Philip Newton (pne) wrote,
Philip Newton

Who is Gemma, and why does she keep writing letters to the parish priest?

In one grammar of the Maltese language that I looked at once, they really seemed to like using the example sentence Ġemma kitbet ittra lill-kappillan ("Gemma wrote a letter to the parish priest"), to illustrate some grammatical point or other.

I found it rather amusing once that sentence had cropped up the fifth or sixth time, and wondered what was so special about that sentence that the authors of the book liked it so much as an example sentence :)

Random linguistical observation: the Maltese word ittra derives from a re-interpretation of the Italian lettera "letter" (presumably littra in some dialect or other) as l-ittra, with l- being the definite article in Maltese. The phenomenon is similar to how the English word adder derives from an earlier word nadder (compare German Natter "asp", Ringelnatter "grass snake, ring snake") through a re-interpretation of a nadder as an adder.

Maltese also has an example the other way around: the word ilma "water" derives from a form including the definite article (compare Arabic الماء al-ma' "the water"). Adding the Maltese definite article results in l-ilma, with (theoretically) two definite articles on the same word! (But then, even English has similar things in, say, children, which has two plural suffixes, -(e)r and -en, on the same word, as does Dutch with kinderen and eieren.)

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