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Zum Rückgang der ethnolinguistischen Diversität im Alpenraum: das Beispiel der Rätoromanen Graubündens

On the decline of ethno-linguistic diversity on the Alps region
[journal article]

Kraas, Frauke

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Abstract Worldwide, high mountains are characterised by an ethnic, linguistic and socio-cultural, sometimes also religious variety. Thus, in addition to other regions mostly situated in national peripheries, they figure among the last retreats of traditionally ethno-linguistic diversity. According to estimates, about 250 million people belong to the so-called "indigenous" peoples living predominantly in peripheral regions; this figure amounts to between 70 and 80 million in Europe. Using the example of the Rhaeto-Romanic people of Graubünden (Grisons), it is possible to follow in detail the different phases of the territorial retreat as well as the causes accelerating and supporting that development. When the Rhaeto-Romanic area was at its largest, it extended from Regensburg to Trient and from Constance to Kufstein. The current area occupied is the result of a long shrinking process. In the Alps region, there are still three regions separated from each other, which are still settled by the Rhaeto-Romanish people: the district of Friuli (about 500 000 people; Italy), the Ladin region in the Dolomites (about 30 000 people; Italy) and the Romance Grisons region (about 40 000 people; canton of Graubünden (Grisons)/Switzerland). Since the end of the 19th century, the Rhaeto-Romanish language has increasingly been pushed back by the linguistic switch to the German or to the Italian languages, and the linguistic area has been subdivided into different sections. The effects of increasing development of the economy and transport communications in the mountain areas have especially favoured the peripheralisation process. The causes and reasons responsible for the peripheralisation of the Rhaeto-Romanish people are in detail as follows: The Rhaeto-Romanish people are linguistically subdivided into five main idioms, and by religious denomination into further fragments. The Rhaeto-Romanish population is very unevenly distributed within the canton, and in many communities it is demographically aging. The unbalanced structure of occupation and employment encourages emigration, especially of qualified people. A high proportion of persons speaking other languages, linguistically mixed marriages and the power of bilingualism (German/ Rhaeto-Romanish) stimulate the linguistic switch. This development is also encouraged by the low prestige value of the Rhaeto-Romanic language, by the lack of minority-specific urban centres and by the shortage in availability of a (primary, secondary and university) education and of the media. The most important factors influencing the preservation and the decline of the ethno-linguistic diversity are summerised in a diagram. In addition to the various area-based factors (natural landscape, natural resources and infrastructure), other superordinate social factors (economic, social, geopolitical situation, disparities, administration and planning system, minority politics and the legal situation) take effect. The different ethno-national, geostrategic, economic and ecological factors as well as their relationships to each other are represented in detail.
Keywords Switzerland; Alps; population; population group; language group; diversity; cultural diversity; ethnic group; ethnology; language; minority; historical development; linguistics
Classification Ethnology, Cultural Anthropology, Ethnosociology; Sociology of Communication, Sociology of Language, Sociolinguistics; Area Development Planning, Regional Research
Document language German
Publication Year 1995
Page/Pages p. 17-24
Journal Europa Regional, 3.1995 (1995) 2
ISSN 0943-7142
Status Published Version; reviewed
Licence Deposit Licence - No Redistribution, No Modifications