Maltese is a Semitic language with around 350,000 speakers living in Malta. The language shows aspects of both Romance and Semitic grammar.
Maltese holiday phrases ordered by topic.
Maltese grammar is underpinned by Semitic patterns but has freely adopted Romance (especially Italian and Sicilian) and English forms. It is unusual among Semitic languages in using a Roman alphabet and also unusual in the flexible way in which it is able to incorporate and adapt its imported vocabulary.
It has many loan words in particular from Italian, English and some from the French language. A few examples illustrate the diversity of Maltese in this regard.
'hello' (hello), L-għodwa t-tajba (good morning showing the Semitic root), Bonġu (good morning) a loan word from French and Grazzi (Thanks) a loan word from Italian.
Different spelling conventions sometimes conceal words originating from English, though they have a similar pronunciation, e.g. mowbajl (mobile), friġġ (fridge), panċer (puncture), tajprajter (typewriter) and bliċ (bleach).
Placed between Europe and Africa, Malta has bridged the two continents over the millennia, with settlers from both directions leaving traces of their presence. Its position in the central southern Mediterranean has also given it a strategic significance which attracted successive external powers striving to dominate the region. As a result its culture and language reflect layers of different influences to an extraordinary extent.
Given that Malta lies less than 60 miles south of Sicily it is unsurprising that for about a thousand years it was part of the Roman Empire, with political control moving to Constantinople when the empire was divided in ad 329. Malta's Roman phase ended in ad 870 when Arab invaders overwhelmed the Byzantine garrison.
There then seems to have been a hiatus of nearly 200 years during which the island was left virtually unpopulated. It was not colonized until 1048. A few years later, in 1091, the island came under Norman rule though initially the Normans left government of the island in the hands of its Muslim colonists. Direct Muslim influence ended with the expulsion of the Muslims in the mid-13th century. A succession of feudal rulers governed the island until it was ceded to the Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, a multilingual organisation within the Roman Catholic Church. A brief period of French rule followed Napoleon's capture of the island in 1798. An attempt to return the island to the Knights Hospitallers in 1802 proved highly unpopular and the islanders opted for British sovereignty.
The relationship with Britain became increasingly tempestuous as different constitutions failed to deliver satisfaction. Malta, however, played a vital role in World War II and had the unusual distinction of being awarded the George Cross for its resistance to sustained attempts by the Axis forces to overwhelm it. In 1964 it gained independence as a member state within the British Commonwealth.
During its many years of rule by outsiders, whether from neighbouring Sicily or further afield, the tendency was for the language of government and culture to reflect the interests of the rulers and their dependents, while the indigenous Maltese became used to a bilingualism in which the vernacular language had little status. It was not given official status, which it shares with English, until the mid-1930's, having suffered from the lack of a standard written form until as late as 1924.
Maltese phrases ordered by topic.