Background and status
The Albanian language, called shqip or shqipe by Albanians, is the only surviving member of its branch of the Indo-European language family and thus has no close relatives. It is spoken by over 7.6 million people in the south western Balkans, primarily in the Republic of Albania and in the neighboring countries which once formed part of the Yugoslav federation (Kosova, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia). In Albania itself, the language is spoken by the entire population of 3,087,159 inhabitants. Albanian is divided into two basic dialect groups: Gheg in the north of the country and Tosk in the south. The Shkumbin River in central Albania, flowing past Elbasan into the Adriatic, forms the approximate boundary between the two dialect regions. Here, in a zone 10 - 20 km wide, intermediate dialects are also found.
Standard Albanian, based on the Tosk dialect, is the official language of Albania, and one of the official languages of Kosovo and Macedonia, is spoken in southern Albania, Turkey, Greece and Italy, while Gheg is spoken in Serbia and Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, northern Albania and Bulgaria. The dialects are more or less mutually intelligible, and transitional varieties of Albanian are spoken in central Albania.
Growth and usage
Standard Albanian is the medium of instruction in most Albanian schools. The literacy rate in Albania for the total population, age 9 or older, is about 99%.
It is also the language used in government, law and administration. And business in the print media is booming. The establishment of political pluralism and a market economy in 1991 brought with it the collapse of the state’s monopoly in the Albanian media market. Before 1990, only two daily national papers were printed. Today 28 national dailies are printed – a considerable figure when compared to the number of print media publications in countries with populations much larger than Albania’s.