Re: Same language, two locales

From: Doug Ewell (
Date: Sat Sep 02 2000 - 14:58:12 EDT

Keld Jørn Simonsen <> wrote:

>> The standard for two-letter language codes is ISO 639-1. There is
>> also an ISO 639-2 (actually, there are two variants) that specifies
>> three-letter language codes.
> Well, ISO 639-1 does not exist, yet. It is rather ISO 639 that is
> being used.

I may have been using the term too loosely. But I did visit the home
page of the ISO 639 Joint Advisory Committee, which had this to say:

"The ISO 639/Joint Advisory Committee (ISO 639/JAC) has been established
to advise both the ISO 639-1/RA Registration Authority and the ISO
639-2/RA Registration Authority..."

I also visited <>
which describes "[t]he following criteria for defining new languages in
ISO 639-1" and refers many other times to ISO 639-1. So if I am using
the term loosely, then others in a higher position of authority than me
are doing so as well. :-)

>> [The POSIX locale model] is widely regarded as inadequate for
>> covering even a reasonable subset of locale possibilities.
> However, this is the methodology that everybody uses, inclusive
> Microsoft (viz. another email here) and what RFC 1766 is modelled
> after. It works well for the programs I am using. What are the
> problems that you percieve here?

I had several in mind while I was writing this. One that I know has
been mentioned on this list is that if you are in a Euro country, such
as France, your fr_FR locale is not sufficient to specify the use of
the Euro currency symbol. A separate "fr_FR_Euro" locale would be
needed. This would pose a problem if you needed to switch back and
forth, and in any case the standard fr_FR locale will certainly not
automatically update itself from FRF to EUR on 2002-01-01.

(This may not be a problem if people simply ignore the locale's currency
symbol. I have never really understood why currency symbols are part of
a locale anyway, POSIX or otherwise. It is naïve to think one will
never need to express currency values in any unit except one's local

Another example is that my preferred date format (2000-09-02) and time
format (23:59) are not supported by a default en_US locale, so I would
have to invent my own locale to handle this.

I am a Windows user and hardly ever deal directly with POSIX systems,
so this is based on my understanding of the model rather than real-world
experience. Flame-free corrections and amplifications are welcomed.

-Doug Ewell
 Fullerton, California

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