Proposal: Language code "de-DE-trad"

Mon, 11 Feb 2002 16:19:55 +0100

On 11 Feb 02, at 11:00, Håvard Hjulstad wrote:

> I find this discussion most interesting. Language tags are proposed to
> capture the German orthographic revision. I can obviously see the need. The
> question is how it should be solved.
> (I am the convener of ISO/TC37/SC2/WG1 and the Project Editor of ISO 639-1
> (FDIS to be circulated this month I have been told), and I am very much
> interested in finding good ways to represent language variation. We are
> going to propose a project to extend the 639 standard series to include such
> issues.)
(I omit your example here. I hope this is acceptable) 

> We need to look carefully at what is default and what is "marked". It would
> be tempting to refer to "de-DE-1996" (or whatever the correct year should
> be) as the default German for current language technology implementation.
> Deviations from the default need to be indicated.

Alas, de-DE-1996 does _not_ provide a good default.

Most german literature, especially the classics, is written in what is 
proposed as de-DE-trad, and many contemporary artists oppose the 
Also, this revision is opposed by a majority in the population. A poll made 
in 6 major newspapers in 200 resulted in 98% voting to take back the 
revision, or to ignore it.


The results of similar polls are not that extreme, but most above 75% and 
_all_ clearly above 60% in opposing the revision.


Pressure from official sides may or may not change the use in the 
population in the long run, but IMHO the next decades the traditional 
orthography will be the default.

There is also a political background which is not important, but should not 
go unnoted, as it makes the revision a more emotional topic - the 1996 
revision bears some resemblances to that propagated by the Nazi 
goverment (and taken back at end of World War II). While this may not 
be an objective reason to oppose the revision, any emotional 
ressentiment rooting here will go deep, and last.

Book "Rechtschreibreform und Nationalsozialismus", ISBN 3-89244-450-1

Also, a part of Germany (Schleswig-Holstein) does officially not accept 
the new orthography. 

I don't think these are good indications for declaring "de-DE-1996" the 

> The fine analysis means that as defaults change, the actual value of an
> unmarked language identifier (like "de", "en", "nb") changes over time. If
> we don't accept that, unmarked language identifiers cannot be used at all.

I agree here. 

IMHO, the unmarked language identifier should denote the language in 
common use, including and allowing for variations. More specific tags 
indicate their user is aware of the differences, and chose intentionally.
The unmarked tag indicates the user does not care, or does not know 
about the more specific tags, or cannot tell.
This way, erroneous tagging is reduced and the unmarked identifiers in 
use as default.

> I should think that the following approach would probably work in most cases
> for the development of languages through time: The lastest approved form of
> something is considered the default and is unmarked.

This I oppose.

Approved by whom? Goverment, population, IETF?
What about countries where the official language as set by goverment is 
different to that spoken by the population?
We're getting on dangerous grounds here, I am afraid.

While I am interested how such problems were resolved in the past here 
and with ISO 639, I would prefer if we could avoid political aspects as far 
as possible. (Saying that, I have introduced two such aspects myself in 
this discussion.)

> Previous forms should
> be marked with the time when it first was approved or taken into use
> (actually: when that form became the default replacing a previous form).
> Håvard

I am afraid this will often be hard to determine, and only with the benefit 
of hindsight. What exactly is a default in orthography? Do we need 
sociological studies here? How to avoid politics?

I don't know whether the generalized solution you are aiming for is 
possible. Determining closer the meaning of the unmarked language 
identifier is possible, I hope, but I don't think it can be affixed to a 
specific tagged variant.


Johannes Wilkes, Bonn, Germany