A Family Distinction

When I re-connected with my counterpart a few weeks ago, after not having seen him since our first meeting, he asked me how many words in Shqip I know. I said, “120?” It was a guess. In truth, I have no idea how many Shqip words I know at this point. I continue to plod along, attempting to practice with my flashcards and dictionary.

When it comes to family vocabulary, one of the things I find most interesting (and is that different from English) is the distinction in your parents’ siblings. Your father’s sister is your teze, while your mother’s sister is your hallë. Your father’s brother is your axhë, while your mother’s brother is your dajë. I was having a conversation with my temporary host brother about this, and he was baffled by the English language’s simplistic “uncle” and “aunt.”

“But how do I know if you’re speaking about your father’s brother, or your mother’s brother?” he wanted to know. And I was like, who cares? Either way, their relationship to me is the same.

What’s even more interesting about Shqip is that there is no distinction between grandson/nephew (nipi), or granddaughter/niece (mbesë ). Also, the word for daughter (vajzë ) is the same as the word for girl. Likewise, the word for son (djalë) is the same as the word for boy. To me, these would be a far more important distinctions to make than which aunt or which uncle I am speaking about. (But oh well. I didn’t invent the language.)

Also, the word for son/boy (djalë) is very similar in sound to the word for devil (djall). I’m told Americans regularly screw this up. Oops.

2 thoughts on “A Family Distinction”

  1. Actually, there are words for son and daughter. Im bir or biri im means my son. And ime bije or bija ime means my daughter. But you’re right, we prefer to use my boy or my girl most of the time.

    The word for devil (djall) is a slight corruption of the word for sun (djell), and to say “go in hell” we use both these forms:
    shko ne djall (go in devil)
    shko mbrapa djellit) (go behind the sun)


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