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New rules on Maltese words aimed at removing variants

An exercise to streamline the Maltese language by eliminating different written variants for the same word was aimed at updating the language and providing effective tools for those using it, the National Council for Maltese Language said yesterday.

The amendments - published in last Friday's Government Gazette - have sought to remove different written versions of the same word, which were all considered correct.

Council president Manwel Mifsud said the exercise sought to reduce uncertainty when writing Maltese.

Orthographic variants were also posing a hindrance to the language, especially when it comes to research on electronic media, making the council believe that there was a need for more discipline in the writing of Maltese, as long as this did not go against its nature. However, the council also sought to remove unnecessary rigidity when it comes to the written language while trying to remain loyal to the language's roots, Prof. Mifsud said.

"This is a tool for the public and not for linguistic experts and it therefore needs to be simple and clear."

The council has already dealt with 300 orthographic variants but will still have to discuss how to write English words that have infiltrated everyday language and 500 phonetic variants.

Asked whether the new changes will bring about the need for a new dictionary, Prof. Mifsud said the council was thinking of compiling an online dictionary, which would incorporate the changes.

He pointed out that, although the changes have already come into effect, people have three years to comply, which also means that students can use different versions in their exams without being penalised. Albert Borg, who headed the committee that dealt with the changes, said deciding which variant to keep was no easy task with the 11-strong committee discussing for long hours.

While linguistic arguments were important, so was the public's preference because orthography not only has to be correct but also a convenient, easy and popular way for everyday writing without the fear of making mistakes.

The changes can be accessed online on the council's website www.kunsilltalmalti.gov.mt.

Some changes in Maltese words

• Tvalja (tablecloth) has been changed to dvalja.

• Lembuba (baton or rolling pin) instead of lenbuba.

• Skont (discount or according) will replace skond.

• Karozza (car) will replace karrozza.

• Awwissu (August) will replace Awissu.

• Iżlam and Iżlamiku (Islam and Islamic) will be used instead of Islam and Iskamiku.

• Peprin (poppy) will replace pepprin.

• Nagħaġ (sheep) will replace ngħaġ.

• Prefixes should be written as part of a word, like kofinanzjat (co-financed) and semiawtomatiku (semi-automatic).

• Prepositions like ġo, ma', sa and ta' should be joined with the article, like sal-Italja and ġol-università.

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