Romansh, Or Roumansh, also called Roma-nese and Rhaeto-Romanic, a language spoken in the Grisons, Switzerland, and the bordering districts of Tyrol, comprising a portion of ancient Rhaetia. Though it is commonly grouped with the Romance languages, its peculiar construction and the great degree in which it has been subjected to foreign influences, as well as the arbitrariness with which it has always been written, have so obscured its original character as to render it very doubtful whether it has ever been a direct sister of Provençal, French, or Italian. The Germans call the language Churwälsch after the name Churewala anciently given to its territory. The term Rhaeto-Romanic is a modern invention, never used by the people speaking the language. The natives call it rumonsch, the Provençals romans. It has been maintained that the Rhaetians were of the same origin with the Etruscans, but this view cannot be said to be established. (See Etruria.) In the time of Augustus Rhaetia was conquered by the Romans, and the original language was in a measure displaced by Latin. Several centuries later the western portion was occupied by Alemanni and the eastern by Boioarians, which brought about a greater confusion in the Latin elements, and produced a preponderance of Germanic forms.
Two main dialects are now distinguished, Romansh proper and Latin, each of which has several variations. There are about 70,000 persons who still speak it, about 15,000 of them living in Tyrol. The earliest monument of the language is a version of the New Testament, published in 1560; and the various poetical and theological works, all of a minor character, since produced, number about 180 volumes by 150 authors. The language is now gradually succumbing to German. - See An-deer, Ueber Ursprung und Gesehichte der rhäto-romanischen Sprache (Coire, 1862), and Rausch, Geschichte der Literatur des rhäto-romani-schen Volkes (Berlin, 1870).