Switzerland: Single Romansh literary form to be introduced by 2024

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Tue Jan 18 16:09:41 UTC 2005

Single Romansh literary form to be introduced by 2024

Biel / Bienne 1/17/2005 , by Peter Josika

After years of controversy the Swiss canton of Grischun (Graubuenden
/Grigioni) has finally passed a law that allows for a step by step
introduction of one single Romansh literary form by 2024.

Romansh (Rumantsch) is one of three surviving Rhaeto-Romanic languages,
besides Ladin and Friulian, still used in the Southern Alpine region.
Romansh had traditionally been spoken in most of modern day Graubuenden,
as well as in western parts of South Tyrol (Suedtirol).

Today there are only a few valleys in Grischun where the language has
survived. However in those valleys Romansh has now the status of an
official language.

Due to the remoteness of Romansh settlements, and their relative distance
from each other, dialects vary considerably. The language taught in the
schools of the various Romansh speaking valleys therefore also show
considerable differences.

Some groups representing Romansh speakers, including the umbrella
organization Lia Rumantscha, believe that the continuous demise of Romansh
language speakers, confirmed by the latest census results, is to a large
extent caused by the absence of a common literary language.

However, the campaign for the introduction of a common literary language
has also been subject to major criticism by groups that fear the loss to
the unique linguistic diversity in Romansh Grischun. They see many of the
most archaic dialects of Europe endangered.

Although the new common literary language called Rumantsch Grischun has
already been developed in the 70s and 80s, it wasnt until 2003 that there
was sufficient will among politicians and language representatives to
table a serious concept for the introduction of Rumantsch Grischun in
schools and public administration.

The initial proposal has been revised repeatedly to accommodate the
concerns of various interest groups and affected parties. Rumantsch
Grischun will now be introduced over a substantially longer period of time
than initially proposed while the use of the new common Romansh language
will be limited to its written form. Educational institutions may continue
to use the local dialect as the spoken language, particularly in primary

The total cost of the project, due to commence in 2007, is estimated at
around 10 million Swiss francs, of which two thirds will be provided by
the federal government.

The new bill was announced by cantonal MP Claudio Lardi, who said in a
speech that he was committed to finally pushing through the decade old
agenda Rumantsch Grischun. He continued: Sometimes I think I would make
myself more popular by calling off the whole project. However, this would
be opportunism without a vision. (Eurolang  2005)


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