The history of the French language in the Romandie

The book presents for the first time a complete overview of the linguistic history of the different regions of today’s French-speaking Switzerland, from the Celts and Romans, the Franks, Burgundians, and Huguenots to the present day. This linguistic history is accessible to a wide readership and is based on scholarly research.

The book traces the slow formation of language boundaries in western Switzerland, the Gallo-Roman, the Franco-Provençal (le francoprovençal), the many dialects (le patois) and the introduction of French from the Middle Ages onwards, first as the written language of the elite and centuries later as the common language of the population.

The book shows that patois only disappeared in the 19th century, except for a few small areas. This is in contrast to German-speaking Switzerland, where dialects are instead the common language and High German (Hochdeutsch) is only written or used on formal occasions and politely at non-German Swiss-speaking audiences. The author explains why French is a unitary language in this region and patois virtually disappeared by the early 20th century.

The book presents a wealth of documents and testimonies that are little known and provides insight into the long and rich history of dialects in French-speaking Switzerland.

Andres Kristol, Histoire linguistique de la Suisse romande, Neuchâtel, 2023