Language Identifier List Criteria

Seda Guerses guerses at
Tue Dec 21 13:32:56 CET 2004

dear list,

i am really worried about this discussion that is taking place, especially
since it has kind of taken a course which has serious "racist"
connotations. (danes implying blonde etc.)

i am worried about two things: what authority do the people on this list
have (are there any linguists, language sociologists, language ethnographs
and just people with experiences in many world languages) to talk about
the issues we are speaking about? (this is not rhetoric, this is a serious
question). at least since the emergence of the semantic web i have the
feeling that technical people like us on this list are starting to define
classifications/categories in areas which we are not experts in, and in
some cases are not even related to other than in abstracting these fields
for some technical compatibility. in the process of abstracting, as a
result of the limits of our technical and otherwise expertise we describe
things with many flaws. and then set them as standards. this could have
two negative effects: we implement "our subjective views on things" as the
standard...we are predestining these standards to fail in that the
participation in these standards is limited to a "technical few".

next, i think developing criteria is a good idea, but which criteria? the
example with german spoken in austria, using state defined criteria
(rechtschreibung, dictionaries etc.) will reproduce the dominance of state
defined languages. in many parts of the world people speak languages which
are not accepted by states, which are expected to die through this
non-acceptance.  and by setting conservative criteria within the internet
we would be going along with this form of "state defined languages" and
diminishing the "democratic" possibilities of the internet to make things
visible from many different stand points. to let languages exist and be
found which are otherwise rejected.

next, i like the suggestion of naming countries or regions and naming the
languages spoken in those countries. this would also respect all the
minorities living in the different regions and speaking other languages
than the official ones known to us in this small group. (i.e. german is
definitely not the only language spoken in germany, as in english in the
us, or spanish in spain)

i also think that thinking of search engines as a driving force is
interesting but should not be the only criteria either. but it is
something as technical people we understand a lot of and could discus

sorry for dropping into the discussion like this. it has been very
interesting and i have been learning a lot. i really hope that we bring
recommendations that do not definitely define, but develop structures
which allow for future changes and revisions, since especially languages,
but in general "internationalism" is a delicate topic in which few are
currently able to participate and many more should participate in order to
make it meaningful.


On Tue, 21 Dec 2004, Martin Duerst wrote:

> At 08:34 04/12/21, Mark Davis wrote:
>  >Suppose I have a protocol ID that distinguishes categories of people by
>  >combining hair-color with nationality. Then "Samoan, blond" is perfectly
>  >well defined. The fact that there are no existing examples does *NOT* mean
>  >that it is "ambiguous", "not meaningful", or "not well-defined". And let's
>  >suppose that all Danes were blond. Then "Dane, blond" would still be well
>  >defined. The fact that it happens to have the same current denotation as
>  >"Dane" does *NOT* mean that it is "ambiguous",  "not meaningful", or "not
>  >well-defined".
> There may also be the case, so to speak, that not really all Danes
> are blond, but most Danes are blond to the extent that if you just
> say "Dane", you imply "blond".
> This will apply very much to script tags in language tags; although
> most but not all English is written in Latin script, it would be
> a bad idea to recommend that everybody suddenly start to use
> en-latn (or whatever the actual subtag was).
> Regards,    Martin.

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