Re: [OT] Re: the Ethnologue

From: John Cowan (
Date: Mon Sep 18 2000 - 01:23:15 EDT

On Sun, 17 Sep 2000, Doug Ewell wrote:

> Since I have spent this whole, *very* OT discussion as the contrarian
> ("devil's advocate" is too polite), I will take this opportunity to say
> that now that I understand John's proposal more clearly, I like it and
> think it makes a good deal of sense in an RFC 1766 bis environment.

Hurrah, hurrah!

> If "i-" tags are just an RFC 1766 thing, then this can work exactly as
> John suggested. OTOH, if they are specified by ISO 639 in any way,
> then we would have to use "x-" tags instead, since we are not at
> liberty to extend ISO 639 unilaterally.

They are an RFC 1766 thing: "i" is short for IANA, the registration
agency associated with the RFCs.

> The mechanism for using these codes would need to be explicitly
> specified in RFC 1766 bis, and the rules would have to be the same as
> for other "i-" and "x-" codes, namely that ISO 639-1 codes must be used
> whenever possible, followed in turn by ISO 639-2 codes, "i-sil-xxx"
> Ethnologue codes (whoops, John, that's a real code (for Keo)), other
> "i-" codes, and finally "x-" codes. I think that's what John is
> proposing, anyway.

Just so. Of course, this rule applies to the review/registry system.
Thus, i-sil-eng would never even be registered, because en serves the
same purpose.

> My other concerns about the Ethnologue remain: I still believe there
> needs to be one normative name for each language (politically incorrect
> though it may be);

I too agree that this would be desirable, but for the sake of 14
cases out of 7000, I wouldn't hold the whole system hostage.

> and some common sense needs to prevail regarding the
> scope of the language tag (like exactly how specific we need to be
> about the exact dialect of Chinese in a text message).

We need to be as specific as we need to be to solve the particular
problem, I guess. If "zh" is all you need, then use it; otherwise
go to zh-guoyu or zh-yue or whatever.

> But John's
> proposal might be a solution for those people who really need a
> standard language tag for Mukumina.

Exactly so. And BTW "my proposal" is also Harald Alvestrand's proposal.

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

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