MERHBA is the Maltese word for "Welcome".

 

Maltese is the national language of Malta, and an official language of the European Union. The language goes back since the beginning of the Maltese history, including the Punic Times. St. Luke the evangelist refers to Maltese as Barbarians, (they do not speak Latin or Greek). This shows that during Roman times the Maltese spoke a Punic dialect, which derived from the Phoenicians. At the end of the 9th century AD the Arabs conquered a large part of the Mediterranean, including Malta, and they changed the structure of Maltese-Punic Language. Until the end of the Arab rule the language was purely Semitic. In 1091 when Count Roger came to Malta, words of Romantic origins (mainly Sicilian) were introduced. Italian subsequently became the official language in Malta until 1936 when Maltese was declared the official language alongside English. The Maltese language today has a Semitic structure with Romantic influences. It is estimated that 50% of the vocabulary is Semitic, the rest being Romance.

Although influenced by Romance, Maltese grammar is still strongly Semitic. Maltese is the only Semitic language written in the Latin alphabet.

Maltese vocabulary is a hybrid of Arabic Semitic roots and Sicilian Italian words. In this respect it is similar to English (Germanic-Romance mix) and Persian (Indo-Iranian/Arabic mix).

Today, there are an estimated 330,000 Maltese speakers. A significant number of Maltese expatriates in Australia, the United States and Canada can still speak the language.