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The Maltese Language: An Arabic Descendant

Hello everyone. Welcome to the LangFocus channel
and my name is Paul Today, I’m going to talk about the Maltese language. Maltese is a unique and interesting language
because it is a Semitic language with a twist. It is the only Semitic language that is
an official language of the European Union. It is spoken by around 520 thousand people, mostly on the island nation of Malta
which is an island in the Mediterranean Sea, not far from Sicily and not far
from Tunisia and Libya in North Africa. Some people claim that Maltese is a descendant
of the ancient Phoenician language, but actually there’s no linguistic evidence for this. Maltese is a descendant of a dialect of Arabic,
called Siculo-Arabic or Sicilian Arabic. But it has diverged quite a lot from Arabic over the last
1000 years or so, and has now become its own language. The syntax and grammar of Maltese remains Arabic
and about a third of the vocabulary is still Arabic. And that includes most of the grammatical function
words as well as a lot of the most basic vocabulary. About half of the vocabulary is from Italian or Sicilian and the remaining vocabulary is
mostly from English and French. It’s still considered a Semitic language because of
its Arabic origin and because of its structure. But… if you take into account all of the foreign loan words,
especially the romance loanwords, then it’s essentially a hybrid language. Kind of like a Semitic-Romance hybrid. So how did this interesting mix of influences
come together to create Maltese? Well, it’s because of its history, of course. The Fatimid Caliphate which covered much of North Africa
conquered Sicily at the end of the 9th century and brought their Maghrebi or North African dialect
of Arabic with them. Then, in 1049 CE, Arabic-speaking Muslim settlers
from Sicily arrived in Malta, which is only about 200 kilometers away,
and began to establish communities there. In the year 1091 CE, the Normans, who were
Christians from Normandy and present-day France, had defeated the Arabs and taken hold of Sicily
and then began taking hold of Malta too. Under Norman rule, more settlers from Sicily began
arriving in Malta and bringing their language with them. Even though the Normans were Christian, the population
of Sicily was still a mixture of Christians and Muslims who spoke Arabic alongside the Sicilian language. After the decline of Norman rule, the new regime in Sicily
expelled all of the Muslims from Sicily and from Malta as well. This was a very significant event,
because it essentially cut off the Siculo-Arabic dialect
from the Muslim Arabic-speaking world. And it also cut it off from the classical Arabic language. In other Arabic-speaking lands, the Quran remained
a conservative force that prevented the dialects
from changing too much overtime. But, in Malta, that conservative force
was no longer connected to the dialect. So the dialect was free to drift off in its own direction
and become a new language. Sicuro-Arabic died out in Sicily
but it continued to be used and evolve in Malta. Malta remained part of the kingdom of Sicily
for several hundred years which brought lots of sicilian vocabulary into the language. The island was then controlled by a string of rulers
who influenced the developing Maltese language. One of the most significant regimes to rule Malta
was the Knights Hospitaller of St. John, a powerful order of knights that assisted and protected
Christian pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land. They were given the island of Malta in 1530
as an outpost to help prevent an Ottoman invasion
of Rome from the South. They made Italian the official language of the island
and it remained the official language until 1934. This resulted in a large amount of Italian vocabulary
entering the language. There was also a period of two years
when Malta was under French rule. And just from those two years, quite a bit of
French vocabulary entered the language too. And the island was a British protectorate
from 1802 to 1956. And, of course, that led to the adoption
of lots of English words into Maltese. So Maltese is essentially an Arabic dialect that
has become Latinized and to some extent Anglicized. So how similar is it to Arabic today? Well, if you know Arabic and you try to read
some Maltese, you will quickly realize
that it’s basically Arabic in structure, but you will also see a lot of foreign vocabulary,
mostly Romance vocabulary. It is most similar to the Maghreb dialect of Arabic,
meaning the dialects of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, especially the Tunisian dialect. A lot of Tunisians claim that they can
quite easily understand Maltese. That could be because Tunisian Arabic itself
has quite a few Italian loan words. And I also understand that a lot of Tunisians
can understand Standard Italian. So, if they speak Tunisian Arabic and Italian,
then they can quite easily understand Maltese. Lots of people say that if you know an Arabic dialect
quite well and if you also know Italian, then reading Maltese won’t be much of a problem and, with some adjustment, you can also learn
to understand it fairly easily. That doesn’t mean you could speak proper Maltese
but maybe you could use your Arabic and your Italian and sort of pack a conversation
in a new pidgin language. So let’s look at a couple example sentences of Maltese. So the sentence here is an example
of one that’s mostly Arabic. By the way, I’ve never learned to speak Maltese,
so forgive my pronunciation. Now, I understood this sentence almost perfectly
and it’s basically all Arabic. The first word “…”, that’s “Japan”. “…”, that’s “has” “…”, that’s “the tenth” “…”, that’s “the biggest” “…”, that’s not Arabic. That’s…
That looks like an Italian loan word to me. “…”, so that’s “in the world” “…”, that means with “more than” And then, there’s the Arabic number (126) And then, there’s “miljun”, which is “million” in Arabic too. And then, “persuna” which is not Arabic,
but I guess that’s from Italian or Sicilian. But sometimes, you see sentences
with a lot more loan words, particularly Italian. Here’s another sentence. So this sentence means: “Migration reform
must include the principle of solidarity.” This one has a lot of loan words. “Riforma”, that’s not an Arabic word.
That’s a loan word. “Fil-migrazzjoni” : “Fil”, that part is Arabic
but “migrazzjoni”, that is a loan word. “ghandha”, that part is interesting
because this is an Arabic word that means “has” but, in this case,
it’s being used to mean “has to” or “must”. And it’s not used that way in Arabic. So the function of this word has become
somewhat adapted in the Maltese language. The next word “tinkludi’, that’s “include”
but that the “t” links back to the previous vowel,
that’s an element of Arabic syntax. The next word “…”, so that’s obviously “principle”
but that’s not an Arabic word, that’s a loan word. Again that’s the Arabic definite article and the “t”
is linking back to the previous vowel and “solidarieta”,
that’s “solidarity” and that’s not an Arabic word either. So you can see a lot of sentences
like this in Maltese, often. If you know Arabic, you’ll recognize the structure
but then, a lot of the words are not Arabic. For me personally, I know that, with my past study
of Arabic and with my fluency in English
and my recent basic knowledge of Italian, I can take a stab at reading Maltese and I can
understand the fair bit of it… But not all of it! When I hear spoken Maltese, I don’t really understand it
but I can pick out some individual Arabic and Italian
and English words But I imagine that, as my Italian improves,
I’ll be able to understand a bit more of it. And if I decided to review my Arabic in depth and started
to learn a Maghrebi dialect, then I think I would be able
to understand a lot more Maltese as well. Maltese is not a very widely spoken language,
so not that many people learn it and there aren’t
that many materials out there for learners. But, for someone who’s learning Arabic or learning
Italian, then it might be fun to dabble in
some Maltese and see what you can make of it. Thank you for watching the LangFocus channel. If you have any comments about the Maltese language,
then, of course, leave them in the comments down below. If you’re an Arabic speaker and you’ve had a chance to
listen to Maltese a little bit, let us know what you think. Can you understand it?
Does it sound like a kind of Arabic? And same goes for Italian-speakers: If you listen to Maltese,
can you catch parts of what they’re saying? Let us know in the comments down below. We’re getting close to 50,000 subscribers on LangFocus.
That’s quite cool, I’m quite excited about that. But, if I look at my social media channels,
if I look at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, I notice that I still don’t have that many followers. So… Be sure to have a look at those.
The link is in the description down below. And, if you find them interesting,
then be sure to follow me there. Thank you for watching, and have a nice day!

100 Replies to “The Maltese Language: An Arabic Descendant”

  • Hi I'm from Morocco and like to have friends from Malta…. Maltese language are similar to Moroccan /tunisian/algerian dialects

  • I think Arabic is one of the most beautiful language, anyway Maltese Langauage sounds very nice, thank you for this nice video.

  • Greetings from Syria, I watched many videos for people speaking Maltese and I can say I understand like third of it at least, I think Maltese might be the easiest language to learn for Arabic speakers 😀 , it sounds exactly like someone Arabic speaking the dialect of Tunisia..

  • والعرب ان شالله اللي بيكتبو انجلش ايش في ! افتخرو بلغتكم الغرب مهتمين وانتو بتقلدو الغرب !

  • Im Tunisian i can understand Italian language and maltese, i know much words in german dutch russian turkish and urdu..
    And i speak arabic french english and little italian

  • The Islands of Malta and Gozo .A Maltese from Malta told me the Gozo dialect is quite different. There are more ethnic Maltese in Australia than in Malta.

  • Paul the Maltese language is written in Latin characters/letters who was influenced by the Greek who in turn used the profused Phoenician Ideagraphical Symbols. It’s spoken in Semitic and written in Semitic derived script: we are coherent we're Mediterranean. What you missed is that both Tunisia and Sicily were inhabited by Old Phoenicians and Old Carthaginians. So the Arabic is very akin and falls into the same language category as Semitic. If the Maltese DNA is taken we have Mediterranean roots from south Europe, North African or Middle East. Maltese is very close to Tunisian and Lebanese in intonation. If Siculo-Arabic is likened to custard- milk/vanilla/flour/sugar (sugar = Phoenician influence) and Phoenician is likened to jelly – fruit/sugar (sugar = Phoenician itself mixed with Old Greek/Old Sardegnian/Old Sicilian) then today’s Maltese is the English Trifle. So little bits of sugar is tasted by the Maltese tongue. The Phoenician-Punic grammar is similar with today’s Arabic where they had the possessive pronoun- i -ek -u -na -kom -hom; the negation l(e) this l(e) that: then the characters A -> Aleph (ox) we say għalef to feed an ox, grapħically tħe A is the head of an ox upside down; b -> bejta meaning a nest – graphically it's a tree with a nest upside down: so the word derivation Alphabet. M – m -> water "mem" in Punic and us Maltese (Arabs) say "ilma" it is derived from the Egyptian water symbol as the waves of the sea: the phoenicians minted a coin representing Malta (having MALET also) NN inverted meaning Ay Nun -> tħat is the island of fish – and Malta is in a sħape of a fish (find a map of Malta and check it out). As you rightly depicted Malta is predominantly Siculo-Arab true but Sicily and Tunisia (if not also Sardegna) and the Greeks were close seafaring neighbours. We are one cosmic soup. What is true is that the phoenician language is distinct but the Phoenicians may have colonised Malta and Gozo as an outpost but settled permanently in Sicily and Tunisia. So all indo-european and american scripts stem from the profused phoenician symbols (not invented by them but used up to allow them to commerce in the Mediterranean basin).30% of Maltese is of Siculo-Arab origin and 60% + Sicilian/Italian 10% +/- English/French but Arabized.

  • Grate! . To be able to read,write and recognize arabic words and
    letters in an interesting way, click the link below

  • The "ghanda" functioning as a way to say "has to" is a loaned grammatical feature from Sicilian. In Sicilian it would be "havi a / n'havi a" and it indicates an obligation ("must") or the future ("will").

  • In my opinion Sicilian, for this particular phase of the Siculo Arabic language presence, should be recategorized as an hybrid language. The same goes for the southern calabrian and salentinian dialects of Sicilian, that are hybrids between Griko and Sicilian.

  • I do we know for sure that the Carthiginians did not start the Malta language ? Considering the fact that Hannibal Barca colonized the meditterean in 330 BCE ?

  • The history of Sicily Tunisia and Malta started when the Phoenicians settled in the first two and had used the Maltese of Malta and Gozo as outposts. Whoever repopulated the islands carried with them their past both linguistically and ethnically. With waves of peoples commuting to Malta and Gozo it is obvious that we are by no means direct descendants from Phoenicians by traces there are. This is substantiated by the Maltese DNA predominately Italian and Balkan and the Middle East Lebonon/Egypt who were the sea farers. And North African in the main Tunisia. We speak a Semitic language and we write in Phoenician derived letter/characters. And Paul "għalef" in Maltese means to feed oxen and "A" in Phoenician meant an ox; and " Bejta" in Maltese means a nest and in Phoenician "b" means a house/nest: so Alphabet!? And in syntax Punic and Today's Arabic have some similarities being both Semitic languages. Please note that the Maltese grammar was formed structured early 1900s by Ninu Cremona who used to commute to Tunisia. So Maltese of today was structured and formed by the Modern Arabic grammar. There is an obsession by Maltese Linguists to state that we have no connection with Phoenicians and discard the archeological past, they sneakily know that there is no linguistic evidence nor any recording of what the Maltese had spoken, but Sicily itself ws ruled by Phoenicians and Phoenician/Chartgenians had dominated the Mediterranean from 1000BC to 200BC. A language does die. And the Phoenician Sumbols survived to the present day. A b D F Ħ K l m n O R S T W – in Maltese Għalef – ox fodder; b Bejta house, D Daħla – entrance/delta, Ħ Ħajt fence, k hand, l lamda baton; m ilma water, n fish phoenician coin of Malta NN an island of fish; O għajn, R Ras head Race Roots Radici; S serp serpent, W snien teeth …. The letter sounds are phonetic (phoenician). Likewise lablab (blabber) legleg (to gulp down when drinking) temtem (stammer), kaxkar (to shuffle), ċapċap (clap),ċafċaf (to paddle)ċekċek (clanging of the keys),tektek (boiling bubbles) żelaq (to slip), żigżag (like a cart waddling from side to side), all onomatopoeic. The Maltese linguists are relying on documents or lack of and on one writer who most probably wrote on hearsay; who climed that we were depopulated yet the Maltese speak an old Arabic (who themselves were descendants of Phoenicians themselves hsd developed a full fletched seaport in Mozia. Thereare tħousands of pottery sherds, a whole Phoenician walled enormous city. So these are meddling with history (people who initiated the LETTER SCRIPT)

  • Its actually Phoenician dialect mostly very very old civilization which settled here, so our dialect is closest to that of Lebanon.

  • I am Maltese. Once I got lost in a mall in France. The man who I asked for help spoke Arabic and no English. We communicated in Maltese/Arabic and found my mom 🙂

  • ههه الجميع في التعليقات يتكلم الانجليزية الا انا مازلت قديمة فقط العربية والفرنسية 😁😁😁😁

  • In libya especially in summer we can catch the radio from Malta and I can say i understand a lot from what i hear.

  • Thank you for this an interressant video,i am from Algeria and i can understand the maltese language, it's much closer to the Algerian dialect

  • I read that the language is a Siculo-Arabic language, very close to the Arabic spoken in Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Algeria, and Mauritania. Fascinating.

  • Fascinating and frustratingly confusing!
    Being a fluent speaker of English, French, Italian, Spanish and Arabic, I basically know just about all the constituent parts that go to make up the Maltese language, and can certainly understand over 90% of its written form.
    The confusing and frustrating bit is to know which borrowed word from which language is used!
    For instance, words for man, woman, son, daughter, are all from Arabic…so one would think that 'family' and 'cousin' would also be… BUT NO…they're from Italian!
    Will definitely try to learn!

  • Yup, I'm from Libya, I understood every word. Correction; Libyan can understand some Italian( Tunisia and Algeria and morocco speak and talk French.

  • Just cemented 80 %"of the island, nice comino, little and in my opinion the best, gozo… Even if only in Croatia there are hundreds islands of same, or much more extension. Only international airport takes 1/5 of principal island… Only and winner side.. British brotherhood, so, as for others lands, all becomes magic, a landscape, a seaside, a local, Sicilian, tradition,….. I remember only a, super white wine palazzo verdala bianco, super sweet wine, …st Paul's bay is near to british conception of God, a little, anonymous place, concentration of hotel is over the best human imagination,… But little Semitic friends you resisted to nazi and Italy, during 2 ww, so you are blessed by the Power and all people d to come there, I did my charity…

  • 69) Classical Maltese-Klassiku Malti,
    69) Malti Klassiku-Klassiku Malti,

    tarbija li titwieled tinżamm iżolata mingħajr ma xi ħadd jikkomunika
    mat-tarbija, wara ftit jiem hija se titkellem u l-lingwa naturali umana
    (Prakrit) magħrufa bħala Classical Magahi Magadhi / Classical Chandaso
    language / Magadhi Prakrit / Classical Hela Basa (Hela Language) / Klassiku Pali li huma l-istess. Buddha tkellem f'Magadhi. Il-lingwi u d-djaletti 7111 kollha jinsabu barra mill-isparar tal-Klassika Magahi Magadhi. Għalhekk
    kollha huma ta 'natura Klassika (Prakrit) tal-Bniedem, l-istess bħalma
    huma l-ispeċi l-oħra kollha li għandhom il-lingwi naturali tagħhom

  • Paul, you continue provide such a valuable service especially to those who are language files. Thank-you for doing the in depth research and inform us about language and the history that surrounds it 👍.

  • I am from Tunisia thus I speak Tunisian Arabic and classic Arabic however I don't speak Italian but I do speak Spanish and I did understand the two sentences perfectly!!

  • Thank you the education from this. I obviously heard of Sicily before but never remember hearing about this tiny island next to Sicily Maltese before. Now for the past few days I am learning a lot about Maltese and Malta etc….. But just got done with this Ancestry DNA test now with the results back and just learned that I am Maltese with a few other things, which that I did not never known this.

  • The Aghalbids conqured Sicily not the Fatimid year
    and there is no language that can enter in just two years the french entred due to Malta been an important stop to all merchants ships in the mediteranean and in the early modern age at that time French was the Lingua Franca thus from where the term lingua franca come as french was most spoken language in the world at that time before english took over it was used all over the mediteranean between traders
    and yes as a tunisian it's quite easy to understand Maltese as they pronounce all the arabic words exactly like us the way they Maltify english words such as include in this example is the same way tunisians say english word in a tunisian way "Tincludi" is 100% tunisian thing even though the words entred two languages seperatly it was broken the same way

  • Ny mother was Maltese and spoke six languages fluently English, Maltese, Italian, Arabic, French, Greek, How, she had a Maltese Mother, then French Step mother, then Greek Step mum, and lived in Alexandria during the War, learnt English at school and Italian from her Italian friends. I learnt only one English 🙁

  • If Maltese is a semitic romance hybrid then English is a Germanic romance hybrid too. Enlgish grammar is as Germanic as Maltese is semitic, and English vocabulary is as much romance (from French) as Maltese is from Italian.

  • Although the Maltese language has an Arab influence. Don’t you dare ever call a Maltese an Arab. !! Just saying. It’s for your own good.

  • when you say that Maltese is the only Semitic language in the European language is completely misleading. the English alphabet system come from Latin and Latin comes from Greek and the Greek Alphabet is a direct copy of the phoenician alphabet. The Phoenician alphabet system is referred to as Abjad writing system ( Abjad is the Arabic word for Alphabet system. The reason to why the english Alphabet is in that order ABCD is the following:

    ABJAD which is A| B | JA | D
    A| B | C | D

  • I’m Sicilian and after you translated the first sentences I was able to make out roughly the second. I love Sicilian language Bc of its mixture and Maltese is the same. Beautiful languages.

  • I'm Sicilian / Italian. Shame that this video isn't more in depth, but from those two examples I feel like Maltese is Arabic with Italian and Sicilian words here and there. Especially the pronunciation of "principju" sounds extremely Sicilian-like.

  • I was stayed in the Malta 1 month ago for sprachcaffe language school and it was very fun also it’s climate is very similar with my city (Antalia/Turkey) Malta is a cute Mediterranean country I’ll come here again in the future

  • So maltese is an arabic born language with a hell lot of italian loan words. Logical since for centuries they were under knights hospitaliers and the Order's members were mainly romance speakers.

  • U P D A T E.
    (If you have the time and if you find a grammar, it would be cool to watch a video summary on this very interesting language!)

  • Maltés, lengua afroasiática de la rama semítica con fuerte influencia del italiano, siciliano, francés e inglés. Descendiente del árabe siciliano, variante del árabe magrebí (Norte de África).

  • Awesome! Malta is one of my favorite countries and I've just started to learn darija. Hopefully I'll be able to understand a little Maltese too!

  • في تركيا كثير من المصطلحات عربية…ولكن الذين تعرفت عليهم من الاتراك لايحبون العربية….لا اعلم…..اتمنى اعرف كل لغات العالم…لا افهم لماذا العنصرية في كل شي.

  • As a native arabic speaker , When I listen to the Maltese language, sometimes I can understand 80% if the speech is simple, such as daily conversations between people on the street for example .
    but if it is in scientific or political subjects for example, this percentage drops to about 30% of the conversation, because most of the terms in scientific & political ….etc in Maltese are derived from European languages, especially Italian and English

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