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Romansh (also spelled Rumantsch, Romansch or Romanche) is one of the four national languages of Switzerland, along with German, Italian and French. It is a Romance language, believed to have descended from the vulgar Latin spoken by Roman era occupiers of the region, and as such, somewhat resembles Italian and French. It is spoken by around 50-70,000 people in the canton of Grisons (Graubünden), the "canton of a hundred and fifty valleys." Spoken by only some 1% of Switzerland's 7.4 million inhabitants, it is the smallest of Switzerland's official languages in terms of number of speakers.
Romansh is not a single language but a group of closely-related languages or dialects, all belonging to the family of the Rhaetian languages. The group of various Rhaetian languages spoken in Switzerland are termed Romansh; the other members of the group are from northern Italy: Friulian, spoken by around 500-600,000 people in the north-east, and Ladin, spoken by around 20,000 in the Dolomite mountains of the Italian Tyrol.
The five largest languages in the Romansh family are Sursilvan, Sutsilvan, Surmiran, Puter and Vallader. Puter and Vallader are sometimes considered one language: Ladin. Ladin is sometimes associated with the language in Italy's Dolomite mountains also known as Ladin. The ISO 639 language codes are rm and roh.
Romansh was standardized in 1982 by Zürich-based linguist Heinrich Schmid. The standardized language, called Rumantsch Grischun, has not been very well accepted, and speakers of the different dialects tend to address one another in German. This is leading to an accelaration of the decline of the language. On the orthographic level, Schmid sought to avoid all "odd-looking" spellings, in order to increase general acceptability of the new idiom and its spelling. Therefore, words with /t?/ followed by /a/, /o/, /u/ have (for example chalanda) as both speakers of Engadin (chalanda) and the Rhine territory (calanda) expect a spelling with . However, and are pronounced /ke/ and /ki/, being a grapheme deemed unfit for a Romance language such as Romansh; therefore, words with /t?/ plus /e/ or /i/ have (for example tgirar) instead of . The use of for both /?/ and /?/, and of for /t?/ is taken over from German, making Romansh spelling a compromise between Romance (Italian, French) and German spelling.
Romansh is spoken/used in Switzerland
Copyright © Kenneth Katzner, The Languages of the World, Published by Routledge.