Maltese is a Central Semitic language spoken by about 420,000 people on the Mediterranean islands of Malta, Gozo (Għawdex) and Comino (Kemmuna). The Maltese language developed from the Siculo-Arabic or Sicilian Arabic, a form of Arabic that developed in Sicily and Malta between the 9th and 14th centuries. Siculo-Arabic was extinct in Sicily by about 1300, but continued to be spoken in Malta and evolved into Maltese.
The first reference to Malta having a distinct language dates from 1364, and the language is first referred to as lingua maltensi in the will of a certain Pawlu Peregrino from 1436.
There is also a theory that Maltese developed from Carthaginian or Punic, the language of Carthage, which was a form of Phoenician. This theory was endorsed by Giacomo Bosio in his book, Dell’Istoria della Sacra Religione et Illustrissima Militia di San Giovanni Gierosolimitano (The History of the Sacred Religion and Illustrious Militia of St John of Jerusalem), written between 1594 and 1602.
As Carthaginian and Arabic are both Semitic languages that developed from the same roots, it is difficult to be sure whether Maltese words arrived via Carthaginian or Arabic.
The first known literary text in Maltese, II Cantilena, appeared during the 15th century, the first Maltese dicitonary was published in 1649.