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About Swiss (French) Language

Swiss French (French: Français de Suisse or Suisse Romand) is the name used for the variety of French spoken in the French-speaking area of Switzerland known as Romandy. Swiss French is not to be confused with Franco-Provençal/Arpitan or Romansh, two other individual Romance languages spoken in areas not far from Romandy.

The differences between Swiss French and Parisian French are minor and mostly lexical: a Swiss French speaker would have no trouble understanding a French speaker, while a French speaker would encounter only a few unfamiliar words while listening to a Swiss French speaker. Swiss French, when compared with French of France, has a somewhat "sing-song" effect. Swiss French differs from the French of France to a far lesser extent than Swiss German differs from standard German. This was not always the case, as most of the dialects spoken in the Romandy died out and thus are no longer spoken or used.

There is not a single standardized Swiss French language: different cantons (or even different towns in some cases) will use different vocabulary, often derived from the local regional language or from German, since Switzerland is predominantly German-speaking.

Differences between Swiss French and standard French

Many differences between Swiss French and French are due to the different administrative and political systems between Switzerland and France. Some of its distinctive lexical features are shared with Belgian French, such as:

  • The use of the word septante for seventy, huitante for eighty (regional) and nonante for ninety as opposed to soixante-dix (literally 'sixty-ten'), quatre-vingt (literally 'four twenties') and quatre-vingt-dix (literally 'four twenties-ten') of the "vigesimal" French counting system.
  • The words déjeuner (breakfast, although in Standard French breakfast is "petit déjeuner") and dîner (lunch) are used with the same meaning as in Belgian French and Quebec French, in opposition with the French usage with meanings of lunch and dinner, which are purportedly due to Louis XIV's habit of rising at noon[citation needed]; see Belgian French vocabulary.

Other examples which are not shared with Belgian French:

  • The word huitante is sometimes used for eighty instead of quatre-vingts (literally 'four twenties'), especially in the cantons of Vaud, Valais, Neuchâtel, and Fribourg; the term octante (from the Latin octaginta) is now considered defunct.
  • The word canton has a different meaning in each country.
  • In France, a post office box is called a boîte postale (BP), whereas in Switzerland, it is called a case postale (CP).


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