The Info List - Maltese Language

--- Advertisement ---

Maltese (Maltese: Malti) is the national language of Malta
and a co-official language of the country alongside English,[3] while also serving as an official language of the European Union, the only Semitic language so distinguished. Maltese is descended from Siculo-Arabic, the extinct variety of Arabic
that developed in Sicily and was later introduced to Malta, between the end of the ninth century and the end of the twelfth century AD.[4] Maltese has evolved independently of Literary Arabic
and its varieties into a standardized language over the past 800 years in a gradual process of Latinisation.[5][6] Maltese is therefore considered an exceptional descendant of Arabic
that has no diglossic relationship with Standard Arabic
or Classical Arabic,[7] and is classified separately from the Arabic
macrolanguage.[8] Maltese is also unique among Semitic languages since its morphology has been deeply influenced by Romance languages, namely Italian and Sicilian.[9] The original Semitic base (Siculo-Arabic) comprises around one-third of the Maltese vocabulary, especially words that denote basic ideas and the function words,[10] but about half of the vocabulary is derived from standard Italian and Sicilian;[11] and English words make up between 6% and 20% of the vocabulary.[12] A recent study shows that, in terms of basic everyday language, speakers of Maltese are able to understand less than a third of what is said to them in Tunisian Arabic,[13] which is related to Siculo-Arabic,[14] whereas speakers of Tunisian are able to understand about 40% of what is said to them in Maltese.[15] This reported level of asymmetric intelligibility is considerably lower than the mutual intelligibility found between Arabic
dialects.[16] Maltese has always been written in the Latin script, the earliest surviving example dating from the late Middle Ages.[17] It remains the only standardized Semitic language written in the Latin script.[18]


1 History 2 Demographics 3 Classification 4 Phonology

4.1 Consonants 4.2 Vowels 4.3 Stress 4.4 Historical phonology

5 Orthography

5.1 Alphabet 5.2 Written Maltese 5.3 Sample

6 Vocabulary

6.1 Romance 6.2 Siculo-Arabic 6.3 English

7 Grammar

7.1 Adjectives and adverbs 7.2 Nouns 7.3 Article 7.4 Verbs

8 Dialects 9 Media 10 Code-switching 11 See also 12 Notes 13 References 14 External links


by Pietru Caxaro, the oldest text in Maltese language, 15th century

Lexicon di Mikiel Anton Vassalli, 1796

E. B. Vella giving adult learning classes in the Maltese Language in Mosta, 1935

Association of Maltese Writers (Ghaqda tal-Kittieba tal-Malti), 1924

See also: History of Malta The origins of the Maltese language
Maltese language
are attributed to the arrival, early in the eleventh century, of settlers from neighbouring Sicily, where Siculo-Arabic was spoken, following the Fatimid Caliphate's conquest of the island at the end of the ninth century.[19] This claim has been corroborated by genetic studies, which show that contemporary Maltese people
Maltese people
share common ancestry with Sicilians and Calabrians, with little genetic input from North Africa and the Levant.[20][21] The Norman conquest in 1090, followed by the expulsion of the Muslims (complete by 1249) permanently isolated the vernacular from its Arabic source, creating the conditions for its evolution into a distinct language.[19] In contrast to Sicily
(where Siculo-Arabic became extinct, replaced by Sicilian), the vernacular in Malta
continued to develop alongside Italian, eventually replacing it as official language in 1934 (alongside English).[19] The first written reference to the Maltese language
Maltese language
is in a will of 1436, where it is called lingua maltensi. The oldest known document in Maltese is "Il Cantilena" (Xidew il-Qada) by Pietru Caxaro. It dates from the 15th century.[22] The earliest known Maltese dictionary was a sixteenth-century manuscript entitled "Maltese-Italiano"; it was included in the Biblioteca Maltese of Mifsud in 1764, but is now lost.[23] A list of Maltese words was included in both the Thesaurus Polyglottus (1603) and Propugnaculum Europae (1606) of Hieronymus Megiser, who had visited Malta
in 1588–89; Domenico Magri gave the etymologies of some Maltese words in his Hierolexicon, sive sacrum dictionarium (1677).[22] An early manuscript dictionary, Dizionario Italiano e Maltese, was discovered in the Biblioteca Vallicelliana in Rome in the 1980s, together with a grammar, the Regole per la Lingua Maltese, attributed to a French Knight named Thezan.[23][24] The first systematic lexicon is that of Giovanni Pietro Francesco Agius de Soldanis, who also wrote the first systematic grammar of the language and proposed a standard orthography.[23] Demographics In 1975, there were an estimated 371,000 Maltese speakers, of whom 300,000 resided in Malta.[1] Thousands of Maltese emigrants in Australia, Canada, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States still speak the language,[1] and in 2007 it was reported that Maltese is still spoken by descendants of Maltese immigrants in Tunisia.[25] Indeed, nowadays 520,000 people across the world speak Maltese, while Malta
has a population of only 445,426 people, which means that the remaining figure of 76,574 people can be attributed to the Maltese diaspora. [26] Classification Maltese is descended from Siculo-Arabic, a Semitic language within the Afroasiatic family,[27] that in the course of its history has been influenced by Sicilian and Italian, to a lesser extent French, and more recently English. Today, the core vocabulary (including both the most commonly used vocabulary and function words) is Semitic, with large numbers of loanwords.[11] Because of 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.[28] The Maltese language
Maltese language
has historically been classified in various ways, with some claiming that the ancient Punic language (another Semitic language) was its origin instead of Siculo-Arabic,[22][29][30] while others believed the language to be one of the Berber languages (another family within Afroasiatic),[22] and under the Fascist Kingdom of Italy, it was classified as regional Italian.[31] Phonology Consonants

Consonant phonemes[32][33]

  Bilabial Labio- dental Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Pharyngeal Glottal

Nasal   m           n      


Plosive p b     t d

    k ɡ     ʔ   

Affricate             t͡s d͡z t͡ʃ d͡ʒ            

Fricative     f v     s z ʃ ʒ     ħ






  l   j   w        

Voiceless stops are only lightly aspirated and voiced stops are fully voiced. Voicing is carried over from the last segment in obstruent clusters; thus, two- and three-obstruent clusters are either voiceless or voiced throughout, e.g. /niktbu/ is realised [ˈniɡdbu] "we write". Maltese has final-obstruent devoicing of voiced obstruents and voiceless stops have no audible release, making voiceless–voiced pairs phonetically indistinguishable.[34] Gemination is distinctive word-medially and word-finally in Maltese. The distinction is most rigid intervocalically after a stressed vowel. Stressed, word-final closed syllables with short vowels end in a long consonant, and those with a long vowel in a single consonant; the only exception is where historic *ʕ and *ɣ meant the compensatory lengthening of the succeeding vowel. Some speakers have lost length distinction in clusters.[35] The two nasals /m/ and /n/ assimilate for place of articulation in clusters.[36] /t/ and /d/ are usually dental, whereas /t͡s d͡z s z n r l/ are all alveolar. /t͡s d͡z/ are found mostly in words of Italian origin, retaining length (if not word-initial).[37] /d͡z/ and /ʒ/ are only found in loanwords, e.g. /ɡad͡zd͡zɛtta/ "newspaper" and /tɛlɛˈviʒin/ "television".[38] The pharyngeal fricative /ħ/ is velar ([x]) or glottal ([h]) for some speakers.[39] Vowels Maltese has five short vowels, /ɐ ɛ i 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 diphthongs: /ɐɪ ɛɪ/ both written għi, /ɐʊ ɔʊ/ both written għu, and /ɛʊ ɪʊ ɔɪ/ written ew iw oj.[40] 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'. Historical phonology Many Classical Arabic
Classical Arabic
consonants underwent mergers and modifications in Maltese:

Classical Arabic ت‎ /t/ ث‎ /θ/ ط‎ /tˤ/ د‎ /d/ ض‎ /dˤ/ ذ‎ /ð/ ظ‎ /ðˤ/ س‎ /s/ ص‎ /sˤ/ ه‎ /h/ ح‎ /ħ/ خ‎ /χ/ ع‎ /ʕ/ غ‎ /ɣ/ ق‎ /q/

Maltese /t/ /d/ /s/ /ħ/ /Vː/ /ʔ~k/

Orthography Alphabet Main articles: Maltese alphabet
Maltese alphabet
and Maltese braille The modern system of Maltese orthography was introduced in 1924.[41] 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

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 għasfur (bird) ˤː, ħː has the effect of lengthening and pharyngealizing 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.

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 /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 (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
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.[42] All these works were included in a revised and expanded guidebook published in 1996.[citation needed] The National Council for the Maltese Language (KNM) is the main regulator of the Maltese language
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 Italo-Normans ended the Arab rule of the islands, a written form of the language was not developed for a long time after the Arabs' expulsion in the middle of the thirteenth century. Under the rule of the Knights Hospitaller, 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 late eighteenth century and throughout the nineteenth century, philologists and academics such as Mikiel Anton Vassalli
Mikiel Anton Vassalli
made a concerted effort to standardize written Maltese. Many examples of written Maltese exist from before this period, always in the Latin alphabet, Il Cantilena being the earliest example of written Maltese. 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, it has incorporated a large number of borrowings from Romance sources of influence (Sicilian, Italian, and French), and more recently Germanic ones (from English).[43] The historical source of modern Maltese vocabulary is 52% Italian/Sicilian, 32% Siculo-Arabic, and 6% English, with some of the remainder being French.[11][44] Today, most function words are Semitic. In this way, it is similar to English, which is a Germanic language that had large influence from Norman French. 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,[11] although other sources claim from as low as 40%,[12] to as high as 55%.[45] These vocabularies tend to deal with more complicated concepts. They are mostly derived from Sicilian 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 Italian English

skola scola scuola school

gvern cuvernu governo government

repubblika ripùbblica repubblica republic

re re re king (Germanic)

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,[11] 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,[11] and supplies between 32%[11] and 40%[12] of the language's vocabulary.

Maltese Siculo-Arabic (in Sicilian) Arabic English

bebbuxu babbaluciu ببوش‎ (bəbboušu) (Moroccan) snail

ġiebja gebbia جب‎ (jabb) cistern

ġunġlien giuggiulena جنجلان‎ (junjulān) sesame seed

saqqajja saia ساقية‎ (sāqiyyah) canal

kenur tanura تنور‎ (tannūr) oven

żaffran zaffarana زعفران‎ (zaʿfarān) saffron

zahar zagara زهرة‎ (zahrah) blossom

żbib zibbibbu زبيب‎ (zabīb) raisins

zokk zuccu ساق‎ (sāq) tree trunk

tebut tabbutu تابوت‎ (tābūt) coffin

kapunata caponata (non- Arabic
origin) caponata

qassata cassata savoury pastry pie

Żammit (2000) found that 40% of a sample of 1,820 Quranic Arabic roots were found in Maltese, a lower percentage than found in Moroccan (58%) and Lebanese Arabic
Lebanese Arabic
(72%).[46] 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,[11] although another source claims 40%.[12][47] 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.[48] The Maltese language
Maltese language
has merged many of the original Arabic consonants, in particular the emphatic consonants, with others that are common in European languages. Thus, original Arabic
/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
Semitic languages
(e.g. shalom ʿalekhem in Hebrew). Since the attested vocabulary of Siculo-Arabic is limited, the following table compares cognates in Maltese and some other varieties of Arabic
(all forms are written phonetically, as in the source):[49]

Maltese Cairene Damascene Iraqi (Jewish Baghdad) Negev (bedouin) Yemenite (Sanaani) Moroccan Modern Standard Arabic English

qalb 'alb 'aleb qalb galb galb qəlb قلب (qalb) heart

waqt wa't wa'et — wagt wagt wʌqt وقت (waqt) time

qamar 'amar 'amar qamaɣ gumar gamar qəmr قمر (qamar) moon

kelb kalb kaleb kalb čalb kalb kəlb كلب (kalb) dog

English It is estimated that English loanwords, which are becoming more commonplace, make up 20% of the Maltese vocabulary,[12] although other sources claim amounts as low as 6%.[11] 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.[11] Also, English loanwards of Latinate origin are very often Italianised, as discussed above. 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

friġġ fridge

Note "fridge", which is a slang term derived from "refrigerator", a Latinate word which might be expected to be rendered as rifriġeratori (Italian uses a different word: frigorifero). Grammar Maltese grammar is fundamentally derived from Siculo-Arabic, although Romance and English noun pluralization patterns are also used on borrowed words. Adjectives and adverbs Adjectives follow nouns. There are no separately formed native adverbs, and word order is fairly flexible. Both nouns and adjectives of Semitic 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 category, in which a word is pluralized by internal vowel changes: ktieb, kotba " book", "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, 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, equivalent to "the" in English and "al-" in Arabic. 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 to a following coronal consonant (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 did change where the Sicilian articles u and a, before a consonant, are used. In spite of its Romance appearance, il- is related to the Arabic
article al-.[citation needed] Verbs Verbs show a triliteral Semitic pattern, in which a verb is conjugated with prefixes, suffixes, and infixes (for example ktibna, Arabic katabna, Hebrew kathabhnu (Modern Hebrew: katavnu) "we wrote"). There are two tenses: 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 Main articles: Żejtun dialect, Qormi dialect, and Maltralian Urban varieties of Maltese are closer to Standard Maltese than rural varieties,[48] which have some characteristics that distinguish them from Standard Maltese. They tend to show some archaic features[48] such as the realization of kh and gh and the imāla of Arabic
ā into ē (or ī especially in Gozo)-considered archaic because they are reminiscent of 15th century transcriptions of this sound.[48] Another archaic feature is the realization of Standard Maltese ā as ō in rural dialects.[48] There is also a tendency to diphthongize simple vowels, e.g., ū becomes eo or eu.[48] Rural dialects also tend to employ more Semitic roots and broken plurals than Standard Maltese.[48] In general, rural Maltese is less distant from its Siculo-Arabic ancestor than Standard Maltese.[48] Media Main article: Language in the Media in Malta With Malta
being a multilingual country, the usage of Maltese in the mass media is shared with other European languages, namely English and Italian. The majority of television stations broadcast from Malta
in English or Maltese, although broadcasts from Italy
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. By early 2000s, the use of the Maltese language
Maltese language
on the Internet is uncommon, 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.[50] Code-switching The Maltese population, being fluent in both Maltese and English, displays code-switching (referred to as Maltenglish) in certain localities and between certain social groups.[11] See also

portal Languages portal

Languages of Malta Maltese people


^ a b c Maltese at Ethnologue
(18th ed., 2015) ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Maltese". Glottolog
3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.  ^ "Constitution of Malta". Retrieved 3 December 2017.  ^ So who are the ‘real’ Maltese. The kind of Arabic
used in the Maltese language
Maltese language
is most likely derived from the language spoken by those that repopulated the island from Sicily
in the early second millennium; it is known as Siculo-Arab. The Maltese are mostly descendants of these people.  ^ Borg and Azzopardi-Alexander, 1997 (1997). Maltese. Routledge. p. xiii. ISBN 0-415-02243-6. In fact, Maltese displays some areal traits typical of Maghrebine Arabic, although over the past 800 years of independent evolution it has drifted apart from Tunisian Arabic  ^ Brincat, 2005. Maltese - an unusual formula. Originally Maltese was an Arabic
dialect but it was immediately exposed to Latinisation because the Normans conquered the islands in 1090, while Christianisation, which was complete by 1250, cut off the dialect from contact with Classical Arabic. Consequently Maltese developed on its own, slowly but steadily absorbing new words from Sicilian and Italian according to the needs of the developing community.  ^ Robert D Hoberman (2007). Morphologies of Asia and Africa , Alan S. Kaye (Ed.), Chapter 13: Maltese Morphology. Eisenbrown. Maltese is the chief exception: Classical or Standard Arabic
Standard Arabic
is irrelevant in the Maltese linguistic community and there is no diglossia.  ^ "ISO 639 Code Tables".  ^ Robert D Hoberman (2007). Morphologies of Asia and Africa , Alan S. Kaye (Ed.), Chapter 13: Maltese Morphology. Eisenbrown. yet it is in its morphology that Maltese also shows the most elaborate and deeply embedded influence from the Romance languages, Sicilian and Italian, with which it has long been in intimate contact….As a result Maltese is unique and different from Arabic
and other Semitic languages.  ^ Brincat, 2005. Maltese - an unusual formula. An analysis of the etymology of the 41,000 words in Aquilina's Maltese-English Dictionary shows that 32.41% are of Arabic
origin, 52.46% are from Sicilian and Italian, and 6.12% are from English. Although nowadays we know that all languages are mixed to varying degrees, this is quite an unusual formula. However, the words derived from Arabic
are more frequent because they denote the basic ideas and include the function words.  ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Brincat (2005). ^ a b c d e "BBC - Languages". Retrieved 12 January 2017.  ^ "Mutual Intelligibility of Spoken Maltese, Libyan Arabic
Libyan Arabic
and Tunisian Arabic
Tunisian Arabic
Functionally Tested: A Pilot Study". p. 1. Retrieved 23 September 2017. To summarise our findings, we might observe that when it comes to the most basic everyday language, as reflected in our data sets, speakers of Maltese are able to understand less than a third of what is being said to them in either Tunisian or Benghazi Libyan Arabic.  ^ Borg, Albert J.; Azzopardi-Alexander, Marie (1997). Maltese. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-02243-6. ^ "Mutual Intelligibility of Spoken Maltese, Libyan Arabic
Libyan Arabic
and Tunisian Arabic
Tunisian Arabic
Functionally Tested: A Pilot Study". p. 1. Retrieved 23 September 2017. Speakers of Tunisian and Libyan Arabic are able to understand about 40% of what is said to them in Maltese.  ^ "Mutual Intelligibility of Spoken Maltese, Libyan Arabic
Libyan Arabic
and Tunisian Arabic
Tunisian Arabic
Functionally Tested: A Pilot Study". p. 1. Retrieved 23 September 2017. In comparison, speakers of Libyan Arabic and speakers of Tunisian Arabic
Tunisian Arabic
understand about two-thirds of what is being said to them.  ^ The Cantilena.  ^ Il-Kunsill Nazzjonali tal-Ilsien Malti. Fundamentally, Maltese is a Semitic tongue, the same as Arabic, Aramaic, Hebrew, Phoenician, Carthaginian and Ethiopian. However, unlike other Semitic languages, Maltese is written in the Latin alphabet, but with the addition of special characters to accommodate certain Semitic sounds. Nowadays, however, there is much in the Maltese language
Maltese language
today that is not Semitic, due to the immeasurable Romantic influence from our succession of (Southern) European rulers through the ages.  ^ a b c "MED Magazine". 9 May 2008. Archived from the original on 9 May 2008. Retrieved 12 January 2017.  ^ A.E. Felice; "The Genetic Origin of Contemporary Maltese," The Sunday Times of Malta,5 August 2007. ^ C. Capelli, N. Redhead, N. Novelletto, L. Terrenato, P. Malaspina, Z. Poulli, G. Lefranc, A. Megarbane, V. Delague, V. Romano, F. Cali, V.F. Pascali, M. Fellous, A.E. Felice, and D.B. Goldstein; "Population Structure in the Mediterranean Basin: A Y Chromosome Perspective," Annals of Human Genetics, 69, 1-20, 2005. Last visited August 8, 2007. ^ a b c d L-Akkademja tal-Malti. "The Maltese Language Academy". Archived from the original on 2015-09-23.  ^ a b c Dionisius A. Agius (1990). Review article: Al-Miklem Malti: A Contribution to Arabic
Lexical Dialectology. Bulletin (British Society for Middle Eastern Studies) 17 (2): 171-180. (subscription required) ^ Arnold Cassola (2012). Italo-Maltese Relations (ca. 1150 -1936): People, Culture, Literature, Language Archived February 22, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.. Mediterranean Review 5 (1): 1–20. ^ " Malta
Ħanina: the lingering Maltese presence in Tunisia". The Sunday Times. Times of Malta. 11 February 2007. pp. 54–55.  ^ Census 2011. National Statistics Office, Malta ^ C.F. & F.M. Voegelin. 1977. Classification and Index of the World's Languages. Elsevier. Merritt Ruhlen. 1991. A Guide to the World's Languages, Volume 1: Classification. Stanford. David Dalby. 2000. The Linguasphere Register of the World's Languages and Speech Communities. Linguasphere Observatory. Gordon, Raymond G., Jr., ed. 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the World. 15th ed. Summer Institute of Linguistics. Alan S. Kaye & Judith Rosenhouse. 1997. " Arabic
Dialects and Maltese", The Semitic Languages. Ed. Robert Hetzron. Routledge. Pages 263–311. ^ Borg (1997). ^ Vella (2004), p. 263. ^ "Punic language". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. 2013. Retrieved 25 June 2013.  ^ Sheehan, Sean (12 January 2017). "Malta". Marshall Cavendish. Retrieved 12 January 2017 – via Google Books.  ^ Hume (1996), p. 165. ^ Borg (1997), p. 248. ^ Borg (1997), pp. 249–250. ^ Borg (1997), pp. 251–252. ^ Borg (1997), p. 255. ^ Borg (1997), p. 254. ^ Borg (1997), p. 247. ^ Borg (1997), p. 260. ^ Borg & Azzopardi-Alexander (1997). ^ Auroux, Sylvain (2000). History of the language sciences : an international handbook on the evolution of the study of language from the beginnings to the present. Berlin: New York : Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-011103-9.  ^ Mifsud, Manwel (1995). Loan Verbs in Maltese: A Descriptive and Comparative Study. Brill Publishers. p. 31. ISBN 90-04-10091-1.  ^ Friggieri (1994), p. 59. ^ About Malta[permanent dead link]; GTS; retrieved on 2008-02-24 ^ http://google.com/search?q=cache:DMnjEhi4EicJ:www.anglistik.uni-freiburg.de/Englisches_Seminar/Lehrstuehle/LS_Kortmann/FoL/index_html/2008-03-17.8198766048+Maltese+55%25+Romance&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=5&client=safari[dead link] ^ Żammit (2000), pp. 241–245. ^ Compare with approx. 25–33% of Old English or Germanic words in Modern English. ^ a b c d e f g h Isserlin. Studies in Islamic History and Civilization. BRILL 1986, ISBN 965-264-014-X ^ Alan S. Kaye & Judith Rosenhouse. 1997. " Arabic
Dialects and Maltese", The Semitic Languages. Routledge. Pp. 263–311. ^ "Country report for MINERVA Plus in 2005". Multilingual issues in Malta. Retrieved 2008-02-24. 


Aquilina, Joseph (1965). Teach Yourself Maltese. English University Press.  Azzopardi, C. (2007). Gwida għall-Ortografija. Malta: Klabb Kotba Maltin.  Borg, Alexander (1997). "Maltese Phonology". In Kaye, Alan S. Phonologies of Asia and Africa. 1. Eisenbrauns. pp. 245–285. ISBN 9781575060194.  Borg, Albert J.; Azzopardi-Alexander, Marie (1997). Maltese. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-02243-6.  Brincat, Joseph M. (2005). "Maltese – an unusual formula" (27). MED Magazine. Archived from the original on 5 September 2005. Retrieved 22 February 2008.  Bugeja, Kaptan Pawlu, Kelmet il-Malti (Maltese—English, English—Maltese Dictionary). Associated News Group, Floriana. 1999. Friggieri, Oliver (1994). "Main Trends in the History of Maltese Literature". Neohelicon. 21 (2): 59–69. doi:10.1007/BF02093244.  Hume, Elizabeth (1996). "Coronal Consonant, Front Vowel Parallels in Maltese". Natural Language & Linguistic Theory. 14 (1): 163–203. doi:10.1007/bf00133405.  Mifsud, M.; A. J. Borg (1997). Fuq l-għatba tal-Malti. Strasbourg: Council of Europe.  Vassalli, Michelantonio (1827). Grammatica della lingua Maltese.  Vella, Alexandra (2004). "Language contact and Maltese intonation: Some parallels with other language varieties". In Kurt Braunmüller and Gisella Ferraresi. Aspects of Multilingualism in European Language History. Hamburg Studies on Muliculturalism. John Benjamins Publishing Company. p. 263. ISBN 90-272-1922-2.  Żammit, Martin (2000). " Arabic
and Maltese Cognate Roots". In Mifsud, Manwel. Proceedings of the Third International Conference of Aida. Malta: Association Internationale de Dialectologie Arabe. pp. 241–245. ISBN 99932-0-044-1. 

External links

Maltese edition of, the free encyclopedia

Wikivoyage has a phrasebook for Maltese.

For a list of words relating to Maltese language, see the Maltese language category of words in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

v t e

Varieties of Arabic


Old Arabic

Modern literary

Classical Modern Standard


Egyptian Chadian Sa'idi Sudanese




Omani Shihhi Dhofari Kuwaiti



Bareqi Hejazi

Sedentary Bedouin


Baharna Yemeni

Hadhrami San'ani Ta'izzi-Adeni Tihami Judeo-Yemeni


Northwest Arabian



North Mesopotamian

Cypriot Anatolian Judeo-Iraqi

South Mesopotamian

Baghdad Koiné Khuzestani

Central Asian

Afghani Khorasani Central Asian Arabic


North Levantine

North Syrian Central Levantine

Central Syrian Lebanese

South Levantine

Jordanian Palestinian

Urban Central village

Outer southern







North-Eastern Tunisian

Eastern Village

Sahel Sfaxian Lesser Kabylia

Western Village

Traras-Msirda Mountain

Judeo-Maghrebi Arabic

Judeo-Moroccan Judeo-Tripolitanian Judeo-Tunisian



Libyan koiné

Eastern Hilal

Tunisian koiné

Central Hilal

Algerian koiné Algerian Saharan Eastern Algerian Western Algerian


Western Moroccan Eastern Moroccan Moroccan koiné Hassānīya


Sicilian Arabic (extinct ancestor of Maltese which is not part of the Arabic






Judeo-Moroccan Judeo-Tripolitanian Judeo-Tunisian Judeo-Yemeni

Creoles and pidgins

Babalia Bimbashi Juba Nubi Maridi Turku

Italics indicate extinct languages.

v t e

Semitic languages

East Semitic languages

Akkadian Eblaite

West Semitic and Central Semitic languages




Biblical Mishnaic Medieval Mizrahi Yemenite Sephardi Ashkenazi Samaritan Modern




Ammonite Moabite Edomite



Jewish Palestinian Samaritan Christian Palestinian Nabataean Western Neo-Aramaic


Biblical Hatran Syriac Jewish Babylonian Aramaic Chaldean Neo-Aramaic Assyrian Neo-Aramaic Senaya Koy Sanjaq Surat Hértevin Turoyo Mlahsô Mandaic Judeo-Aramaic Syriac Malayalam


Amorite Eteocypriot Ugaritic



Classical Modern Standard


Mashriqi (Eastern)

Arabian Peninsular

Dhofari Gulf

Bahrani Shihhi

Hejazi Najdi Omani Yemeni



Eastern Egyptian and Peninsular Bedawi



Sa'idi Arabic


Cypriot Lebanese Palestinian


North Mesopotamian Judeo-Iraqi

Sudanese Central Asian

Tajiki Uzbeki


Maghrebi (Western)

Algerian Saharan Shuwa Hassānīya Andalusian Libyan Arabic




Moroccan Arabic


Tunisian Arabic



Old Arabic Nabataean Arabic

South Semitic languages

Western South

Old South

Sabaean Minaean Qatabanian Hadramautic Awsānian



Ge'ez Tigrinya Tigre Dahalik





Silt'e (Wolane, Ulbareg, Inneqor) Zay



Gafat Soddo


Mesmes Muher West Gurage

Mesqan Ezha Chaha Gura Gumer Gyeto Ennemor Endegen

Modern South Arabian

Bathari Harsusi Hobyot Mehri Shehri Soqotri

v t e

Dialects and accents of Maltese

Standard Żejtun Qormi Port Rural West Rural East Rural Central Gozitan Maltralian Maltenglish

v t e

 Languages of Sicily

Official language


Contemporary languages

Sicilian language Italian language Regional Italian Arbëresh language Gallo-Italic of Sicily Modern Greek

Historical languages

Ancient Greek Arabic Tosk Albanian Berber languages Elymian language Hebrew language Italian language Sicilian Greek Judeo- Arabic
languages Koine Greek Late Latin Maghrebi Arabic Maltese language Medieval Greek Mediterranean Lingua Franca Norman language Phoenician language Punic language Sicani Sicilian language Siculo-Arabic Southern Italian Koiné Vulgar Latin

^ "Documentation for ISO 639 ident