Rockaway Park NY, March 17, 2012 in the 41st year of the Society All Hail the Lord-Baron in Fullosia!
Geoff Jackson:
Rhaeto-Romance: the Smallest Language in Europe

Rhaeto-Romance (Rumantsch, Romansch) is Switzerland`s fourth national language alongside German, French and Italian. Its native region is the canton of Graubunden (Grison or Grischuns in Rumantsch) and it is derived from Latin or vulgar Latin (the people`s [vulgus]Latin of the later Roman Empire). There are five regions, each with their separate and sometimes mutually incomprehensible dialects, separated by areas of German speakers. Fortunately, most speakers of Romance also speak Swiss-German and can communicate with this language both to Swiss Germans and speakers of Romance of other dialects.

About half of the people speaking Romance have now immigrated to other regions within Switzerland e.g. Zürich, which now has the largest Romance-speaking population in the whole country. It is spoken by about 30,095 residents of the canton of Grisons or 0.9% of Switzerland`s population of 7.7 million inhabitants.

Romance is derived, as said, from Vulgar Latin and related to French, Occitan (a south-French dialect or language) and Lombard, similarly a French language. It is also very similar to Italian and Italian ‘irredentists` claimed the area as part of Italy on the basis of this linguistic resemblance. Hence, perhaps, in 1938, it became recognized in Switzerland as the fourth national language. It has been influenced by centuries long contact with German in its vocabulary and possibly also in its syntax (i.e. inversion of word-order, when a sentence begins with an adverb or adverbial phrase). Many of these words of German origins, however, would not be recognizable to speakers of modern German today.

The dialects of Romance are Sursilvan, Sutsilvan, Surmiran, Putê+r and Vallader with two other possible dialects namely Jauer and Tuatschin. In addition to which, Heinrich Schmidt, a notable German linguist, standardized a pan-Romance dialect, Romantsch-Grischen, in 1982. His version, however, has run into many problems with purists, who insist on speaking their own dialects and repudiate this over-arching attempt to create a ‘national` speech out of the five dialects.

The history of Romance is one, which is interesting even today. Originally brought to the area by the Romans after their conquest of Grisons around 15 BC, it replaced the language of the Celtic speaking tribes, first in the area. Their contribution to the language lives on only in the form of various place names as well as the names of animals, plants and topographical features found only in the Alps e.g. camutsch (chamois) and grava (scree). The morphology is interesting. Like French, Italian and Spanish (but unlike Latin or German), nouns are not inflected for case – rather a subject, verb, object form is followed – but both nouns and adjectives are inflected for masculine/feminine and singular/plural distinctions. E.g. il mir (the wall) ils mirs (the walls), la casa (the house), las casas (the houses); or bial sing./fem. biala pl./fem. and bien sing./masc. buns pl./masc. – good.

Romance is much used today in the media. There are many newspapers in the language and, in addition, there are radio programs (all day round) and TV programs (subtitled in German). Many broadcasters use their own dialect and it is hoped that native-speakers of Romance will come to recognize the different dialects as well as the pan-dialectal Romance-Grisons. It is also used in the canton of Grisons for official documents, some speeches in the cantonal parliament etc. All in all, it is hoped that this unique language will survive and prosper in today`s world of large, international languages.

~ Geoff Jackson


Talk on TV maybe cheap, but the wrong information can become very costly.

In Love & Joy

Michael Levy. Professional Optimist

CUTTING TRUTHS - The Ego engages in wants and desires ... The Soul is married to self sufficiency

In Love & Joy

Michael Levy. Professional Optimist

Michael R. Burch:

A Belfast Child's Epitaph

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.


for the victims of the Irish famines

Something inescapable is lost—
lost like a pale vapor curling up into shafts of moonlight,
vanishing in a gust of wind toward an expanse of stars
immeasurable and void.

Something uncapturable is gone—
gone with the spent leaves and illuminations of autumn,
scattered into a haze with the faint rustle of parched grass
and remembrance.

Something unforgettable is past—
blown from a glimmer into nothingness, or less,
and finality has swept into a corner where it lies
in dust and cobwebs and silence.

Piercing the Shell

for the mothers of Irishmen who died in WWI

If they strip away all the accouterments of war, perhaps they`ll discover what the heart is for.

Autumn Conundrum

for the mothers of Belfast who lost children in the Holy Wars

It`s not that every leaf must finally fall,
it`s just that we can never catch them all.

Isolde`s Song

Through our long years of dreaming to be one
we grew toward an enigmatic light
that gently warmed our tendrils. Was it sun?
We had no eyes to tell; we loved despite
the lack of all sensation—all but one:

we felt the night`s deep chill, the air so bright
at dawn we quivered limply, overcome.

To touch was all we knew, and how to bask.
We knew to touch; we grew to touch; we felt
spring`s urgency, midsummer`s heat, fall`s lash,
wild winter`s ice and thaw and fervent melt.

We felt returning light and could not ask
its meaning, or if something was withheld
more glorious. To touch seemed life`s great task.

At last the petal of me learned: unfold.
And you were there, surrounding me. We touched.
The curious golden pollens! Ah, we touched,
and learned to cling and, finally, to hold.

The City Is a Garment

Dublin, at night

A rhinestone skein, a jeweled brocade of light,—
the city is a garment stretched so thin
her neon colors bleed into the night,
and everywhere bright seams, unraveling,
now spill their brilliant contents out like coins
on motorways and esplanades; bead cars
come tumbling down long highways; at her groin
a railtrack like a zipper flashes sparks;
her hills are haired with brush like cashmere wool
and from their cleavage winking lights enlarge
and travel, slender fingers ... softly pull
themselves into the semblance of a barge.

When night becomes too chill, she quickly dons
great overcoats of warmest-colored dawn.

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