Surselvic language

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Former distribution area of ​​the individual Romansh idioms in the canton of Graubünden

Surselvisch (also Oberlandisch, Oberwaldisch, Romansh Sursilvan ) is a Graubünden Romanesque idiom and is spoken in the Surselva region in the canton of Graubünden , i.e. in the Vorderrheintal from Flims / Flem up the valley. The next related idiom is Sutsilvan , which adjoins to the east .

Tuachin is a subdialect of Sursilvan with some peculiarities .

Spreading the language

According to the census in 2000, 13,879 people in the then Surselva district stated that Sursilvan was their mother tongue and the language they knew best. This corresponds to a share of 42.5% of the total population. 17 897 people stated that they use the language in everyday life, in the family and at work, which corresponds to 54.8% of the total population. In Val Lumnezia , 82% of the population said that Sursilvan was the language they mastered most; in the Cadi this was 78.1%, in the Gruob 48%, in the city of Ilanz, however, only 29.9%.

First prints

Ilg vêr sulaz da pievel giuvan

After the Reformation , the need for a written language in Graubünden Romance grew; the Romance reformers wanted to translate the Bible and other theological writings into the language of the people. After Durich Campell 1562 Psalm translations Ün Cudesch as Psalms in Engadinerromanisch had written the first book was published in 1611 Sursilvan of Ilanzer pastor Stefan Gabriel in Basel : Ilg Ver sulaz since pievel giuvan ( "The real entertainment of the young people").

Linguistic features at a glance


In contrast to the idioms in the Engadine , which still know the rounded front tongue vowels / ü / and / ö /, in Surselvian rounding to / i / and / e / took place, compare Surselvian to me "Mauer", egl "Auge" with Engadin mür , ogl . Surselvian (with the exception of the Tujetsch dialect) then knows no palatalization of the initial / k / to / tsch / before / a /, compare Surselvian casa "house" with / k / compared to sutselvian tgea, Vallader (Upper Engadin) chasa and Puter ( Lower Engadin) chesa, all of which are pronounced with / ch /.


A unique selling point of Surselvic compared to the other Romansh idioms in the area of inflection forms is that a predicative, i.e. subsequent adjective, has a special masculine ending on -s : il Pieder Fluretg, maghers e secs "Pieder Fluretg, mager und dürr". Another morphological unique selling point within the Bündner Romania is that the occurrence of clitic subject pronouns in Surselvic is limited to a few cases; In other words, the pronoun following the verb is often shortened in Engadin and Central Grisons, much less often in Surselvian.


A differentiation in the sentence structure is that in Engadin a direct object is introduced with the preposition a , but not in Surselvian, compare Surselvisch has viu Peider? "Did you see Peter?" with turkey hest vis a Peider?

Other uncommon or rare occurrences in Romania, such as the use of the subjunctive in indirect speech or the reversal of the sequence subject - verb after the preceding adverb , adverbial definition or subordinate clause, are common to all Graubünden Romance idioms. They were borrowed from the German language, which is ubiquitous in Graubünden, or from Swiss German.


In the spelling in Surselvic - apart from in foreign words - hardly any accented characters are used: The è "is" in Rumantsch Grischun corresponds to ei in Surselvic . For this you need the letter h in Surselvic : The istorgia "Geschichte" in Rumantsch Grischun corresponds to Surselvic historia . The verb "haben", which is written in Rumantsch Grischun avair , is written in Surselvian haver .


The stress is usually on the penultimate or last syllable. In unstressed syllables, the vowels usually turn into a mumbled e ( Schwa ). In the following, those pronunciations are listed that might be unclear for a German speaker.

Letter Pronunciation in IPA (German or other equivalent) example
c before a, o, u as [ k ] (dt. unhauchtes k)
before i and e as [ ts ] (dt. z)
canzun 'song'
december 'December'
ch [ k ] (dt. unhaumed k);
only comes before e and i front
Zucher 'sugar'
è [ ɛ ] (Ger. ä) pèr 'couple'
é [ e ] (dt. ee) pér 'pear'
egg depending on the region [ ɛɪ ] (Gruob), [ ] (Cadi) or [ ɔɪ ] (Brigels)
( Eng . egg in different variants, also oi)
treis 'three'
eu [ ɛʊ ] ( Ger . ä-u) think 'people'
G as [ g ] (German g)
before e and i as [ ɟ ] (similar to German dj; the i remains mute)
Grischun 'Graubünden'
baselgia 'Church'
gh [ g ] (German g) schenghegiar 'give'
gl at the end of the word and before i as [ ʎ ] (similar to German lj; the i remains silent)
before a, e, o, u and in some loan words as [ gl ] (German gl)
egl 'eye'
Glaruna 'Glarus'
gn [ ɲ ] (similar to German nj) signun 'Senn'
H usually silent
except in loanwords where [ h ] (dt. h)
habitaziun 'dwelling'
haluncs ' scoundrel '
ia [ ɪa ] (dt. ia) siat 'seven'
ie [ ɪɛ ] (Ger. iä) caschiel 'cheese'
iu [ ɪʊ ] (dt. iu) vendiu 'sold'
iau [ ɪaʊ ] (Eng. iau) cumiau 'farewell'
r mostly [ ʀ ] (German suppository r) rapeseed 'money'
s at the beginning of the word (before vowel) and at the end of the word [ s ] (German s in the wording or English s)
between vowels [ z ] (German s before vowel or English z)
before c, n, m, p, t, tg [ ʃ ] (German sch)
before b, d, g, v [ ʒ ] (French j)
sulegl 'sun'
casa 'house'
finiastra 'window'
sbagl 'error'
sch at the end of the word [ ʃ ] (German sch)
between vowels [ ʒ ] (French j)
cudic 'book'
pischada 'butter'
ch [ ] (German Tsch) Tschiel 'heaven'
daily [ c ] (similar to German kj) tgaun 'dog'
among others [ ʊa ] (German among others) torment 'which'
ue [ ʊɛ ] (German ue) quel 'this'
uo [ ʊɔ ] ( Eng . uo) buob 'boy, boy'
uei [ ʊɛɪ ] ( Eng . uei) quei 'this'
uau [ ʊaʊ ] (German uau) uaul 'forest'


Noun, gender, article

Surselvian knows definite and indefinite articles, but indefinite only in the singular. There are two grammatical genders: nouns can be masculine or feminine. Female nouns often end in -a . Basically, the majority of a noun is formed by adding an -s . If the noun ends in -s, the noun remains unchanged.

German Rumantsch Grischun Romontsch Sursilvan
a house ina chasa ina casa
a village in vitg in vitg
the House la chasa la casa
a car l'auto l'auto
the houses las chasas las casas
the village il vitg il vitg
the villages ils vitgs ils Vitgs
the cars ils cars ils cars

In Sursilvan, prepositions and certain articles are pulled together as in Italian. In Rumantsch Grischun, however, not.

Preposition German il igl ils la l ' read
a on al like as alla Alles' all
cun With cul cugl culs culla cull ' cullas
there from dil digl dals dalla dall ' dallas
en in el egl els ella ell ' ellas
by For pil pigl pils per la per l ' per read
sin on sil sigl sils silla sill ' sillas
animal at tiel deeply tiels tiella tiell ' tiellas


Adjectives are usually followed by the noun and, like this, inflected according to gender and number - a masculine noun is followed by a masculine inflected, a feminine noun is followed by a feminine inflected, and a noun in the plural is followed by an adjective in the plural. In the case of essential properties, however, the adjective comes before the noun. So if a property describes a thing, then the adjective comes after the noun, if the property is significant for the sense of the noun, the adjective comes before the noun.

German Rumantsch Grischun Romontsch Sursilvan
a big house ina gronda chasa ina gronda casa
a big village in grond vitg in grond vitg
a big (important) man in green around in green around
A (physically) great man in around grond In around grond
an important woman ina dunna gronda ina dunna gronda
an important women las grondas dunnas las grondas dunnas
the (financially) poor woman la dunna paupra la dunna paupra
the deplorable men ils paupers ums ils paupers ums
a big white house ina gronda chasa alv ina gronda casa alv


The improver "to be" is inflected in the present as follows:

German Rumantsch Grischun Romontsch Sursilvan
I am yeah sun jeu sun
you are ti it ti ice
he is el è el egg
she is ella è ella egg
it is in è into egg
we are nut essan nut essan
you are vus essas vus essas
they are (male) els èn els a
they are (female) ellas èn ellas a

The verb haver "haben" (Rumantsch Grischun: avair ) is inflected in the present as follows:

German Rumantsch Grischun Romontsch Sursilvan
I have yeah shark jeu hai / jeu vai
you have ti has ti has
he has el ha el ha
she has ella ha ella ha
it has in the ha in the ha
we have nus avain nus vein
do you have vus avais vus veis
they have (male) els han els han
they have (female) ellas han ellas han

Sentence structure

As in German, simple questions are formed by reversing the word sequence (inversion), i.e. the sequence noun - verb of the statement is replaced by the sequence verb - noun:

German Rumantsch Grischun Romontsch Sursilvan
He is German. El è tudestg. El ei tudestg.
Is he german? È el tudestg? Ei el tudestg?

Numbers up to 10

German Rumantsch Grischun Romontsch Sursilvan
zero nulla nul, nulla
one in, ina in, ina
two dus, duas dus, duas
three trais, treia treis, trei
four quatter quater
five Tschintg Tschun
six sis sis
seven set siat
eight otg otg
nine nov nov
ten this this

Language example

The following language example comes from Jean de La Fontaine's fable “The Raven and the Fox”. The Lia Rumantscha first mentioned it in 2004 in its Rhaeto- Romanic brochure . Facts and Figures published for the first time; it is often used to illustrate the differences between the various Romansh idioms. An audio version of the Sursilvian version can

be heard.

Surselvian L'uolp era puspei inagada fomentada. Cheu ha ella viu sin in pégn in tgaper che teneva in toc caschiel en siu bec. Quei gustass a mi, ha ella tertgau, ed ha clamau al tgaper: “Tgei bi che ti ice! Sche tiu cant ei aschi bials sco tia cumparsa, lu eis ti il ​​pli bi utschi da tuts. "

Rumantsch Grischun La vulp era puspè ina giada fomentada. Qua ha ella vis sin in pign in corv che tegneva in toc chaschiel en ses pichel. Quai ma gustass, ha ella pensà, ed ha clamà al corv: “Everyday bel che ti es! Sche tes chant è uschè bel sco tia parita, lura es ti il ​​pli bel utschè da tuts. "

German The fox was hungry again. Then he saw a raven on a fir tree with a piece of cheese in its beak. I would like that, he thought, and called to the raven: “How beautiful you are! If your singing is as beautiful as your looks, then you are the most beautiful of all birds. "


  • Ricarda Liver : Romansh. An introduction to the Romansh language of the Grisons. Gunter Narr, Tübingen 1999, ISBN 3-8233-4973-2 (focused on the Surselvic).
  • Gereon Janzing: Romansh word for word (Surselvisch, Rumantsch, Bündnerromanisch, Surselvan). (= Gibberish. Volume 197). 4th edition. Reise Know-How Verlag Peter Rump, Bielefeld 2006, ISBN 3-89416-365-8 (despite the title deals almost exclusively with survival).
  • Alexi Decurtins: Niev vocabulari romontsch sursilvan - tudestg / New Rhaeto-Romanic dictionary surselvian - german. Cadonau, Chur 2001, ISBN 3-03900-999-0 .
  • Ramun Vieli, Alexi Decurtins: Vocabulari tudestg - romontsch-sursilvan. 5th edition. Lia Rumantscha, Chur 1995, OCLC 793586703 .
  • Arnold Spescha: Grammatica sursilvana. Casa editura per mieds d'instrucziun / Lehrmittelverlag Graubünden, Chuera / Chur 1989, OCLC 77992907 (this grammar is written entirely in Romansh and does not contain any German explanations).
  • En lingia directa. In cuors da romontsch sursilvan. Two volumes. Lia Rumantscha, Chur 2018, ISBN 978-3-03900-150-7 and ISBN 978-3-03900-152-1 .
  • Gion Deplazes : Funtaunas. Istorgia da la literatura rumantscha per scola a pievel. 4 volumes. Lia Rumantscha, Chur 1987; 2nd updated edition, ibid. 1993/2011, OCLC 749433263 , ISBN 3-03900-005-5 , ISBN 3-03900-006-3 , ISBN 3-906680-19-3 .

Beautiful literature in Surselvian is published by the Lia Rumantscha in Chur , among others .

Web links

Commons : Sursilvan  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Association Romontschissimo
  2. a b c d After Ricarda Liver: Romansh. An introduction to the Romansh language of the Grisons. Gunter Narr, Tübingen 1999.
  3. Rico Cathomas: School and bilingualism. Waxmann, Münster 2005, ISBN 3-8309-1575-6 , p. 145.
  4. ↑ Saving Romansh with referendums? On: