Philip Newton (pne) wrote,
Philip Newton

Engadinese: Upper and Lower, it's all the same in the end?

I was reading a recent issue of La Quotidiana this morning in the train, and on one page, in the Engiadina section, there were two news items:

One was about the school in La Punt-Chamues-ch which is scheduled to change from a so-called "Romansh school" (not sure what it was like there specifically, but apparently a typical case is 100% Romansh in years 1–4, then about 50% German) to a bilingual school (14% of class time will be in German in 1st grade, with that value rising to 37% by 5th grade); the other was about a doctor in Zernez closing his practice after 24 years.

Now, the funny thing was that La Punt-Chamues-ch is in the district of Maloja, i.e. Upper Engadine, and Puter is traditionally spoken there, while Zernez is in the district of Inn, i.e. Lower Engadine, and Vallader is traditionally spoken there—but the article about the bilingual school in La Punt-Chamues-ch was in Vallader, and the article about the doctor's practice was in Puter!

Even more interesting was that both articles included quotes from local people, and those quotes were also in the same idiom as the article; so presumably the author of the article "translated" them from spoken Vallader to written Puter or vice versa.

Though on second thoughts, I don't know how close the speech of the people interviewed was to the written standard anyway; I don't know how different local dialects are. It's possible that either written idiom is equally close or far from the way they actually speak. As for the doctor, I see that he was born in Celerina, so perhaps his speech is more Puter than Vallader; I don't know how much it might have changed/approached the local variety during the long time he spent in Zernez. Finally, for all I know, the people interviewed might even have spoken German rather than Romansh to the journalist....

I also wonder what things were like on the next page (still in the Engiadina section), which is about Val Müstair. The article is in Vallader, which is traditionally the written form used in Val Müstair, but as I understand it, the dialects spoken there are a bit different from those spoken on the other side of the Fuorn Pass in Lower Engadine (more conservative in some respects, for example).

So I suppose the words of Gabriella Binkert, "director of the ventur(?) Regional Natural Park of National Importance, Biosfera Val Müstair", would not usually have been transcribed exactly as she spoke them (assuming she spoke Romansh to the journalist in the first place, though Val Müstair is fairly firmly Romansh-speaking as far as I know), since Jauer, the local dialect(s), is usually not written.

(And then at the bottom of that page is a short article about "the smallest museum in the world" (size: "about 0.1 m²", or about 1 sq.ft.) in St. Moritz—written in Rumantsch Grischun. I wonder why not Puter?)

All this makes me a bit sad that I don't speak a more "divergent" regional dialect of German—that made it easier to learn standard German, since my dialect is nearly standard anyway, but it makes it hard for me to understand the situation where someone's native speech is not well represented by the usual written standard in use in that area.

The differences between how I'd write and how I'd speak are most closely related to the difference between "formal, written" and "informal, spoken" rather than (or so I feel; I may be deluding myself) to real dialectal differences in word usage, grammar, syntax, morphology, or phonology, so I don't have a good grasp of what it's like for people for whom this is not the case.

Tags: language, romansh
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