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THE MALTESE LANGUAGE

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Birgu (Malta)

THE MALTESE LANGUAGE

Maltese is the only Semitic language written in the Latin alphabet in its standard form. The oldest known document in Maltese is "Il Cantilena," a poem from the 15th century written by Pietro Caxaro as well as the military list of 1419-20 which contains, places, names and nicknames in Arabic.

The Maltese language developed from the Phoenician and subsequently Arabic spoken by the Arabs who invaded and occupied Malta in 870 AD. Malta was occupied by French-speaking Normans in 1090. Between 1530 and 1798 Malta served as the base for the Knights Hospitaller of St John, whose records were written in Italian and Latin. Malta became a British colony in 1800 and the British tried to replace Italian with English as the second language. For centuries, Maltese was nearly exclusively a spoken language, with writing being done in Arabic, or later, Italian. All foreign dominations left their imprint on the Maltese language.

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. Both Maltese and English are the official languages of the state of Malta.



The Maltese alphabet

 

 Letter

 Word

 Pronounced...

 Meaning

A

Anglu

Xatt

 long like ‘a' in ‘far' or

 short like ‘u' in shut

angel

shore

B

Blu

 like english b

blue

Ċ

Ċoff

 like ch in 'church'

bow, tie

D

Demm

 as de in devil

blood

E

Ekonomija

Hena

 short, as e in 'shed

 long, as ai in 'hair'

economy

happiness

F

Frott

 like english f

fruit

Ġ

Ġifen

 like g in gem

vessel

G

Gardell

 like g in 'great'

goldfinch

Għazla

 regarded as a single letter in maltese. it is silent or   pronounced as h in ‘house' if at the end of the word

choice

H

Fehem

 

Fih

 silent within a word;


pronounced like h in hen when at the end of a word

understand, realize

Ħ

Ħamsa

 like h in 'house'

five

I

Fitt

Ilu

 short, as i in 'fit'

 long, as ee in 'jeep'

pushy

ago

IE

Bniedem

 this is a two letter vowel, and occurs only as a long   vowel. phonetically it sounds like ee, in beer.

person

J

Jannar

 like y in 'yes'

january

K

Kelma

 like k in 'kit', pronounced as ke in kettle

word

L

Landa

 like l in 'life'

tin

M

Mans

 like english ‘m'

domestic

N

Nisel

 like english ‘n'

origin

O

Bott

Sod

 short, like o in got

 long, like aw in law

taunt

stiff

P

Patata

 like english ‘p'

potato

Q

Qabad

 compared to the cockney sound of the final letter in  the english word "that"

seize

R

Razzett

 pronounced as r in rain

farmhouse

S

Sinjur

 pronounced se as in set

gentlemen, sir

T

Tfajla

 pronounced te as in tell

yes

U

Pulptu

Ħut

 short, like u in 'full'

 long, like oo in 'fool'

pulpit

fish

V

Velu

 pronounced ve as in vessel

veil

W

Woda

 pronounced we as in well

water

X

Xemx

 like sh in ‘shape'

sun

Ź

Żjara

 like z in ‘zebra'

a visit

Ż

Zekzek

 the italian z but has two different sounds. like z in zorro and like ts in nuts

to hiss