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Home > Mezzofanti > Biography > 1834 > German

Among these less commonly cultivated languages, I may also class Maltese. In this Mezzofanti was equally at home. As Maltese can scarcely be said to possess anything like a literature, it may be presumed that he acquired it chiefly by oral instruction, partly from occasional visitors to Rome, partly from some Maltese servants who were in the Propaganda at the time of his arrival. This much at least is certain, that, in the year 1840, he spoke the language freely and familiarly. Father Andrew Schembri, of La Valetta, during a residence in Rome in that year, having conducted the preparatory spiritual exercises for a number of youths to whom the Cardinal administered the first communion in the church of San Vito, met his Eminence at breakfast in the convent attached to this church. No sooner was Father Schembri presented to him as a Maltese, than he entered into conversation with him in his own language. Another Maltese ecclesiastic, Canon Falzou of the cathedral, met the Cardinal in Rome at a later date, in 1845-6. In the course of his sojourn he " had frequent opportunities, for a period of eleven months, of conversing with him in Maltese, which he spoke very well."

I need scarcely observe that, although in the capital and the principal towns of Malta, the prevailing language is Italian, the dialect spoken by the rural population contains a large admixture of foreign elements, chiefly Arabic and Greek. To what a degree the former language enters into the composition of Maltese, may be inferred from the well-known literary imposture of Vella, who attempted to pass off a forgery of his own as an Arabic history of Sicily under the Arabs.

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