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

Bruce Lilly blilly at
Wed Dec 15 15:15:03 CET 2004

>  Date: 2004-12-13 04:37
>  From: Mark Crispin <mrc at>

> Silliness aside, the file may well have embedded language tags in the text 
> of the file.  Have you forgotten Plane 14?

No, but I note that its introduction strongly discouraged
its general use (specifically mentioning ACAP as the
intended scope of usage, IIRC); the current version of the
Unicode document continues that strong discouragement and
further reinforces it by emphasis via italics.

Another issue is that both RFC 3066 and the draft proposal
call for language tags to be expressed in a subset of ANSI
X3.4, corresponding to a subset of the first half of a
particular Unicode plane -- and not plane 14.  There may
be an ambiguity as to whether such deprecated Unicode 3.x
tags are in fact compliant with 3066 or the draft under

> > I'm not "eager to abolish" "uniqueness".  There never was
> > any guarantee that codes would never change. Both RFCs
> > 1766 and 3066 specifically mention changes as a fact of
> > life.
> That's what's now being fixed.

No the problem will remain. Currently sr-CS has a specific
meaning under RFC 3066; it has had for some time.  For that
meaning to remain stable, it will be necessary to take any
change in the (current) meaning of the "-CS" part into
account. I.e. for a future parse of language tags to do the
right thing, it will have to recognize sr-CS generated under
the RFC 3066 rules per the 3066/639 definitions.
> Why is this vestige of colonialism important in the IETF context?

You seem to be making an incorrect assumption, one which
renders your question meaningless.

> What magic attribute is there to French that provides "definitiveness" 
> that is absent in English, or Mandarin, or Hindi, all of which are far 
> more significant languages to the world?

No such attribute of the language was claimed.  It is the
attribute of being used in the official ISO lists that
provides the characteristic.
> A mandatory French translation to an English definition does not 
> significantly increase the information content, and certainly does not 
> double it.

You are again making incorrect assumptions.  The languages
used in ISO documents are considered "separate but equal",
not "a mandatory [...] translation of" some other language.
That is in fact why ISO is called "ISO" and not "OIN" or
"OIS" -- you might wish to visit the ISO web site for
[more nonsense about "mandatory translation" elided]

> > You have not explained how the code came to be "embedded
> > within the text itself" -- surely the author didn't say
> > (or write, or sign) "this text is in language QZ"; most
> > likely the language was indicated by name, or by some proxy
> > representing the name (such as a locale).
> Plane 14.
> HTML and other markups.

That provides no explanation of how a *code* came to be
embedded in text -- authors in general do not refer to
language by codes, and codes do not embed themselves by

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