Innovative Paths of Albanology

Proceedings of the Early Career Researcher Conference on 14th and 15th October 2021

by Christian Voß (Volume editor) Lumnije Jusufi (Volume editor) Evelyn Reuter (Volume editor)
©2023 Edited Collection 252 Pages


The aim of this volume is to reinvent Albanian Studies and to transform Albanology, traditionally performed as a subdiscipline of historical linguistics, into interdisciplinary Albanian Studies. The thirteen contributions from early career investigators from Albania, Kosovo and Western Europe cover the field of literature, linguistics and cultural studies. They address the interface of language contact, sociolinguistics, digital humanities, comparative literature and of gender, minority, migration and memory studies. By using discourse analysis, popular culture, visual arts and other recent approaches, the volume shows the dynamics of Albanian culture in both Albanian-speaking countries today which makes it a fascinating case study in the context of Balkan area studies.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction (Christian Voss, Lumnije Jusufi, Evelyn Reuter)
  • Re-inventing Albanian and South Slavic Studies (Christian Voss)
  • Literature
  • Discovering a New Migjeni, under the Light of Textual Reading (Eljon Doçe)
  • The Foreign Image of Albania in the Prosaic Work of Ismail Kadare (Lumnije Jusufi)
  • A Review of the Literary Work of Naim Frashëri (Abdulla Rexhepi)
  • Albanian Transnational Literature in the 21st Century (Belfjore Zifla (Qose))
  • Linguistics
  • Structural Clause Patterns in the Albanian Language: Semantic Roles of Complements in Clauses with Mono-Transitive Bivalent Verbs (Kadire Binaj-Ejupi)
  • The Language Situation of the Gorani Community in Albania (Elona Gjata)
  • Phraseological Units with Colour Naming: A Contrastive Analysis of Albanian and German (Albana Muco)
  • Digital Language Resources for Albanian (Philipp Wasserscheidt)
  • Cultural Studies
  • Discursive Strategies in Constructing Albanian Identities Online 2009–2019 (Kosovo and Albania) (Jeta Abazi)
  • Punchcutting of Two Original Albanian Alphabets from the 18th and 19th Centuries (Yll Rugova)
  • Anthologies on the Relations of Albania and Kosovo with Germany (Enrico Seewald, Urs Unkauf)
  • From Rilindja to Pop Culture: The Poem “O moj Shqypni” as an Albanian Memory Site (Zsófia Turóczy)
  • Series index

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Christian Voss,Lumnije Jusufi,Evelyn Reuter


This volume is the result of the conference on Innovative Paths of Albanology that took place at the Humboldt University of Berlin in October 2021. The aim of the conference has been to discuss the future development of a linguistically understood Albanology to more interdisciplinary Albanian studies. Therefore, we gathered early career researchers from all over Europe who are conducting research on topics such as Albanian language, literature and culture. Referring to the program “Small Subjects – Great Potentials” from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the idea is to show that Albanology as a so-called “small subject” today is by no means traditional and isolated, but rather innovative and future-oriented. With respect to the Arbeitsstelle Kleine Fächer (located at the Center for Quality Assurance and Development) at the University of Mainz, “small subjects” are defined by the number of tenured professorships in Germany.1 Accordingly, Albanology in Germany is such a small subject because it is represented by only one professorship.2

In Germany, Albanology has a long tradition dating back to the 19th century. Since the 1970s, this subject has been represented by a professorship at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich. At other universities in Germany, Albanology is integrated in broader area studies. At the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, this subject is part of Southeastern European Studies with several language courses and lectures on Albanian culture. At the Humboldt University of Berlin, Albanian studies is not represented as a subject, but by externally funded projects that have been and are still being carried out at the Department of South Slavic Studies. Thus, Albanology is understood as a philology taught outside the region of origin, but with a broader research spectrum and a high degree of interdisciplinarity. Sociolinguistics and the Area studies approach, especially in the region of former Yugoslavia, are central as ←7 | 8→pioneering achievements. In addition to traditional linguistics and literary studies in Berlin, gender studies and cultural studies with special topics such as border area and migration research are also included. In consequence, the conference as well as the proceedings cover the entire breadth of Albanian studies to emphasize the potential for innovation.

Innovation is understood in the sense of new perspectives, methodological approaches and topics. The contributions cover several research areas that traditionally would not be considered as part of Albanian philology, but that are becoming extremely widespread – especially abroad. These areas include language contact studies, language technology and digitization, gender studies, migration studies and broader cultural studies. As Albanian is a small language and quite under-researched in many areas, even topics that are supposed to be more traditional have been considered because of the outstanding methods that are used for approaching.

The lack of research on Albanian language and culture is also caused by the long isolation of Albania during the socialist period. This experience of the isolation effects to some extent the Albanological research to this day. Due to this reason, to set up a neutral ground abroad is even more important for promoting innovative research approaches. This is what we as the editors aim to provide in Germany. Thus, the early career researchers from the Albanian-speaking region get the opportunity for networking, for discussing their studies, and for getting feedback from peers as well as from established colleagues. Also, an English publication outside of the Western Balkan countries is a great chance for most of the early career researchers from Southeast Europe. These opportunities are relevant to those working in single philologies because they often struggle with problems of internationalization and networking, in general. Thus, the volume is innovative even on the level of promoting young academics.3

Furthermore, most of the contributions of this volume are innovative in the sense of their interdisciplinarity. The chapters on linguistics and literature refer ←8 | 9→not only to Albanian, but also take the influence of other languages into account. The interdisciplinary approach applies especially to the contributions from the cultural studies that are traditionally not included in Albanology. Thus, their reception in this volume is already kind of an innovation itself. The chapters complement the volume with several research approaches from history, political science and the sociology of religion. In addition, these contributions are innovative by connecting at least two different perspectives that also may overlap with the chapters of the linguistic and literature sections.

This volume gathers thirteen contributions investigating different aspects of Albanian studies. Besides six chapters from Germany, the volume presents three articles from Kosovo, three from Albania and one from Italy. The contributions are gathered in three different panels in terms of methodologies and topics and seek to reflect the current research conducted by young academics in the field of Albanian studies. The contributions’ grade of innovation is not necessarily due to the coverage of new topics or an exclusion of diachronic and historic aspects. On the contrary, many contributions in fact deal with new ways of reading the “classics” of the Albanian “Rebirth” such as Naim Frashëri or Pashko Vasa.

The four contributions from literary studies cover the 19th to 21st centuries: Even though they cover canonical authors such as Migjeni and Kadare, what the contributions have in common is a fresh perspective on these writers – while Belfjore Zifla in a way brings the anti-canon into focus by concentrating on diasporic authors.

Eljon Doçe writes about one of the most fascinating authors of the inter-war period, Migjeni (Millosh Gjergj Nikolla, 1911–1938). He pleads for a new way of reading this author who was engrossed by communist literary criticism one-sidedly as a realistic and socially critical author – especially to discredit the monarchist inter-war period. In order to overcome this enormous constriction of Migjeni’s reception after 1945, Doçe emphasises the importance of working more on the text itself. This would clearly show that Migjeni is more than a “poet of misery” or an “atheist author”, but a producer of nationally indifferent, in part, fantastic and especially anti-heroic literature. The re-reading of Migjeni is thus part of the recanonization of Albanian literature after 1990.

Lumnije Jusufi also deals with a canonical and one of the most productive Albanian authors, Ismail Kadare (*1936). Based on his books from before the 1990s, she creates a significant correlation between his success abroad (based on the number of runs of translations in world languages) and his characteristic narration technique of depicting Albania and the Albanians from the outsider’s view and as an ascription: This consistently used element unites his resounding first success, “The General of the Dead Army” from 1963 (from the point of view ←9 | 10→of an Italian general), “The Siege” on the time of Skanderbeg and the Ottoman conquest (from the Ottomans’ point of view), but especially “The Winter of Great Solitude” on the rupture of Soviet–Albanian relations 1960–1961 (from the Russians’ point of view) as well as “The Concert (at the End of Winter)” on the Chinese–Albanian conflict from 1978 (amongst others from Mao tse-Tung’s point of view). Kadare’s change of perspectives opens fascinating new opportunities for the foreign as well as the local reader.

Abdulla Rexhepi’s depiction of Persian influence in the oeuvre of Naim Frashëri (1846–1900) picks up a fundamental problem of Southeast European Area Studies and philology: the national-philological and monolingual constriction of perspectives that often block the view on interconnections and path dependencies outside of established language combinations. Rexhepi lays open the perspective onto the Persian dimension in Frashëri’s works who was brought up as a Bektashi and strongly influenced by Islamic and especially Persian literature. He shows this influence in some of his poems but goes beyond and has conditioned Albanian language culture on an epistemic, conceptual and thematic level.

Belfjore Zifla on the other hand takes our gaze away from the established canon and onto new authors writing transnational literature: As Albanian post-migrants in Western Europe or overseas who often no longer write in their native language, they challenge the criteria of ascription by others. Zifla shows hybridity and in-betweenness as typical attributes of this literature that positions itself between “both and” and “neither nor” in a post-national and globalized world. She presents authors such as Gazmend Kapllani, Ornela Vorpsi, Gëzim Hajdari, Ardian-Christian Kyçyku, Lindita Arapi, Ilir Ferra, Elvira Dones, Besa Myftiu, Agron Tufa, Fate Velaj and Lea Ypi and their most important works. Common topics of Albanian transnational literature are the non-acceptance in the host societies and the simultaneous estrangement from the home society that is often represented by the figure of the returnee.

The linguistic panel also consists of four contributions that complement each other methodologically. They have in common an attempt to address methodological intersections be it between syntax and semantics (Binaj), minority studies and contact and sociolinguistics (Gjata), cognitive linguistics, phrasemes and contrastive linguistics (Muco) or an overview of the status quo of Albanian digital corpora (Wasserscheidt).

In her contribution, Kadire Binaj investigates the correlation of syntactic functions and semantic roles in structures with bivalent mono-transitive verbs. In particular, she explores the question of whether the syntactic interpretation of the given sentence structures as subject–verb–direct object is necessarily ←10 | 11→accompanied by a semantic agent–patient interpretation. On the basis of a corpus linguistic investigation, she concludes that even in cases that realize the subject and the direct object as NP, the semantic roles vary greatly. In total, she identifies eight different semantic patterns that can be formed by mono-transitive verbs in Albanian and concludes that their interpretation mainly follows the semantics of the respective verb.

Elona Gjata introduces us to the Gorani minority on the border of Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia as well as her results from a field trip in 2021: As speakers of Balkan–Slavic dialects they are claimed by both Bulgarian and Macedonian dialectology. In contrast to the Albanian Gorani, two additional options were introduced in the regions that belonged to Yugoslavia in the 20th century: On the one hand the Serbo-Croatian or Serbian umbrella, on the other hand the current Bosniakization of Goranis who are claimed as part of the Bosniak nation and language community since they are Slavic-speaking Muslims of Ex-Yugoslavia (just like the Sandžak-Muslims). In addition, Gjata discusses parameters of language vitality such as endogamy and mobility.

In an Albanian–German (and also pluricentric German–Austrian and Albanian–Kosovar) comparison, Albana Muco broaches the metaphoric meanings of colours. Based on an empiric survey, she examines the passive and active competence of phrasemes to do with colours in the four countries with extralinguistic variables such as age, gender, education and origin – also in a diatopic and diachronic variance. Finally, she describes comparative phrasemes contrastively and with a construction grammar approach. Muco regards her dissertation from 2021 at the University of Milan as groundwork for an Albanian–German/German–Albanian dictionary of phrasemes.

The contribution by Philipp Wasserscheidt deals with the existing corpus linguistic resources of Albanian. He first presents the existing tagsets, lexicons, manually annotated training corpora and corpora available for Albanian, and compares their characteristics and accessibility. It turns out that especially manually annotated training corpora are lacking as a gold standard for further scaling. In the second part, the article focuses on the subfield of tagsets by presenting four different existing approaches and comparing them in detail. Special emphasis is placed on the fact that the development of tagsets always combines different legacies, namely technical specifications of the tagset, linguistic theoretical assumptions, traditions of grammar writing and linguistic reality as well as the scope of application. The author concludes that an understanding of this interplay is relevant to ensure the understanding and ←11 | 12→acceptance of the solutions by the end users and to stimulate corpus linguistic research on Albanian.

The third panel in a broader sense unites contributions from cultural studies and also covers the 19th to 21st centuries: We find very different approaches that reach from discourse analysis (Abazi) and culture of remembrance encompassing popular culture (Turóczy), as well as philology or more precisely the history of letterpress (Rugova), to the history of diplomacy and entangled histories (Seewald/Unkauf).

In the context of the Leipzig Collaborative Research Centre “Multiple Secularities – Beyond the West, Beyond Modernities” Jeta Abazi develops a particular secular approach to Albanian national identity. She operationalizes her question as a discourse analysis on the recent and very current debates on Islamic or Christian/Catholic connotated symbolism: To be precise, she analyses the culture of remembrance of Skanderbeg and Mother Teresa. Both polarize in the debate and raise the question of how strongly religion should be visible within Albanian national identity – this question is posed differently for Kosovo that was dominated by Yugoslavia for 80 years than for Albania that was strongly shaped by Enver Hoxha’s order of atheism in 1967.

Yll Rugova offers a fascinating detailed study on letterpress in Albanian and focuses on the punchcutting of Albanian alphabets in the 18th and 19th centuries. Experiments were conducted with alphabets that can be positioned between the established writing systems such as Latin, Greek and Slavic Cyrillic and at the same time had to reproduce Albanian phonetics. Rugova leads us into the contemporary printing scene and deduces the context from Theodhor Haxhifilipi’s printing press in Elbasan from 1805: It was mainly the Habsburg intellectuals and diplomats such as the typographer Alois Auer or the Habsburg consulate in Ioannina Georg von Hahn who acted as middlemen and multipliers by collecting knowledge on Albanian script(s) and making them known.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2023 (January)
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2023. 252 pp., 19 fig. b/w, 6 tables.

Biographical notes

Christian Voß (Volume editor) Lumnije Jusufi (Volume editor) Evelyn Reuter (Volume editor)

Christian Voss has been Head of the Department for South Slavic Studies at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin since 2006. He earned his PhD in 1996 on Church Slavonic in the Balkans and his habilitation in 2004 on Slavic minorities in Greece. Lumnije Jusufi is a Senior researcher at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin where she completed her habilitation in Southeast European Studies with a focus on Albanology in June 2022. She holds a PhD from LMU Munich. Evelyn Reuter studied Ethnology, Protestant Theology and Southeast European Studies and earned her doctorate at the interface of Southeast European and Religious Studies in Jena in 2019. She has taught classes at the Universities of Jena, Bremen and HU Berlin.


Title: Innovative Paths of Albanology
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254 pages