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|
|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|Ċ ċ||ċe||ċavetta (key)||t͡ʃ||church (note: undotted 'c' has been replaced by 'k', so when 'c' does appear, it is to be spoken the same way as 'ċ')|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 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.["citation needed]
The "National Council for the Maltese Language (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.
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 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.
From the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe:
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.
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).
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, 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.
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 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).
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 is the "ancestor of the Maltese language, and supplies between 32% and 40% of the language's vocabulary.
|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 (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, 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 (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):
|Moroccan||English||Modern Standard Arabic|
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. 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:
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).
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 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 "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.
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 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).
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 "imāla 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.
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.
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.
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.
- Maltese at "Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
- Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Maltese". "Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
- Constitution of Malta, I.5.(1)
- So who are the ‘real’ Maltese.
The kind of Arabic used in the 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.
- Brincat (2005).
- "BBC - Languages". Retrieved 12 January 2017.
- 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.
- The Cantilena.
- "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.
- L-Akkademja tal-Malti. "The Maltese Language Academy".
- 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.
- 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; 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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- 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.
|""||Maltese edition of "Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia|
|""||Wikivoyage has a phrasebook for Maltese.|