Romansh language: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Spoken in  Switzerland
Region Graubünden
Total speakers 35,095 (Swiss federal census 2000)[1]
Language family Indo-European
Official status
Official language in  Switzerland
Regulated by No official regulation
Language codes
ISO 639-1 rm
ISO 639-2 roh
ISO 639-3 roh

Romansh (also spelled Romansch, Rumants(c)h, or Romanche; Romansh: rumantsch/rumauntsch/romontsch; German: Rätoromanisch) is one of the four national languages of Switzerland, along with German, Italian and French. It is one of the Rhaeto-Romance languages, believed to have descended from the Vulgar Latin variety spoken by Roman era occupiers of the region, and, as such, is closely related to French, Occitan and Lombard, as well as other Romance languages to a lesser extent. As of the 2000 Swiss Census, it is spoken by 35,095[1] residents of the canton of Graubünden (Grisons) as the language of "best command", and 61,815 in the "best command" plus "most spoken" categories[2]. Spoken now by around 0.9% of Switzerland's 7.7 million inhabitants, it is Switzerland's least-used national language in terms of number of speakers.



Romansh is an umbrella term covering a group of closely related dialects, spoken in southern Switzerland and all belonging to the Rhaeto-Romance language family. The other members of this language family are spoken in northern Italy. Ladin, to which Romansh is more closely related, is spoken by some 22,550 in the Dolomite mountains of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, and Friulian is spoken by between 550,000 and 595,000 people in northeastern Italy.

The five largest dialects in the Romansh family are:

Puter and Vallader are sometimes referred to as one specific variety known as ladin, as they have retained this word to mean Romansh. However, ladin is primarily associated with the closely related language in Italy's Dolomite mountains also known as Ladin. The ISO 639 language codes are rm and roh.

Romansh is spoken in the Swiss canton of Grisons or Graubünden, "the Grey League", which preserves the name of the self-defense organization of Romance speakers set up in the 15th century. It became part of Switzerland in 1803. Germans once called this language Chur-Wälsch, "foreign speech of Chur" (the English word "Welsh" had the same origin), for Chur was once the center of Romansh. This is cited as one possible explanation of the origin of the modern term "Kauderwelsch" meaning gibberish. However, most of Grisons, including Chur and even its cross-river suburb of Wälschdorfli ("little foreign-language-speaking village"), now speak German; Romansh survives only in the upper valleys of the Rhine and the Inn. Romansh speakers nowadays almost always are multilingual, being able to speak standard German and Italian as well as the local Graubünden dialect of Swiss German.


Romansh was nationally standardised in 1982 by Zürich-based linguist Heinrich Schmid. The standardised language, called Rumantsch Grischun, has been slowly accepted[citation needed]. On the orthographic level, Schmid sought to avoid all "odd-looking" spellings, in order to increase general acceptability of the new idiom and its spelling. Therefore, words with /tɕ/ followed by /a/, /o/, /u/ have <ch> (for example chalanda) as both speakers of Engadin (chalanda) and the Rhine territory (calanda) expect a spelling with <c>. However, <che> and <chi> are pronounced /ke/ and /ki/, <k> being a grapheme deemed unfit for a Romance language such as Romansh; therefore, words with /tɕ/ plus /e/ or /i/ have <tg> (for example tgirar) instead of <ch>. The use of <sch> for both /ʃ/ and /ʒ/, and of <tsch> for /tʃ/ is taken over from German, making Romansh spelling a compromise between Romance (Italian, French) and German spelling.

The Lia Rumantscha is the umbrella organization for all Romansh associations.

Official status in Switzerland

Romansh has been recognised as one of four "national languages" by the Swiss Federal Constitution since 1938. It was also declared an "official language" of the Confederation in 1996, meaning that Romansh speakers may use their Romansh idiom for correspondence with the federal government and expect to receive a Romansh response – in Rumantsch Grischun, because the federal authorities use the standardised idiom exclusively. However, the Constitution specifies that only native Romansh speakers can claim this privilege.[3]

In what the Federal Culture Office itself admits is "more a placatory and symbolic use"[4] of Romansh, the federal authorities occasionally translate some official texts into Romansh. In general, though, demand for Romansh-language services is low, because according to the Federal Culture Office, Romansh speakers may either dislike the official Rumantsch Grischun idiom or prefer to use German in the first place, as most are perfectly bilingual.

On the cantonal level, Romansh is an official language only in the trilingual canton of Graubünden, where the municipalities in turn are free to specify their own official languages.

Distribution of languages in Graubünden canton (2000).     Romansh speaking      German speaking      Italian speaking


The emergence of Romansh as a literary language is generally dated to the mid-16th century. The Engadine dialect was first printed as early as 1552 in Jacob Bifrun's Christiauna fuorma, a catechism; a translation of the New Testament followed in 1560.

The first verse of three verse poem by Peider Lansel (1863–1943), translated by M.E. Maxfield:

O sblacha fluoretta, (O, pale little flow'ret,)
tu vainsch massa bod ! (Too soon thou art here !)
amo be suletta (Alone in the wildwood)
at dervasch nil god. (And full of vague fear.)

First printed Romansh Bible

New Testament

Translated by Jachiam Bifrun:

L’g Nuof Sainc Testamaint da nos Signer Jesu Christi / prais our delg latin & our d’oters launguax & huossa da noef mis in Arumaunsch tres Jachiam Bifrun d’Agnedina [cited from Kantonsbibliothek Graubünden, Sig. KBG 1007:A:220], Basel, 1560.

First (surviving) complete bible. The citation is of a self-described 2nd edition, augmented by Nott da Porta and others on the basis of an earlier, no longer surviving translation by Jacob Anton Vulpius and others going back to at least 1660, when a partial Old Testament was published.

La sacra Biblia : quai ais tuot la Sonchia Scrittüra dal Vegl et Nouf Testamaint cun l’agiunta dall’apocrifa / vert. è stamp. ... in lingua romontscha d’Engiadina bassa tras comün cuost è lavur da Jacobo Antonio Vulpio & Jacob Dorta et ... Men Andrea Wilhelm Rauch, Nuot Nuot Schucan & Men Not Dorta,

Published in Scuol in the Lower Engadine, 1743. [Exemplar located at SILS/E-Biblioteca Engiadinaisa, Kasten. Sign.: BES 22].




The consonant phonemes of Romansh (Rumantsch Grischun) are set out in the following chart:

  Bilabial Labio-
Dental and
Palatal Velar
Stop p  b   t  d       k  ɡ
Affricate     ts tɕ  dʑ    
Nasal m   n     ɲ ŋ
Fricative   f  v s  z   ʃ  ʒ    
Approximant     r     j  
Lateral approximant     l     ʎ  


The vowel phonemes of Romansh are shown in the table below:

Monophthongs Front Back
Close i u
Mid ə
Open-mid ɛ ɔ
Open a
Diphthongs Closer component
is front
Closer component
is back
Closing ai au
Opening ie  

Schwa /ə/ occurs only in unstressed syllables. Vowel length is predictable:

  • Unstressed vowels are short.
  • Stressed vowels in closed syllables (those with a coda) are:
    long before /r/
    short elsewhere
  • Stressed vowels in open syllables are:
    short before voiceless consonants
    long elsewhere


Examples of Common Vocabulary:

English Surselvisch Sutselvisch Surmeirisch Puter Vallader Rumantsch Grischun Latin Italian French Portuguese Spanish Romanian
gold aur or or or or,aur,ar aur aurum oro or ouro oro aur
hard dir dir deir dür dür dir dūrus duro dur duro duro dur
eye egl îl îgl ögl ögl egl oculus occhio oeil olho ojo ochi
light, easy lev leav lev liger leiv lev levis liève, leggero léger leve leve, ligero lejer
three treis tres treis trais trais trais trēs tre trois três tres trei
snow neiv nev neiv naiv naiv naiv nive neve neige neve nieve nea
wheel roda roda roda rouda rouda roda rota ruota roue roda rueda roata
cheese caschiel caschiel caschiel chaschöl chaschöl chaschiel caseolus formaggio fromage queijo queso cascaval
house casa tgeasa tgesa chesa chasa chasa casa casa maison casa casa casa
dog tgaun tgàn tgang chaun chan chaun canis cane chien cão perro caine
leg comba tgomba tgomma chamma chomma chomma camba gamba jambe perna pierna gamba
hen gaglina gagliegna gagligna gillina giallina giaglina gallīna gallina poule galinha gallina gaina
cat gat giat giat giat giat giat cattus gatto chat gato gato pisica
all tut tut tot tuot tuot tut tōtus tutto tout tudo todo tot
shape fuorma furma furma fuorma fuorma furma fōrma forma forme forma forma forma
I jeu jou ja eau eu jau ego io je eu yo eu

Writing system

Romansh alphabet

L'alfabet rumantsch

Majuscule Forms (also called uppercase or capital letters)
Minuscule Forms (also called lowercase or small letters)
a b c d e f g h i j l m n o p q r s t u v x z
a be tse de e ef ghe ha i jot/i lung el em en o pe ku er es te u ve iks tset

The letters k (ka), w (ve dubel), and y (ipsilon or i grec) are used only in words borrowed from foreign languages — for example: kilogram, ski, kino, kiosc, kilo, kilowat, Washington, western, stewardess, whisky, hockey, happy end.

Because most Romansh-speaking people are familiar with German spelling, Romansh orthography borrows from the German language, rather than Italian: The "sh" sound, for example, is written in the Germanic fashion, "sch" (see "rumantsch"), not "sc" as in Italian, and one will find ö and ü in Romansh words.


Consonants Vowels

Some common expressions

  • Allegra. - Hello or welcome
  • Co vai? - How are you?
  • Fa plaschair. - Pleased to meet you.
  • Bun di. - Good morning.
  • Buna saira. - Good evening.
  • Buna notg. - Good night.
  • A revair. - Goodbye.
  • A pli tard. - See you later.
  • Perstgisai. - I beg your pardon.
  • I ma displascha. - I'm sorry.
  • Perdunai. - Excuse me.
  • Per plaschair. - Please.
  • Grazia fitg. - Thank you very much.
  • Anzi. - You're welcome.
  • Gratulazions. - Congratulations.
  • Bun cletg. - Good luck.
  • Ils quants è oz? - What's the date today?
  • Quants onns has ti? - How old are you?
  • Viva! - Cheers!

See also

  • Heinrich Schmid, the linguist whose work on standardization of the language resulted in Rumantsch Grischun.


External links

Romansh language edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Billigmeier, Robert H.: A Crisis in Swiss Pluralism: The Romansh and their Relations with German- and Italian Swiss in the Perspective of a Millenium. The Hague: Mouton 1979

Simple English

This language has its own Wikipedia Project.

Romansh (also spelled Rumantsch, Romansch or Romanche) is one of Switzerland's four national languages. (The other three are French, German and Italian.) 50,000 people in the canton of Graubünden use it as their native language.


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address