Maltese, an Arabic language with a heavily mixed Semitic/Romance lexicon, has been in the focus of studies concerning loan verbs (Mifsud, 1993) and the complex interplay of different systems of verbal morphology (Spagnol, 2011). Comparably few studies have been concerned with the Romance element in the Maltese derivational system with the exception of some treatment by Brincat (2012). Numerous derivational elements (mainly from Sicilian and Italian) have been integrated into the Maltese morphological system. These derivational formatives exhibit varying degrees of productivity and underlie different sets of restrictions regarding the nature of their bases (word class, phonological structure, Semitic/Romance/English origin).
Firstly, the study will catalogue the different Romance derivational formatives in Maltese, taking into account their functions, restrictions and frequencies. Secondly, a quantitative study using the MLRS (Maltese Language Resource Server) corpus will compare the productivity of a selection of affixes in Maltese with the productivity of the cognate affixes in Italian, using Italian data and a variable corpus approach by Gaeta & Ricca (2006). In addition, the Maltese phenomenon of ‘pseudo-Romance loans’ (taking a Romance form but an English meaning) will be discussed in the context of the broader implications of this research on theories of language contact such as MAT vs PAT borrowing (Sakel, 2007).
Ultimately, the combination of cataloguing formatives, assessing and comparing their productivity and restrictions supported by a more fine-grained analysis of phenomena connected to creativity and language contact will shed light on the following questions:
- How integrated are the Romance derivational formatives in Maltese (application to Semitic and Romance bases)?
- Is it possible to establish classes of affixes that underlie similar applicability restrictions, possibly relating to different etymological strata (earlier Sicilian vs later Italian borrowings)?
- Is the productivity of the formatives in Maltese comparable to the patterns found in the source languages?
- Can these observations lead to a better understanding of the process of affix borrowing and the underlying language contact situation (Gardani, Arkadiev & Amiridze, 2015; Matras & Sakel, 2007)?