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The French-speaking part of Switzerland is shown in green on this map.
The French-speaking part of Switzerland is shown in green on this map.
Map of the Arpitan language area, historical language spoken in Romandy, with place names in arpitan and historic political divisions.
Map of the Arpitan language area, historical language spoken in Romandy, with place names in arpitan and historic political divisions.

Swiss French (French: français de Suisse) is the variety of French spoken in the French-speaking area of Switzerland known as Romandy. French is one of the four official languages of Switzerland, the others being German, Italian, and Romansch. In 2015, around 2 million people in the country (24.4% of the population) spoke French as their primary language, and around 29.1% of the population had working knowledge of French.[1]

The French spoken in Switzerland is very similar to that of France or Belgium due to historical French policy of education in Francien French only in schools after the French Revolution. The differences between the French of Switzerland and of France are mostly lexical, influenced by local substrate languages. This contrasts with the differences between Standard German and Swiss German, which are largely mutually unintelligible.

Swiss French is characterized by some terms adopted from the Arpitan language, which was formerly spoken widely across the alpine communities of Romandy, but has far fewer speakers today. In addition, some expressions have been borrowed from both Swiss and Standard German. Although Standard French is taught in schools and used in the government, the media and business, there is no uniform vernacular form of French among the different cantons of Switzerland. For example, some German terms in regions bordering German-speaking communities are completely unused in the area around Geneva near the border with France.[2]

Phonology

This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and ⟨ ⟩, see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.
Oral
  Front Central Back
unrounded rounded
Close i/ y/ u/
Close-mid e/ ø/øː ə o
Open-mid ɛ/ɛː œ ɔ
Open a ɑː
Nasal
Front Back
unrounded rounded
Mid õ
Open æ̃ œ̃ ɒ̃

Differences from French of France

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Many differences between Swiss French and the French of France are due to the different administrative and political systems between Switzerland and France. Some of the distinctive lexical features are shared with Belgian French (and some also with Quebec French):

Other examples which are not shared with other varieties of French:

Examples of words that differ between Switzerland and France

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Swiss French Standard French English Notes
action promotion special offer Germanism, from "Aktion" ("promotional campaign").
adieu salut hello/goodbye In French, "adieu" means "farewell" and is generally never used except in cases where the people concerned will not meet again. In Switzerland it is used as an informal general form of greeting when people meet or leave each other.
attique dernier étage top floor
bancomat Distributeur automatique de billets ATM
bobet crétin (noun) or bête/stupide (adjective) idiot (noun) or stupid (adjective)
boguet mobylette moped
bonnard sympa or bien nice Informal term.
bonne-main pourboire tip (gratuity) Literally "good-hand".
borne hydrante bouche d'incendie fire hydrant
bourbine suisse-allemand Swiss-German This word is considered pejorative.
carnotzet cave à vin/cellier/fumoir Wine cellar This expression can sometimes be found in France, in places close to Switzerland.
chenis désordre mess
chiquelette chewing-gum chewing-gum
collège (Genève, Valais, Fribourg) or gymnase (Vaud) lycée high school
crousille tirelire piggy bank
cornet sac en plastique plastic bag In France, "cornet" would typically designate an ice cream cone.
cutips coton-tige cotton bud/swab Antonomasia from the brand Q-tips which phonetically becomes "cutips" when pronounced in French.
cycle (Genève, Fribourg, Valais) collège middle school
déjeuner petit-déjeuner breakfast Meal names have shifted in Standard French, meaning that the name for lunch is the one formerly used for breakfast, the one for dinner is the one formerly used for lunch and the French equivalent of the word "dinner" is used for supper. Swiss French (like other varieties) has retained the older meanings.
dîner déjeuner lunch Meal names have shifted in Standard French, meaning that the name for lunch is the one formerly used for breakfast, the one for dinner is the one formerly used for lunch and the French equivalent of the word "dinner" is used for supper. Swiss French (like other varieties) has retained the older meanings.
duvet couette comforter / duvet "Duvet" comes from the fact that comforters used to be filled with down feather (duvet). "Duvet" in France means sleeping bag, for similar reasons.
s'encoubler se prendre les pieds dans quelque chose/trébucher to trip over
s'énuquer se briser la nuque to break one's own neck
étude d'avocats cabinet d'avocats law firm
fœhn sèche-cheveux hairdryer The name "fœhn" comes from the Foehn wind.
fonds terrain or champs field
fourre dossier/housse folder In French, "fourrer" means "to stuff".
frouz les Français people from France - French This word is considered pejorative.
galetas grenier attic Also used in Alpine regions of France, down to Dauphiné.
giratoire rond-point, giratoire roundabout Comes from "carrefour à sens giratoire" which would translate to "circular crossroads".
gouille flaque puddle
huitante quatre-vingts eighty In Swiss French, as opposed to French, the words for seventy, eighty and ninety are similar in construction to the ones used for thirty up to sixty. Huitante is only heard in Vaud, Valais and Fribourg.
linge serviette towel In French, "linge" is a generic word that refers to clothing, bed sheets and towels.
lolette tétine pacifier/teat
maman de jour assistante maternelle day care assistant
mascogner tricher aux examens cheat during exams
maturité baccalauréat high-school final examination From German "Maturitätsexamen", "Matura".
mutr mère mother Comes from the German word for "Mother", "Mutter".
natel (téléphone) portable mobile phone
nom de bleu ! nom de dieu ! in the name of god!/god dammit!
nonante quatre-vingts-dix ninety In Swiss French, as opposed to French, the words for seventy, eighty and ninety are similar in construction to the ones used for thirty up to sixty.
panosse serpillière floorcloth or mop
papier ménage papier essuie-tout paper towel
pive pomme de pin conifer cone
poutzer nettoyer to clean Comes from the German verb "putzen" which means "to clean".
Procès verbal d'examen (PV) bulletin de note report card
réclame publicité advertisement "Réclame" is an older disused word for advertising in French.
régie agence immobilière real estate agency
roye pluie rain
royer pleuvoir to rain
sans autre sans plus attendre without delay
santé à tes/vos souhaits bless you (when someone sneezes)
septante soixante-dix seventy In Swiss French, as opposed to French, the words for seventy, eighty and ninety are similar in construction to the ones used for thirty up to sixty.
service je t'en/vous en prie you're welcome From "à votre service" meaning "at your service".
services couverts cutlery
signofile/indicateur clignotant indicator/turn signal (motor vehicle)
souper dîner dinner Meal names have shifted in Standard French, meaning that the name for lunch is the one formerly used for breakfast, the one for dinner is the one formerly used for lunch and the French equivalent of the word "dinner" is used for supper. Swiss French (like other varieties) has retained the older meanings.
tablard étagère shelf
uni (short for université) fac (short word for faculté) university
votation scrutin voting
vatr père father Comes from the German word for "Father", "Vater".

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ "Swiss census, 2012". Archived from the original on October 30, 2007.
  2. ^ "L'aire de diffusion de l'arpitan, en France, en Italie et en Suisse". NotreHistoire.ch (in French). Archived from the original on 2013-07-23.
  3. ^ a b c d e Knecht, Pierre (2004). Dictionnaire suisse romand (in French). Éditions Zoé. ISBN 9782881825088.
  4. ^ "Ouvrir une boite postale". La Poste (in French).
  5. ^ "Case postale". Swiss Post (in French).