Academics come out against Council’s ‘Menglish’ proposals

University academics come out against Maltese Language Council's proposals to regulate use of Malt-English, say languages should be allowed to evolve in harmony 

A group of academics have come out strongly against the National Council for the Maltese Language’s proposals to streamline the way English loan words are used when writing in Maltese.

Professors Anthony Aquilina, Henry Frendo and Claire Vassallo told a press conference that the rules amounted to a dictatorial attempt at controlling the way people read and write Maltese and argued that languages should be allowed to evolve in harmony.

The rules state that words which have been assimilated into the Maltese grammatical form (such as strajkijiet, jibblokka, tistartja, iggaraxxjata) should be written in Maltese. However, Vassallo warned that this could open the floodgates to the integration of words such as tiffraja (to fry), tibbajkja (to bake) and tipplajtja (to plate). Moreover, the lecturers said that Maltenglish words should not be used when an indigenous Maltese equivalent already exists (such as bejbi instead of tarbija and televixin instead of televizjoni).

“Other successful languages like English didn’t require a council to act as police officers and regulators of the way it is spoken and written,” the lecturers said in a joint statement. “We must avoid needless and confusing changes to the language when we already have an orthography and grammar that has been used by great Maltese poets and authors and that has been taught to several generations over the years.”

Other academics who have endorsed this position are Prof Vicki-Ann Cremona, Alfred Palma, Anton Attard, Joseph Felice Pace, Mark Sammut, Miriam Cremona, Roderick Bovington, Prof Sergio Portelli, Mark Camilleri, Daniel Meilaq, Hugh Peralta, Prof Lydia Sciriha, Michael Zammit, and Prof Alexander Borg.

What are the proposals?

The proposals were presented by the National Council for the Maltese Language in June this year following seven years of research. They call for an end to bastardised words such as windskrin (windscreen), ħoki (hockey), xokebzorber (shock absorber), fajerekstingwixer (fire extinguisher), unjin (union) and xater (shutter), meaning that compound words and words whose Maltese orthography is very unlike the English spelling should be written in English. Exceptions will be made for one vowel words like ċans and kejk that have been assimilated into Maltese.

As for Maltenglish words that closely resemble the original English word (eg. kompjuter, fajl, skener), the Council has left it up to individual writers to decide whether to use the English or Maltese version.

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 conjugation of English verbs will differ according to whether their stem ends in a long vowel, a liquid consonant or a double consonant.