Philip Newton (pne) wrote,
Philip Newton

Romansh in _The Languages of the World_

One of my favourite books in my high school library was Kenneth Katzner's The Languages of the World, which briefly describes many of the world's languages, which a short sample text plus translation in each article. A few years ago, I bought the book so that I could have it on my shelf.

A while ago, I remember re-reading the article on Maltese and realising I could now understand some of it, and the other day, I thought I'd see whether Romansh was also included.

And lo and behold, it was, kind of:


A Vella, la veglia capitala la Lumnezia e liug distinguiu da purs e pugnieras, tonscha la splendur dil geraun tochen maneivel dallas cases. El ruaus della dumengia damaun fa ei la pareta che vitg e vultira seigien in esser, ch’igl undegiar dils feins madirs seplonti viavon sur seivs e miraglia, encurend in sinzur davos ils veiders glischonts dellas cases. L’empermischun della stad schai ell’aria cun si’odur pesonta da rosas selvatgas e mèl, mo era cugl aspect penibel da spinas e carduns.

In Vella, ancient capital of the Lumnezia Valley, long the domain of bredders of prized cattle, the speldnro of the home fields seems to touch the very hosues. In the hush of Sunday morning, on gets the feeling that village and nature are fused into one, that the swaying of the rpiening alfalfa seems to stretch beyond the boundaries and walls, almost listening for an echo behind the shining windowpanes of the surrounding homes. The promise of summer is in the very air with the sweet perfume of wild roses and honey, but also with the painful sight of thorns and thistles.

Toni Halter, The Heardsman of Greina

Rhaeto-Romanic is a collective term for three dialects of the Romance family spoken in northeastern Italy and southeastern Switzerland. Of the more than 500,000 speakers of Rhaeto-Romanic, about 90 percent are in Italy, but there the language is considered a mere patois and has no official status. The Swiss dialect on the other hand, known as Romansch, is one of Switzerland’s four official languages, despite the fact that it is spoken by only one percent of the population. The passage cited above is in ROmansch.

The two Rhaeto-Romanic dialects of Italy are (1) Friulian, with about 500,000 speakers in the region of Friuli, near the border with Austria and Slovenia; (2) Ladin, with about 10,000 speakers in Alto Adige to the west. Romansch is spoken by about 50,000 people in the Swiss canton of Graubünden, bordering Austria and Italy. The survival of Rhaeto-Romanic, despite pressures from surrounding languages, is largely due to the isolation of its speakers in extremely mountainous regions.

So the book’s position on La questione ladina (more discussion on the Questione Ladina in the German Wikipedia) seems to be that Friulian, Ladin, and Romansh are dialects of the same language (family) “Rhaeto-Romanic”.

I also rather missed a mention of the fact that there are five written standards of Romansh in Switzerland (I think this is what is called a pluricentric language), called “idioms” locally. If I’m not mistaken, the text is specifically in Sursilvan (though I would have expected casas rather than cases).

In a sidenote, it’s perhaps interesting to compare the situation of Rumantsch Grischun as a compromise written standard of the five Romansh varieties to Ladin Dolomitan as a similar compromise written standard of the five Ladin varieties.

Tags: romansh
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