Albanian is the official language of Albania, Kosovo, parts of Serbia, Montenegro and the Republic of Macedonia. Altogether, it is estimated that over 6 million people speak Albanian. In addition to locations in which it has official status, Albanian speakers can also be found in emigrant communities around the world, especially in Scandinavia, Germany, Greece, Egypt and Turkey.
Albanian forms its own branch of the Indo-European family of languages and as a result no living languages are related to it. Its closest relation is thought to be the now extinct Thracian, but even this link causes controversy between linguists.
Linguists have determined that there are hundreds of Albanian dialects. However, these dialects can be divided into two major groups: Gheg (Geg) and Tosk. Generally speaking, the two dialects are distributed geographically according to their relationship with the Shkubin river, which splits the country. North of the river, Gheg is spoken while south of the river, Tosk is spoken. Outside of Albania, forms of Gheg are spoken in Macedonia, Kosovo and parts of Montenegro. Meanwhile, variants of Tosk can be found in Italy, Greece, Ukraine, Turkey and Egypt.
At the turn of the twentieth century, the modern Albanian alphabet was standardised using a modified form of the Latin alphabet. Prior to this period, Albanian was written in Greek, Arabic and Cyrillic as well as Latin alphabets. The current, standardised form of the Albanian alphabet consists of 36 letters in total and includes: ç, dh, ë, gj, ll, nj, rr, sh, th, xh, zh.