Elbasan alphabet

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Elbasan alphabet
𐔀𐔓𐔖𐔓𐔍𐔒𐔍 𐔍 𐔇𐔐𐔁𐔀𐔛𐔀𐔓𐔍𐔝
Script type
Directionleft-to-right Edit this on Wikidata
ISO 15924
ISO 15924Elba (226), ​Elbasan
Unicode alias
U+10500 – U+1052F[1]

The Elbasan alphabet is a mid 18th-century alphabetic script created for the Albanian language Elbasan Gospel Manuscript,[2]: 3  also known as the Anonimi i Elbasanit ("the Anonymous of Elbasan"), which is the only document written in it.[2]: 3  The document was created at St. Jovan Vladimir's Church in central Albania, but is preserved today at the National Archives of Albania in Tirana. The alphabet, like the manuscript, is named after the city of Elbasan, where it was invented, and although the manuscript isn't the oldest document written in Albanian,[3] Elbasan is the oldest out of seven[2]: 4  known original alphabets created for Albanian.[2]: 3  Its 59 pages contain Biblical content written in a script of 40 letters,[2]: 3  of which 35 frequently recur and 5 are rare.


Letters[4] Latin alphabet Pronunciation
𐔀 a [a ɑ ɒ]
𐔁 b [b]
𐔂 c [ts]
𐔃 ç, xh [tʃ], [dʒ][5]
𐔄 d [d]
𐔅 nd [nd]
𐔆 dh [ð]
𐔇 e [e ɛ][5]
𐔈 ë [ə][5]
𐔉 f [f]
𐔊 g [ɡ]
𐔋 gj [ɟ]
𐔌 h [h ħ]
𐔍 i [i]
𐔎 j [j]
𐔏 k [k q]
𐔐 l [l]
𐔑 ll [ɫ]
𐔒 m [m]
𐔓 n [n]
𐔔 n (before g and gj) [n][5]
𐔕 nj [ɲ]
𐔖 o [o ɔ]
𐔗 p [p]
𐔘 q [tɕ]
𐔙 r [ɾ]
𐔚 rr [r]
𐔛 s [s]
𐔜 sh [ʃ]
𐔝 t [t]
𐔞 th [θ]
𐔟 u [u]
𐔠 v [v]
𐔡 x [dz]
𐔢 y [y]
𐔣 z [z]
𐔤 zh [ʒ]
𐔥 gh [ɣ] (Greek loanwords)
𐔦 gh [ɣ] (Greek loanwords)
𐔧 kh [x] (Greek loanwords)


Elbasan (U+10500–U+1052F) was added to the Unicode Standard in June 2014 with the release of version 7.0.

Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+1050x 𐔀 𐔁 𐔂 𐔃 𐔄 𐔅 𐔆 𐔇 𐔈 𐔉 𐔊 𐔋 𐔌 𐔍 𐔎 𐔏
U+1051x 𐔐 𐔑 𐔒 𐔓 𐔔 𐔕 𐔖 𐔗 𐔘 𐔙 𐔚 𐔛 𐔜 𐔝 𐔞 𐔟
U+1052x 𐔠 𐔡 𐔢 𐔣 𐔤 𐔥 𐔦 𐔧
1.^ As of Unicode version 15.1
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points


The Elbasan Gospel Manuscript[edit]

The Elbasan Gospel Manuscript comes from the Orthodox Christian monastery of St. Jovan Vladimir's Church in the village of Shijon, west of Elbasan.[2]: 6  With the exception of a short 15th century Easter Gospel transcript, it was the oldest work of Albanian Orthodox literature, and the oldest Orthodox Bible translation into Albanian.[2] The authorship of the document is a matter of speculation, see the main article on this topic for details.

The manuscript was purchased a little before or around World War II by the politician Lef Nosi, who possessed a remarkable personal library and was a notable collector. It was confiscated from him by the communist regime in 1945. It is now preserved in the National Archives of Albania.[6] The albanologist and translator Injac Zamputi (1910–1998) transcribed the manuscript, after which the Elbasan Gospel was published in standard Albanian for the first time.[6]

Anonymous authorship[edit]

The author of the alphabet remains unknown, though several hypotheses have been brought forward. The most accepted proposal comes from Mahir Domi in 1965, claiming the Moschopole typographer Gregory of Durrës to be the author of the alphabet. Domi bases his claim on several factors, the main one being a note by Georgios Zaviras [bg; el; hu; ru] (1744–1804) which states "Gregory of Durrës translated the Old and New Testament on a script he invented himself".[7] Domi's hypothesis was later supported by Robert Elsie.

The name "Papa Totasi" (father Totasi) is written on the cover's verso, thus sometimes the alphabet is attributed to him.[8][9][10]

Historical analysis[edit]

Robert Elsie notes the author's desire to avoid foreign influences. The Latin, Greek and Arabic scripts had already been in use for Albanian, and the Cyrillic and Glagolitic scripts were also available. But the author chose to devise a new script specific to Albanian, reflecting what Elsie called "the wish of Albanian intellectuals" for a distinct writing system of their own.[2]: 2–3  Furthermore, a surprisingly low number of loanwords appear in the manuscript: only three Latin loans, seven Turkish loans, and twenty-one loans from Biblical Greek (the language the manuscript was translated from).[2]: 12–13  Elsie argues that the author's determination to root out loanwords becomes clear with the marked crossing out of the Turkish loan sheher "city" and its replacement with qytet, which was apparently not recognized as a loan from Latin cīvitāt(em).[2]: 12 


The Elbasan alphabet exhibited a nearly one-to-one correspondence between sounds and letters, with only three exceptions, of which two were restricted to Greek loanwords.[2]: 4  The modern Albanian alphabet, based on the Latin script, is phonemically regular for the standard pronunciation but it is not one-to-one because of the use of ten consonant digraphs.

Dots are used on three characters as inherent features to indicate varied pronunciation found in Albanian: single r represents the alveolar tap ɾ but with a dot it becomes an alveolar trill [r], whereas a dotted l becomes velarized and a dotted d becomes prenasalized into nd.[2]: 4  (Today this nd has become a sequence of two separate phonemes; Modern Greek has undergone somewhat similar development.) Elsie says that the alphabet generally uses Greek letters with a line on top as numerals. While some of the letters appear to have been inspired by Greek or Glagolitic forms, he considers the majority to be unique for this alphabet,[2]: 3  whereas Shuteriqi[11] and Domi[12] see a strong influence of Old Church Slavonic language due to the jurisdiction, until 1767, of the Archbishopric of Ohrid.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Final Accepted Script Proposal
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Elsie, Robert (1995). "The Elbasan Gospel Manuscript (Anonimi i Elbasanit), 1761, and the struggle for an original Albanian alphabet" (PDF). Südost-Forschungen. Regensburg: Südost-Institut. 54: 105–159. ISSN 0081-9077.
  3. ^ Benjamin w. Fortson, IV (7 September 2011). Indo-European Language and Culture: An Introduction. ISBN 9781444359688.
  4. ^ "Elbasan alphabet". Omniglot. Retrieved 2019-04-15.
  5. ^ a b c d Everson, Michael; Elsie, Robert (2010-06-23). "Preliminary proposal for encoding the Elbasan script in the SMP of the UCS" (PDF). DKUUG (Dansk Unix User Group).
  6. ^ a b Elsie, Robert. "GREGORY OF DURRËS". Archived from the original on 2012-01-13.
  7. ^ Mahir Domi (1965). Rreth autorit dhe kohës së dorëshkrimit elbasanas me shqipërim copash të ungjillit. In: “Konferenca e parë e Studimeve Albanologjike,” Tiranë, 15-21 nëndor 1962. Tiranë, p. 170–177
  8. ^ Xhevat Lloshi (2008). Rreth alfabetit të shqipes: me rastin e 100-vjetorit të Kongresit të Manastirit. Logos-A. pp. 278–. ISBN 978-9989-58-268-4.
  9. ^ Llazar Siliqi (1963). Albanian contemporary prose. State Pub. Enterprise Naim Frashëri.
  10. ^ Armin Hetzer (1995). Nominalisierung und verbale Einbettung in Varietäten des Albanischen: eine Untersuchung zur Geschichte der albanischen Schriftsprache am Beispiel erweiterter Verbalprädikate auf areallinguistischem Hintergrund. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. pp. 146–. ISBN 978-3-447-03714-3.
  11. ^ Shuteriqi, Dhimitër (1949). Anonimi i Elbasanit. Shkrimi shqip në Elbasan në shekujt XVIII-XIX dhe Dhaskal Todhri. Tiranë: Buletin i Institutit të Shkencavet, 1949. Pages 33-54. Page 38
  12. ^ Domi, Mahir (1965). Rreth autorit dhe kohës së dorëshkrimit elbasanas me shqipërim copash të ungjillit. In the First Conference of Albanologic Studies: Tiranë, 1965. Pages 270-277

External links[edit]