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

Doug Ewell dewell at
Tue Dec 14 22:01:54 CET 2004

Man, you miss a lot when you only subscribe to the digest.

Vernon Schryver <vjs at calcite dot rhyolite dot com> wrote:

> On the contrary, what the authors of a standard intend is not
> normative.  As much as possible, every standard must say what it
> means, because what a standard says *is* its technical content.  For
> example, I'm unhappy about an apparent sentiment that would put ABNF
> on a lower footing that the English text.  I think I'm like most
> implementors and perhaps unlike non-engineers in reversing that
> precedence.  Whenever I read an RFC, I rely first and foremost on the
> ABNF.  I use the English only for hints, and follow the ABNF instead
> of the English whenever there is a conflict.

It's not a matter of putting the ABNF on a lower footing than the prose.
They work together.  They have to.

The "grandfathered" production in the RFC 3066bis ABNF is intended only
for the 24 entries (not 46, as I wrote earlier) that are carried over
from the RFC 3066 registry and that don't otherwise conform to the RFC
3066bis syntax.  Take a look at the items marked "grandfathered" in the
proposed registry:

If you can write a reasonable "grandfathered" production in ABNF that
will allow this set of tags and no others, such that the ABNF can be
used without also referring to the prose, then I salute you.

-Doug Ewell
 Fullerton, California

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