Project description


This project is inspired by the ongoing work of various colleagues on the grammatical description of Old Albanian texts and current work on Albanian etymology. Thanks to generous 4-year SNF funding (100012_208245; CHF 916’708,-), we can now address some of the most urgent research questions systematically: the lack of a complete and reliable reconstruction of Proto-Albanian, the absence of a consensus on the localization of Proto-Albanian in time and space, and the need for a reliable survey of the earliest loanwords into and from Proto-Albanian. Ultimately, our project seeks to determine what the precursor of the Albanian language looked like in Antiquity and where this precursor may have been spoken. 



The Albanian language forms a separate branch of the Indo-European language family. Besides Greek and Romance languages, Albanian is the only surviving descendant of the languages spoken in the Balkans in Antiquity. Since the earliest coherent text in Albanian dates from 1555, our main access to the history of the language is through linguistic reconstruction and the study of early loanwords from and into Albanian. Such loanwords have entered the language as a result of speaker contact between Albanian and Greek, Latin, and Romanian (the three languages on which we concentrate ourselves in this project), furthermore with South Slavic languages, Turkish, and Italian.


Periodization of Albanian


The scientific methods used will be comparative linguistic reconstruction and contact linguistics. Comparative linguistic reconstruction consists of two steps: 1. Language-internal reconstruction, which results from comparing the Old Geg and Old Tosk dialects, yields a first approximation of Proto-Albanian; 2. The subsequent comparison of Old Albanian and Proto-Albanian with other Indo-European languages (and their respective protolanguages) enables us to correct and refine the outcome of the first step. Regarding language contact, our project focuses on the lexical and grammatical correspondences between Albanian and Latin, Albanian and (the different) Romanian (languages), and Albanian and (the various stages of) Greek.

Title page Dictionarium Latino-Epiroticum from 1635


This research is divided into three complementary sub-projects that are carried out by the senior postdoctoral researcher PD Dr Sergio Neri and by the two PhD students Gerard Spaans and Alexander Herren:

SP1 (Sergio Neri): Elaborate a new and full reconstruction of Proto-Albanian; elaborate a relative chronology of the Latin loanwords into Albanian.

SP2 (Gerard Spaans): A study of Language contact between Greek and Albanian in Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages.

SP3 (Alexander Herren): A study of Language contact between Romanian and Albanian in the Middle Ages.

SP4 (the entire team): Elaborate a corpus of early loanwords into Albanian, that will be complementary to the Munich project Digitales philologisch-historisches Wörterbuch des Altalbanischen (15.–18. Jh.). <>

The project outcome will be an academic monograph (or a series of longer articles) on the reconstruction of Proto-Albanian, two PhD theses (on Greek and Romanian as contact languages for Albanian), several collaborative, international peer-reviewed articles, and conference proceedings. In addition, we will create an etymological database of Latin/Albanian, Albanian/Romanian, and Albanian/Greek lexical correspondences that will complement the Munich etymological database of Old Albanian.


For further details, please contact the Principal Investigator Michiel de Vaan (