Language Provisions in the Constitution of Switzerland






Switzerland is a federal republic governed by a constitution adopted in 1848, revised in 1874, and amended more than 140 times since. Since the result was a text that was almost incomprehensible, the federal Parliament passed an order on June 3, 1987 mandating the Federal Council to undertake a comprehensive revision of the Constitution. Constitutional review committees were struck In 1996, and the preliminary work reform was completed by the end of 1997. Parliament then studied the proposal and approved it in 1998. The proposal was then put to the Swiss people in a referendum held on April 18, 1999 and was endorsed by 59.2% of voters (with a participation rate of 35.3%). Eight cantons and two demicantons rejected the draft Constitution, while 12 cantons and two demicantons said "yes." Cantons with a high proportion of French, Italian and Rumansh speakers were favourable to the new Constitution, while the greatest opposition was found in the German-speaking cantons. The new Swiss Constitution officially came into force on January 1, 2000.

The Constitution was drafted in the four national languages: French, German, Italian and Rumansh.



Language Provisions in the Constitution of Switzerland

Title: Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation of April 18, 1999
Date: December 18, 1999
Effective Date: January 1, 2000

Article 4 National Languages

The National Languages are German, French, Italian, and Rumansh.

Article 70 Languages

1) The official languages of the Confederation are German, French, and Italian. Rumansh shall be an official language for communicating with persons of Rumansh language.

2) The Cantons shall designate their official languages. In order to preserve harmony between linguistic communities, they shall respect the traditional territorial distribution of languages, and take into account the indigenous linguistic minorities.

3) The Confederation and the Cantons shall encourage understanding and exchange between the linguistic communities.

4) The Confederation shall support the plurilingual Cantons in the fulfillment of their particular tasks.

5) The Confederation shall support the measures taken by the Cantons of Grisons and Ticino to maintain and to promote Rumansh and Italian.

Back to top