Albanian has been written with various alphabet since the 15th century. Originally the Tosk dialect was written with the Greek alphabet, while the Gheg dialect was written with the Latin alphabet. They have both also been written with the Turkish version of the Arabic alphabet. The Latin alphabet for Albanian was standardised in 1909, and a unified literary version of Albanian, based on the Tosk dialect, was established in 1972.
Albanian has also been written with a number of other alphabets, including Beitha Kukju, Elbasan and Todhri, local inventions which appeared during the 18th and 19th centuries but were not widely used.
- Beitha Kukju: The Beitha Kukju or Buthakukye alphabet was created between 1825 and 1845 by Naum Veqilharxhi (1797-1854) a lawyer and scholar from Vithkuq, a village in the Korçë region in southern Albania. The name of the alphabet is a corruption of the name Vithkuq. This alphabet was part of Veqilharxhi’s promotion of the Albanian National Awakening movement, and he saw it as a way to avoid the religious associations and divisions of the Latin, Greek and Arabic alphabets. Details of this alphabet first appeared in Evëtori Shqip Fort i Shkurtër (The most Useful and Concise Albanian Alphabet), a primer published by Veqilharxhi in 1844-5. This was distributed in the Korçë region, later in Berat, and proved popular. Veqilharxhi also produced a number of other books in his alphabet, but few survive. It’s written from left to right.
The Elbasan alphabet was invented around the middle of the 18th century and named after the city of Elbasan in central Albania. It was used mainly in a document called the Elbasan Gospel Manuscript, or Anonimi i Elbasanit (The Anonymous of Elbasan) in Albanian, which was created at St Jovan Vladimir’s Church, published in 1761, and can now be found in the National Archives of Albania in Tiranë. It’s written left to right,
- Todhri: The Todhri alphabet is thought to have been invented by Theodor or Todhri Haxhifilipi (1730-1805) of Elbasan in Central Albania, although it is not known when it was invented or what alphabet(s) it was modelled on or derived from. The alphabet featured in a number of scholarly works, including those by Johann Georg von Hahn (1811-1869), the Austrian consul in Janina, who discovered it and referred to it as ‘the original’ Albanian alphabet in his 1854 work, Albanesische Studien. He thought it had developed from the Phoenician alphabet, while Leopold Geitler (1847-1885) thought it was based on Roman cursive.The Todhri alphabet was used to a limited extent in the Elbasan area from the late 18th century. It is not ideally suited to writing the Albanian language. It’s written left to right.