Walser

From Academic Kids

For other uses, see Walser (disambiguation).

The Walser are German-speaking people (more specifically, they speak Walser German dialects) that live in the alps of Switzerland, Italy, Liechtenstein and Austria. The Walser people are so called because they originated in the upper Wallis (Valais) Canton, in the uppermost Rhône River valley, from where they began to spread south, west and east between the 12th and 13th centuries. Walser (or Walscher, which is the self-designation) is thus a contraction of Walliser.

Some sources include the entire Alemannic upper Wallis Canton with the Walser, and not only the people who left that area. In a more specific use, the term Walser language applies exclusively to the Walliser diaspora out of the upper Wallis Canton. (The inclusion of Simplon, Wallis Canton, in the list of Walser-speaking communities in Switzerland—see below—is only apparently an exception, since Simplon is actually located on the southern [Italian] side of the Alpine watershed.)

Contents

Reasons for the emigration

Different theories try to explain why the Walser left the Wallis between the 12th and 13th centuries.

Some think that the large Walser migrations took place because of conflicts with the valley's feudal lords. Other theories say it was because of overpopulation. Other theories say that they were reinforced by the respective local authorities in order to settle previously unpopulated regions.

Characteristics of Walser settlements

The main characteristics of Walser settlements are the Walser German dialects. It is also typical that they are located in a very high altitude in remote valleys that had not been settled before.

Although this is often believed, there is not only one type of Walser houses.

Geographical distribution

In Switzerland, there are 26 Walser communities (and seven others were originally Walser). These are: Simplon, in Wallis Canton; Bosco Gurin, in Canton Ticino; and the following communities in Graubünden (Grisons): Obersaxen; Valsertal (Vals, St. Martin); Safiental (Valendas, Versam, Tenna, Safien); Rheinwald (Medels, Nufenen, Splügen, Sufers, Hinterrhein, Avers); Schanfigg (Arosa, Langwies); Albula (Mutten, Schmitten, Wiesen); Landquart (Davos, Klosters, Furna, Says, St. Antönien, Valzeina).

In Italy, there are nine Walser communities (and four others were originally Walser). These are: Gressoney-La Trinité, Gressoney-Saint Jean, Issime, Gaby (Val Lesa or Lys Valley, in Aosta province); Formazza/Pomatt, Macugnaga (Verbano-Cusio-Ossola province); Alagna Valsesia, Rima San Giuseppe, Rimella (Sesia Valley or Valsesia, in Vercelli province).

In Liechtenstein, there is one Walser community: Triesenberg, including Saminatal and Malbun.

In Austria, there are 14 Walser communities: Grosses Walsertal (Blons, Fontanella, Raggal, St. Gerold, Sonntag, Thüringerberg), Kleinwalsertal (Mittelberg), Brandnertal (Brand), Montafon (Silbertal), Reintal (Laterns), Tannberg (Schröcken, Lech, Warth), all in Vorarlberg; and in Paznauntal (Galtür), in Tyrol.

Additionally, Walser communities are reportedly found in Haute-Savoie, France (Vallorcine, in the Chablais), where the local Walser dialect is no longer spoken, and in the Berner Oberland (or Bernese Highlands), Switzerland (Grimseljoch-Sustenpass area, Lauterbrunnen, Mürren, etc.), where the local Walser dialect has assimilated to the Swiss German dialects of the Berner Oberland.

Links

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