General data on the language
Arvanites are those whose mother tongue is Arvanitika (name in Greek - Áñâáíßôåò)/ Arberichte (name in their language); most linguists use the word Albanian for that language, but the community loathes its use, and it is therefore advisable that this sensitivity be taken into consideration unless researchers and/or human and minority rights activists do not mind alienating the very community they are studying. Likewise, they call themselves Arvanites (in Greek) and Arberor (in their language); but in Northwestern Greece, in their language, they use the term Shqiptar (the same used by Albanians of Albania), a term strongly disliked by the other Arvanites, who also resent being called Albanians.
The first Christian Albanian migrations to what is today Greek territory took place as early as the XI-XII centuries (Trudgill, 1975:5; Banfi, 1994:19), although the main ones most often mentioned in the bibliography happened in the XIV-XV centuries, when Albanians were invited to settle in depopulated areas by their Byzantine, Catalan or Florentine rulers (Tsitsipis, 1994:1; Trudgill, 1975:5; Nakratzas, 1992:20-24 & 78-90; Banfi, 1994:19). According to some authors, they were also fleeing forced Islamization by the Turks in what is today Albania (Katsanis, 1994:1). So, some have estimated that, when the Ottomans conquered the whole Greek territory in the XV century, some 45% of it was populated by Albanians (Trudgill, 1975:6).
Another wave of Muslim Albanian migrations took place during the Ottoman period, mainly in the XVIII century (Trudgill, 1975:6; Banfi, 1994:19). All these Albanians are the ancestors of modern-day Arvanites in Central and Southern Greece.
Very little is known about the Albanian presence in Thrace; it was probably a spill-over of the many migrations mentioned above. Anyhow, there were many Albanians in Eastern Thrace and in the adjacent Western Thrace department of Evros. The former, as Christians, were relocated in Greece during the compulsory exchange of Christians and Muslims between modern-day Turkey and Greece in the 1920’s: many settled in the Salonica department.