University of Malta

12 April 2013
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Francesco Vella:  An Unsung protagonist of Maltese Language Development 

By: Prof. Arnold Cassola      Date: 12 April 2013 

Description: Francesco Vella deserves much more recognition than what he has received to date.  His multi-faceted intellectual activity ranges from that of grammarian to lexicographer; philosopher of education to ‘alphabetarian’; to writer of children’s books with a moral aim.

Now that we have at our disposal a much more comprehensive overview of Vella’s life and works, we can clearly state that his role in the forging of our national language and in creating the necessary awareness in favour of a national culture should be re-evaluated.

Francesco Vella was born in Cospicua on the 11 April 1793, the second son of  Giuseppe and Francesca nee Cilia from Valletta.  He was baptised 12 April 1793 in the church of S. Maria del Soccorso, today the parish church of Cospicua and given the name of Giovanni Francesco Vincenzo Emidio Luca Vella.

Francesco Vella is not only a chronological trait d’union between M.A. Vassalli, who was born in 1764, and G. A. Vassallo, born in 1817; he is actually the person who, through his works, acted as an ideal go-between between the linguist Vassalli and the creative writer Vassallo.  

Time is today ripe for the Maltese nation to recognize as well Francesco Vella’s great merits in the promotion of what is today Malta’s national language.  Today, we celebrate 220 years after the birth of Francesco.  The establishment of Maltese as an official laguage would have never been achieved had it not been for the indefatigable work of a number of people including the three Maltese intellectuals of the 18-19th centuries, i.e. Vassalli, Vella and Vassallo.

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