The Linguistic History of the Place Names in Albania

The aim of the third party financed project ' Linguistic History of the Place Names in Albania’ is to conduct a diachronic linguistic analysis of the place names on the territory of Albania (town and village names, i.e. macrotoponyms) from antiquity to the modern era. The particular historical background to the settlement of the Albanian area and the history of migration will be taken into consideration and evaluated. This concerns, above all, the controversial debate of autochthony vs. immigration of Albanians, which is inextricably linked to the origin of the Albanians and their language, the geographically high number of Slavic place names across the whole territory of Albania, and the creation of Albanian toponyms. Since the Albanian language in literary form is documented only since the middle of the sixteenth century A.D., and only rare historical sources are available for the Albanian area for the period from the end of antiquity to the eleventh century A.D. (i.e. the first mention of Albanians as an independently perceived ethnic group in Byzantine sources), place names offer significant information that can shed light on the historical events of those times. An analysis conducted according to modern historical linguistic methods will finally show the phonological changes of place names in Albania since their first documentation and how these changes should be classified chronologically and linguistically. This first comprehensive study of Albanian place names will indicate which languages these place names should be attributed to (pre-Albanian, Albanian, Slav, Vlach, Turkish place names) and reveal their geographical distribution. The project will conclude with the publication of a practical manual of Albanian place names discussing Albanian toponymy, as well as with a multifunctional on-line presentation of Albanian place names including a virtual map. The project will serve as a model and example for further diachronic linguistic research on place names in other states of Southeast Europe, yet to be undertaken.