80th anniversary of Romansh as Swiss national language marked / 500,000 euros for Breton reunification

16 to 22 February

Radiotelevisiun Svizra Rumantscha website, the Swiss public broadcaster in Romansh.
Radiotelevisiun Svizra Rumantscha website, the Swiss public broadcaster in Romansh.
WEEKLY ROUNDUP. In the week marking the International Mother Language Day, we have chosen to pick a significant celebration linked to the linguistic question as this week’s news highlight: the challenges that Romansh, which 80 years ago was declared a national language of Switzerland, is facing today. In addition, we will also discuss a new move for the reunification of Brittany plus other issues that, as every week, you will find in the stories and analysis’ digest.


80 years of declaration of Romansh as national language. Of the four official languages of Switzerland, Romansh is the only one to be exclusive of this country. The language is spoken in the canton of Grisons, where it is also an official cantonal language and is taught in schools. Romansh is the main language for almost 44,000 people, according to official Swiss statistics (2015), although it is estimated that more than 60,000 can speak it. As regards to linguistic proximity, Ladin and Friulian are the languages more closely related to Romansh.

Romansh was declared a national language after a 20 February 1938 referendum in which 91.6% of the voters —only men at that time— and all the cantons approved it. Historians say the move sought to affirm the Swiss identity in the face of the rise of Italian expansionism led by Benito Mussolini, which had even argued that Romansh was merely an Italian dialect. In 1996, after another referendum, Romansh was granted official status at the federal level.

Seizing the commemoration of the 80th anniversary, Lia Rumantscha —the leading pro-Romansh group— has recalled that the language continues to face “challenges” that threat its survival, such as the depopulation of some valleys where it is spoken, difficulties that Romansh-language media have to undergo, or pressure from German, Italian, French and English in some places of the linguistic domain that have turned into international tourist centres, such as the Upper Engiadine region, where Sankt Moritz (San Murezzan in Romansh) lies. The survival of the language, Lia Rumantscha Johannes Flury has said, is not only a matter of the canton of Grisons, but for the whole Switzerland, if the country really believes in the value of its own diversity.


Half a million euros for Breton reunification. The Regional Council of Brittany plans to allocate that sum to examine options to get the department of Loire-Atlantique (which is currently part of the region of the Pays de la Loire) back to the administrative region of Brittany. To progress towards that goal, Breton president Loïg Chesnais-Girard has proposed to establish a “joint mission” with the authorities of the Pays de la Loire, which until now have been completely opposed to even consider the loss of the department, in which their regional capital Nantes lies. The reunification of Loire-Atlantique with the administrative region of Brittany is a decades-long demand of the Breton movement, which has even organized popular, non-binding referendums on the issue. The Regional Council has also established a working group to examine the so-called “right of differentiation”, which allows regions of the French Republic to take on new powers.