RE: [OT] Re: the Ethnologue

From: John Cowan (
Date: Sun Sep 17 2000 - 22:12:20 EDT

On Sun, 17 Sep 2000, Carl W. Brown wrote:

> I can understand your point of view as a standards person.
> You are right the Ethnologue is not appropriate as a standard. But that
> does not make it useless.

I am not a "standards person", and I think you have my stand mixed up.
I am in favor of registering the tags in the Ethnologue (except for
those which are *semantically* the same as existing 639-2 languages)
in the RFC 1766 registry in the form i-sil-xxx.

> Where I see using the SIL is as an extension of the ISO standard.

RFC 1766 exists to allow flexible extension to the ISO standard.

> If there
> is no ISO code then use the SIL code.

There are already collisions, so simply using one or the other
gets you into trouble. For example, ARC is the SIL code for Archi,
a Northern Caucasian language spoken in the Russian Federation.
But you cannot use it in an ISO 639 field, because ARC in 639
represents Aramaic, which is differentiated by SIL into 16 languages.

But under my proposal, Archi is i-sil-arc, and Aramaic is arc. If
you want to specify Assyrian Neo-Aramaic specifically, you can use

> As far as research goes, you have to
> do your own to be able to prepare the locale. This will eliminate 90% of
> the flaky SIL languages. There either will be no demand or the research
> will uncover which of several encodings to use. Yes this is not a standard
> but it is a way to implement until a standard can be developed.

Locales are by no means the only uses of language tagging. My primary
interest is in labeling the languages used in multimedia objects, including
text, audio content, or both.

> It is
> easier to deal with the SIL codes than the i-xxxxx codes.

What i-xxxxx codes? Currently there are only a few.

> Besides I can not
> take any standard that implements i-klingon as a human language too
> seriously.

Why not? Human beings speak it (some more fluently than others), and
write texts in it. Just follow the links from It is not
anybody's native language, but neither is Ladino (i-sil-spj).

> On the other hand if you consider that language is part of cultural
> expression and that different languages express ideas specific to the
> culture then the SIL is incomplete.

The notion of a complete list of languages is a phantasm.

> For example, Boont is an English slang
> language developed around Booneville California. This is not listed but
> then you have to remember that the list is explicitly funded for the purpose
> of translating bibles and I doubt that there is any interest in languages
> that are not primary languages. People who speak Boont also speak English.

There are many languages listed in the Ethnologue that aren't native
languages. As for the short ling, the kimmies at SIL were plenty bahl to
omeert it.

John Cowan                         
One art/there is/no less/no more/All things/to do/with sparks/galore
	--Douglas Hofstadter

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