Maltese language

Maltese (Maltese: Malti, also L-Ilsien Malti or Lingwa Maltija), is a Semitic language derived from late medieval Sicilian Arabic with Romance superstrata spoken by the Maltese people. It is the national language of Malta[2] and the only official Semitic and Afro-Asiatic language of the European Union. Maltese is a latinised variety of spoken historical Arabic through its descent from Siculo-Arabic, which developed as a Maghrebi Arabic dialect in the Emirate of Sicily between 831 and 1091.[3] As a result of the Norman invasion of Malta and the subsequent re-Christianisation of the islands, Maltese evolved independently of Classical Arabic in a gradual process of latinisation.[4][5] It is therefore exceptional as a variety of historical Arabic that has no diglossic relationship with Classical or Modern Standard Arabic.[6] Maltese is thus classified separately from the 30 varieties constituting the modern Arabic macrolanguage.[7] Maltese is also distinguished from Arabic and other Semitic languages since its morphology has been deeply influenced by Romance languages, namely Italian and Sicilian.[8]

Maltese
Malti
Publication by Għaqda Tal-Kittieba Tal-Malti in 1925
Pronunciation[ˈmɐltɪ]
Native toMalta
EthnicityMaltese
Native speakers
520,000 (2012)[1]
Dialects
Latin (Maltese alphabet)
Maltese Braille
Official status
Official language in
 Malta
 European Union
Regulated byNational Council for the Maltese Language
Il-Kunsill Nazzjonali tal-Ilsien Malti
Language codes
ISO 639-1mt
ISO 639-2mlt
ISO 639-3mlt
Glottologmalt1254
Linguasphere12-AAC-c
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A Maltese speaker, recorded in Malta

The original Arabic base comprises around one-third of the Maltese vocabulary, especially words that denote basic ideas and the function words,[9] but about half of the vocabulary is derived from standard Italian and Sicilian;[10] and English words make up between 6% and 20% of the vocabulary.[11] A 2016 study shows that, in terms of basic everyday language, speakers of Maltese are able to understand around a third of what is said to them in Tunisian Arabic,[12] which is a Maghrebi Arabic related to Siculo-Arabic,[13] whereas speakers of Tunisian Arabic are able to understand about 40% of what is said to them in Maltese.[14] This reported level of asymmetric intelligibility is considerably lower than the mutual intelligibility found between other varieties of Arabic.[15]

Maltese has always been written in the Latin script, the earliest surviving example dating from the late Middle Ages.[16] It is the only standardised Semitic language written exclusively in the Latin script.[17]


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