The language of classical-helenic-romaic-byzantine Greece deserves a special attention in the philological studies. It is the first known literature language but considered a spoken language as well  like every other spoken one, is believed to have borrowed a large amount of loans from its substratum .

What is a substratum of a language?

The academical definition for it is the following:

In linguistics, a substratum (lat. sub: under + stratum: layer → lower layer) is a language which influences another one while that second language supplants it. The term is also used of substrate interference, i.e. the influence exerted by the substratum language on the supplanting language .

So under-stratum (language) is believed to be a foundation for another language. There are  two words in Albanian language which are used to define the foundation: “themel” and “shtrat”.

The word ‘shtrat’ is not a loan from Latin language because it is widely use to describe many other words in Albanian like  shtrat (bed), shtrat (base), strategy(shtrat), shtrat lumi (river basement) etc. Now let’s return back to the “”Greek””” language subtratum, the goal of this article.

Let see how is denoted it from Enciclopedia Britanica

The term Pre-Greek substrate refers to an unknown language that is conjectured to have been spoken in prehistoric Greece before the settlement of Greek-speakers in the area. It is believed by some linguists that Greek took over a large number of words and proper names from such a language (its substrate), because a large proportion of the vocabulary of Greek does not have demonstrable Indo-European roots.

 Non-Indo-European words

Including the following:

     1.Terms of insult and pejorative vocabulary

  1. Maritime terms, words for the sea, shipping (eg thalassa)
  2. Words relating to Mediterranean agriculture, (eg olives)

     4.Words regarding rulers, given by the populace (eg Tyranos)

     5.Building technology (eg Kapital)

     6.Words relating to Non-Indo-European divinities (eg Athena)

 The reason why the  ‘’“Greek”” substratum is  called ‘unknown language’ by the scholars is unknown itself. Most likely because the anglo-german scholars, are not very familiar to a language spoken very close to the territory nowadays called Greece, whose name is Albania.

Let see in details the following words taken from Enciclopedia Britanica if them having any equivalent (graphically-grammatically) in Albanian

thalassa—————————thellesi (deepness)

olives——————————ullinj or ollij


Kapital—————————-kapet(achives, catches)

Athena—————————-e thene (said, speech)

 So only based on the example given by Enc. Brit. we were able to easily find  some words in Albanian most of them seems to represent the exact cognates of that unknown language.

So this ‘unknown’ language which served as a substratum might not be so unknown afterall.

Someone could ask: Maybe this unknown non-indoeuropian language is the substratum for Albanian language too?

This is a good question, but to explain why it doesn’t apply for Albanian , we will pick one of the words above and try to explain it ethymologically.

English———– Greek (modern)———–Albanian

olive——————ελιά (elia) ——————————– ulli or olli


English (3 entries.)
  Shqip (3 hyrje.)
  ulli {m} (tr. shq. ulliri, shumës ullinj)
  olive oil
  vaj ulliri

In Koine (Greek) —————————– English—————————–Albanian

δρς λαα( DRUS ELAIA) ———————–Tree, olive tree——— ————-dru ulliri


1500 years old olive tree Ithaca (Greece)

It is well-known fact that olives are used mostly for their oil. The oil is a  food in common use in their diet especially by the Mediterranien people.

In Albanian, the noun ulli(or olli) is formed from the prefix ‘u’, which is a noun-forming prefix and ‘lli’ which is in fact the root of the word, and derives from the verb Lyej=Liej(south dialect)=ngjyej=DIP(eng) which has as its primitive form the verb LY still alive in popular language.

From this verb derives the word LYRE which means fat, but in Albania is also used to name the OIL itself, especially the food oil like ULLYRI one.

So that means that this word and logically every word from the so called unknown language is in fact sourced from an alive language and people.

The language of Albanians is left aside, it is strangely “forgotten” in philological studies by the linguists. This is a big mistake, done from many generations of scholars. It has not started now, but since 2-3 centuries ago, from the German scholars who ‘pruned’ the history of language and culture of Europe from other ethnic groupes, pampering only “”Greeks”” and “”Romans””, to that extend that even when some elegant artifacts (similar or the same to those found in Greece or Italy) are being found in the territory where was Ancient Illyria,  they always suggest: “It must have been worked by a Greek/Roman artist” , Epiroto-Illyrians were only pirates afterall .

Fortunately there are still arround open-minded scholars who don’t hesitate to work on the right direction far from ethnical-political interests.

It is worthy to mention that Giuliano Bonfante (August 6, 1904September 9, 2005 in Rome) was an Italian linguistics scholar and expert on the language of the Etruscans and other Italic peoples. He was professor of linguistics at the University of Turin.




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