Maltese is a Semitic language of the Afro-Asiatic language family. It is the national language of Malta, and an official language of the European Union. It is derived from, and most closely related to, Arabic. Apart from its phonology, Maltese bears considerable similarity to urban varieties of Tunisian Arabic. Maltese also shares similarities with other North African Arabic dialects; however in the course of Malta’s recent history, the language has adopted many loanwords, and even phonetic and phonological features, from Southern Italian, Sicilian, and English. Maltese is the only Semitic language written in the Latin alphabet in its standard form. It is also the only Semitic language native to a geopolitically European country, although, geophysically, Malta is generally regarded as forming part of the African continental plate.