What a Locale is.... (Re: [Fwd]: Response to Mark's message])

Peter_Constable at sil.org Peter_Constable at sil.org
Mon Apr 14 17:39:14 CEST 2003

Harald Alvestrand wrote on 04/14/2003 03:05:27 AM:

> it seems to me that this example shows the fundamentally problematic 
> quality of a locale: That the standardizers never got around to figuring 

> out what the locale is a property *of*...

> For locale, as used in the POSIX family of standards, it is a 
> thing that is a property of the execution environment of a program.
> But that doesn't make it a property of the program.
> Nor is it a property of the user using the program (albeit possibly 
> related).
> Nor is it a property of the data the program is processing.
> Nor is it a property of the location the program is executing in.
> Nor is it a property of the location the user is resident in.

Perhaps the only thing we can say a locale *is* is that it's an artifact 
of legacy implementations. I think your observations reflect that locale 
is not that useful a notion (apart from the fact that legacy 
implementations require them).

> For language, it's pretty clearly the property of a piece of text or 
> material for transferring speech (in its widest sense), such as audio, 
> video or pictures.

I think this provides a basis on an answer for Jon Hanna's question: why 
combine script IDs into the middle of language tags. Language data can be 
represented in many forms, including text -- indeed, as Mark observed very 
early in this thread, the vast majority of existing language data is in 
textual form. We need tags that distinguish differences in language data, 
and this includes differences in textual forms. Granted, a distinction can 
be made between purely linguistic differences (languages, dialects) versus 
differences in the textual form (script/writing system, orthography and 
spelling), but we need ask whether different systems of tagging are needed 
to support non-textual vs. textual distinctions. Given that there are 
existing implementations of language tags in which a single tagging system 
is used for both non-textual and textual distinctions, I think the onus 
should be on those who think we should have distinct systems to make their 

- Peter

Peter Constable

Non-Roman Script Initiative, SIL International
7500 W. Camp Wisdom Rd., Dallas, TX 75236, USA
Tel: +1 972 708 7485

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