, 1907

Starting in the 1950s, Albanians in Upper Reka were forced to send their children to schooling in the Macedonian language, with the goal of assimilating them. It was reported that during that period, many Albanian children cried when they came home from school and tried to refuse to attend, because they didn't understand the language.[14]

Most Upper Reka inhabitants do not have complete command of higher registers of the Albanian language, as higher level Albanian vocabulary remains unknown to them. Instead, Macedonian words are used, especially for modern household items or designating certain modern concepts.[13]

In contemporary times, there are elderly Upper Reka women who still have some knowledge of Serbian, though not of Macedonian.[13] Meanwhile, Muslim Albanians residing in Upper Reka are to varying degrees also bilingual in the Macedonian language.[15] Of the Orthodox population still residing in Upper Reka, in terms of daily speech are mainly fluent in Albanian among themselves and even the young.[16] Reading and writing in Macedonian is known by the population, with the young making use of it, while literacy skills in Albanian by all age groups are non-existent.[16] Most of the Orthodox population from Upper Reka living outside the region is knowledgeable in Albanian such as in areas of the Former Yugoslavia.[16] Very few of them reveal that information though, due to negative perceptions of the Albanian language within host societies where they currently reside and their integration into Macedonian society through sharing a common Orthodox Christian heritage.[16] Among the wider Macedonian population, there is little awareness of the existence of an Orthodox Christian population which uses Albanian as a language of everyday communication.[16] Due to the legacy of seasonal migration for work, trade and emigration, Upper Reka people have become multilingual over time in various languages including Turkish, Greek, Serbian, Bulgarian, Romanian, French and English.[17][18]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b Friedman 2005, p. 35.
  2. ^ Friedman 2006, p. 209.
  3. ^ a b c d e Doda 2007, p. 191.
  4. ^ a b c d e Doda 2007, p. 192.
  5. ^ a b Mirčevska 2007, p. 155.
  6. ^ Newmark 1998.
  7. ^ Doda 2007, pp. 65, 169–190.
  8. ^ Friedman 2006, pp. 209–210.
  9. ^ Murati 2011, pp. 113–114. "Shqiptarët ortodoksë të Rekës së Epërme e praktikonin gjuhën e tyre amtare shqipe jo vetëm në të folurën e tyre të përditshme, në shërbesat kishtare, por dhe në mbishkrimet mbivarrore. Një mbishkrim varri, i shkruar në gjuhën shqipe me alfabet cirilik nga viti 1889, ka zbuluar historiani M. S. Filipović (1969), për një tregtar kafshësh Andçe, të birin e Dukos nga Dufi, që rroi 75 vjet e vdiq natyrshëm më 1889 në Tetovë dhe u varros aty në varrezat ortodokse. Në mbishkrimin mbivarror janë gdhendur këto fjalë shqipe të shkruara me alfabet cirilik: Kьтy ньн kьт рacь tьфтoфyн, aрmooть eнe kaлбeть tрõпи e /!/; Aндчeecc бири дõkocь џeлeп прeд Дõфить; a и ђõть пoи kьидoнь лeть θoть нилжe /?/ Зoть; poити Џaль: 75: вьь вдич 1889: moi aпpиьл: нь шe`ep Tetoв (Stanišić 1991; Hysa 2009, 122). Këtu është skalitur gjuha vernakulare e Rekës së Epërme: Këtu nënë kët rrasë të ftofun armootë (= është armuar, varrosur) ene kalbetë; Troupe e Andçes biri dokos xhelep prej Dufit; aj çysh po i kidon le të thotë nilzhe /?/ Zot; rojti xhallë: 75 vet, vdiç 1889: moji aprill: në she`er Tetov. Orthodox Albanians of Upper Reka practiced their native Albanian language not only in their everyday speech, church services, but also in gravestone inscriptions. An epitaph, written in the Albanian language in Cyrillic script from 1889, found by historian M. S. Filipović (1969), regarding a stock merchant, Andçe, son of Duko from Duf, who lived until 75 years of age and died of natural causes in 1889 in Tetovo and was buried there in the Orthodox cemetery. In a engraved inscription on the headstone with these words in Albanian written in Cyrillic script: Here beneath this cold slab is interned and decomposing; the body of Andçe, son of Doko, a merchant from Duf; he who rejoices and wants to say it became /?/Lord; lived alive 75 years, died 1889: Month of April: In the city of Tetovo. Here it is engraved in the vernacular language of Upper Reka."
  10. ^ a b c d e Elsie, Robert. "Vorwort[Forward]". RobertElsie. Retrieved 5 November 2015. "Das in der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek aufbewahrte Typoskript, Albanisches Bauernleben im Oberen Rekatal, wurde von seinem damals sechsundzwanzigjährigen Verfasser in Wien im April 1914 fertiggestellt aber nie veröffentlicht. Aus dem Vorwort des Verfassers geht hervor, dass der Text von Nopcsa ins Deutsche übersetzt wurde. Da die deutsche Fassung starke Ähnlichkeiten mit anderen ethnographischen Werken Nopcsas aufweist, kann man davon ausgehen, dass dieser bei der Gestaltung des Manuskriptes seinen Einfluss zur Geltung brachte. Dies wird insbesondere in den vielen in Nopcsas Schrift verfassten Ergänzungen und Korrekturen ersichtlich. Wenn es eine albanischsprachige Urfassung des Werkes gab, so muss sie nun als verschollen gelten. Albanisches Bauernleben im Oberen Rekatal wurde zu einer Zeit geschrieben, als es für die albanische Sprache, und um so mehr für die nun ausgestorbene albanische Mundart von Reka, keine allgemein anerkannte Schreibweise gab. Die in dem Text zahlreich vorkommenden albanischen Worte und Ortsbezeichnungen wurden von Doda und Nopcsa daher in deutscher Umschrift angegeben - und zwar nicht immer auf sehr konsequenter Weise -, und werden hier in gedruckter Form nach einigen Anpassungen wie im Original gelassen. Der des Albanischen mächtigen Leser dürfte mit der Umschrift keine allzu große Schwierigkeiten haben. Die vorliegende Studie enthält eine Fülle von Angaben und Informationen aus den verschiedensten Bereichen und wird daher in vielen Fachgebieten Interesse wecken und Verwendung finden. Darüber hinaus dürfte sie die frühste in deutscher Sprache von einem Albaner verfasste Studie zur Ethnographie sein. Allein aus diesem Grund ist es uns eine besondere Freude, das Werk Albanisches Bauernleben im oberen Rekatal nach so vielen Jahren dem Publikum vorstellen zu dürfen. [Preserved in the Austrian National Library the typescript, Albanian peasant life in the Upper Reka, was created by his then twenty-six year old writer in Vienna in April 1914 completed, but never released. From the preface of the author shows that the text of Nopcsa was translated into German. Since the German version has strong similarities with other ethnographic works of Nopcsa, one can assume that this brought his advantageous influence in shaping the manuscript. This is particularly evident in the many font additions and corrections written in by Nopcsa. If there was an Albanian-language original version of the work, it must now be regarded as lost. Albanian peasant life in Upper Reka was written at a time when there was no generally accepted notation for the Albanian language, and more so for the now extinct dialect of Albanian Reka. In the text the numerous occurring Albanian words and place names were therefore given by Doda and Nopcsa in German transliteration - not always in a very consistent manner - calmly, and be here in printed form after some adjustments to the original. The majority of Albanian readers should not have too much difficulty with the inscription. The present study contains a wealth of data and information from different sectors and will therefore arouse interest in many fields and can be used. The present study contains a wealth of data and information from different areas and will therefore arouse interest in many fields and can be used. Moreover, it is likely to be the earliest ethnography in German by an Albanian who wrote the study. For this reason alone it is to be allowed special treatment, the work Albanian peasant life in the upper Reka, after so many years by the audience.]"
  11. ^ Pieroni 2013, p. 2. "The upper Reka Valley in Western Macedonia represents one of the very few Albanian-speaking areas in South Eastern Europe where a very detailed ethnographic account - including important notes concerning local food and medicinal plant uses - was written in the first decade of the 20th Century. Bajazid Elmaz Doda (approx. 1888 – 1933) was the personal assistant and long-term partner of one of the most famous scholars in the field of Albanian studies: the Hungarian aristocrat and palaeontologist Baron Franz Nopcsa von Felsö-Szilvás (1877 – 1933). Doda finalised a manuscript in 1914, probably written in collaboration with his mentor/partner, which was focused on the daily mountain life of his village, Shtirovica, located in the upper Reka Valley (approx. 1400 m.a.s.l.). This manuscript remained unpublished until the Albanologist Robert Elsie found it in the Austrian National Library and edited it in 2007. Doda apparently wrote this account to challenge the argument of the Serbian-Austrian historian and astronomer Spiridon Gopčević (1855 - 1928), who described the Albanians of the upper Reka Valley as "albanicised Slavs". Doda’s village of Shtirovica was completely destroyed in 1916 by the Bulgarian army. However, a few surrounding tiny Albanian villages still survive to this day, despite the fact that the local population has been dramatically eroded by recent migration waves, both to the main centres in Macedonia and also abroad. The aim of this study was to record the traditional plant knowledge of the last remaining Albanians living in these villages of the upper Reka Valley and to compare this with the ethnobotanical notes found in Doda’s work in order to better understand trajectories of change in plant uses."
  12. ^ Murati 2011, p. 113. "Shqiptarët ortodoksë të Rekës së Epërme edhe në jetën e tyre kishtare kanë përdorur tekste ungjillore (Dhjatën e Re) në gjuhën shqipe. Në Kishën e lagjes Brezovec të Dufit edhe sot ruhet Dhjata e Re në gjuhën shqipe me alfabet grek (mbase e Vangjel Meksit, e vitit 1827), siç ma ka komunikuar këtë historiani i Shkupit Mihailo Georgievski. [Orthodox Albanians in Upper Reka in their lives have used church gospel texts (New Testament) in the Albanian language. At the church in the neighborhood of Brezovec in Duf is preserved even today the New Testament in the Albanian language with Greek alphabet (possibly that of Vangeli Meksi, 1827), as was communicated to me by historian from Skopje Mihajlo Georgievski.]"
  13. ^ a b c Mirčevska 2007, p. 136. "Но, во суштина, Горнореканците никогаш не го научиле албанскиот јазик целосно. Имено, Горнореканскиот албански говор содржи многу словенско македонски зборови особено оние кои се однесуваат на секојдневните предмети во домаќинството, или се користат во означување на поими кои почесто се во употреба, но и оние кои имаат македонска синтакса и наставки, непознати во албанскиот литературен јазик... Едните се пеат на недоволно јасен албански јазик, а другите на јасен Македонски. Во целиот етнички предел до пред Втората светска војна работеле училишта само на српски јазик, немало ниту едно на албански. Затоа денеска, помеѓу горнореканските Албанци има стари жени кои се обидуваат да го говорат српскиот јазик што го учеле во училиштето, додека локалниот македонски во текот на годините го заборавиле. [But in fact, Upper Reka people never learned the Albanian language completely. Namely, Upper Reka Albanian speech contains many Slavic Macedonian words especially those pertaining to everyday household items, or used in the designating notions frequently used by those who have Macedonian syntax and extensions, and not known from the Albanian literary language... Throughout the ethnic area until the Second World War, only schools in the Serbian language were functioning, while there were none in Albanian. So today, amongst Upper Reka Albanians, there are old women who try to speak the Serbian language they were taught in school, while the local Macedonian was forgotten over the years.]"
  14. ^ Murati 2011, pp. 98–99. "Nga vitet 50 të shek. 20 e këndej nxënësit shqiptarë të Rekës së Epërme detyroheshin me masa administrative shtetërore të ndiqnin shkollën në gjuhën maqedonase, që ta asimilonin njëherë e mirë këtë popullsi. "Shpeshherë takonim në autobus burra dhe gra nga të krahinës së Rekës, të cilët na tregonin se fëmijët e tyre refuzonin të shkonin në shkollë në gjuhën maqedonase dhe qanin kur ktheheshin nga shkolla, sepse thoshin që nuk kuptonin asnjë fjalë nga kjo gjuhë" – më rrëfente Prof. Mahmut Hysa nga Dibra, njohës i mirë i rrethanave të tilla të asaj kohe. [From the 1950s of the 20th century onwards, Albanian students of Upper Reka faced administrative measures forced by the state to attend schooling in the Macedonian language, so to assimilate once and for all this population. "Often we met on the bus men and women from the region of Reka, who told us that their children refuse to go to school in Macedonian language and crying when they returned from school, because they said I do not understand a word of this language" - recalls Professor Mahmut Hysa from Debar, someone acquainted with such circumstances at the time.]"
  15. ^ Pieroni 2013, pp. 2–3."Locals are now exclusively Muslims, but Albanians of Christian Orthodox faith also lived in the villages until a few decades ago. For example, in Nistrovë, one side of the village (with a mosque) is inhabited by Muslims, while the other side was inhabited by Orthodox believers. The entire population of Orthodox Christians migrated to towns a few decades ago, but they return to their village homes sometimes during the summer. Most of the houses in this part of the village are however abandoned even though the Church has been recently restored. According to our (Albanian Muslim) informants, these migrated Orthodox Christian Albanians assimilated within the Macedonian culture and now prefer to be labelled as "Macedonians", even if they are still able to fluently speak Albanian. Contact between these two subsets of the village communities, which were very intense and continuous in the past, no longer exists today. All Albanian inhabitants of the upper Reka are – to different degrees depending on the age – bilingual in Macedonian."
  16. ^ a b c d e Mirčevska 2007, p. 137. "Денешната состојба со Македонското Горнореканско население во однос на употребата на албанскиот говор во секојдневната меѓусебна вербална комуникација е непроменета. Сите кои живеат во пределот, дури и малите деца, го користат албанскиот говор, иако го знаат и македонскиот. Кога јас работев во овој предел, со мене се разбира комуницираа на македонски, но во меѓусебниот разговор повторно се служеа со албанскиот. Ваквата состојба недвојбено ни укажува на тоа дека и во минатото Македонскиот јазик се користел во меѓусебната комуникација на Горнореканците, бидејќи само со континуирано користење на еден јазик тој може да се зачува, во спротивно би се изгубил, што во Горна Река не се случај. Во горнореканските села, македонско население го знае само говорниот албански, но не знае да чита и пишува на албански. Спротивно пак, чита и пишува на македонски иако ретко го користи во секојдневието и тоа само помладата популација. Горнореканците кои живеат во Скопје, или во други градови во Македонија или надвор од неа, во поранешните југословенски простори, иако најголемиот дел од нив го знаат албанскиот горнорекански говор, сепак многу ретко го откриваат тоа. Бидејќи имаат македонско христијански имиња и презимиња тоа не им претставува тешкотија, но од друга страна зборува за личниот, помалку или повеќе, негативен став кон албанскиот јазик, кој особено е присутен последниве години. Дури останатото македонско население од државава воопшто не знае за постоењето на дел од македонската нација која го користи албанскиот говор секојдневно, и сознанието за постоењето на оваа појава им изгледа неверојатно. Оваа појава не е карактеристична само за Горна Река, туку и за Скопски Дервен, Дебарско, Голо Брдо ити. [The current situation of the Macedonian Upper Reka population regarding the use of Albanian speech in everyday mutual verbal communication is unchanged. All who live in the area, even small children, use the Albanian language, although they know Macedonian too. When I worked in this area, with me of course Macedonian was communicated, but in mutual conversations again was done in Albanian. This situation unequivocally tells us that in the past the Macedonian language was used in mutual communication in Gorna Reka, because only with continued use of a language that can it be preserved, otherwise it would be lost, as in Upper River it was not the case. In Upper Reka villages, the Macedonian population knows only spoken Albanian, but cannot read and write in Albanian. In contrast, they can read and write in Macedonian, although rarely used in everyday life and it is just young who do. Upper Reka people living in Skopje or in other cities in Macedonia or abroad, in the former Yugoslavia, although most of them know Upper Reka Albanian speech, however they rarely reveal it. It is because they have Macedonian Christian names and surnames that do not cause difficulties, though from the other side when discussing personal matters, there is a little or widespread negative attitude towards the Albanian language, which is particularly acute in recent years. Even the rest of the Macedonian population in the country is not aware about the existence of a part of the Macedonian nation who use Albanian speech daily, and knowledge of the existence of this occurrence seem unlikely. This occurrence is not unique to Upper Reka, but the Skopski Derven, Debar, Golo Brdo etc.]"
  17. ^ Doda 2007, pp. 88–92.
  18. ^ Mirčevska 2007, p. 136. "Како последица од печалбарскиот тип на стопанисување, речиси сите воѕрасни Горнореканци знаеле најмалку три јазици. Некои знаеле од пет до седум јазика, покрај македонски и албански, уште говореле и грчки, романски, француски и англиски (со американски изговор). [Consequently the economic migrant type from a rural economy, almost all Upper Reka adults know at least three languages. Some knew five to seven languages, in addition to Macedonian and Albanian, still speak Greek, Romanian, French and English (with American pronunciation)]."


Further reading[edit]