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Romansh speakers remain rooted in their culture

Speakers of Romansh, Switzerland's fourth language which is spoken by less than one per cent of the population, are very attached to their culture, a study has found.

But they resist moves to standardise their dialects - of which there are five – predominately spoken in the eastern canton of Graubünden.

Only around 60,000 people actively use the Latin-based Romansh, whose exact origins remain unknown.

The study, part of the Language Diversity and Linguistic Competence in Switzerland research programme of the Swiss National Science Foundation, looked at speakers in the two largest Romansh regions, Surselva and the Lower Engadine.

It found that the dialects, as a spoken mother tongue, had strong emotional ties and formed part of family and local identity.

A majority rejected the standardised Romansh Grischun which was introduced in 1982 as a way of bridging the dialects, especially for writing. People said that they rarely wrote or read Romansh, so saw no need for the new version.

There was also no feeling of an all-encompassing Romansh identity, with most of those interviewed feeling rooted in their individual home valley or village. Even the younger generation showed little interest.

Romansh speakers were, however, shown to be more multilingual than the average Swiss and were generally flexible about speaking different languages, the study found.

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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