Script codes in RFC 3066

Caoimhin O Donnaile caoimhin at
Wed Apr 9 23:36:21 CEST 2003

On Wed, 9 Apr 2003, John Cowan wrote:

> > I was thinking mostly of hierarchic information above the language
> > level - e.g. recording the fact that Scottish Gaelic is a Goidelic
> > language, which in turn are a branch of the Celtic languages, which
> > in turn are a branch of the Indo-european family.
> The trouble is that while these specific facts are uncontroversial,
> their equivalents elsewhere are often controversial.  Furthermore,
> the identity of the level above IE, or even whether there is one, is
> extremely controversial.
> Furthermore, it's not clear what the utility of this database would be
> for the bulk of applications.  For example, what useful properties do the
> Celtic languages as such have in common?  If a client asks for Scottish
> Gaelic, it might be tolerable to get Irish instead, but receiving Welsh
> would be no better than receiving Danish.

Agreed.  The language-family database would probably be most useful at
the lower levels, but it would be no harm to include higher levels
too.  Although nodes and links between nodes will no doubt change
as scholarships and opinions on the "best" hierarchy progress, provided
that the nodes have "atomic" codes, most of the nodes and most of
the links should remain stable.  Applications would continue to work
just the same despite changes elsewhere (e.g. a new "Nostratic" top
level or an "Insular Celtic" level between "Goidelic" and "Celtic").

Here are a few possible examples of use.

- Someone living in a Swiss village wants to find web pages to do
  with his village, but because the name of the village happens
  to be a also common English word he is being swamped by irrelevant
  hits.  He could restrict his search to pages in "German"
  (Ethnologue code "GER"), but he would then miss pages coded as being
  in Swiss German or in his local dialect of Swiss German.  He could
  try to include all the possibilities but that would be a hassle.
  Instead, using a hierarchic dropdown menu, he restricts his search
  to pages in the "High German" branch (Ethnologue 14th edition
  code "749"), which includes Hochdeutsch and all the Swiss German
  dialects but not English.

- A librarian wants to classify a book.  He knows that it is
  in Frisian, but he doesn't have the knowledge or time to
  determine whether it is in Western Frisian (Ethnologue "FRI"),
  Eastern Frisian ("FRS") or Northern Frisian ("FRR").  If
  language family node codes are available and reasonably stable
  he can classify it simply as "Frisian" (Ethnologue 14th edition
  code "770").

- A researcher wants to review all dictionary work done on
  Polynesian languages.  An online database of dictionaries
  making use of the language-family database makes it very
  easy to select "Polynesian languages" using a hierarchic
  dropdown menu.


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