Maltese

Ic-Ckejken Princep — in Maltese.

The Maltese language, known as “Il-Malti,” is the national language of Malta and an official language of the European Union. Maltese is unique among the Semitic languages because it is arguably the only Semitic language written in the Latin script and the only one that has developed and is officially used within a predominantly European context. Its development is closely tied to Malta’s complex history of colonisation and its strategic location in the Mediterranean Sea, leading to a language that is a rich blend of Semitic roots with significant influences from Italian, Sicilian, English, and to a lesser extent, French.

Maltese evolved from Siculo-Arabic, a dialect of Arabic that developed in Sicily and was later brought to Malta between the 9th and 12th centuries. Over centuries, Malta’s occupation by various powers, including the Normans, the Knights of St. John, the French, and the British, introduced a range of linguistic influences that have shaped modern Maltese.

Maltese has a set of five short and long vowels. Its consonant inventory includes several Semitic consonants, such as the voiceless pharyngeal fricative and the voiceless uvular stop, which are not typically found in Indo-European languages. Word stress in Maltese is variable and not always predictable, with some rules based on the length of vowels and the structure of words.

Maltese is an agglutinative language, using a system of prefixes, suffixes, and infixes to modify meanings and indicate grammatical functions. This is a feature of its Semitic origins. The verb system retains the Semitic root pattern, where words are built around a set of consonants to convey a core meaning. Maltese verbs are inflected for tense, mood, and voice, with some patterns reflecting its Arabic heritage and others being innovations or influenced by European languages. Maltese uses a definite article that is directly descended from Arabic and shows some agreement with the noun in terms of phonological assimilation. Plural formation is complex and can be irregular, a characteristic of its Semitic roots.

Maltese is written in the Latin alphabet, augmented with special characters such as ċ, ġ, ħ, and ż, to represent sounds specific to Maltese. This adaptation allows the language to maintain its Semitic phonological characteristics while being accessible to a population fluent in European languages.

Maltese is the national language of Malta and co-official with English. It is used in all aspects of public life, including government, education, and media.