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

Doug Ewell dewell at
Tue Dec 21 06:57:05 CET 2004

Bruce Lilly <blilly at erols dot com> wrote:

>>> I'm willing to entertain a debate about which meaning ought to be
>>> selected. But really it ought to be recognized as not an
>>> editorial issue with the draft and not a technical objection.
> I believe that it's more than an editorial issue, and that
> there are both technical and non-technical matters involved.
> While I wouldn't say "that stabilizing the meaning of the
> subtags is a Bad Idea", I do believe that the particular
> approach taken raises some disturbing issues, and I suspect
> that there are process-related considerations that could have
> avoided them.  Jefsey Morfin and Vernon Schryver have touched
> on procedural issues; I plan to discuss my specific concerns
> and suggestions, but it make take a few days due to the
> impending holidays and other work for me to collect and
> organize my thoughts on those matters.

The RFC 3066bis approach involves creating a registry of all the pieces
that can make, or be combined to make, a language tag.  This is much
easier to implement and understand than chasing down the various
standards and their history, and it permits stability that cannot exist
if ISO maintenance agencies change their codes.

I am interested to see what "disturbing issues" would have been avoided
by following a different process, involving different groups and

Bruce cited the "procedural issues" that Jefsey Morfin and Vernon
Schryver have written about.

Jefsey Morfin suggested that the entire RFC 3066bis process be put on
hold while a new "Multilingualism" working group is created and carries
on its debates.  He implied that a standard for tagging languages must
cover "6000 human languages" plus "non scripted and computer generated
and past languages, what may lead to millions of references," and later
said that "each sovereign, authoritative or historical language/cultural
oriented source must be able to register its own sub-tag."  He stated
that "IANA is not the proper place anymore to support such a Register,"
even though the proposed RFC 3066bis register is really little more than
an extension of the existing IANA registry that has existed since the

Vernon Schryver contended that RFC 3066bis is setting the precedent for
prioritizing the English description of a standard above the formal ABNF
syntax, although we have shown that other RFCs (including one of Bruce's
favorites) and ISO standards require adherence to both the ABNF *and*
the prose.  He characterized debating RFC 3066bis (for over a year!)
within the IETF-Languages group, and only presenting it to other groups
during the Last Call period, as a "process problem," and charged this
group with engaging in "lawyerly talk such as whether 'accounts' is more
appropriate than 'account'" even though no such exchange ever took place
(I checked the archives back to January 2002).

Now Bruce wants us to wait a few more days before rolling out his
suggestions to fix these perceived problems.

This is a filibuster, an attempt to stall RFC 3066bis out of existence.

-Doug Ewell
 Fullerton, California

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