The University of Malta launched its second edition of the International Programme in Maltese Linguistics on Monday 22 March 2010. Originally entitled “Summer School in Maltese Linguistics”, the International Programme ran for the first time in June 2009.

It is being organised by the Institute of Linguistics in collaboration with the Department of Maltese and is being held at the Old University in Valletta . The Programme was launched officially following a talk on Maltese and other languages: a linguistic history of Malta given by Prof. Joseph M. Brincat. Dr Ray Fabri, Chairman, Insitute of Linguistics, and Dr Alexandra Vella, co-ordinator of the Programme welcomed the participants who hail from France, Germany, Holland and the United States.

The main aim of this International Programme, which will run from 22-31 March 2010, is to give practising linguists and students of linguistics a flavour of the structure of the Maltese language, as well as of the context within which Maltese thrives.

Non-Maltese linguists who have chosen to work with Maltese as one of their primary sources of data often have to resort to dictionary and/or native-speaker information in the absence of a backdrop which could serve to better inform their interpretation of the data being analysed. The International Programme therefore aims to provide linguists and linguists-to-be with information on Maltese that will help them better use the resources available to them in their research. The Programme also provides a forum for Maltese linguists to showcase and discuss their research and lays the ground for collaboration between Maltese linguists and linguists from overseas. The main objectives of this International Programme are therefore: to enhance further interest in the Maltese language, to provide a showcase of state-of-the art research on various aspects of Maltese linguistics (descriptive and historical linguistics, as well as sociolinguistics, computational linguistics, sign linguistics, language planning, and so on) and to increase contact between Maltese linguists and foreign linguists working on Maltese.

The International Programme is organised around three strands: the sound system, the Maltese lexicon, grammar and meaning, and Maltese in context. The sound system provides an overview of the phonetics and phonology of Maltese (segmental and syllable structure, stress and intonation). The Maltese lexicon, grammar and meaning strand examines the lexicon, looking in particular at the Arabic heritage in Maltese vocabulary and at the semantics of possession. It also looks at the structure of Maltese words and sentences and at processes such as inflection, compounding, derivation, word order, topicalisation, verbless structure and tense and aspect. The strand Maltese in context examines the linguistically rich context within which Maltese continues to thrive and sketches work being done in areas such as language planning, Maltese Sign Language and computer technologies and Maltese. Effects on Maltese of its recently acquired status as an official language of the EU will also be discussed and a brief foray into Maltese literature made. An optional course in Maltese for adults/foreigners is also being offered to interested participants in parallel to the International Programme through L-Iskola tal-Malti.

The fact that the International Programme is taking place in Malta is important in the context of the aims of the Programme in that participants will be able to appreciate, at first hand, the richness of the linguistic situation in Malta. In-course excursions to various historical sites, some with linguistic interest, should further serve to enhance the overall experience for Programme participants.

The International Programme is being organised by the Institute of Linguistics in collaboration with the Department of Maltese. 13 lecturers coming from the Institute of Linguistics and from 5 Departments of different Faculties, Arts, Education and ICT, are involved. An interesting mix of participants including linguists as well as others who use Maltese in their work (such as a librarian and a translator), will be participating in this Programme, a factor which should increase the chances of the Programme achieving its goals.

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