> I've heard that the Ethnologue deals only with currently spoken languages
> and doesn't provide codes that distinguish between dialects. It would be
> nice to have a more general list of language codes. It's important for
> spell checking to distinguish between, say, British and American English.
> The Ethnologue describes some such differences in text, but doesn't appear
> to provide a corresponding list of secondary language codes (pls correct me
> if I'm wrong).
Looked at from the perspective of "locale" tagging like that, it does have shortcomings. But it's still more comprehensive than other lists. If you use that as the basis for a "basic" tag, you can always add a sub-language name space or other bits of hierarchy that make it as comprehensive as you want for purposes of use by computers. Obviously also it would have to eventually be expanded to include dead languages.
I view the Ethnologue list as being the best candidate to START with; and around that, we would build a SYSTEM of identification that is as comprehensive and fine-grained as necessary for particular domains.
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