Monday, December 22, 2008

Romansh

Romansh is one of the four official languages of Switzerland along with German, French and Italian. A Romance language spoken by approximately 1% of the population, it is the least spoken and least known of Switzerland's official languages.

Romansh is spoken in the southeastern part of Switzerland. It has a number of dialects but was standardized by the Swiss linguist Heinrich Schmid. It is believed to be a remnant of Latin which was spoken by soldiers of the Roman empire in present-day Switzerland.

The vocabulary of Romansh has much in common with other Romance languages such as Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese. This is clear upon examination of the numbers from one to ten. In the following list I have placed the Romansh numbers next to the Spanish ones for the purpose of comparison:

in uno
dus dos
trais tres
quatter cuatro
tschintg cinco
sis seis
set siete
otg ocho
nov nueve
diesch diez

The orthography of Romansch bears similarities to that of German. As a result, the "sch" and "tsch" correspond to the "sh" and "ch" of English. The "tg" is a voiceless post-alveolar affricate and is pronounced with a more retracted articulation than that of alveopalatals.

Romansch is a Romance language with a relatively small number of speakers. Nevertheless, it has survived, largely due to the efforts of the Swiss to preserve this part of their heritage.

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