Maltese (Malti)

Maltese is a Central Semitic language spoken by about 420,000 people on the Mediterranean islands of Malta, Gozo (Għawdex) and Comino (Kemmuna). The Maltese language developed from the Siculo-Arabic or Sicilian Arabic, a form of Arabic that developed in Sicily and Malta between the 9th and 14th centuries. Siculo-Arabic was extinct in Sicily by about 1300, but continued to be spoken in Malta and evolved into Maltese. The first reference to Malta having a distinct language dates from 1364, and the language is first referred to as lingua maltensi in the will of a certain Pawlu Peregrino from 1436.

Maltese at a glance

  • Native name: Malti [maltɪ]
  • Linguistic affliation: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, Central Semitic, Arabic, Maghrebi Arabic, Siculo-Arabic
  • Number of speakers: c. 420,000
  • Spoken in: Malta
  • First written: 15th century AD
  • Writing system: Latin script
  • Status: co-official language of Malta (along with English); official language of the EU

There is also a theory that Maltese developed from Carthaginian or Punic, the language of Carthage, which was a form of Phoenician. This theory was endorsed by Giacomo Bosio 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. As Carthaginian and Arabic are both Semitic languages that developed from the same roots, it is difficult to be sure whether Maltese words arrived via Carthaginian or Arabic.

The first known literary text in Maltese, II Cantilena, appeared during the 15th century, the first Maltese dicitonary was published in 1649.

As well as the Arabs who began taking over Malta in 870 AD, Malta was occupied by Norman-speaking Normans from 1090, and between 1530 and 1798 by the Knights Hospitaller of St John who spoke French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Latin and German. In 1800 Malta became a British colony and the British tried to replace Italian with English as the local language. As a result, about half of the vocabulary of Maltese comes from Sicilian and Italian, and a fifth comes from English. Maltese also contains quite a bit of vocabulary from Norman and French.

After Malta become independent in 1964 both English and Maltese were given official status and Maltese became the national language of Malta. Today Maltese is used in most sectors of public life, including parliament, the church, the press and other media, and in general conversation. English is generally the preferred medium of instruction in schools, especially at the higher levels of the educational system.

A a B b Ċ ċ D d E e F f Ġ ġ G g Għ għ H h
a be ċe de e ef ġe ge ajn akka
Ħ ħ I i Ie ie J j K k L l M m N n O o P p
ħe i ie je ke elle emme enne o pe
Q q R r S s T t U u V v W w X x Ż ż Z z
qe erre esse te u ve we exxe że ze

A recording of the Maltese alphabet

The current Maltese alphabet was introduced in 1924. Before then various spelling systems were used.

Maltese pronunciation

Maltese pronunciation

Notes

  • is silent but pharyngealizes and lengthens vowels
  • h has a simliar function to
  • and h at the end of a word are both pronounced as ħ
  • għh = ħħ
  • Final consonants are devoiced: b = [p], d = [t], ġ = [ʧ], g = [k], v = [f], ż = [s]
  • i before għ, h, ħ or q = [iː]
  • m followed by a consonant at the beginning of a word is pronounced im, e.g. mnejn = [imnejn]

Sample text

Il-bnedmin kollha jitwieldu ħielsa u ugwali fid-dinjità u d-drittijiet. Huma mogħnija bir-raġuni u bil-kuxjenza u għandhom igibu ruħhom ma' xulxin bi spirtu ta' aħwa.

A recording of this text by Sami Kleit

Translation

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Information about Maltese | Maltese phrases | Tower of Babel in Maltese | Maltese learning materials

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Links

Information about the Maltese language and alphabet
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maltese_language
http://www.my-malta.com/interesting/MalteseLanguage.html
http://www.aboutmalta.com/grazio/study2.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maltese_alphabet
http://www.kunsilltalmalti.gov.mt/eng

Online Maltese lessons
http://www.aboutmalta.com/grazio/malti.html
http://www.digitaldialects.com/Maltese.htm

Basic Maltese grammar
http://aboutmalta.com/grazio/maltesegrammar.html

Onine Maltese phrases
http://www.choosemalta.com/en/about-malta/maltese-language.php
http://linguanaut.com/english_maltese.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maltese_language
http://tinyurl.com/kn5qmzo
http://www.mercury-direct.co.uk/blog/post/208/useful-maltese-phrases

Online Maltese dictionaries
http://aboutmalta.com/language/engmal.htm
http://aboutmalta.com/language/phrasebook.htm
http://malta.atspace.com/english-maltese-dictionary.htm

Maltese poetry
http://aboutmalta.com/language/poetry.html

Online Maltese radio
http://www.rtk.org.mt

L-orrizont - Maltese language newspaper
http://www.allmalta.com/orizzont/

Information about Malta
http://www.aboutmalta.com
http://www.visitmalta.com
http://www.malta-car.com/malta-holidays.asp

Semitic languages

Akkadian, Amharic, Arabic (Algerian), Arabic (Egyptian), Arabic (Lebanese), Arabic (Modern Standard), Arabic (Moroccan), Arabic (Syrian), Aramaic, Argobba, Assyrian / Neo-Assyrian, Canaanite, Chaha, Chaldean Neo-Aramaic, Ge'ez, Hadhramautic, Hebrew, Himyaritic, Jewish Neo-Aramaic, Maltese, Mandaic, Nabataean, Neo-Mandaic, Phoenician, Punic, Qatabanic, Sabaean, Sabaic, Silt'e, Syriac, Tigre, Tigrinya, Turoyo, Ugaritic, Western Neo-Aramaic

Other languages written with the Latin alphabet