Re: Reopening RFC 1766 - Language Tags

From: Glenn Adams (
Date: Wed Nov 15 1995 - 09:16:24 EST

    From: unicode@Unicode.ORG
    Date: Tue, 14 Nov 95 12:19:03 -0800

    I would like to question the soundness of using three letter identification
    on languages at this point.

I believe it to be sounder than relying on a two letter scheme which has
poor coverage.

    Would it not be much wiser to enumerate languages using a usigned int
    or long int, and make public primary and secondary key datase records
    to show the numbers meaning.

The current syntax of RFC 1766 is oriented towards alphabetic language
identifiers. Furthermore, use of a numeric identifier would reduce the
mnemonic capacity of the identifiers (to the extent that this is possible).

    It is a well documented fact that the Summer Institute of Linguistics is a
    rather bad colonial/missionary system.

Whether this is true or not (and I can't say because I have no relationship
or direct knowledge of this organization) is quite besides the point. Their
work as represented in the Ethnologue seems to be more comprehensive in its
language coverage than any other work. To ignore because you don't follow
their goals is quite ludicrous.

    It's well known to be a device for treating aborigial groups of
    people badly i.e. even to be a device for extinguishing groups of
    people in south America.

Whether one agrees with the motivations of SIL, it seems to me that any
organization that attempts to assist native peoples in writing or preserving
their own language is clearly interested in maintaining and not extinguishing
cultures. It is rash statements such as yours that seem to be in the latter

Glenn Adams

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