Rhaeto-Romanic is a
collective term for three dialects of the Romance family spoken
in northeastern Italy and southeastern Switzerland. Of the more
than 500,000 speakers of Rhaeto-Romanic, about 90 percent are in
Italy, but there the language is considered a mere patois and has
no official status. The Swiss dialect on the other hand, known as
Romansch, is one of Switzerland's four official languages,
despite the fact that it is spoken by only one percent of the
population. The passage cited below is in Romansch.
Rhaeto-Romanic dialects of Italy are (1) Friulian, with about
500,000 speakers in the region of Friuli, near the border with
Austria and Slovenia; (2) Ladin, with about 10,000 speakers in
Alto Adige to the west. Romansch is spoken by about 50,000 people
in the Swiss canton of Graubünden, bordering Austria and Italy.
The survival of Rhaeto-Romanic, despite pressures from
surrounding languages, is largely due to the isolation of its
speakers in extremely mountainous regions.