We have a problem with the language codes recognised by Web browsers.
The standard mostly widely used in the Internet to specify language codes
is ISO 639 - "Codes for the representation of names of languages" (see RFC
1766 and RFC 2070).
Some years ago, the ISO 639 Maintenance Agency amended the standard, adding
three new language codes:
and modifying three existing language codes:
New code Old code
Hebrew he iw
Indonesian id in
Yiddish yi ji
The problems caused by the modification of existing codes have been
discussed previously, as have the pros and cons of the ISO 639 standard and
of the various competing standards and schemes. I don't want to waken those
What I want to raise is a very particular problem: Two of the browsers that
handle Hebrew (maybe this should read "The two browsers that handle
Hebrew"), recognise the old language code ("iw") but not the new one ("he").
This is very worrying. I hope the vendors will speedily enhance their
products to recognise both the old and new codes.
This leaves us with a very specific problem in regard to the IUC10 Web pages
at <http://www.reuters.com/unicode/iuc10>. Should we use the old code for
Hebrew, so that the browsers recognise it and display it, or the new one so
as to encourage the vendors to fix their browsers, with the disadvantage
that the text won't display correctly? We have deferred publishing the
Hebrew, Arabic and Yiddish texts until we know how to resolve this (and some
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