BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

14 October 2014
Other languages Languages

BBC Homepage
» European Languages
Family Tree

Contact Us

Maltese, Malti

Related languages Maltese is a modern Semitic language closely related to the western Arabic dialects. While preserving its Arabic roots, in the course of its history, Maltese pronunciation and words have been subject to a strong influence from (Southern) Italian and, more recently, English.
European speakers Maltese is spoken by almost 400,000 people in Malta and Gozo, and some 100,000 in Australia, the US, Canada, Italy and the UK.
Territories With some regional variations, Maltese is spoken in all Maltese islands.
Alphabet Maltese is the only Semitic language written in Roman script. The Maltese alphabet consists of 30 letters including six special ones:
Ċ pronounced ch as in cherry
Ġ pronounced j as in jam
GĦ mostly silent
Ħ pronounced h as in hard (normally, H is silent except at end of words when it's aspirated)
IE pronounced ee as in eel
Ż pronounced z as in buzz
The letter X is pronounced sh as in sheep, while Q sounds like a very deep K, and is produced by the vocal cords.
First examples The first known literary text in Maltese, Cantilena, is dated to pre-1485. The second-oldest, written in the 17th century, is a sonetto by Giovanni Francesco Bonamico, entitled 'Mejju gie bil-Ward u Zahar' (May came, with its flowers and blossoms).
Other facts It is estimated that, at present, the origin of Maltese words is 40% Semitic, 40% Romance (Italian) and 20% English. Some aspects of Maltese grammar show two patterns: a Semitic pattern and a Romance one. For example, many nouns form their plural by adding an ending, as in Italian: omm = mother, ommijiet = mothers. Other plurals are formed by changing the word internally, as in Arabic, dar = house - djar = houses. Verbs, however, follow a Semitic pattern, including those of Italian or English origin.

Key Phrases
Yes. (spoken/written language)
Għandi pjaċir.
Pleased to meet you.
Thank you.
Jien jisimni ...
My name is ...
Titkellem bl-Ingliż?
Do you speak English?
Ma nitkellimx (tajjeb) bil-Malti.
I don't speak (much) Maltese.
Tista' tgħinni?
Can you help me?
Fejn huma t-tojlezz?
Where are the toilets, please?

These audio clips require Flash.

Countries of Europe Countries Languages of Europe Languages

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy