Basic problems with the Linguasphere Lisbon paper

John Clews scripts20 at
Sun Jun 6 17:18:21 CEST 2004

I read "WEAVING THE LINGUASPHERE": LS 639, ISO 639 and ISO 12620, by David
Dalby and Lee Gillam

Here are some pros and cons


1. Language documentation

The language documentation and the variable length Linguasphere Scale are
in themselves useful, as standalone information, and I refer to it quite


1. Coding method

However, given the existence of the variable length Linguasphere Scale
(see Section 3.2 of the paper), what is the needs justification for the
fixed length Linguasphere Identifiers (LS 639 alpha4 langtags)
(see section 3.3)?

It just seems unnecessary (and confusing) duplication, and devised for no
purpose whatsoever.

2. Confusion of names

You also talk about "the Linguasphere Identifiers, known collectively as
LS 639."

This seems particularly confusing overlap with ISO 639, when it is NOT a
standard, (and not yet even an ISO NWIP, it seems - as you wrote: "__If__
LS 639 is accepted as the basis of a NWIP (New Work Item Proposal) by

Furthermore, what are documents LS1 to LS638, and LS640 onwards, and where
can one find details of them?

3. Mnemonics

You also wrote:

"The mnemonic form of most alpha4 langtags favours human readability
alongside an
essential machine readability. Although machines have no need for mnemonic
communities of speakers are likely to prefer the “meaningful” tagging of
their languages
based on their own autonyms."

Except that mnemonicity ALWAYS breaks down after a certain number of
languages have any coding system allocated - there's just too many
languages for this to work well. So what's the point of mneminicity?

John Clews

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