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43 years since the discovery of the oldest written document in the Maltese language, Maltese author Frans Sammut has managed to decipher its interpretation which could shed light not only on this document but also on the development of the Maltese identity and language.

This document is a poem called “Il-Kantilena ta’ Pietru Caxaro”, which was written by Pietru Caxaru around the year 1470 and a copy of which, written in 1536 by Brandano de Caxaro, was discovered in 1966 by Prof Godfrey Wettinger and Fr Mikiel Fsadni.

Mr Sammut argued that previous researchers of this poem looked up the wrong sources for its interpretation, but that thanks to his detailed studies into both medieval times and the Arabic language, he has now come up with the correct interpretation.

Mr Sammut added that since both previous researchers were historians rather than linguists, they just relied on advice from language professors to help them find the meaning of the words used in this poem.

This means that the textual analysis that was supposed to have been done was in fact never really done at all because the two researchers Wettinger and Fsadni looked up the meanings of the words in the poem from the wrong sources. In fact, all these years, the poem remained just a curious “kantilena and nothing more.

However, Mr Frans Sammut studied neo-Arabic dictionaries and lexicons to find the meanings of all the words in this poem. This helped in giving the correct interpretation to this poem, which, as Mr Sammut stresses, is not a poor rendition of a poem at all, but is in fact a very good poem based on popular models taught during medieval times.

Mr Sammut is presenting his findings during a talk at Bacchus Restaurant in Mdina at 5.30pm on Sunday. He will also publish a book.

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