Published February 16, 2020
This video was recorded by Irena Dahl in Valletta, Malta. Maltese is a Semitic language which is spoken by approximately 520,000 speakers, according to a 2012 census. Maltese is considered to be historically developed from Arabic, which was standardized and Latinised via the Norman invasion of Malta and the island’s ensuing Christianization. Despite originating from Arabic, Maltese is excluded from the diglossic relationship with Modern Standard Arabic, which all Arabic dialects have. Approximately one-third of the Maltese lexicon, primarily function words, originates from its Arabic base, and one-half stems from the Italian and Sicilian languages. BBC estimates that between 6 and 20% of the Maltese vocabulary is borrowed from English. Morphologically speaking, Maltese is largely influenced by Romance languages. According to Ethnologue, there are six dialect varieties of Maltese, excluding standard Maltese, with which urban varieties have more in common than rural varieties. Most speakers of Maltese are bilingual, many of whom also speak English and French. Maltese uses the Latin writing system and alphabet, and additionally uses Maltese Braille for blind speakers. Additionally, Maltese is the only standardized Semitic language that exclusively uses Latin script. Maltese is the official language of Malta, and is also included as an official language in the European Union.