the national language of Malta.
derived from and most closely related to Arabic - in
particular, the North African dialect - but in the course of its history it
has adopted many loans and even phonetic and phonological features from
(Southern) Italian (particularly Sicilian) and English.
Maltese is the only Semitic language written in the Latin
Maltese became an official language of Malta in 1936,
alongside English. Before that year, the official language of Malta was
Although influenced by Romance, Maltese grammar is still
strongly semitic. Adjectives follow nouns, there are no separately formed
native adverbs, and word order is fairly flexible. As in Arabic and Hebrew,
both nouns and adjectives (those of Semitic origin) take the definite
article (e.g. L-Art l-Imqaddsa, lit. "The Land the Holy = The Holy Land";
cf. Arabic Al-Ardh al-Muqaddasa). This rule does not apply to nouns and
adjectives of Romance origin.
Nouns are pluralized and also have a dual marker (unique
among modern European languages, with the exception of Slovene and Sorbian).
Verbs still show a triliteral Semitic pattern, in which a verb is conjuaged
with prefixes, suffixes, and infixes (e.g. ktibna, Arabic katabna, Hebrew
katavnu "we wrote"). There are two tenses: present and perfect.
What is unique about the Maltese verb system is that it
incorporates Romance verbs and adds Arabic suffixes and prefixes to them
(e.g. iddeċidejna "we decided" < (i)ddeċieda 'Romance verb' + -ejna 'Arabic
1st person plural perfect marker'). Arabic and Hebrew only rarely do this.
Maltese grammar generally shows two patterns: a Semitic
pattern and a Romance pattern. It is like two grammars in one.
Maltese vocabulary is a hybrid of Arabic Semitic roots and Sicilian Italian
(rather than Tuscan Italian) words. In this respect it is similar to English
(Germanic-Romance mix) and Persian (Arabic/Indo-Iranian mix).
It is estimated that 50% of the vocabulary is Semitic, the
rest being Romance.
English loan words are commonplace, including strajk strike,
daljali dial, along with union (as in trade union), leave and bonus, which
are not transliterated.