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SWITZERLAND
Language

Cities in SWITZERLAND

BernZurich

Language map SwitzerlandPhoto:Marco Zanoli Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

The four main languages of Switzerland are German (65%), French (18%), Italian (10%) and Raeto-Roman (1%). Most of the population is bilingual. The Swiss Constitution of 1938 stipulates that all languages are officially and legally equal. Most of the German-speaking Swiss also speak Schwyzerdütsch, a variant of German and very difficult to understand.

Most cantons have one official language. Only in the canton of Graubünden do they speak German, Italian and Raeto-Romance. French is the predominant language in the cantons of Vaud, Neuchâtel and Geneva. In Ticino it is Italian. In Bern, Friborg and Valais German and French. German / Schwyzerdütsch is the official language in the other cantons. Quadrilingualism arose when, after migration around the 6th century, the Burgundians and Alemanni spread the French language in the west and the German language in the east. Until then, Latin was spoken in “Helvetia”. That Latin goes back to Roman rule. The Alemanni and with it the German language failed to reach those areas. Thus a kind of folk Latin developed that grew into an independent language that was recognized as the fourth official language in 1938. The number of dialects in all languages, especially in the German-speaking part, is very large.

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Sources

Dominicus, J. / Zwitserland
Gottmer

Lamme, M. / Zwitserland
Kosmos-Z&K

Lannoo’s autoboek Zwitserland
Lannoo

Mandos, M. / West- en Midden-Zwitserland
ANWB

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated April 2021
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