05 January 2010

Tagalog in Malta

Forgive me for getting excited, but it's the first time I heard from a scholarly source that Tagalog actually influenced a language outside the Philippines (although Philippine folklore does tell of people in Madagascar and people in the mountains of Taiwan speaking languages similar to Tagalog or Cebuano). Here's an excerpt from Thomas Stolz's "Chamorro and Malti as Mixed Languages" in The Mixed-Language Debate: Theoretical and Empirical Advances (2003), edited by Yaron Matras and Peter Bakker:

“The first known text written in Malti is a recently discovered poem by Pietru Caxaro composed around 1450 (Cachia 2000: 11-13). The earliest document of Chamorro was produced almost 220 years later. It is considerably longer than the Malti poem. In 1668, the Spanish missionary Sanvitores wrote a grammar-cum-catechism in Latin and Chamorro re-edited by Burrus (1954: 941-960). Almost at the same time (about 1650), the second Maltese text known so far appeared, a sonnet by Gann Frangisk Bonamico celebrating the Grandmaster of the Knights (Cachia 2000: 16-9). It is important to bear in mind that the early Maltese texts were originals produced by native speakers, whereas the Chamorro equivalents were written by a Spaniard probably with the help of a Tagalog assistant from the Spanish possessions in the Philippines (Burrus 1954: 936).” (p. 294)

I've never been to Malta but am now eager to get there somehow, just to hear any Tagalog-sounding word in Malti. Since Spaniards occupied the Philippines only in the last years of the 16th century (although Ferdinand Magellan visited in 1521), the Tagalog assistant must not have been very fluent in Spanish and must have been speaking Tagalog at least part of the time, influencing the writers then. More research needed!

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