Re: RFC 1766 language tags

From: Otto Stolz (
Date: Wed Jun 18 1997 - 11:00:04 EDT

On Jun 17, 17:49, Art Pollard <> wrote:
> There are a number of reasons for having language tags. [some good
> reasons not quoted here]

> In addition, many languages have different sort orders specified for the same
> characters [...] So even to sort a simple list of 10 words, language tags
> could play a very crucial part. (That way you know which sort routine to

This, however, is not normally a reason for having language tags.

The sort order is normally determined by the user's expections rather than
by the language of the items to be sorted. E. g., I would want the alias
addresses in my mail user agent to be sorted according to German ordering
rules so I can easily locate both German, French and Icelandic nicknames.

On the other hand, sorting a mixed-language collection, where each item should
be ordered according to its language-dependend rules, is impossible, in the
general case. Consider a simple example, a list of only two words
  noche (Spanish for "night")
  nochmal (German for "again")
The German sorting rules demand that noche < nochmal, while the classic Spanish
sorting rules demand that nochmal < noche. So, either sequence will violate
one of the two sorting rules. The only feasable (and sensible) way out is to
sort the whole list according to one single ordering rule, which the user
should specify (preferably via his/her locale defaults).

The only situation where a user would expect a language-dependend sorting order
is for long lists of items in one single language. E. g., in a dictionary, I
would expect the German-Spanish part to be sorted according to German rules,
and the Spanish-German part according to Spanish rules. Again, this particular
order would normally not be triggered by language tags but rather by
explicit arguments supplied to the sorting process.

This should definitely not be construed as an objection to having language
tags -- in contrary:
> All in all, there are _many_ different reasons why it is important to
> use/have language tags.

On another issue:
> Personally, I am not too fond of what has been proposed in this current
> as I believe that it makes far more sense to have some sort of hierarchical
> system such as:

As I recall, the proposed language tags comply with this kind of hierarchy.

Best wishes,
   Otto Stolz

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