Romansh – Switzerland’s Fourth National Language

Filed in Swiss Traditions, Switzerland by on January 13, 2019 0 Comments

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Romansh –

Switzerland’s Fourth National Language


Romansh - Switzerland's Fourth National Language - Graubünden

Graubünden – courtesy of MySwitzerland

Romansh Switzerland’s Fourth Language

Everyone knows that in Switzerland German, French and Italian are national languages. However, there is a fourth one, Romansh which is spoken solely in the Canton of Graubünden. Romansh only became the fourth national language in 1938 and an official language of Switzerland in 1996. It is spoken mainly in the Surselva Valley and in the Lower Engadine. All Romansh speakers are bilingual, speaking at least another Swiss national language. Graubünden is the only Swiss canton where there are not one, but three official languages, which are German, Italian and Romansh.

Romansh is a Romance Language

Like Italian and French Romansh is a Romance language. However, it is in decline and in 2013 only  0.5% of Swiss people said Romansh as one of their main languages whereas in 1910 the the figure was 1.1%. It is of course an important part of the Swiss national heritage and according to records there are 1,000 Romansch speakers living in Zurich!

A Legacy From The Romans

Romansh came about following the Romans conquest of Rhaetia (which is roughly the Graubünden area) in 15 B.C. “Rumantsch”  was spoken by most people living in Graubünden until the 15th century, when  German became the administrative language and subsequently grew in importance.

Five Main Dialects Of Romansh

There are several dialects to Romansh – the main varieties being Sursilvan, Sutsilvan, Surmiran, Puter and Vallader.

So when you are next in the Graubünden area of Switzerland, do keep an eye out for signs in Romansh as well as the locals speaking this very unique and historic language.


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