Re: Addition of remaining two Maltese Characters to Unicode

From: Angelo Dalli (
Date: Tue Aug 01 2000 - 04:30:19 EDT

There is actually no problem in representing the Maltese 'gh' with two code
point sequences since the sequence 'gh' does not appear in any other
circumstance except when referring to the character 'gh'. Regarding
translation issues, a weak argument in favour would be to make the relation
between the Maltese 'gh' and its Semitic counterpart explicit since 'gh' is
one of the Maltese consonants of purely Semitic origin.

Regarding 'ie' however, there must be some way to distinguish 'i' + 'e' from
'ie'. This is important for two main reasons,

1. Sorting problems - 'i' should come before 'ie'...
2. Means of distinguishing Maltese words from borrowed foreign words -
without an 'ie' representation, for example, the English word "friends"
would not be distinguishable automatically from the Maltese word "ktieb".

Consider the following list, where friend and frigate are borrowed English

> liema
> friend
> iehor
> id-dar
> frigate

The word list should be represented at character level as,

> l ie m a
> f r i e n d
> ie h o r
> i d - d a r
> f r i g a t e

which would result in the sorted list,

> friend
> frigate
> id-dar
> iehor
> liema

However if the 'ie' in friend is simply assumed to be 'ie', not 'i' + 'e'
the list would be sorted (incorrectly) as,

> frigate
> friend
> id-dar
> iehor
> liema

This issue is very important in Maltese since most Maltese persons are
bi-lingual (and even tri-lingual) resulting in frequent borrowing of foreign
words (especially of English origin).

I don't know Dutch, but from the comments I read maybe the Maltese 'ie' has
a perfect analogy with 'ij' ? (I think it probably sounds the same too!)


Angelo Dalli

Department of Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence
University of Malta

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