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Unique Languages: Maltese

It is often discussed here and in many other places how English is such a unique language due to the confluence of languages from separate families that were brought together into one. This is not the only case in the world, obviously, and it is useful to highlight other examples of how cultures can collide and create unique combinations of grammar and vocabulary.

Today’s example is Maltese, centered around the island of Malta, which is located about 60 miles south of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea. This position has meant that it has been a site of great strategic importance, for purposes of international trade and military positioning since men put raft to water and set sail.

Numerous cultures and peoples have established themselves on the islands that make up Malta, and its language reflects this reality; the grammar and approximately 50% of its vocabulary shows direct influences from Arabic, while it also has a strong Italian background, but Sicilian Italian and not the more Romantic “mainland” Italian. Finally, it is also incorporating English words on a regular basis to fill in the gaps of the modern world where its Sicilo-Semitic roots do not provide the word (mobile phone, basketball, etc.). I have read a great deal about the various particular features of the grammar and they are quite interesting from a linguistic point of view.

One interesting point to raise before the examples sentences is that it is a Semitic language that is written with the Latin alphabet, a rarity in itself.

Here are some examples of sentences in Maltese to demonstrate these features:

Il-bnedmin kollha jitwieldu hielsa u indaqs fid-dinjità u l-jeddijiet. Huma moghnija bir-raguni u bil-kuxjenza u ghandhom igibu ruhhom ma’ xulxin bhala ahwa.

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

(Article One, Universal Declaration of Human Rights)


Il-Malti huwa l-ilsien nazzjonali tar-Repubblika ta’ Malta.

“Maltese is the national language of Malta.”

Note the use of articles, which is very reminiscent of Arabic, combined with vocabulary with words that are recognizable as heavily influenced by both Romance languages and Arabic.