The Null Device


Europe's greatest linguistic curiosity is arguably the Swiss village of Bivio (which, in Italian, means "crossroads"), whose 200 or so inhabitants juggle several languages and dialects, depending on context, and yet somehow manage to get along:
A quarter speak the official language, Italian, one fifth speak Romansch, while the majority speak some variety of German. Amazingly, they all seem to understand one another. At the grocer's, everyone speaks their mother tongue, and everyone gets the right change.
They're well-trained. At the kindergarten, they speak Italian on Tuesday and Surmiran, a Romansch dialect, on Thursday. The rest of the week, the kids alternate between the two, but in the playground, the German dialect B├╝ndnerdeutsch rules. On Sundays, they may attend the Catholic church, where the priest preaches in Schwyzerd├╝tsch, or the Protestant one, where High German is the order of the day.
Bivio's days as a curiosity may be numbered, though; Swiss German is becoming increasingly dominant, and the primary school will start teaching English in 2012.

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