Relative chronology has long been, and still is, a fundamental resource for linguistic reconstruction. In the second half of the last century, this resource has been implemented by important developments in phonological theory. In the same period, however, its determinism has been strongly criticized from a socio-linguistic point of view, by showing that its inferences are only valid when applied to subsystems and do not account for their interaction in the diasystem. In this paper the possibility of inferring the chronology of diachronic phonological processes in Maltese is tested. As a Semitic language strongly interfered by Italo-Romance, Maltese represents a challenging object for historical linguists, since its evolution can only be described by considering the Semitic and the Romance elements in their diasystemic interaction. It will be shown that, to a limited extent, the chronology of some major shifts can be satisfyingly reconstructed. Nevertheless, the possibility of contact-induced rule reordering and inversion must always be considered, as demonstrated by the adaptation of the Romance loanwords as far as both vowel fronting (imāla) and integration of [p] and [k] are concerned.
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