REVEALED: What is the 'Word of the Year' for each of Switzerland’s language regions?

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 9 Dec, 2020 Updated Wed 9 Dec 2020 12:37 CEST
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Each year the linguistics department of the Zurich University for Applied Sciences (ZHAW) chooses a word that best describes the situation in Switzerland in a given year.

The word of the year stands for significant social developments that are reflected in the discourse in Switzerland.

A research team at the Department of Applied Linguistics determines the word of the year to find out what makes Switzerland tick - in all four national languages,” ZHAW said on Tuesday as it announced the winning 2020 word for each of the linguistic regions.

This is how the selection process works: ZHAW analyses the university’s digital linguistics database to determine which words were used more frequently in 2020 than in previous years, in each linguistic region.

Then a jury of language professionals from German, French, Italian and Romansh-speaking parts of the country choose the winning word for their respective regions.

Not surprisingly, all the words chosen for 2020 are related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

And here they are.

In the Swiss-German part the word is ‘systemically relevant’.

As ZHAW explained it, “the Federal Council classified which sectors were essential for the well-being of society and the functioning of the economy. At the same time the question was: aren't we all relevant to the system?”

In the Swiss-French cantons, it is ‘coronagraben’.

This term describes the divergent epidemiological situation in French and German-language cantons, as well as different approches the regions have adopted to curb the pandemic.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What exactly is 'coronagraben' in Switzerland?

In the Swiss-Italian part, the word is ‘pandemia’

It may or may not be a coincidence that this particular word was selected for the Italian-speaking region, as the first coronavirus case in Switzerland was recorded in Ticino on February 25th, 2020.

In the Romansh region, the word is ‘mascrina’

Although only about 60,000 people speak Romansh, mostly in canton Graubünden, it is one of Switzerland’s four official languages.

‘Mascrina’ means ‘mask’, which is possibly also one of the most frequently used languages in the whole of Switzerland since the start of the pandemic.





The Local 2020/12/09 12:37

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