Linguistic geography of Switzerland

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The four national languages of Switzerland are German, French, Italian, and Romansh.[2] Only three of these languages, however, maintain equal status as official languages at the national level within the Federal Administration of the Swiss Confederation: German, French, and Italian.[3]

Native speakers number about 64 percent (4.6 million) for German (mostly Swiss German dialects, though Swiss Standard German is used in writing and in a few official contexts in speaking), 20 percent (1.5 million) for French (mostly Swiss French, but including some Arpitan dialects), 6.5 percent (0.5 million) for Italian (mostly Swiss Italian, but including Lombard dialects), and less than 0.5 percent (35,000) for Romansh.[4]

The German region (Deutschschweiz) is in the north and center, the French part (Romandie) in the west and the Italian area (Svizzera italiana) in the south. There remains a small Romansh-speaking native population in Graubünden in the east. The cantons of Fribourg, Bern and Valais are officially bilingual; Graubünden is officially trilingual.

Contents

History

The percentage of non-national tongues spoken as a first language in Swiss homes has risen dramatically during the past half century, from less than one percent in 1950 to nine percent in 2000, mostly at the expense of German. The native languages of Swiss residents from 1950 to 2000, in percentages, were as follows:[4]

National languages and linguistic regions

German

The German-speaking part of Switzerland (German: Deutsche Schweiz French: Suisse alémanique Italian: Svizzera tedesca Romansh: Svizra tudestga) comprises about 65 percent of Switzerland (North Western Switzerland, Eastern Switzerland, Central Switzerland, most of the Swiss plateau and the greater part of the Swiss Alps).

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