New Last Call: 'Tags for Identifying Languages' to BCP

Mark Crispin mrc at CAC.Washington.EDU
Sun Dec 12 22:07:47 CET 2004

On Sun, 12 Dec 2004, Peter Constable wrote:
> That is not at all the aim here wrt stability; rather, the aim is that a
> symbolic identifier used for metadata in IT systems not change because
> some government on a whim says, "We would now prefer to use 'yz' rather
> than 'xy' to designate our country."

This point needs to be stressed.

If this registry does not do it, we'll need to create a new one which 

> If anything, I am inclined to object to two: to avoid an Anglo-Franco
> colonial bias,


If there were to be just two languages, it would need to be Mandarin 
Chinese as primary entry, and English as secondary entry.

> either there is one name that is simply a reference name,
> or the registry be designed so that it could accommodate names in as
> many languages as may be available.

In order to accomodate the Francophiles, we would need first to accomodate 
several other languages of greater international prominence than French; 
and by that point the registry would be so unwieldy as to be useless.

Even worse is the matter of coordinating all these various descriptions 
and what happens when (not if) an ambiguity is created because the Lower 
Slobbovian version means something different than the English version?

Among other things, that means that a developer in Lower Slobbovia can't 
use an abridged version of the registry that only has the Lower Slobbovian 
descriptions, because if he is unaware of the other texts he may make an 
unwarranted assumption as to the meaning of that description.n

What is done when (not if) international politics rears its ugly head? 
We have numerous instances where the name of a language is official in one 
place, and highly-offensive in another place.

What's more, all of that effort is for naught, since the only thing that 
matters is the tag, a machine-readable token intended to identify a 
language, and not the description.

> RFC 3066 *does not at any point* suggest let alone state that
> implementations should use ISO 639 language names or ISO 3166 country
> names for UI purposes. IMO, you are creating an issue where none exists.


Another point which bears emphasis; these are machine-readable tags for 
the purpose of software, not user interface elements.

> IETF language tags are used in a wide variety of applications. The
> parties involved in development of this spec (the authors and others)
> have examined these issues for the past several years and have arrived
> at this architecture.

And have done a fine job at it.

-- Mark --
Science does not emerge from voting, party politics, or public debate.
Si vis pacem, para bellum.

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