Re: SIL (was Re: Reopening RFC 1766 - Language Tags)

From: Edward Cherlin et al. (
Date: Sun Nov 19 1995 - 22:51:38 EST

J"org Knappen wrote, continuing a discussion of SIL and proposals for a
standard for language identifiers:

>Just to cite one example: The whole treatment of german and its dialects is
>a complete mess and has not much to do with reality. (See dtv-Atlas der
>deutschen Sprache, Deutscher Taschenbuch-Verlag for details...).

OK, let's see. Ethnologue lists Standard German, Bavarian, Eastern Frisian,
Northern Frisian, Western Frisian, Plattdeutsch, Luxemburgian, Mennonite
German, Yiddish, Dutch/Flemish, and Romansch. I don't have the dtv-Atlas to
compare with it. To me, with my limited knowledge of German and Yiddish,
and my very distant acquaintance with Frisian and Dutch/Flemish, it all
looks plausible. I admit that I don't know enough to judge the matter.

>For better references I just want to mention
>a) The list of languages given in the appendix of the Cambridge encylopedia
>of language. This list employs a cut-off at 10 thousand speakers, except the
>language is of specific linguistic interest and contains about 1000

I took another look at my copy. This would make a good starting point,
although it has no script information and sidesteps the issues of dialects.
A standard that listed the top 1,000 languages would satisfy all commercial
requirements, and would be quite adequate while we thrashed out the next
step. In the long run we want the most complete listing possible, including
dead languages, in order to satisfy the needs of scholars.

In comparison with Ethnologue, the Cambridge Encyclopedia does not list
Plattdeutsch, Mennonite German, and Bavarian, and gives only one listing
for Frisian.

>b) The standard book by Voegelin and Voegelin
>(Sorry for not having ISBN etc. at my terminal).

That's C.F .& F.M. Voegelin, Classification and Index of the World's
Languages (1977). Sorry, I don't have the ISBN either. The Cambridge
Encyclopedia of Languages cites it as the standard reference, which I take
to mean that it would do well for the second level of a standard for
language identifiers. However, any book written in 1977 would necessarily
be out of date on both theory and practice. This is also not the complete

>--J"org Knappen.
>P.S. I don't attempt to spend volunteer work on SIL's messed up database.
>And I cannot accept any standard based on it.

Well, I leave the rest of this discussion to those better qualified. It
appears that we have enough to work with, and our work may spur others to
do a better job of identifying languages in a more uniform manner in the
future. If we want to use a listing as detailed as Ethnologue, we should
certainly check it over against other lists and make sure we get the best
possible listing and classification.

Edward Cherlin ascii.brain_dead.die.die.die
Character Type Worldwide research 916-938-4684
Everything should be made as simple as possible,
   __but no simpler__. Albert Einstein

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.2 : Tue Jul 10 2001 - 17:20:30 EDT