Re: Language tags in LDAP

From: Kenneth Whistler (
Date: Fri Jun 13 1997 - 19:53:34 EDT

Tom Brunner cited the SSILA list of languages (Society for the
Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas)

> The following list is simply those for North American languages for which
> SSILA has published or "semi-published" language resources or knows of their
> existance.

Harald Alvestrand replied:

> I'd enjoy having the languages you mention registered under the
> "i-" prefix.

This goes right back to the hoary old question of what is a "language"
anyway. The SSILA list is of mixed levels, sometimes citing a "language"
for what is actually a grouping of related languages, sometimes citing
multiple names for what is the same language. It is a list created for
bibliographic convenience. It is neither complete (as Tom points out,
since there are many other sources), nor is it vetted as appropriate
for input to an official registration of language names.

Let me cite one specific example from the list:


Miwok is *not* a language, but a family of languages from
Central California, aka "Miwokan", consisting of at least 7 languages:

   Bodega Miwok (and other Western Miwok dialects poorly documented)
   Lake Miwok
   Bay Miwok
   Plains Miwok
   Northern Sierra Miwok
   Central Sierra Miwok
   Southern Sierra Miwok

Despite the appearance of the names, which would suggest these are
dialects of a single language, they are universally treated by
the specialists in question as distinct languages. They have
distinct grammars published (for some), and distinct dictionaries
published (for all), and there is other published material for
each of these languages. The historical relations between these
languages is at least as deep as Romance, so we are talking about
differences comparable to Spanish vs. Portuguese vs. Italian
vs. French vs. Sardinian vs. Romanian here.

Some of these languages are now completely
extinct, but there are still speakers for others. There may be
ongoing cultural and/or literacy programs involving some. Some
of these languages have identified dialects.

So simply sticking an "i-" in front of "Miwok" would get *something*
registered, but it wouldn't be *a language*.


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