Bun di, Romansch

The October 2020 bulletin of the UK Institute of Translation and Interpreting has an interesting article on Romansch, Switzerland’s fourth language by Emma Gledhill, a translator, who lives in a Romansh-speaking village.

She describes how there are at most 60,000 speakers of Romansch in the Graubunden canton of SE Switzerland, amounting to 0.5-0.85 of the Swiss population. It is a Romance language, which has had national language status since 1938. Almost all Romance speakers are bilingual, predominantly with German.

The Swiss geography with communities in valleys separated by mountains has led to there being five dialects of Romansch (Sursilvan, Surmiran, Puter, Vallader and Jauer), some of which have sub-dialects. Some children are taught with Romansch as the medium of instruction.

From Wikipedia, I read that there have been attempts to unify the dialects although use of this unified version has not caught on in speech and has caused conflicts when used as the medium of instruction in schools, some Romansch speakers/areas preferring their own variant of the language to the unified version.

According to Emma Gledhill, Romansch is a Rhaeto-Romance language along with the Ladin language of the Italian Dolomites and Friulian in north-east Italy. According to Wiki, this link is disputed, the academic dispute being known as the Questione ladina (this dispute had political associations as Italian irredentists claimed that the three languages were all dialects of Italian. I haven’t a date for this but it was presumably before the Second World War and could be way back and I don’t know what the latest developments are on Questione ladina or whether it’s a dead issue).

Wikipedia has a very informative article on Romansch, the features of the language and its links back to the Latin spoken in the period after the fall of the Western Roman Empire as well as a long book list for those wishing to delve deeper into the language. It is Romance language but with considerable numbers of imported German words and German has taken over in what used to be Romance-speaking areas.

Active efforts have been made to keep the language alive.

There is a daily paper in Romansch called  La Quotidiana founded in 1997 with support from the Romansh news agency Agentura da Novitads Rumantscha.  

The paper is protected by a paywall but here is a description in Romansch:

La Quotidiana (LQ) è la suletta gasetta dal di rumantscha. Ella cumpara da glindesdi enfin venderdi. La gasetta appartegna a la gruppa da medias Südostschweiz ed è confessiunalmain e politicamain neutrala. En La Quotidiana vegn oravant tut rapportà davart quai che curra e passa en la Svizra rumantscha ed en la politica grischuna. La politica naziunala ha pli pauca paisa e novitads internaziunalas èn plitost raras. Il dumber d’abunents confermà tenor la WEMF munta actualmain a 4341 (l’onn 2003: passa 5000).

If this feels a bit much, one can content oneself with “Bun di” (no prizes for working out what this means).

I was pretty sure that I’d once bought a Romansch dictionary when I was at a course near Berne years ago. But I can’t find a trace of it on my bookshelves so perhaps I only looked at the book (or possibly caressed it) and the intensity of desire to own it has been transformed in my memory into a purchase.

It could be somewhere as my library is getting to the point when I need a catalogue. But I feel that if I start to shelf mark my books, it will effectively take up the bit of my life not occupied by shifting books from place to place ( I haven’t really got into taking shelvies though). I have vague memories of being given some position of trust in the English literature section of my school library and getting carried away with the stamp I was given to put gold shelf mark numbers on books and making raids across subject boundaries, struggling with feelings of mauvais foi as I did so but incapable of controlling myself  (and too sneaky to attract the attention of any external controller). So with this history of shelf mark abuse and bibliomachismo, as well as the time factor, I’d better go easy on classification.

Romansch is anyway interesting (the only possible drawback being that I am collecting languages in the same way as some people acquire cats but I can live with this faiblesse).

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