Re: Plane 14 redux (was: Same language, two locales)

Date: Tue Sep 12 2000 - 09:57:41 EDT

On 09/07/2000 05:58:00 AM Michael Everson wrote:

>I do not have the confidence which you do in the Ethnologue's taxonomy or
>in its freedom from error, Peter.

It is impossible for any enumeration or taxonomy to be "free of error",
since what constitutes error is subjective. Granted that there may be cases
in the Ethnologue in which, on examination, there might be broad consensus
that there is error, but that's not surprising for such a comprehensive
attempt at enumeration. But that doesn't mean that the enumeration isn't
valuable and useful, and many people *are* making use of it - many more
than I realised.

ISO 639-x is not free from error, Michael. In fact, some of it's problems
are inherent to its organisation, as Gary and I point out in our paper.
Those fundamental problems are absent from the Ethnologue. (I realise that
not yet everyone has had the opportunity to read our paper. I hope to get
it on our site this week; we just need to decide whether to make any
revisions in light of comments received at IUC17.)

>If we dump six thousand language codes into the RFC, we are effectively
>stopping work on ISO 639 by standardizing the Ethnologue codes. I don't
>think that is appropriate.

People need a comprehensive system of tags for all languages *yesterday*,
not several decades from now. Last week, I discovered that there are a
*lot* of people in industry who want a comprehensive set of language tags
ASAP. The question is whether ISO 639 can deliver that. If so, that's fine.
My purpose isn't to get specifically Ethnologue codes standardised, but to
get a comprehensive set of codes standardised.

>You said:
>>But the discussion regarding revisions to RFC 1766 have specifically made
>>allowances for languages that don't satisfy the 50+ document requirement.
>>The two processes *are* different.
>I think there is a difference between giving a code to something because
>is needed, and giving a code to something because it is part of somebody's

Michael, please don't attempt to trivialise the Ethnologue's list. That's
just badgering; its not an argument. From the feedback I got at IUC17,
there appears to be a broad consensus that the Ethnologue provides the most
useful comprehensive enumeration available at this time. Even people who in
the past had said they didn't think the Ethnologue should be used as a
basis for standardisation were now saying that this should move forward.
For whatever reason, you may personally not happen to like it, but your is
not the only voice in the crowd. There are several people from many
different agencies wanting to see Ethnologue codes adopted because they see
that a comprehensive list is needed, and they see that there's no better

- Peter

Peter Constable

Non-Roman Script Initiative, SIL International
7500 W. Camp Wisdom Rd., Dallas, TX 75236, USA
Tel: +1 972 708 7485
E-mail: <>

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