Re: the Ethnologue

From: Rick McGowan (
Date: Tue Sep 12 2000 - 16:28:27 EDT

Oh Michael...

> I think there are codes given to entities in the Ethnologue list that
> aren't languages in the sense that we need to identify languages in IT
> and in Bibliography

ISO 639, and every other "standard" for language/locale codes also has this problem, and from what I remember of the last old version of Ethnologue that I looked at in great detail... the Ethnologue database has them in smaller quantity than other standards.

> I don't see what the hurry is.

Can you say "Library of Congresss"?

One of the arguments that representatives of the U. S. Government keep making to people who attend their shows at the IUC conferences each year... is that nobody knows where the next earthquake, flood, war, famine, bomb, or other disaster, be it political or natural, is going to occur. And when there is an "incident", language data and translations and many things are needed IMMEDIATELY, not in ten years or more when ISO wakes up.

One of the major PROBLEMS with ISO 639, and other such lists developed by ISO over the years, is that they are not brought into being, or maintained, with the intent of being comprehensive. They are either intended to, or do serve, some short-term narrow interests.

Governments, libraries, and businesses throughout the world have needed a comprehensive language and locale identification system for many years. ISO has not provided it. One place to start is with a comprehensive list of "languages" -- however you define that; and please define it at least with fair consistency. The Ethnologue is a place to start.

Can anyone point me to an existing list of languages that is more comprehensive and better researched than the Ethnologue? If there is no such list, then we don't need to consider any alternatives, right?



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