The Suisse romande or Romandie is a local name for the French-speaking districts of western Switzerland. The term is also used to refer to the Swiss French variety spoken in Switzerland. There are about 1.6 million French-speakers in Switzerland, 22.4% of the total population.
In the politics of Switzerland, the Suisse romande is not a precisely defined area. In general it includes the cantons of Geneva, Jura (except for the municipality of Ederswiler), Neuchâtel and Vaud, where French is the customary language, as well as the bilingual cantons of Berne (the northern part known as Jura Bernois and Bienne), Fribourg and western Valais (Lower Valais). The city of Geneva constitutes the largest urban area of the region.
The word "romand" (feminine: "romande") indicates the Latin or Roman origin of the French language and the general orientation of the region to the French-speaking cultural sphere and to Roman Law. It is used in contrast to "Suisse allemanique" (German Switzerland), "Suisse italienne" (Italian Switzerland), more commonly called "(le) Tessin" (Ticino) and Romansh (which is derived from Latin).
German-speaking Swiss colloquially refer to the Suisse romande as Welschland or Welschschweiz and to the French-speaking Swiss as Welsche. This word, related to Walloon, Vlach and Welsh, refers to the Germanic name for Romance speakers of Celtic or more precisely Gallo-Roman origin.
Historically, most of Suisse Romande has been strongly Protestant, especially Calvinist, with Geneva being one of the earliest and most important Calvinist centers. There are a few Roman Catholic French-speaking Swiss, mainly in Jura, Valais, and Fribourg.
Notes and references
- Before 1914 (and the first world war), the term "Suisse française" was also used (reference: http://www.rts.ch/emissions/geopolitis/5334328-suisse-francaise-suisse-romande-le-virage-de-14-18.html).
- Lüdi, Georges; Werlen, Iwar (April 2005). "Recensement Fédéral de la Population 2000 — Le Paysage Linguistique en Suisse" (Portable Document Format) (in French, German, Italian). Neuchâtel: Office fédéral de la statistique. Retrieved 5 January 2006.