RHAETO-ROMANCE LANGUAGES. The Rhetic, or Rhaetic, idioms consist of several patois which form three dis tinct groups separated one from another by tracts of territory in which German and Italian are spoken. They represent the Latin spoken in Raetia, whither it was first brought by the legions of Tiberius and Drusus (subjugation of Raetia 15 B.c.), and the Latin spoken in Noricum after the tribes inhabiting that country had been defeated by Publius Sirius (16 B.c.). From the close of the 5th century Raetia and Noricum became the scene of numer ous migrations and Germanic invasions; cut off from the neighbour ing romance-speaking populations (French and Italian) they pur sued an evolution of their own. They fought hard and ceaselessly to maintain themselves against German and Italian inroads and assaults, but the long struggle resulted in a considerable diminution and disaggregation of the once very extensive and compact Rhaeto-romance domain. The study of documents of diverse kinds and resourceful philological device have established the foregoing facts, the data for which have been recently assembled by C. Pult in a paper entitled "Raetia Prima in the Middle Ages." (See LITERATURE.) There is evidence, for instance, of traces of romanization persisting round the Lake of Constance even after the 8th century, whilst at the same time there were still compact groups of Romani in the district of Salzburg. In certain areas of central and eastern Tirol, Ladin held out beyond the 13th century and in western Tirol beyond the 16th; it subsisted, indeed, later still in various localities round Venosta and Montafon. On the Rhine the country round Ragaz and Pfavers remained almost un dilutedly romance down to the 17th century and in this region the Rhetic dialect lived on till the close of the same century.
Sargans, Mels and the principality of Liechtenstein were German ized at an earlier period. The district of Werdenberg up to Buchs as well as Flums with its environs, as regards romanization, appear to have been in like condition with Ragaz. North of Buchs as far as Hirschensprung the traces of romanization are less numerous. In the Glaris canton Germanization did not take place before the I 1th century, and romance survived until considerably later in Kerenzerberg, on the south bank of the Lake of Walenstadt. The Unseren valley continued romance beyond the nth century. In the Grisons canton, Prattigan and Schamfigg retained their Rhetic dialect till the beginning of the 15th century. The chief town of Grisons, Coire (Chur) clung to Ladin till the beginning of the 5th century. The Rhetic dialect is at present in process of ex tinction in the basins of the Noce and Avisio.
Manifold reasons explain this gradual shrinkage of the Rhetic idioms: their lack of cohesion, the multiplicity of patois pre senting exceptional divergences between places not far apart, the impossibility of efficient literary output for lack of any predomi nant dialect, their state of general inferiority as towards the strongly constituted languages by which they have been ousted. In these circumstances, the activity displayed by the Rhetic idioms is the more remarkable. Their literature, an entirely arti ficial product, counts many poets of talent.
The three groups of Rhetic idioms are constituted as follows:—