The Languages of Switzerland 2000

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Map Code: Ax00547

The language map of Switzerland reflects the independence and self-governance of its 26 cantons, which have not been subjected to a centralized government or the imposition of a nationwide “official” language. Language distribution within Switzerland is influenced by proximity to other nations. The most common language in Switzerland, spoken by about 60% of the population, is German, and approximately four-fifths of German-speakers speak Swiss German. The term “Swiss German” is a generic term for a number of regional dialects that belong to individual cantons, but native German-speakers are also taught Hochdeutsch (standard German). In addition “Walser German” refers to a German dialect that was brought by emigrants from the Valais region. French is next most commonly spoken language and French-speakers refer to their part of western Switzerland as Romandy. The cantons of Bern, Fribourg and Valais are officially bi-lingual, French and German. Italian-speakers can be found in Ticino and southern Grisons (Graubünden). The Swiss census of 2000 confirmed that 235,095 people (less than one per cent of the population) were Romansh-speakers, who can be founded in south-eastern Switzerland, especially Grisons where Romansh has an official status, alongside Italian and German. Romansh is descended from the spoken Latin of the Roman Empire and has been strongly influenced by German vocabulary and syntax.

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