Re: Tagging orthographic systems (was: (iso639.186) the Ethnologue)

From: John Hudson (
Date: Wed Sep 13 2000 - 12:02:06 EDT

Otto Stolz wrote:

>I think, the ethnologue lacks information about variant orthographies.
>(I last looked in it, a couple of months ago.) Both RFC 1766 and
>ISO 639 ignore the issue of variant orthographies.

Yes, this is another type of information that could usefully be tagged but
which is ignored by existing standards, and non-standards, of 'language
codes' (whatever the hell one of those is). Would it be too radical to
suggest that 'language codes', per se, are one of the least useful things
for IT tagging? A blind code, that offers no information about orthography,
script variant, or even whether a language is written at all, simply does
not convey enough information by itself. To be useful at all it needs to be
combined with other codes that indicate combinations of script, language
and orthography.

Michael asked why the ISO 639 maintenance agency had not heard from any of
the people Peter claims need hundreds of new tags. If these people think at
all like me, it is because ISO 639 has a huge credibility problem.

One of the criticisms of the Ethnologue raised at the conference, by Ken
Whistler, I believe, was that it only contains codes for living and
moribund languages, and that many hundreds of dead languages of interest to
scholars are unrepresented. Of course, this is not an insurmountable
problem. It could be addressed by additions to the Ethnologue or a parallel
database, to which Kamal Mansour offers the name Necrologue.

John Hudson

Tiro Typeworks A man was meant to be doubtful about
Vancouver, BC himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. G.K. Chesterton

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