Maltese Lexicography goes back to the 17th century, to the first known dictionary of the Maltese Language, the Regole per la Lingua Maltese, which I had the honour to recover at the Biblioteca Vallicelliana in Rome (Cassola 1992, Said International). A century later we had Agius de Soldanis’s Damma ta’ Kliem (around 1760-70), the anonymous Mezzo Vocabolario (Cassola 1996, Said International) and Mikiel Anton Vassalli’s masterpiece (Rome, 1796).
The twentieth century saw the publication of two veritable pillars of Maltese lexicography: Erin Serracino Inglott’s Il-Miklem Malti and Guze’ Aquilina’s Maltese-English Dictionary.
Only a few years have passed since then but technology has improved by leaps and bounds and the invention of internet has provided tools which contribute to rendering more efficient our modern dictionaries. Karistu Abela is about to publish a monumental work, in scores of volumes… fruit of a lifetime’s work of passion.
Ian Vella is instead the creator of the first online English to Maltese dictionary which can be found at www.englishmaltesedictionary.com, which certainly needs to be much more known amongst all speakers of Maltese than it actually is at the moment. This work is
a simple no-nonsense tool that solves quick linguistic queries. It’s simplicity for the normal user is coupled with the fact that it is well-documented and based on most authoratative dictionaries.
Initatiatives like Vella’s should be lauded, promoted and aided by government and also through EU subsidies because they not only help normal people in their daily work but also give a strong contribution to the conservation, enrichment and enhancement of our language which, we must never forget, is the only national language of the EU (and of Europe) of Semitic origin.
The Maltese speaking generations of today and tomorrow owe a lot to the work of people like Ian Vella.