Question on ISO-639:1988

Debbie Garside debbie at
Tue Jun 1 11:20:11 CEST 2004


LS 639 (proposed as ISO 639-6 - Aug 2004) deals very well with language varieties - written and spoken (signed, audio and visual to be included).  Anyone interested in the development of this new standard may like to read the paper/workshop presented at LREC in Lisbon in order to see exactly what is being proposed.  Visit - all comments and critisism most welcome at this stage of development.  Please feel free to sign up for the forum - although it has only just been created.

  -----Original Message-----
  From: ietf-languages-bounces at [mailto:ietf-languages-bounces at]On Behalf Of Addison Phillips [wM]
  Sent: 21 May 2004 20:55
  To: Mark E. Shoulson
  Cc: havard at; 'Anthony Hoang'; ietf-languages at
  Subject: RE: Question on ISO-639:1988


  Read the quoted sentence carefully. I did not use an absolute on purpose.

  ISO 639 is good at identifying languages, but there are many cases in which it is not sufficient enough to identify content narrowly. This is why we have RFC 3066 and why RFC 3066 is used prevalently in XML formats to indicate content language and to select content.

  The canonical example is 'zh', which identifies Chinese. Chinese comes in two written varieties, Simplified and Traditional, which are (even if you consider them to be mutually intelligible), not suitable for mixing and which should not be swapped one-for-the-other. The tags 'zh-Hant' and 'zh-Hans' identify this directly and the tags 'zh-TW' and 'zh-CN' have been used historically to to imply the separation.

  There are other variations that require regional or other separation, such as the various German or Spanish variations, etc., in which RFC 3066 makes a better choice.


  Addison P. Phillips
  Director, Globalization Architecture
  webMethods | Delivering Global Business Visibility
  Chair, W3C Internationalization (I18N) Working Group
  Chair, W3C-I18N-WG, Web Services Task Force

  Internationalization is an architecture.
  It is not a feature. 

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Mark E. Shoulson [mailto:mark at]
    Sent: 2004年5月21日 11:47
    To: aphillips at
    Cc: havard at; 'Anthony Hoang'; ietf-languages at
    Subject: Re: Question on ISO-639:1988

    Addison Phillips [wM] wrote:

      Dear Anthony,

      Not to intrude, but ISO639 may not provide the best mechanism for tagging content language, especially in XML.
    If ISO639 isn't a good way to tag content language, then why is it there at all?  What else does it tag?

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