ON LANGUAGE NAMES /// RE: Results of Duplicate Busters Survey #2

John Cowan cowan at ccil.org
Fri Sep 5 18:38:20 CEST 2008

Lang Gérard scripsit:

> After such considerations, it would seem urgent to search for a maximum
> of "original language names" or "indigenous language names"( with
> a romanization if the script form ids not written with a variant of
> the Latin alphabet, or a phonetisation by the International Phonetic
> Alphabet (IPA) when the considered language has only spoken form
> and no written form), so as to assure a maximum of security for the
> identification, real existence and uniqueness of the considered language
> (name) and a good capacity of choice for the alpha-3 code element to
> be attributed to this ISO 639-3 entry.

Unfortunately, there is no particular reason why indigenous names should
be unique, and we know that they are not.  The indigenous name used by
speakers of the Ainu language of Japan is (in romanization) "Ainu";
the indigenous name used by an unrelated language of China is likewise
"Ainu".  The English or French names are usually ambiguous *because*
the indigenous names are.

In the last analysis, it is the encylopedic information at Ethnologue
(pointed to by ISO 639-3) that guarantees the security of identification,
real existence, and uniqueness of specific languages.

Schlingt dreifach einen Kreis vom dies!    John Cowan <cowan at ccil.org>
Schliesst euer Aug vor heiliger Schau,     http://www.ccil.org/~cowan
Denn er genoss vom Honig-Tau,
Und trank die Milch vom Paradies.            --Coleridge (tr. Politzer)

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