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Romansh language

Romansh (also spelled Rumantsch, Romansch or Romanche) is any of the various Rhaetian languages spoken in Switzerland. The five largest idioms are Sursilvan, Sutsilvan, Surmiran, Puter and Vallader. Puter and Vallader are sometimes considered one idiom: Ladin. Ladin is sometimes associated with the idiom in Italy's Dolomite mountains also known as Ladin.

Romansh was standardized in 1982. This is called Rumantsch Grischun. On the orthographic level, Heinrich Schmid sought to avoid all "odd-looking" spellings, in order to increase general acceptability of the new idiom and its spelling. Therefore, words with [c] plus [e] or [i] have <tg> (tgirar) instead of <ch>. Words with [c] followed by [a], [o], [u] have <ch> (chalanda) as both speakers of Engadin (chalanda) and the Rhine territory (calanda) expect a spelling with <c->. At the same time, che and chi are—due to this rule, called "Leza Uffers Kompromiss"—pronounced [ke] and [ki].   <k>, on the other hand, would be a grapheme deemed unfit for a Romance tongue such as Romansh. Schwa ([ə]), however, is represented by <e> in Romansh, which makes it closer to German, as does the use of <sch> for both [S] ([ʃ]) and [Z] ([ʒ]), and <tsch> for [tS] ([ʧ]).

On the other hand, the fact that there is no <, > in Rumantsch Grischun may not only be due to the lack of [y] and [] in most Romansh idioms, but also to the graphic form which is seen as non-Romance. This also shows that it is not always phonetics that leads to the adoption of a new grapheme, but sometimes also the lack of a grapheme that leads to a certain phonetic shape of the standard. All in all, Romansh spelling is a compromise between Romance (Italian, French) and Germanic (German) spelling.

The Lia Rumantscha is the umbrella organization for all Romansh associations. Their web site provides further background information. Standard Romansh language is called Rumantsch grischun.

See also: dialect.

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Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45