>But, in writing, the relationship reverses: people only write in standard
>Italian. The few exceptions are only texts which clearly are dialectal
>literature (e.g. traditional songs, poems, theater, etc.).
Yes, that is a very good parallel to the Maltese situation. And of
course, such items are often written by those who are carefulin their
spelling and grammar.

>I know that such a chaos is *not* the situation of Maltese spelling.
>However, I know that there are problems to represent some letters on
>computers (e.g. barred H), and probably people don't feel very comfortable
>with a spelling that they only used back in school times.
Last night a six year old tried using my new vocabulary program. (Shows
a picture, you type in the word.) Printed on my keyboard are the Maltese
letters in roughly their proposed locations. This morning, a young
colleague also tried the program. The six year old did much better in
spelling the words. Why? My colleague is used to typing Maltese
incorrectly and so always writes the unbarred h, undotted letters, etc,
out of habit. The six year old hasn't "learned" not to expect Maltese
orthography. If this was given on pencil and paper, I know my colleague
wouldn't make the same mistakes.

( Of course langauges and orthographies change for many reasons. But a
reason of 'because the computer doesn't support it' makes me sad! )

There are dialectical pronunciations, vocabulary, and spellings in
Maltese, in fact, and i have started to record them :)
Well, Maltese orthography, the barred H and so on, has only been
standardized since 1920. In some sense it is still young as a written
langauge, I think.

Progress is being made however, by the end of the year the standards
group (ISO chapter) should come out with a final keyboard. I have been
demonstrating computer systems which represent the orthography
correctly, and I am trying to get together some guidelines on
typographical issues because there are some variations as to how the
"apostrophe" is used, when it refers to the elision of some other
letters. For example, nistghu (we can) but nista' (I can). The '
indicates a final "gh" (conceptually: nistagh) which is omitted. (gh is
crossed of course). I have seen the apostrophe there written as a curly
quote ("inverted comma"), straight backwards pointing tick (like an
accute accent), and also as a vertical mark similar to a prime.

Thanks for the insight re: Italian. A lot of things are mysterious to
me, and as a recovering monoglot it is good to have situations to
compare to.

Actually, I ran across an 1845 or so dictionary. It had some characters
which are not in use today (being prior to the aforementioned 1920),
such as: dotted h for a harsher form of the barred h, and the ghajn was
written as an upside-down U (complete with nice serifs- i.e. it seemed
like a U was actually turned upside down). As well, there was a dotted U
to represent ayn versus ghajn. This distinction is lost today, however
it seems to be present in some pronunciation.