Yay for Malta!
Years ago, I mentioned that Malta was the only nation I knew of in which parents were not allowed to register baby names in the national language.
Why couldn’t they? Because Malta’s government IT systems could not handle Maltese font.
But “a collective overhaul across government IT systems [is now] being done to ensure Maltese orthography is accepted across the board,” and Malta will soon be allowing parents to officially bestow traditional Maltese names.
Maltese, a Semitic language that descended from Sicilian Arabic, has six letters that English doesn’t have. One of them, ie, is easy enough to replicate on a computer; the other five (below) are not.
Here’s how to pronounce them, roughly:
- C-with-a-dot makes a ch-sound
- G-with-a-dot makes a j-sound (without the dot, G makes a g-sound)
- Gh-with-a-line is silent*
- H-with-a-line makes an h-sound (without the line, H is silent*)
- Z-with-a-dot makes a z-sound (without the dot, Z makes a ts-sound)
Without these letters, a large number of traditional Maltese names are unable to be rendered properly.
I would love to list some of those names, but, ironically, I can’t — WordPress hasn’t played nicely with special characters ever since the introduction of the Gutenberg editor a few years back.)
Anyway…well done, Malta! I’m proud of you. :)
- Mallette, Karla. European Modernity and the Arab Mediterranean. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010.
- Maltese font to be allowed for baby names ‘in coming weeks’
- Maltese language – Wikipedia
- The Fancy Extra Letters in Maltese
*More on the silent letters: “Maltese orthography continues to reflect the presence of some letters that are no longer pronounced in order to indicate semantic provenance — a convenience that makes it possible, among other things, to look up words in the dictionary under the three-consonant root (as one does with Semitic languages).”
Update, 6/13/20: Here’s an image of a list of traditional Maltese names…
The list above includes Maltese names that are equivalent to: Angelo, Beatrice, Francis, Elizabeth, Jacob, James, George, Juliet, Justin, Joseph, John, Hilda, Lucia, Luigi, Theresa, and Vincent.
P.S. While gathering these names, I happened to find out that the surname Buttigieg — as in former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg — is Maltese and means “poulterer.” Specifically, it comes from a pair of Sicilian Arabic words meaning “father, master, owner” and “fowl.”
Update, 1/2/21: “A baby boy called Ganni is the first child to be officially named using Maltese fonts after an IT system change that recognises letters in the national language.” Of course that uppercase “G” won’t render correctly here, but imagine it with a dot on top. :) (Times of Malta, Dec. 23)