The official languages of Malta are Maltese and English. The laws of Malta are written in both languages, with the Maltese version prevailing in case of inconsistency between the two versions.
While most Maltese speak English fluently, the native language is Maltese. This language is grammatically based on a Punic dialect and on Arabic and over the ages adopted elements of several other languages, including words from French, Italian, Spanish and English.
The history of the Maltese language mirrors the history of the island. The language is likely to have started as a Punic dialect, but later came under a strong Arabic influence. While retaining its Semitic structure, as new words to describe new social and business activities were required, words were imported from European languages.
For centuries Maltese was a spoken language. It was only in the early part of the 20th century that it became a written language, adopting the western alphabet in preference to the Arabic script. Today Maltese is a fully-fledged language with its own body of literature.
The Maltese alphabet consists of the following 30 letters: