Period IV newsletter

Rumantsch Grischun and Education

Graubünden slowly matured to political autonomy in the 14th and 15th centuries.

The Three Leagues (the God’s House (der Gotteshausbund), the Ten Jurisdictions (der Zehn Gerichtebund) and the Grey League, (der Graue or Obere Bund) separated from the feudal aristocratic system. They became autonomous communes and regions.

The Three States joined in a Confederation of the Free State of the Three Leagues (Der Freistaat der Drei Bünde) at the end of the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth centuries (1524).

Romansh (i.c. its five dialects Surselvisch, Sutselvisch, Surmeirisch, Putèr and Vallader) was at that time still the dominant language.

However, the German language became more and more important, partly due to the immigration of German speakers c.q. the Walser.

Chur, the language and cultural centre of the Romansh language, became entirely German-speaking.

The Assembly of the Estates proclaimed trilingualism (German, Italian and Romansh)in 1794.

In 1803, the Free State adopted the name of Graubünden. The three languages had basically the same status, although German replaced in practice Romansh (and Italian) at local and cantonal level. This development still continues.

The Lia Rumantscha was set up in 1919 to increase the awareness and use of Romansh in education and culture.

One of the initiatives (from 1982 onwards) was the development of Rumantsch Grischun, the common Romansh language to teach in schools and as the official bureaucratic and cantonal legal language.

In 1999 Rumantsch Grischun replaced Romansh (its five dialects) in education.

However, there were also opponents of this unification of the five dialects.

It appears that the use of Rumantsch Grischun in education (as an obligatory language, besides German or Italian) is not a great success.

The five Romansh-speaking regions with around 60 000 native speakers apparently prefer their local identities.  (Source: Lia Rumantscha, Romansh Facts and Figures, Chur 2004).