Maltese language

Maltese language

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Maltese is the national language
National language
A national language is a language which has some connection—de facto or de jure—with a people and perhaps by extension the territory they occupy. The term is used variously. A national language may for instance represent the national identity of a nation or country...

 of Malta
Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

, and a co-official language of the country
Languages of Malta
The current national language of Malta is Maltese, which along with English, is one of the official languages.Having been governed by many different countries in the past, the Maltese population carry linguistic imprints from many places...

 alongside English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

,
while also serving as an official language of the
Languages of the European Union
The languages of the European Union are languages used by people within the member states of the European Union. They include the twenty-three official languages of the European Union along with a range of others...

 European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

, the only Semitic language
Semitic languages
The Semitic languages are a group of related languages whose living representatives are spoken by more than 270 million people across much of the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa...

 so distinguished. Maltese is descended from Siculo-Arabic
Siculo-Arabic
Siculo-Arabic was a variety of Arabic spoken in Sicily and Malta between the ninth and the fourteenth centuries. It is extinct in Sicily, but it has developed into what is now the Maltese language on the islands of Malta....

 (the Arabic dialect that developed in Malta
Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

 and Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 between the ninth and the fourteenth centuries). About half of the vocabulary is borrowed from standard Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

 and Sicilian
Sicilian language
Sicilian is a Romance language. Its dialects make up the Extreme-Southern Italian language group, which are spoken on the island of Sicily and its satellite islands; in southern and central Calabria ; in the southern parts of Apulia, the Salento ; and Campania, on the Italian mainland, where it is...

, and English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 words make up as much as 20% of the Maltese vocabulary. It is the only Semitic language
Semitic languages
The Semitic languages are a group of related languages whose living representatives are spoken by more than 270 million people across much of the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa...

 written in the Latin alphabet
Latin alphabet
The Latin alphabet, also called the Roman alphabet, is the most recognized alphabet used in the world today. It evolved from a western variety of the Greek alphabet called the Cumaean alphabet, which was adopted and modified by the Etruscans who ruled early Rome...

 in its standard form
Standard language
A standard language is a language variety used by a group of people in their public discourse. Alternatively, varieties become standard by undergoing a process of standardization, during which it is organized for description in grammars and dictionaries and encoded in such reference works...

.

History


Malta was occupied by the Fatimids, who exerted 220 years of linguistic influence, from 870 to 1090 CE.

The oldest reference to Maltese comes from the Benedictine monks of Catania, who were unable to open a monastery in Malta, in 1364, because they could not understand the native language. In 1436, in the will of a certain Pawlu Peregrino, Maltese is first identified as lingua maltensi. The oldest known document in Maltese is "Il Cantilena" (Maltese: Xidew il-Qada) a poem from the 15th century written by Pietro Caxaro, and the first known Maltese dictionary was written by the French Knight Francois de Vion Thezan Court in 1640. It includes notes about Maltese grammar and a concluding section detailing, in Italian and Maltese, phrases to be used when giving orders to soldiers. Facsimiles of the work are currently published.

In his book Dell’Istoria della Sacra Religione et Illustrissima Militia di San Giovanni Gierosolimitano (The History of the Sacred Religion and Illustrious Militia of St John of Jerusalem), written between 1594 and 1602, Giacomo Bosio endorses the notion that Maltese descended from Carthaginian. Bosio writes that when the cornerstone
Cornerstone
The cornerstone concept is derived from the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation, important since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure.Over time a cornerstone became a ceremonial masonry stone, or...

 of Valletta
Valletta
Valletta is the capital of Malta, colloquially known as Il-Belt in Maltese. It is located in the central-eastern portion of the island of Malta, and the historical city has a population of 6,098. The name "Valletta" is traditionally reserved for the historic walled citadel that serves as Malta's...

 was placed, a group of Maltese elders said "Iegi zimen en fel wardia col sceber raba iesue uquie" (which in modern Maltese reads, "Jiġi żmien li fil-Wardija [l-Għolja Sciberras] kull xiber raba’ jiswa uqija," and in English, "There will come a time when every piece of land on Sciberras Hill will be worth its weight in gold"). This is the oldest example of printed
Printing
Printing is a process for reproducing text and image, typically with ink on paper using a printing press. It is often carried out as a large-scale industrial process, and is an essential part of publishing and transaction printing....

 Maltese.

Athanasius Kircher
Athanasius Kircher
Athanasius Kircher was a 17th century German Jesuit scholar who published around 40 works, most notably in the fields of oriental studies, geology, and medicine...

 spent two years in Malta (1637–38) and made observations running counter to ideas of Punic ancestry accepted by his contemporaries. In his Mundus Subterraneus he says of the Maltese
Maltese people
The Maltese are an ethnic group indigenous to the Southern European nation of Malta, and identified with the Maltese language. Malta is an island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea...

, "they speak the purest form of Arabic, corrupted by neither Italian nor any other language." Other theories include those in Johann Friedrich Breithaupt's Christliche Helden Insel Malta (Malta, Home of Christian Heroes), published in 1632, where he calls Maltese a mixed 'barbaric' language and John Dryden
John Dryden
John Dryden was an influential English poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright who dominated the literary life of Restoration England to such a point that the period came to be known in literary circles as the Age of Dryden.Walter Scott called him "Glorious John." He was made Poet...

's description of the language as 'Berber' on his visit to the islands (the memoirs of those journeys appeared in 1776).

In 1584 Pasquale Vassallo, a Dominican friar
Dominican Order
The Order of Preachers , after the 15th century more commonly known as the Dominican Order or Dominicans, is a Catholic religious order founded by Saint Dominic and approved by Pope Honorius III on 22 December 1216 in France...

, wrote a collection of songs in Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

 and Maltese. In 1585 the poems were burned
Book burning
Book burning, biblioclasm or libricide is the practice of destroying, often ceremoniously, books or other written material and media. In modern times, other forms of media, such as phonograph records, video tapes, and CDs have also been ceremoniously burned, torched, or shredded...

 on the orders of the Inquisition
Inquisition
The Inquisition, Inquisitio Haereticae Pravitatis , was the "fight against heretics" by several institutions within the justice-system of the Roman Catholic Church. It started in the 12th century, with the introduction of torture in the persecution of heresy...

, for allegedly 'obscene' content. The German traveler Hieronymus Megiser includes a list of Maltese words in his Thesaurus Polyglottus (published in 1603), and also in his more celebrated work Propugnaculum Europae, published in 1606. Megiser, who visited Malta from 1588 to 1589, proposed a Punic
Punic language
The Punic language or Carthagian language is an extinct Semitic language formerly spoken in the Mediterranean region of North Africa and several Mediterranean islands, by people of the Punic culture.- Description :...

 heritage for the language, a suggestion rebuffed in 1660 by Burchardus Niderstedt in his book Malta vetus et nova. In 1677, Domenico and Carlo Magri gave the etymologies for various Maltese words in their book Hierolexicon, a Latin version of the encyclopedia Notitia de vocaboli ecclesiastici first published in 1644.

Maltese became an official language
Official language
An official language is a language that is given a special legal status in a particular country, state, or other jurisdiction. Typically a nation's official language will be the one used in that nation's courts, parliament and administration. However, official status can also be used to give a...

 of Malta in 1934, alongside English, when Italian was dropped from official use.

Demographics


In 1975, there were an estimated 371,000 Maltese speakers, of whom 300,000 resided in Malta. Thousands of Maltese emigrants in Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 still speak the language, and in 2007 it was reported that Maltese is still spoken by descendants of Maltese immigrants in Tunisia
Tunisia
Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

.

Classification


Maltese is a Semitic language descended from Siculo-Arabic
Siculo-Arabic
Siculo-Arabic was a variety of Arabic spoken in Sicily and Malta between the ninth and the fourteenth centuries. It is extinct in Sicily, but it has developed into what is now the Maltese language on the islands of Malta....

, that in the course of its history
History of Malta
Malta has been inhabited since it was settled around 5200 BC from Sicily. It was settled by the Phoenicians and later the Greeks who named the island Μελίτη meaning "honey sweet" in reference to Malta's endemic variety of bee.-B.C.:*5000 First Human settlers...

 has been influenced by Sicilian
Sicilian language
Sicilian is a Romance language. Its dialects make up the Extreme-Southern Italian language group, which are spoken on the island of Sicily and its satellite islands; in southern and central Calabria ; in the southern parts of Apulia, the Salento ; and Campania, on the Italian mainland, where it is...

 and Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

, to a lesser extent French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

, and more recently English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

. Today, the core vocabulary (including both the most commonly used vocabulary and function words) is Semitic, with large numbers of loan words. Due to the Sicilian influence on Siculo-Arabic, Maltese has many language contact features and is most commonly described as a language with a large number of loanwords.

The Maltese language has historically been classified in various ways, with some claiming that the ancient Punic language
Punic language
The Punic language or Carthagian language is an extinct Semitic language formerly spoken in the Mediterranean region of North Africa and several Mediterranean islands, by people of the Punic culture.- Description :...

 was the base of the language, instead of Siculo-Arabic, while others believed the language to be Berber, and under Fascist Italy
Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946)
The Kingdom of Italy was a state forged in 1861 by the unification of Italy under the influence of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which was its legal predecessor state...

, it was considered a dialect of Italian.

Consonants

Consonants of Maltese
  Bilabial
Bilabial consonant
In phonetics, a bilabial consonant is a consonant articulated with both lips. The bilabial consonants identified by the International Phonetic Alphabet are:...

Labio-
dental
Labiodental consonant
In phonetics, labiodentals are consonants articulated with the lower lip and the upper teeth.-Labiodental consonant in IPA:The labiodental consonants identified by the International Phonetic Alphabet are:...

Dental Post-
alveolar
Postalveolar consonant
Postalveolar consonants are consonants articulated with the tongue near or touching the back of the alveolar ridge, further back in the mouth than the alveolar consonants, which are at the ridge itself, but not as far back as the hard palate...

Velar
Velar consonant
Velars are consonants articulated with the back part of the tongue against the soft palate, the back part of the roof of the mouth, known also as the velum)....

Pharyn-
geal
Pharyngeal consonant
A pharyngeal consonant is a type of consonant which is articulated with the root of the tongue against the pharynx.-Pharyngeal consonants in the IPA:Pharyngeal consonants in the International Phonetic Alphabet :...

Glottal
Glottal consonant
Glottal consonants, also called laryngeal consonants, are consonants articulated with the glottis. Many phoneticians consider them, or at least the so-called fricative, to be transitional states of the glottis without a point of articulation as other consonants have; in fact, some do not consider...

Nasal
Nasal consonant
A nasal consonant is a type of consonant produced with a lowered velum in the mouth, allowing air to escape freely through the nose. Examples of nasal consonants in English are and , in words such as nose and mouth.- Definition :...

m   n        
Plosive voiceless p   t   k   ʔ
voiced b   d   ɡ    
Affricate
Affricate consonant
Affricates are consonants that begin as stops but release as a fricative rather than directly into the following vowel.- Samples :...

voiceless     t͡s t͡ʃ      
voiced     d͡z d͡ʒ      
Fricative
Fricative consonant
Fricatives are consonants produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two articulators close together. These may be the lower lip against the upper teeth, in the case of ; the back of the tongue against the soft palate, in the case of German , the final consonant of Bach; or...

voiceless   f s ʃ   ħ  
voiced   v z        
Trill
Trill consonant
In phonetics, a trill is a consonantal sound produced by vibrations between the articulator and the place of articulation. Standard Spanish <rr> as in perro is an alveolar trill, while in Parisian French it is almost always uvular....

    r        
Approximant     l        

Vowels


Maltese has five short vowels, /ɐ ɛ ɪ ɔ ʊ/, written a e i o u; six long vowels, /ɐː ɛː iː ɪː ɔː ʊː/, written a, e, ie, i, o, u, and seven diphthong
Diphthong
A diphthong , also known as a gliding vowel, refers to two adjacent vowel sounds occurring within the same syllable. Technically, a diphthong is a vowel with two different targets: That is, the tongue moves during the pronunciation of the vowel...

s: /ɐɪ ɛɪ/ represented by għi, and /ɐʊ ɛʊ ɪʊ ɔɪ ɔʊ/ written as għu.

Stress


Stress is generally on the penultimate syllable, unless some other syllable is heavy (has a long vowel or final consonant), or unless a stress-shifting suffix is added. (Suffixes marking gender, possession, and verbal plurals do not cause the stress to shift.)

When two syllables are equally heavy, the penultimate takes the stress, but otherwise the heavier syllable does. E.g. bajjad [ˈbɐj.jɐt] 'he painted' vs bajjad [bɐj.ˈjɐːt] 'a painter'.

Alphabet



The modern system of Maltese orthography was introduced in 1924.
Below is the Maltese alphabet, with IPA symbols and approximate English pronunciation:
Letter Name Maltese example IPA Approximate English pronunciation
A a a anġlu (angel) ɐ similar to 'u' in nut in RP
Received Pronunciation
Received Pronunciation , also called the Queen's English, Oxford English or BBC English, is the accent of Standard English in England, with a relationship to regional accents similar to the relationship in other European languages between their standard varieties and their regional forms...

B b be ballun (ball) b bar, but at the end of a word it is devoiced to [p].
Ċ ċ ċe ċavetta (key) t͡ʃ church (note: undotted 'c' has been replaced by 'k', so when 'c' does appear, it is to be spoken the same way as 'ċ')
D d de dar (home) d day, but at the end of a word it is devoiced to [t].
E e e envelopp (envelope) ɛ end
F f effe fjura (flower) f far
Ġ ġ ġe ġelat (ice-cream) d͡ʒ gem, but at the end of a word it is devoiced to [tʃ].
G g ge gallettina (biscuit) ɡ game, but at the end of a word it is devoiced to [k].
GĦ għ ajn
Ayin
' or ' is the sixteenth letter in many Semitic abjads, including Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew and Arabic . It is the twenty-first letter in the new Persian alphabet...

 
għasfur (bird)
|ˤː, ħː
has the effect of lengthening and pharyngealizing
Pharyngealisation
-Further reading:*Ian Maddieson, -See also:*Velarization*Creaky voice *Pharyngeal consonant*Epiglottal consonant*Pharynx...

 associated vowels (għi and għu are [aˤj] and [oˤw]). When found at the end of a word or immediately before 'h' it has the sound of a double 'ħ' (see below).
H h akka hu (he)   not pronounced unless it is at the end of a word, in which case it has the sound of 'ħ'.
Ħ ħ ħe ħanut (shop) ħ no English equivalent; sounds similar to /h/ but is articulated with a lowered larynx
Larynx
The larynx , commonly called the voice box, is an organ in the neck of amphibians, reptiles and mammals involved in breathing, sound production, and protecting the trachea against food aspiration. It manipulates pitch and volume...

.
I i i ikel (food) ɪ bit
IE ie ie ieqaf (stop) iɛ, iː no English equivalent; sounds similar to /i/, as in yield, but opened up slightly towards towards /ɛ/
J j je jum (day) j yard
K k ke kelb (dog) k kettle
L l elle libsa (dress) l line
M m emme mara (woman) m march
N n enne nanna (granny) n next
O o o ors (bear) ɔ like 'aw' in law, but shorter.
P p pe paġna (page, sheet) p part
Q q qe qattus (cat) ʔ glottal stop, found in the Cockney English pronunciation of "bottle" or the phrase "uh-oh" /ʔʌʔoʊ/.
R r erre re (king) r road
S s esse sliem
Sliem
Sliem is a Maltese word meaning peace, wellbeing and comfort. The town of Sliema in Malta derives its name from this word, as applied in the Maltese prayer "Sliem Għalik Marija" Sliem is a Maltese word meaning peace, wellbeing and comfort. The town of Sliema in Malta derives its name from this...

 (peace)
s sand
T t te tieqa (window) t tired
U u u uviera (egg-cup) ʊ put
V v ve vjola (violet) v vast, but at the end of a word it is devoiced to [f].
W w we widna (ear) w west
X x exxe xadina (monkey) ʃ / ʒ shade, sometimes as measure; when doubled the sound is elongated, as in "Cash shin" vs. "Cash in."
Z z ze zalza (sauce) t͡s / d͡z pizza
Ż ż że żraben (shoes) z maze, but at the end of a word it is devoiced to [s].


Final vowels with grave accents (à, è, ì, ò, ù) are also found in some Maltese words of Italian origin, such as libertà ("freedom"), sigurtà (old Italian: sicurtà, "security"), or soċjetà (Italian: "società; "society").

The official rules governing the structure of the Maltese language are found in the official guidebook issued by the Akkademja tal-Malti, the Academy of the Maltese language, which is named Tagħrif fuq il-Kitba Maltija, that is, Knowledge on Writing in Maltese. The first edition of this book was printed in 1924 by the Maltese government's printing press. The rules were further expanded in the 1984 book, iż-Żieda mat-Tagħrif, which focused mainly on the increasing influence of Romance and English words. In 1992 the Academy issued the Aġġornament tat-Tagħrif fuq il-Kitba Maltija, which updated the previous works. All these works were included in a revised and expanded guidebook published in 1996.

The National Council for the Maltese Language
National Council for the Maltese Language
The National Council for the Maltese Language was founded in April 2005 with the enactment of the Maltese Language Act in the Maltese Parliament. Its work is to regulate new words coming into Maltese and promote the standard Maltese language in education and other new sectors...

 (KNM) is the main regulator of the Maltese language (see Maltese Language Act, below) and not the Akkademja tal-Malti. However, these orthography rules are still valid and official.

Written Maltese


Since Maltese evolved after the Normans ended the Arab rule of the islands, a standard, written form of the language was not developed for a long time after the Arabs' expulsion in the eleventh century. Under the rule of the Order of the Knights of Malta
Knights Hospitaller
The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta , also known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta , Order of Malta or Knights of Malta, is a Roman Catholic lay religious order, traditionally of military, chivalrous, noble nature. It is the world's...

, both French and Italian were used for official documents and correspondence. During the British colonial period the use of English was encouraged through education, with Italian regarded as the next most important language.

In 1934, Maltese was recognised as an official language. In the nineteenth century, philologists and academics such as Mikiel Anton Vassalli
Mikiel Anton Vassalli
Mikiel Anton Vassalli was a Maltese writer, a philosopher, and a linguist who published important Maltese language books, including a Maltese-Italian dictionary, a Maltese grammar book, the Maltese Gospels and, towards the end of his life, a book on Maltese proverbs.-Life:Mikiel Anton Vassalli was...

 made a concerted effort to transcribe spoken Maltese in a comprehensive written form. Many examples of written Maltese exist from before this period, always in the Latin alphabet.

Sample


From the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe:
English Maltese

The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.

L-Unjoni hija mibnija fuq il-valuri ta' rispett għad-dinjità tal-bniedem, ta' libertà, ta' demokrazija, ta' ugwaljanza, ta' l-istat tad-dritt u tar-rispett għad-drittijiet tal-bniedem, inklużi d-drittijiet ta' persuni li jagħmlu parti minn minoranzi. Dawn il-valuri huma komuni għall-Istati Membri f'soċjetà karatterizzata mill-pluraliżmu, in-non-diskriminazzjoni, it-tolleranza, il-ġustizzja, is-solidarjetà u l-ugwaljanza bejn in-nisa u l-irġiel.

Vocabulary


Although the original vocabulary of the language was Siculo-Arabic
Siculo-Arabic
Siculo-Arabic was a variety of Arabic spoken in Sicily and Malta between the ninth and the fourteenth centuries. It is extinct in Sicily, but it has developed into what is now the Maltese language on the islands of Malta....

, it has incorporated a large number of borrowings from Romance sources of influence (Sicilian
Sicilian language
Sicilian is a Romance language. Its dialects make up the Extreme-Southern Italian language group, which are spoken on the island of Sicily and its satellite islands; in southern and central Calabria ; in the southern parts of Apulia, the Salento ; and Campania, on the Italian mainland, where it is...

, Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

, and French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

), and more recently Germanic ones (from English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

).

The historical source of modern Maltese vocabulary is 52% Italian/Sicilian, 32% Siculo-Arabic, and 6% English, with some of the remainder being French. Today, most function words are Semitic. In this way, it is similar to English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, which is a Germanic language that had large influence from French - although less so than Maltese. As a result of this, Romance language-speakers may easily be able to comprehend more complex ideas expressed in Maltese, such as "Ġeografikament, l-Ewropa hi parti tas-superkontinent ta' l-Ewrasja" (Geographically, Europe is part of the Supercontinent of Eurasia), while not understanding a single word of a simple sentence such as "Ir-raġel qiegħed fid-dar" (The man is in the house), which would be easily understood by any Arabic speaker.

Romance


An analysis of the etymology of the 41,000 words in Aquilina's Maltese-English Dictionary shows that words of Romance origin make up 52% of the Maltese vocabulary, although other sources claim from as low as 40%, to as high as 55%. These vocabularies tend to deal with more complicated concepts. They are mostly derived from Sicilian
Sicilian language
Sicilian is a Romance language. Its dialects make up the Extreme-Southern Italian language group, which are spoken on the island of Sicily and its satellite islands; in southern and central Calabria ; in the southern parts of Apulia, the Salento ; and Campania, on the Italian mainland, where it is...

 and thus exhibit Sicilian phonetic characteristics, such as /u/ in place of /o/, and /i/ in place of /e/ (e.g. tiatru not teatro and fidi not fede). Also, as with Old Sicilian, /ʃ/ (English 'sh') is written 'x' and this produces spellings such as: ambaxxata /ambaʃːaːta/ ('embassy'), xena /ʃeːna/ ('scene' cf. Italian ambasciata, scena).
Maltese Sicilian
Sicilian language
Sicilian is a Romance language. Its dialects make up the Extreme-Southern Italian language group, which are spoken on the island of Sicily and its satellite islands; in southern and central Calabria ; in the southern parts of Apulia, the Salento ; and Campania, on the Italian mainland, where it is...

Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

skola scola scuola school
gvern cuvernu governo government
repubblika ripùbblica repubblica republic
re re re king
natura natura natura nature
pulizija pulizzìa polizia police
ċentru centru centro centre
teatru tiatru teatro theatre


A tendency in modern Maltese is to adopt further influences from English and Italian.
Complex Latinate English words adopted into Maltese are often given Italianate or Sicilianate forms, even if the resulting words do not appear in either of those languages. For instance, the words "evaluation," "industrial action," and "chemical armaments" become "evalwazzjoni," "azzjoni industrjali," and "armamenti kimiċi" in Maltese, while the Italian terms are valutazione, vertenza sindacale, and armi chimiche respectively. English words of Germanic origin are generally preserved relatively unchanged.

Siculo-Arabic


Siculo-Arabic is the ancestor of the Maltese language, and supplies between 32% and 40% of the language's vocabulary.
Maltese Siculo-Arabic
Siculo-Arabic
Siculo-Arabic was a variety of Arabic spoken in Sicily and Malta between the ninth and the fourteenth centuries. It is extinct in Sicily, but it has developed into what is now the Maltese language on the islands of Malta....

English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

bebbuxu babbaluciu snail
kapunata caponata caponata
qassata cassata savoury pastry pie
ġiebja gebbia cistern
ġunġlien giuggiulena sesame seed
saqqajja saia canal
kenur tanura oven
żaffran zaffarana saffron
Saffron
Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly known as the saffron crocus. Crocus is a genus in the family Iridaceae. Each saffron crocus grows to and bears up to four flowers, each with three vivid crimson stigmas, which are each the distal end of a carpel...

zahar zagara blossom
żbib zibbibbu raisins
zokk zuccu tree trunk
tebut tabbutu coffin


found that 40% of a sample of 1,820 Quranic Arabic
Classical Arabic
Classical Arabic , also known as Qur'anic or Koranic Arabic, is the form of the Arabic language used in literary texts from Umayyad and Abbasid times . It is based on the Medieval dialects of Arab tribes...

 roots were found in Maltese, a lower percentage than found in Moroccan
Moroccan Arabic
Moroccan Arabic is the variety of Arabic spoken in the Arabic-speaking areas of Morocco. For official communications, the government and other public bodies use Modern Standard Arabic, as is the case in most Arabic-speaking countries. A mixture of French and Moroccan Arabic is used in business...

 (58%) and Lebanese Arabic
Lebanese Arabic
Lebanese or Lebanese Arabic is a variety of Levantine Arabic, indigenous to and spoken primarily in Lebanon, with significant linguistic influences borrowed from other Middle Eastern and European languages, and is in some ways unique from other varieties of Arabic...

 (72%). An analysis of the etymology of the 41,000 words in Aquilina's Maltese-English Dictionary shows that 32% of the Maltese vocabulary is of Arabic origin, although another source claims 40%. Usually, words expressing basic concepts and ideas, such as raġel (man), mara (woman), tifel (boy), dar (house), xemx (sun), sajf (summer), are of Arabic origin. Moreover, belles lettres in Maltese tend to aim mainly at diction belonging to this group.

The Maltese language has merged many of the original Arabic consonants together, in particular the emphatic consonants, with others that are common in European languages. Thus, original Arabic
Arabic alphabet
The Arabic alphabet or Arabic abjad is the Arabic script as it is codified for writing the Arabic language. It is written from right to left, in a cursive style, and includes 28 letters. Because letters usually stand for consonants, it is classified as an abjad.-Consonants:The Arabic alphabet has...

 /d/, /ð/, and /dˤ/ all merged into Maltese /d/. The vowels, however, separated from the three in Arabic (/a i u/) to five, as is more typical of other European languages (/a ɛ i o u/). Some unstressed short vowels have been elided. The common Arabic greeting as salāmu 'alaykum is cognate with is-sliem għalikom in Maltese (lit. the peace for you, peace be with you), as are similar greetings in other Semitic languages (eg. shalom ʿalekhem in Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

).

Since the attested vocabulary of Siculo-Arabic is limited, the following table compares cognates in Maltese and some other varieties of Arabic:
Maltese Cairene Damascene Iraqi
(Jewish Baghdad)
Negev
(bedouin)
Yemenite
[Sanaani]
Moroccan English Modern Standard Arabic
qalb 'alb 'aleb qalb galb galb qəlb heart (qalb) قلب
waqt wa't wa'et -- wagt wagt wʌqt time وقت (waqt)
qamar 'amar 'amar qamaɣ gumar gamar qəmr moon قمر (qamar)
kelb kalb kaleb kalb čalb kalb kəlb dog كلب (kalb)

English


It is estimated that English loanwords, which are becoming more commonplace, make up 20% of the Maltese vocabulary, although other sources claim amounts as low as 6%. This percentage discrepancy is due to the fact that a number of new English loanwords are sometimes not officially considered part of the Maltese vocabulary; hence, they are not included in certain dictionaries. English loanwords are generally transliterated, although standard English pronunciation is virtually always retained. Below are a few examples:
Maltese English
futbol football
baskitbol basketball
klabb club
lift lift/elevator
friġġ fridge

Grammar


Maltese grammar is fundamentally derived from Siculo-Arabic, although Romance
Romance languages
The Romance languages are a branch of the Indo-European language family, more precisely of the Italic languages subfamily, comprising all the languages that descend from Vulgar Latin, the language of ancient Rome...

 and English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 noun pluralization patterns are also used on borrowed words.

Adjectives and adverbs


Adjective
Adjective
In grammar, an adjective is a 'describing' word; the main syntactic role of which is to qualify a noun or noun phrase, giving more information about the object signified....

s follow noun
Noun
In linguistics, a noun is a member of a large, open lexical category whose members can occur as the main word in the subject of a clause, the object of a verb, or the object of a preposition .Lexical categories are defined in terms of how their members combine with other kinds of...

s. There are no separately formed native adverb
Adverb
An adverb is a part of speech that modifies verbs or any part of speech other than a noun . Adverbs can modify verbs, adjectives , clauses, sentences, and other adverbs....

s, and word order is fairly flexible. Both nouns and adjectives of Semitic
Semitic languages
The Semitic languages are a group of related languages whose living representatives are spoken by more than 270 million people across much of the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa...

 origin take the definite article (for example, It-tifel il-kbir, lit. "The boy the elder"="The elder boy"). This rule does not apply to adjectives of Romance origin.

Nouns


Nouns are pluralized and also have a dual marker. Semitic plurals are complex; if they are regular, they are marked by -iet/-ijiet, e.g., art, artijiet "lands (territorial possessions or property)" (cf. Arabic -at and Hebrew -ot/-oth) or -in (cf. Arabic -īn and Hebrew -im). If irregular, they fall in the pluralis fractus
Broken plural
In linguistics, a broken plural is an irregular plural form of a noun or adjective found in the Semitic languages and other Afroasiatic languages such as Berber. Broken plurals are formed by changing the pattern of consonants and vowels inside the singular form...

 category, in which a word is pluralized by internal vowel changes: ktieb, kotba "books," raġel, irġiel "man," "men."

Words of Romance origin are usually pluralized in two manners: addition of -i or -jiet. For example, lingwa, lingwi "languages," from Sicilian lingua, lingui.

Words of English origin are pluralized by adding either an "-s" or "-jiet," for example, friġġ, friġis from the word fridge. Some words can be pluralized with either of the suffixes to denote the plural. A few words borrowed from English can amalgamate both suffixes together, like brikksa from the English brick, which can adopt either collective form brikks or the plural form brikksiet.

Article


The proclitic il- is the definite article
Definite Article
Definite Article is the title of British comedian Eddie Izzard's 1996 performance released on VHS. It was recorded on different nights at the Shaftesbury Theatre...

, equivalent to "the" in English.

The Maltese article becomes l- before or after a vowel.
  • l-omm (the mother)
  • rajna l-Papa (we saw the Pope)
  • il-missier (the father)


The Maltese article assimilates
Assimilation (linguistics)
Assimilation is a common phonological process by which the sound of the ending of one word blends into the sound of the beginning of the following word. This occurs when the parts of the mouth and vocal cords start to form the beginning sounds of the next word before the last sound has been...

 to a following coronal consonant
Coronal consonant
Coronal consonants are consonants articulated with the flexible front part of the tongue. Only the coronal consonants can be divided into apical , laminal , domed , or subapical , as well as a few rarer orientations, because only the front of the tongue has such...

 (called konsonanti xemxin "sun consonants"), namely:
  • Ċ iċ-ċikkulata (the chocolate)
  • D id-dar (the house)
  • N in-nar (the fire)
  • R ir-razzett (the farm)
  • S is-serrieq (the saw)
  • T it-tifel (the boy)
  • X ix-xemx (the sun)
  • Ż iż-żarbun (the shoe)
  • Z iz-zalzett (the sausage)


Maltese il- is coincidentally identical in pronunciation to the one of the Italian masculine articles, il, which is also l’ before, but not after, a vowel. Consequently, many nouns borrowed from Standard Italian did not change their original article when used in Maltese. Romance vocabulary taken from Sicilian
Sicilian language
Sicilian is a Romance language. Its dialects make up the Extreme-Southern Italian language group, which are spoken on the island of Sicily and its satellite islands; in southern and central Calabria ; in the southern parts of Apulia, the Salento ; and Campania, on the Italian mainland, where it is...

 did change where the Sicilian articles u and a, before a consonant, are used.

Verbs


Verbs show a triliteral
Triliteral
The roots of verbs and most nouns in the Semitic languages are characterized as a sequence of consonants or "radicals"...

 Semitic pattern, in which a verb is conjugated
Grammatical conjugation
In linguistics, conjugation is the creation of derived forms of a verb from its principal parts by inflection . Conjugation may be affected by person, number, gender, tense, aspect, mood, voice, or other grammatical categories...

 with prefixes, suffix
Suffix
In linguistics, a suffix is an affix which is placed after the stem of a word. Common examples are case endings, which indicate the grammatical case of nouns or adjectives, and verb endings, which form the conjugation of verbs...

es, and infix
Infix
An infix is an affix inserted inside a word stem . It contrasts with adfix, a rare term for an affix attached to the end of a stem, such as a prefix or suffix.-Indonesian:...

es (for example ktibna, Arabic katabna, Hebrew kathabhnu (Modern Hebrew: katavnu) "we wrote"). There are two tense
Grammatical tense
A tense is a grammatical category that locates a situation in time, to indicate when the situation takes place.Bernard Comrie, Aspect, 1976:6:...

s: present and perfect. The Maltese verb system incorporates Romance verbs and adds Maltese suffixes and prefixes to them (for example, iddeċidejna "we decided" < (i)ddeċieda "decide", a Romance verb + -ejna, a Maltese first person plural perfect marker).

Dialects


Urban varieties of Maltese are closer to Standard Maltese than rural varieties, which have some characteristics that distinguish them from Standard Maltese. They tend to show some archaic features such as the realization of kh and gh and the imala
Imala
Imāla is a shift exhibited in many Modern and Classical accents of Arabic, where the vowel , be it long or short, is raised to or even in certain morphological or phonological contexts...

 of Arabic ā into ē (or ī especially in Gozo)-considered archaic because they are reminiscent of 15th century transcriptions of this sound. Another archaic feature is the realization of Standard Maltese ā as ō in rural dialects. There is also a tendency to diphthongize simple vowels, e.g., ū becomes eo or eu. Rural dialects also tend to employ more Semitic roots and broken plurals than Standard Maltese. In general, rural Maltese is less distant from its Siculo-Arabic ancestor than Standard Maltese.

Media



With Malta being a multilingual country, the usage of Maltese in the mass media is shared with other European languages, namely English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 and Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

. The majority of television stations broadcast from Malta are in English or Maltese, although broadcasts from Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 in Italian are also received on the islands. Similarly, there are more Maltese language radio programs than English ones broadcast from Malta, but again, as with television, Italian broadcasts are also picked up. Maltese generally receives equal usage in newspaper periodicals to English.

The use of the Maltese language on the Internet is not altogether common, and the number of websites written in Maltese are few. In a survey of Maltese cultural websites conducted in 2004 on behalf of the Maltese Government, 12 of 13 were in English only, while the remaining one was multilingual but did not include Maltese.

Code-switching


The Maltese population, being fluent in both Maltese and English, displays code-switching
Code-switching
In linguistics, code-switching is the concurrent use of more than one language, or language variety, in conversation. Multilinguals—people who speak more than one language—sometimes use elements of multiple languages in conversing with each other...

 (referred to as Maltenglish) in certain localities and between certain social groups.

See also



  • Languages of Malta
    Languages of Malta
    The current national language of Malta is Maltese, which along with English, is one of the official languages.Having been governed by many different countries in the past, the Maltese population carry linguistic imprints from many places...

  • Maltese people
    Maltese people
    The Maltese are an ethnic group indigenous to the Southern European nation of Malta, and identified with the Maltese language. Malta is an island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea...



External links