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The ancient Romansh (literally, "Roman") language is still predominant in the Lower Engadine and Surselva; roughly 30% of Graubünden residents can speak it. The language dates back to the 1st century BC, when the area was conquered by the Romans and became a province called Rhaetia Prima. An alternative view on this point says the tongue predates the Romans and originated as long ago as 600 BC, when an Etruscan prince named Rhaetus invaded the region.
Anyone versed in a Latin language can follow Romansh's simpler signs (abitaziun da vacanzas, for example, is a vacation apartment), but Romansh is no easy matter to pick up by ear. Nor do the Graubündners smooth the way: Rhaetian Romansh is fragmented into five dialects, which developed separately in formerly isolated valleys, so that depending on where you are, the word for house can be seen written on the facades of homes as casa, chasa, chesa, tga/tgesa, or tgea.
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