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

John Cowan jcowan at
Mon Dec 13 14:06:22 CET 2004

Bruce Lilly scripsit:

> There is a limited supply of 2-letter codes and the supply
> of 3-digit codes is only slightly greater.  Reassignment of
> codes from such a limited supply is inevitable.  

In the very long run, yes; but even the 75-octet limit probably won't
stand in the *very* long run.  Countries and languages, as opposed
to codes for them, don't come and go like IETF protocols: many of
them have centuries of history, or half a century in the case of the
post-colonialist countries; the events of 1991-93 were historically

> Too late. King Canute commands the tide not to come in, but
> his feet still get wet.  

Canute was making a moral object lesson about the limitations of
kingship, not acting like an idiot.

> But I'm not concerned with translations, but with the
> definitions. And currently the definitions are available
> in French and English.

What of it?  In what case does the provision of a French name
significantly tighten the definition provided by the English
name (or for that matter vice versa)?

> Removing that requirement [for registration] -- as the draft would do
> -- necessitates a specific upper bound on tag length that will work
> with existing core protocols, to replace the reviewer, Area Director,
> and community review process that ensure that current registered tags
> work with those protocols.

Michael, I assume you're ignoring this kerfuffle, and rightly so.
But for the record, have you ever been given cause to take into
account a hard limit in the length of language tags?

Here lies the Christian,                        John Cowan
        judge, and poet Peter,        
Who broke the laws of God             
        and man and metre.                      jcowan at

More information about the Ietf-languages mailing list