The Languages of Switzerland
The official languages of Switzerland are German, French, Italian and Romansh. German is spoken by approximately 62% of the population in 17 cantons in the central, north and east of Switzerland. French is spoken by around 23% of the citizens in the West and Italian by 8% in the south. Only spoken by 0,5% of the population, Romansh is only an official language in the canton of Grisons.
Swiss German is basically Alemannic, a German dialect, which can be subclassified in Low, High and Highest Alemannic. It differs much from the standard German so Germans normally cannot understand Swiss German.
Features of Swiss German, which differ from the Standard German:
- On the phonological level, the distinction between voiced and non-voiced obstruents are marked with greater and lesser energy and not the characteristic voiced.
- The word form preterite indicative does not exist. Instead, the word form is replaced by a perfect construction.
- The case genitive is replaced by a possession and preposition construct or a possessor in the dative case and a possessive pronoun.
Swiss French largely corresponds to the French spoken in France or Belgium. The vocabulary contains numerous germanisms.
Swiss Italian also mostly corresponds to the Italian spoken in Italy. Indeed, the official number contains the dialect Lombard as well, which is spoken by approximately 350.000 speakers in Switzerland. The vocabulary of Swiss Italian is enriched by German and French words, too.
More detailed information about the languages can be found on the NCC pages for: Germany, France and Italy.