Language tags and IETF/W3C liaison

Misha Wolf Misha.Wolf at
Thu Dec 30 17:51:19 CET 2004


Your proposals would, as Martin has written, break millions 
of deployed Web pages.  You have suggested that the IETF 
should not concern itself with the use of language tags in 
W3C standards.  It would be quite unacceptable for the IETF 
to go for a solution which breaks the widesparead use of 
language tags on the Web (eg, as per your proposals below).

I am increasingly thinking that this matter may need to be 
referred to the IETF/W3C liaison group. 

Misha Wolf
Standards Manager
Chief Architecture Office

-----Original Message-----
From: ietf-languages-bounces at
[mailto:ietf-languages-bounces at] On Behalf Of JFC (Jefsey)
Sent: 30 December 2004 15:46
To: Peter Constable; ietf-languages at; ietf at
Subject: RE: draft-phillips-langtags-08, process, sp ecifications,
"stability", and extensions

Dear Peter,
please let focus on the discussion of draft to be approved by the IESG
on its role. This document intends to replace RFC 3066 but does not want
take into account RFC published since the RFC 3006, the current IANA 
procedures, the work chartered in some WG, the internet architectural 
principle (RFC 1958).

There is no problem in having it been accepted for information or 
experimental. There are serious objections to get it approved otherwise.

At 13:26 30/12/2004, Peter Constable wrote:
> > So why not then also throw in the closely linked specification of
> > the Content-Language field, which has historically been in the same
> > document (RFC 1766)?
>It was removed in the development of RFC 3066, which was appropriate 
>because it was a particular application involving language tags; other 
>applications exist, and other applications may use different approaches

>for how matching should be done.

This means it is only one occurence of a to be defined standard.

>The *meaning* of any given language tag would be no more or less a
>under the proposed revision than it was for RFC 3066 or RFC 1766.

(a) RFC 3066 was published without considering different usages of the 
proposed language tag format.
(b) nor which authority would document their meanings (plural)

>I think we can all agree that there's no much less likelihood of
>.... I suggest that we not dwell on pathological cases that we aren't 
>really likely to encounter.

This kind of thinking is not appropriate when standardizing a format. 
Julius Caesar would have though a pathological case to propose that
should speak Londinium's language.

>Of course it would not be clear if you don't have a conceptual model of

>what "language" tags are identifiers *of*. When RFC 3066 was being 
>developed, there was a suggestion that script IDs be incorporated, but 
>some were reluctant, raising the same question you have here. I was one
>those. But I didn't remain obstructionist over the issue; instead, I
>a fair amount of thought to the ontology that underlies "language"
>and subsequently published a white paper and presented on the topic at
>conferences in the spring and fall of 2002. (Paper is available online
> -- my thinking has >evolved since then, but some key results remain valid, I think.)

May us know which ones?

>At this point, I feel confident that it is not a problem to combine
>IDs into "language" tags, and this is the consensus of the domain
>that have been discussing this proposed revision for the past year and

This may mean that current reluctances to incorporate originating source

authority, destination, format conformance, internationalization, icons 
support (and may be additional needs) could be a further consensus. I 
suggest that we save time this time.

>Not a problem: the proposed revision *allows* for the use of script IDs

>but does not require them. In the case of audio content, one simply
>never include a script ID.

Accents and types of voice have been documented as necessary items. They

could use the script and police fields ?

>The bigger problem you're pointing out is the limitations of using 
>suffix-truncation alone as a matching algorithm. In the discussion 
>following the registration request for de-1996, etc., there was some 
>discussion as to whether de-1996-DE format or de-DE-1996 format was 
>preferable, and in the course of that discussion it was mentioned that 
>some times the 1901 vs 1996 spelling differences would be more
>than the regional dialect differences, but in other situations the 
>regional differences would be more important than the spelling. But the

>problem with prefix matching used e.g. for Accept-Language is that only

>one of these two can be supported. That is a shortcoming in that

This shows that language matching algorithm should not be addressed in
same document. I also submit that this kind of matching policy should be
possible decision of the user. Obviously IA rules should be mentionned.

>Note that there is nothing that prevents other applications from using 
>other matching algorithms, including perhaps something that is able to 
>recognize in "az-AZ" and "az-Latn-AZ" that both involve Azeri and used

And that as user you may have more readibility with of one form than the

> > Surely some types
> > of script is indicated by the charset; in situations where that
> > is not the case, a separate mechanism could be used for that
> > orthogonal parameter without breaking compatibility with
> > existing parsers of language tags.
>This is all a discussion we on the IETF-languages list went through
>years ago, and in the intervening five years I think we have reached a 
>consensus on these issues, that consensus being reflected in the
>revision to RFC 3066. (Note that we made the relevant decisions over a 
>year and a half ago when we reached a consensus to register az-Latn
>The precedent was established then; the proposed revision adds nothing
>in this regard.)

Are we sure that this "others have reached a consensus without your 
objections, so we will not consider them" is a valid form of consensus?

> > Please see RFC 2026 sections 7.1, 7.1.1, 7.1.3, and 10.1.
> > Note that RFC 3066 strictly complies with those sections, while
> > the draft under discussion, by cherry-picking from ISO lists
> > for which change control has not been transferred to the IESG,
> > does not.
>7.1 says,
>To avoid conflict between competing versions of a specification, the
>    Internet community will not standardize a specification that is
>    simply an "Internet version" of an existing external specification
>    unless an explicit cooperative arrangement to do so has been made.
>    However, there are several ways in which an external specification
>    that is important for the operation and/or evolution of the
>    may be adopted for Internet use.
>The proposed revision does not create Internet-specific versions of ISO

>standards; it uses IDs drawn from ISO standards with semantics defined
>those source standards at the time they were adopted for use in
>tags -- the source for the IDs, the symbols and their meanings all
>in the ISO standards. The fact that not all are used, or that some are 
>used as they were specified in dated version of the ISO standard is not
>contradiction with 7.1 -- it's just one of "several ways in which an 
>external specification... may be adopted."

I am sorry but this does not stand. The proposed revision directly
to ISO standards while there are Internet documentation of the way they 
should be used.

1. OSI 3166 is refered to. RFC 1591 should. RFC 1591 introduces
(we all live with) with OSI 3166 which is taken as a reference to know
is a country.
2. OSI 639 scripting fr-FR is used while RFC 1958 leads to fr-fr or
or FR-fr indifferently and calls for fra-fr to avoid confusion.

In RFC 1591and RFC 1958 parlance "en-GB" should therefore be "eng-uk"

>Thus, I see no difference between RFC 3066 and this proposed revision
>relation to compliance with the sections of RFC 2026 you referred to.

Full agreement. So there is no need for it - except to enhance the RFC
for its specific applications.  This is OK as long as this is clearly

>RFC 3066 was developed in exactly the same manner as this proposed 
>revision has been developed -- as an internet draft prepared by a
>of the the IETF-languages list and processed among members of that list

>until it was submitted for last call and subsequent IESG action.

This certainly rises the question of a dedicated WG. This is a question
ask the IAB, because the support of multilingualism by the Internet 
standard process is very complex and has much more implications on the 
whole internet architecture than anything else. This is clearly shown in

RFC 3869 where IAB does not even quote the issue, as if
were just for a monolingual technology having to support some limited 

IMHO the lack of IAB guidance in that area is the real source of
in here. I started working on a Draft concerning the support of 
multilingulization by the Internet standard process. This seems to show 
that the Internet standard process can cope with it, as it is today. But

that some IAB guidance is required and some external intertechnology
to the digital convergence) specialized assistance are necessary. The
problem, as far as the IETF is concerned, is to work on the best scope
the requests to the IAB.

The danger is a confusion created by non-chartered WGs, patching some 
existing but not all the currently existing needs. The simple answer is 
just to tell which needs they want to address, and not to standardize
use anywhere else without great care.

Ietf-languages mailing list
Ietf-languages at

        Visit our Internet site at

Get closer to the financial markets with Reuters Messaging - for more
information and to register, visit

Any views expressed in this message are those of  the  individual
sender,  except  where  the sender specifically states them to be
the views of Reuters Ltd.

More information about the Ietf-languages mailing list