The Wendish Research Exchange

Meune, Manuel: Switzerland as a Language-hostile Country?

mersiowsky - 2-17-2018 at 01:08 PM

Lětopis Abstract 2017 2: Meune, Manuel: Switzerland as a Language-hostile Country?

With its four official languages – German, French, Italian and Romansh, the latter with relatively few speakers – Switzerland appears to be a country committed to language minorities. However, this flattering image proves to be exaggerated when one considers all indigenous languages, i. e. also Francoprovençal (often called Patois), which for centuries was the spoken language of today’s largely French-speaking Romandy. This paper deals with the situation of Francoprovençal in multilingual ‘nation of will’ Switzerland, but also in the nation-states of France (Savoy, Bresse, Lyonnais) and Italy (Aosta Valley, where young Francoprovençal speakers can still be found). The possibilities for the revitalization of this language, often thought to be dead, are discussed with regard to the feasibility of certain projects within the tri-national context, as well as with respect to common attitudes towards the language. These attitudes tend to promote the preservation of the current state of the numerous varieties of Francoprovençal rather than their resurgence as living languages through school teaching, or their standardization, which for some activists would overcome the dialectical fragmentation, make the text corpus more accessible and facilitate communication in the Internet era. The paper also analyses a survey of speakers from the dialect of Fribourg, a canton which together with the Valais can be seen as an archetypal Patois canton, as well as the discourse in the press of Geneva, a canton in which the language has long disappeared.