The first issue to be solved for writing a language is its graphing, the designation of graphic signs that will be used to give its basic sounds [10, P.9]. Graphing marks the beginning of the first phase of language planning of a community's discourse, including its literacy.
The unlucky historical circumstances of the Albanian people have made the graphing of this language last for centuries. Graphism in Albanian begins with the "Formula e Pagëzimit" (Eng.: Baptismal formula) (1462), which is the first document written in Albanian language. It is a short sentence in the Albanian language: “Un'te paghesont' pr'emenit t'Atit e t'Birit e t'Spertit Senit” (Eng.: I baptize thee in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit), found in a circular, written in Latin in 1462 by the Archbishop of Durres Pal Engjëlli (a close associate of Skanderbeg), and it ends with "Meshari" (Eng.: Missal) (1555), where the Albanian language comes out for the first time written with an original alphabet.
By observing this process that lasted for centuries, two things come to light:
The analysis of the sound matter of Albanian made by different authors of alphabets has distinguished an approximate number of minimal sound units, both Latin and Greek based alphabets, either 36 or revolving around this digit.
Buzuku (1555) and all the authors after him did not follow the example of the Western European languages’ alphabets, which have non-graphs letters in the true sense of the term because they can represent different phonemes. Albanian alphabet authors, even when the existence of other alphabets was unknown, intuitively adhered to a phoneme — one graph.
The Latin base of most Albanian alphabets and the symmetry between the graphem system and the phonemic system, which has the validity of the graphs, are simplier and easier features to acquire that have provided the Albanian language with the correct orthography and pronounciation.
Albanian National Renaissance
The Albanian National Renaissance was the result of the sociopolitical and cultural movement for the liberation of the country from foreign invasions. This movement began in the middle of the 19th century and ended in 1912, with the proclamation of Albania's Independence.
The Renaissance was a widespread movement that drew all the social forces of the Albanian people into political life and had deep historical roots. It developed on a plot prepared by popular uprisings that did not break through the four centuries of Ottoman captivity and were directed against this slavery. During these [movements, the Albanians experienced feelings of their nationality, identity and individuality in the face of foreign rulers [13, P. 120]. But these movements, though having a liberating character, remained from the beginning to the end as separate and unrelated movements between them. The era of the Renaissance created the conditions for their union, to channel them into the furrow of the national movement.
The Renaissance brought new elements to the organization and direction of the Albanian liberation movement, raising it to a higher degree [5, P. 13]. From the provincial and inter-provincial assemblies, leading the joint combat actions on a large scale, to the transformation into the leading Albanian-run organizations that led the national movement, such as the Albanian League of Prizren (1878-1881) and the Albanian League of Peja (1899-1900) during the 19th century, as well as national committees at the last stage of the Renaissance. The establishment of such leading organizations was noted by the simultaneous expansion of the movement throughout the Albanian lands and by the overall national character of its objectives during the Renaissance.
For an official Albanian language
The need for an official Albanian language, after the creation of the Albanian state (28th November, 1912), brought the holding of the Albanian Literary Commission in Shkodra (1916-1918). With Luigj Gurakuqi at the head and with the following distinguished scholars and intellectuals of the time as participants: Mati Logoreci, Sotir Peci, Luigj Naraçi, Gjergj Pekmezi, Hilë Mosi, Gjergj Fishta, Ndre Mjeda, Maksimiliam Lamberti, Josif Haxhimima, Sali Novica, Hafiz Ali Korça, Aleksandër Xhuvani, Vinçenc Prendushi, Rajko Nahtigali and Ndue Ndoc Paluca; this commission became an important institution for the standardization of the Albanian language, even though the participants were aware of the difficulties they faced in solving the issue of the official language [5, P. 13]. After the Declaration of Independence (1912), the official language was institutionalized in 1913, and efforts were made for administrative, legal and other military terminology through the respective commissions.
The Congress of Manastir (today Bitola) – The Alphabet Congress
The Congress of Manastir of 1908 constitued the unification Congress of an alphabet of the Albanian language. The Congress of Manastir is the gathering of Albanian scholars from November 14 to November 22, 1908 in Manastir, at the then Province (Vilayeti) Center for determining the alphabet of the Albanian language [10, P. 12]. Several Albanian alphabets were developed during the development of Albanian literature. One of the most recent was the one created in Istanbul and was called the Istanbul alphabet. The overwhelming thought was that the non-Latin letters were not suitable for the thriving of Albanian national linguistic union. For this reason, the most active and well-known society “Bashkimi” in Manastir called the First General Congress to discuss a united alphabet [7, P. 228]. A unified alphabet would be the beginning of Albanian-language literature. Therefore, on the 14th of November 1908, the Congress of Manastir or the Alphabet Congress [2, P. 45] gathered in Manastir (Bitola). The congress was held by the “Bashkimi” association in Fehim Zavalani's house, where the headquarters of the society were. The participants of the congress were distinguished figures of the Albanian cultural and political life. Fifty delegates were summoned, representatives of twenty-three towns inhabited by Albanians, cultural and patriotic societies, thirty-two of whom had the right to vote and eighteen were observers. Among the most prominent delegates were: Gjergj Fishta, Mit'hat Frashëri, Sotir Peci, Ndre Mjeda, Shahin Kolonja, Bajo Topulli, Parashqevi Qiriazi. Other delegates from the Zavalani family were Izet Zavalani, representative of Follorina, and Gjergj Zavalani. The introductory speech was given by the master of the house, Fehim Zavalani.
In Manastir, a printing press was opened, which was funded by a group of patriot Albanian Muslim merchants [6, P. 230]. Manastir's printing house soon became known throughout Albania as a distributor of books and newspapers in Albanian. In this workshop, 17 people were employed and they worked with a new electric machine that was manually operated to print the weekly “Bashkimi i Kombit (The Union of the Nation)” as well as Albanian spelling and school books.
Klubi i Selanikut (The Thessaloniki Club) convened for the Congress of Elbasan from August 20th to August 27th, 1909. Delegates from 28 Albanian societies and clubs attended to this eight-day Congress, whose aim was to develop the educational movement throughout the country. In the Congress, the decision related to the establishment of the "Normal School in Elbasan", a six-year school program for preparing young teachers, was taken. People who finished their studies in European Foreign Universities were found and assigned to form the pedagogical body. The Normal Elbasan School continued to prepare pioneers of education for Albania. Normal's first director was Luigj Gurakuqi. Years later this school was named after him. The Normal School opened in December 1909, with 143 students.
At that time, around 90 Albanian newspapers and magazines were published, both in Albania and in Albanian colonies abroad.
Pristina’s Language consultancy (1968)
"One nation — one language" – was the motto of the Pristina Language Consultancy (1968). The 1968 Pristina language consultancy, which was held one year after the drafting of the “Albanian Language Scripting Project”, accomplished the goal of the spelling unification of the Albanian language by unanimously approving this important project in the field of general cultural and social development of the entire Albanian nation [11, P. 21].
Given the general cultural and social circumstances in the development of Kosova and other Albanian territories outside Albania, it can be argued that for the Kosova Albanians, the 1972 Congress of spelling had only a ceremonial promotional character, because the work of the Albanian unification was made in Pristina on the 22nd and 23rd of April 1968. The decisions taken at the Pristina Language Consultancy exerted a positive impact on the works of the Congress of Spelling, which would eventually become literary Albanian.
As we are knowledgeable of, in 1967, the Institute for Albanological Studies reopened, exactly the same year when the “Albanian Language Spelling Rules Project” arrived in Pristina. This project was compiled by distinguished scholars of Tirana, who would promote the Institute for Albanological Studies of Pristina initiative and of the Department of Language and Literature of the Philosophical Faculty of Pristina. On April 22-23, 1968 they organized the Language Consultancy known as the “Pristina Consultancy” which was attended by 150 intellectuals and scientists from Kosova, Macedonia, Montenegro and other Albanian territories.” The main discussion topic of this broad gathering was the Project of New Orthography of Literary Albanian, drafted by a committee composed of Androkli Kostallari, Eqrem Çabej and Mahir Domi” [13, P. 216]. All language consultations held in Pristina, starting from 1952 until the 1968 Language Consultancy, were preceded by an identical gathering in Tirana.
Efforts to approximate the two dialects
Since 1952, in the First Language Consultation in Pristina, approximate tendencies between the two main dialects of Albanian for the common language of Albanians were present. The Albanian language consists of many dialects, divided into two main groups: Gheg and Tosk. The Shkumbin River is approximately a geographical division, with Gheg spoken in the north of Shkumbini and Tosk in the south.
The following language consultancy, the third consecutive one, known as the meeting of “Albanian language teachers, teachers and other intellectuals”, held in Pristina on 14th, 15th and 16th of January 1963, comes shortly after a similar activity that was done a year ago in Tirana. This meeting also had clear intentions of approaching two main sub-divisions within the Albanian literary language, perhaps even for the complete unification of spelling, but the interference of the political factor for some time overshadowed such tendencies in order to incorporate the spelling of the Albanian language applied at that time in Tirana. However, even this counseling for the Albanian language had proceeded in the right direction. This is also evidenced by the publication “Rules of Albanian spelling”, which was drafted by a commission selected in this Consultancy, which was published in Pristina in 1964.
Congress of the Albanian Orthography
At the initiative of the Institute of Linguistics and Literature of the State University of Tirana (SUT), the Albanian Language Writing Congress was held in Tirana from November 20th to November 25th, 1972. The Congress was widely represented by the forces of Albanian science, education and culture. It was attended by 87 delegates from Albania, Kosova, Macedonia, Montenegro and Arbëresh, from Italy.
The purpose of the congressional meeting was to determine the main principles and directions for the drafting of spelling rules in order to have a unified national literary language. This Congress, as the highest scientific forum, analyzed and discussed broadly the basic principles, general issues and many specific solutions of the Albanian spelling, as well as other theoretical and practical problems related to literary norms in general.
The basic principle of spelling in Albanian is the phonetic one: in general, words and their parts [7, P. 32] are written as they are uttered in literary discourse. In addition to the phonetic principle, the unified spelling of the Albanian language is also largely based on the morphological principle, which requires the words and their constituent parts of the formative and word-formation system to be written alike, despite the sound changes caused by the phonetic laws that operate today in our language.
The interlacing of the phonetic principle with the morphological principle in the spelling of the Albanian language is supplemented by the application of some other principles, such as lexical-semantical, historical-traditional principle, etc.
Specifically, the Congress called:
- The Albanian school, as the core of the language formation of younger generations, which educates them fondly in their mother tongue and reveals its inexhaustible treasure, to assess the acquisition of the unified literary and spelling norms adopted by the Congress as a basic duty and to fully implement the new spelling rules, starting from 1973 to 1974.
- Textbook institutions must prepare and publish supporting texts and other tools necessary for the acquisition and mastery of literary and spelling norms.
- Albanian writers, who with a lively artistic word play, have a first-rate role in the crystallization and impulse of the national literary norm, to work with persistence in applying the spread of the spelling norm.
- Publishing institutions must strictly apply spelling rules and vividly assist in spreading literary norms and raising the language culture of the people.
- State agencies, social organizations, and institutions of science and culture must take measures and apply the spelling rules in written language.
- Radio and Television, Theater, Cinema, must apply the spelling rules and help spread and enhance the norms of the spoken language literacy [11, P. 27].
- Scientific-educational institutions involved in studying Albanian language must pay constant attention to spelling problems and undertake further studies in this area.
The role of the extraneous factor for the standardization of the Albanian language
The role of extracurricular factors was great when it came to standardizing linguistic activities in Tirana and Pristina. This is understandable, not only due to the political circumstances in which the Albanian people were there and beyond the border, but also because extracurricular factors have its weight in defining and creating language, state and national policies everywhere and whenever. Even at the time of the Consultation and other language meetings in Tirana and Pristina, for nearly half a century, the influence of political and social factors has been great and vindicated.
By accepting the linguistic union with all Albanians wherever they are, by accepting the 1967 Orthography Regulations Project of Tirana as a norm, renouncing the 1964 spelling rules of the Gheg standard, Kosova Albanians and other Albanian territories in the former Yugoslavia ended the language separation path they had walked in their long linguistic history and paved the way for linguistic unification. The Albanian intellectual class, the people, but also the Albanian political class, who gave impetus to this process, were aware that such an action was not easy at all and was a sacrificial act, given many circumstances and moments of their political, social and economic development, especially education and culture. They were, in fact, aware that the way of adopting and enforcing those rules would not be easy, because in Kosova a fight with illiteracy was present and its scale was too high.
In spite of the initial difficulties of the beginning, the 70s were decisive for the standard language in these spaces to be a success beyond the forecasts. The road started well, unfortunately, it continued to be difficult after the student’s protests of '81 intensifying especially during the 90s when the public schools were closed by the Serbian regime and many lost their jobs. The political, social, economic crisis brought the great educational crisis and, consequently, the linguistic crisis and caused difficulties in the way of well-started developments. Particularly, the Albanian school dropped, and this was reflected especially in language learning. The decline of the language discipline will have no minor consequences for the language culture in the future. Nevertheless, the opinion and attitude towards the justice of the 1968 ruling never faded.
It should be emphasized that a desirable degree of standard language possession has been achieved in Kosovo when considering the difficulties associated with the standardization of Albanian language, especially during 1981-1999.
The Pristina Language Consultancy is one of the most important events in Albanian linguistic and cultural history, because it marks a milestone in the not exclusively linguistic isolation route through which Albanians are walking. It thus opened the way for linguistic unity and made the Congress of Orthography to be held four years later and be called a nationwide congress.
With the decision taken at the Pristina Language Consultancy, Kosovo Albanians and those living in their territories in the former Yugoslavia, with the decision taken at the Congress of Orthography in 1972, all Albanians, wherever they were, achieved a major historical step: the change from the classic nation into a modern nation. And today they must behave as a modern nation.
So, the intellectuals of Kosova have, since the beginning, been pursuing a unifying language course, which was institutionally followed in Albania. This is how the Language Counseling in Tirana took place in 1956, and in the aftermath of it, in Pristina, on May 30th and 31st, 1957, the meeting of linguists was held, in which the process of defining certain principles for the pronunciation of the Albanian spelling has progressed. In this regard, Albanians in Macedonia had taken a step forward, because in their newspaper “Flaka e vëllaznimit (Flame of brotherhood)” the spelling was identical with that of the Albanian used in Tirana.
The standard Albanian language will continue to remain the common language of all Albanians, including Albanians from Kosova, Macedonia, Montenegro, Preshevo Valley and the diaspora because by having a common language, identity and common language history, Albanians will also have an advanced and civilized common future [7, P. 105].
From what is offered to us in this history of literary language, it turns out that linguists have agreed that the selected standard meets the basic criteria put forward before such a form of language: that the dialectal basis has represented a high degree of standardization, that the created standard language comes elaborated in all subsystems, expressing broad possibilities for enrichment from many sides.
Today we are in a new stage in the history of the nation, and therefore of the standard Albanian. We will have a standard language, because we are a nation, because we have a homogeneous historical territory, we have common myths, common history and common feelings, because we also have a common culture [7, P. 48].
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