Counting Heads

John Cowan jcowan at
Wed May 28 16:26:08 CEST 2003

Addison Phillips [wM] scripsit:

> I agree, but it violates the hypothesis I'm making about subsidiary tags
> (which, of course, could be balderdash).

Not balderdash, just malarkey.  :-)

> IOW, you're treating zh-hakka *as*
> a language (or near enough to a language)

There can be no doubt that spoken Hakka is a language; if you understand
Mandarin and hear Hakka spoken, you understand precisely zero.  Hakka,
like the other Sinitic languages other than Mandarin (and to some extent
Cantonese), isn't usually written, though -- people learn Mandarin
and write that.

> so the tag is really:
>   lang = zh-hakka   script = han(x)   ortho = null
> rather than:   lang = zh   ortho = hakka   script = han(x)

Yes.  No way is Hakka an orthography.

> I mean, I'd guess you wouldn't have a problem with, say, en-latn-boont?

No, I still prefer en-boont-latn.  En-boont is syntactically English, but
lexically it's very different.  Look again at the two samples I posted
back when en-boont was registered:

#	The eeld'm piked for the chigrel nook
#		For gorms for her bahl beljeemer;
#	The gorms had shied, the nook was strung,
#		And the bahl beljeemer had nemer.
#	You must do much graymatterin fore pikin for seekin Ite steaks
#	to gorm, cause the sockers might not be bahlers, but nonchers
#	with dusties dust, so deek your bok well.

How willing would you be to accept the latter rather than the former
if you were looking for a guide to mushroom collecting?  Perhaps more
so than if the discussion were in ordinary English represented in Greek
or Cyrillic letters, but not much more, I bet.  A transliterator could
help you with the latter, but hardly the former.

> But if zh-hakka is on the other side of the divide we ought
> to define the divide (and that may not be possible to do with any more
> precision than a "duck test").

"What is a language?"  "A dialect with an army and a navy."

Overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out.
        --Arthur C. Clarke, "The Nine Billion Names of God"
                John Cowan <jcowan at>

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