Yes to 'skener' but no to 'windskrin' - proposals on Maltenglish words unveiled

Council for Maltese Language proposes abolition of bastardised words like xokebzorber and fajerekstingwixer

After seven years of research, the National Council for the Maltese Language has taken a stance on which words borrowed from English should take the Maltese spelling.

The decision could spell an end to words like windskrin (windscreen), ħoki (hockey), xokebzorber (shock absorber), fajerekstingwixer (fire extinguisher), unjin (union) and xater (shutter), as the Council ruled that compound words and words whose Maltese orthography is very unlike the English spelling should be written in English.

Exceptions will be made for words such as ċansijiet, kejkijiet and jikklikkja that have been assimilated into the Maltese grammatical form. 

The Council has taken a flexible stance with regards Maltenglish words that closely resemble the English word, leaving it in writers' hands whether to write computer or kompjuter, file or fajl, scanner or skener.

This does not mean that a verb stem in Maltese has to be the same as a noun. So the verb skenja (to scan) will be conjugated into niskenja and skenjajt in Maltese, but both scanner and skener will be accepted as nouns.

All the forms of the same noun or verb should, as far as possible, keep the same orthographic stem, both in Maltese and in English. So it would either be brejkijiet/brejks or brakes (but not brakijiet).

The Council unveiled its "compromise" proposals at a seminar of Maltese teachers, authors, translators and journalists.

"We are confident that, although it is difficult to please everyone, the final decisions will actually be a solution that will help the Maltese language continue to develop with fewer problems," the Council said in a statement. 

Maltese teachers at the seminar suggested that the proposals be introduced following a moratorium of between three to four years, during which the public will be educated on the new rules.

Teachers were not all on the same page as to whether they should mark Maltenglish words by their students as incorrect. Junior College lecturer David Aloisio dismissed as “arguments based on fear” warnings that a failure to tick off students could open the floodgates for more Maltese words being written in their Maltenglish version.

Some people present in the seminar warned that allowing words like computer to stand in Maltese sentences could confuse dyslexic students, given that the ‘c’ in Maltese is always dotted. One man insisted that words like hockey should be written in Maltese as ħoki, given that the non-silent h is always crossed in Maltese and the letter y is absent from the language entirely.  

The proposals will be open to public consultation until 2 July, after which the Council will publish a final, official document.