RE: [OT] Re: the Ethnologue

From: Christopher John Fynn (
Date: Fri Nov 24 2000 - 00:37:01 EST

Peter Constable wrote:

> This is a good example of why an enumeration of "languages"
> based only on written forms (as found in ISO 639) is
> insufficient for all user needs.

Of course ISO 639 is insufficient for *all* user needs
- no standard is. And is there actually a remit for
ISO 639 to include spoken languages?

Another post mentioned that ISO 639 was started for
bibliographic purposes. Perhaps ISO 639 should stick
to being a standard of codes for written languages and
a separate standard (or a new part of ISO 639) should
be started for spoken languages. There may just be too
many conflicts trying to encode both spoken and written
languages in the same standard with one set of codes.

Spoken language XXXX is not necessarily at all the same
thing as written language XXXX.
There are e.g. plenty of mutually incomprehensible
forms of spoken English which might each deserve a
code in a standard for spoken languages but probably
far fewer mutually incomprehensible varieties of written
English. And the varieties of dialects of written English
do not map neatly to the varieties of spoken English.
The same is true for other written and spoken

- Chris

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