Philip Newton (pne) wrote,
Philip Newton

Listening to Romansh

The other day, I tried to listen to RTR (Romansh radio and television), and it worked—last time, I couldn't get it to play in my browser.

My first impression was that it sounded Portuguese: lots of "sch" in it and a fair bit of "au" probably contributed to that impression.

And for a couple of words I learned that I had guessed the wrong vowel quality ("oz" as if spelled "otz" in German, not "ohz"; "betg" as if spelled "behtch" in German, not "bettch") or stress ("medèm" not "mèdem", "Pigniù" not "Pìgniu"). Oh, and that Glion is /'ʎɔn/ (лён) rather than /ʎi'ɔn/ (лиóн).

It was also fun trying to guess where the speakers came from; while some speakers, especially on the news, apparently spoke Rumantsch Grischun, others seemed to speak Sursilvan or Vallader. The former was most easily recognised by less palatalisation of c- and g- and (perhaps even more easily) by masculine participles in -au and -ai (instead of -à and -ads) and the -s on predicative adjectives; the latter most easily by front rounded vowels (especially "ü"), but also by the use of "nu" for negation and palatalised "cha" for the relative pronoun rather than velar "che".

What was handy was that it was possible to listen not only to a live stream of the radio, but also to some individual programs (especially news on the hour) and even—from links on the "news" page—to individual news segments or stories; since live radio played a lot of music, which doesn't help with Romansh listening comprehension.

On the whole, I certainly didn't understand everything, but I understood bits and pieces everywhere, which was encouraging.

ETA: another interesting thing was the realisation of /r/. Most speakers had a tap or trill or something ([ɾ] or [r] or so), but some had a "German" /r/, a voiced fricative: [ɣ] or [ʁ] or something like that. One or two of those speakers had other qualities in their pronunciation (vowel qualities, I guess? maybe overall melody? can't put my finger on it) that made me wonder whether they were second-language speakers, most seemed otherwise fluent and appropriately-accented. So I guess that's just an individual thing or something?

Also, I wonder why they spoke Rumantsch Grischun on news programs; I recently read in a "Romansh: facts and figures" thingy that most Romansh speakers preferred RG to remain a written-only standard language. Perhaps the radio folks think that RG is most easily understood throughout the Rumantschia? Since I also read that most Romansh speakers aren't used to understanding other dialects than their own... but quite a bit of the programming was also in dialects, so... I got nothing.

ETA 2: I just watched today's issue of Telesguard; the presenter was apparently from Upper Engiadine and spoke Puter. It was striking to me how different it sounded just from the long e's in places where other dialects usually have long a's (and not just in typical adjective endings such as chantunal/chantunel, but even in words such as "generel" for "general", as in the military rank).

Tags: romansh

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