When, in the century V d. C. (between 455 and 480), after repeated previous attempts, the Alemanni managed to definitively establish their headquarters in the south and west of the Rhine, the territory they conquered, while retaining – especially in the northern area – Celtic traces, was already heavily Latinized. A part of the Romània was therefore lost and with it every possibility of direct communication, for within the novel territory, between the Alpine territory and the Alsatian-Lorraine lands. There remained an internal transit route between the Rhone valley and the Rhine valley; but this too was broken by the successive conquests of the Alemannic settlers, and, starting from the 9th century, the linguistic relations between the Roman speakers of the Valais and those of the Grisons were interrupted. The process of absorption and disintegration of the novel territory was naturally slow; different toponymic stratifications (novel place names are frequent not only in the upper Rhone valley, but also in the Bernese Oberland on the one hand, in the Schwyz, in the Unterwald and in the Uri on the other) still bear proof of this. Thus, for example, within the limits of the ancient bishopric of Chur, the population still in the 9th century was exclusively Romance: the subsequent – partial – German penetration into the lands south, south-east and south-west of Chur (facilitated, initially, from the fact that this bishopric was detached in 843 from the diocese of Milan and annexed to the archbishopric of Mainz) took place slowly over the following centuries, and still today,
From this state of affairs derives the current linguistic configuration of the Swiss territory, where three languages coexist, here clearly distinct, there extremely entangled – German, French, Italian – and an independent dialectal group, Ladin Grigione (or Romansh or Rhaeto-Romance), for whose relations with the Dolomite Ladin and Italian, see Ladins. The linguistic border between the German zone and the French zone (see map) runs from Charmoille to the North. of the Bernese Jura towards E. as far as Monselvier, whence it folds SW. up to Lake Neuchâtel and from there directly further towards China, crossing the city of Friborg and reaching the village of Oldenhorn; here it turns to E. as far as the Weisshorn to resume, in an arc that leaves the Anniviers valley in the French area, heading south until it meets the Italian-Swiss political border at the Tête Blanche peak. It is not necessary to specify in detail the borders that separate Italian from German and Ladin. In fact, with the exception of the Valais villages of Gondo and Sempione, all the part of Switzerland that is tributary to the Po basin, which is located on the southern side of the Alps, uses the Italian as an official and cultural language (when speaking of local dialects, rather than literary languages, an exception must also be made for Bosco’s, which is German). This applies not only to the most important area of Italian-speaking Switzerland, the one made up of the Mesolcino-Ticinese lands, but also to the two smaller nuclei: the Val Bregaglia and the Poschiavo valley. Separated from each other, when considered from the Swiss point of view (so there are no direct relationships between them), these three areas are part of a clearly distinct unit not only linguistically, but also geographically. The Ladin area (v. that constituted by the Mesolcino-Ticinese lands, but also for the two smaller nuclei: the Val Bregaglia and the Poschiavo valley. Separated from each other, when considered from the Swiss point of view (so there are no direct relationships between them), these three areas are part of a clearly distinct unit not only linguistically, but also geographically. The Ladin area (v. that constituted by the Mesolcino-Ticinese lands, but also for the two smaller nuclei: the Val Bregaglia and the Poschiavo valley. Separated from each other, when considered from the Swiss point of view (so there are no direct relationships between them), these three areas are part of a clearly distinct unit not only linguistically, but also geographically. The Ladin area (v.graubünden and the attached map on the “distribution of languages in Grisons”) consists of a part of the canton of Grisons: in the Rhine system by the Sopraselva and Sottoselva groups; in the Inn system from the Lower and Upper Engadine, where the population, except for a German oasis around Saint Moritz, is prevalently Ladin everywhere, and from Val Monastero.
As is natural in a geographically uneven territory, the richness of dialect variants in all four territories is great. The German territory belongs dialectally to the Alemannic group (which differs from the Swabian and from the rest of the High German territory above all for the preservation of the ancient accented long vowels: l ī b for Leib, h ū s for Haus, etc.) and more precisely, to exception of Basel where the Alemannic bass is spoken, to the Alemannic high, which has as its main characteristic the sound x – in the initial position for k- (the Alemannic bass in this case has the intermediate sound kh -): there is xind for Kind, xlage for Klage, etc. Among the various subdivisions of the dialects of German-speaking Switzerland we mention only that in an Eastern group, where the endings for all three persons of the present indicative plural are identical, and in a Western group where this identity is not found. French-speaking Switzerland is less compact in dialect than German and is even more exposed to constant corrosion by the literary language. The dialects spoken there do not differ in any part essentially from those of the adjacent regions of France: thus, for example, the speakers of the Bernese Jura are linked to the Lorraine dialects, while those of Freiburg, Vaud, Geneva, and the Valais belong to the Franco-Provençal group (see France: Lingua; Franco – Provençal). The dialects of Italian- speaking Switzerland all belong to the Lombard type (see Lombardy: Dialects): the Ticino dialects of the city of Locarno, the left bank of Ticino and Lake Maggiore in the districts of Bellinzona and Locarno belong to the Lombard in the narrow sense of the term., as well as the Sottoceneri; of the Alpine Lombard, all the other dialectal varieties of Italian-speaking Switzerland. Which, given the location of the three Italian groups, does not have, as is natural, any linguistic trait that is truly its own; at the most we can mention a characteristic for the Ticino-Mesolcino group that is unique to it: the outcome – w da – l di – ol (o), for example, fasów “bean”. The main feature that distinguishes the Alpine dialects from the more purely Lombard ones of the Prealps is the palatalization of c and g in front of a (e.g. ć amp, ǵ amba). The little resistance to German-Alemannic influences, the scarce prestige of the various literary languages still in formation and finally the great geographical fragmentation and the relatively large extension of the territory in front of the small number of Ladin population, have as a consequence a great dialectal wealth of the Ladin Grisons. Two groups appear quite clearly separated: that of the Rhine basin (Sopraselva) and that of the Engadine, including Val Monastero. In the first we have, for example, i, and from Lat. u, ie from o accented, in the second ü respectively ö: sopras. say “hard”, pievel “people”; eng. dür, pövel ; to “find” it is used in the sopras. anflar, in Eng. chattar, etc.
According to the statistical data of 1910, the Swiss population, from the linguistic point of view, was divided into 2,599,154 Germans; 796,244 French; 301,325 Italians; 39,834 Grisons Ladins; the 1920 census, while it marks an increase for the Germans (2,750,622), French (824,820) and Ladins (42,940), records a sharp decrease in Italians: 238,544. In 1930 the relative positions remained almost unchanged: 2,924,314 Germans; 831,100 French, 241,985 Italians, 44,204 Ladins. The sharp decrease in Italians since 1910 does not refer to the indigenous population, but is due to the repatriation of real Italians and the passage of not a few among them to France and Luxembourg.