More comments on draft-03

Doug Ewell dewell at
Sat Jun 12 23:47:12 CEST 2004

Here are some more comments on draft-phillips-language-03, plus at least
one comment that applies to the current delta between draft-03 and
draft-04.  They aren't in any particular order, and technical and
editorial comments are mixed recklessly.

1.  The note on "superseded" says:

"Spelled 'superceded' as 'superseded', in deference to its Latin roots

Not to beat this too far into the ground, but "superceded" is a
MISSPELLING, plain and simple, even if it is a very common one that some
dictionaries have listed as a variant.  Latin roots have nothing to do
with it.  The comment should simply read:

"Corrected spelling of 'superseded'."

2.  The text mentions a registered tag "i-hakka" in a few places, as
something that would be grandfathered (section 2.2).  There is no such
registered tag; the one that is registered is "i-hak".  Furthermore,
"i-hak" is deprecated in favor of "zh-hakka", another registered tag.

If the intent is use a deprecated tag as an example, to point out that
all tags, even deprecated ones, will be grandfathered, then that should
perhaps be spelled out a little more clearly to avoid confusion.  (But
"i-hakka" is an error in any case.)

If the use of a deprecated tag was unintentional and might be seen as
distracting from the main point about the grandfathering mechanism, then
perhaps another example such as "i-enochian" should be cited instead.

3.  Section 2.2 says, in relation to the extended language subtags:

"In a future revision or update of this document, 'zh-min-nan' might
represent the subdialect 'nan' of the Chinese dialect 'min'."

"zh-min-nan" is already registered.  I would think this would be
grandfathered as an RFC 3066 legacy tag, and would therefore be a
confusing example of an extended language subtag.

4.  The text makes several references to both "ISO 3166" (with a space)
and "ISO3166" (without a space), and similar for the other ISO
standards.  Likewise, both "RFC 3066" and "RFC3066" are seen (and even
"rfc3066" in at least one spot).  These should be consistent,
capitalized and with the space.

5.  I agree with John Cowan that if "-x-" is reserved to introduce
private-use subtags, it seems unnecessary to define private-use subtags
as beginning with the letter "x" as well.  If these are two different
mechanisms, I can't see them and thus I think the text needs
clarification; and if it's the same mechanism, then the "starting with
x" restriction seems unnecessary.

7.  I disagree with Harald Tveit Alvestrand that the successor to RFC
3066 should be delayed until the ISO 639/RA JAC comes up with an exact
definition of how it allocates codes in various parts.  This is indeed
Somebody Else's Problem, the JAC's.  The need to update RFC 3066 to
incorporate script codes and to fix other issues should not wait,
possibly years, for the JAC to provide this detail into their mechanism.

8.  The policy to allow all deprecated ISO codes, no matter how long ago
they were deprecated, worries me.  I understand the desire to maintain
"CS" for Czechoslovakia, and for that matter "TP" for East Timor (before
it was recoded as "TL"), but if we want to allow these codes --as well
as older relics like "FX" for Metropolitan France and "SK" for Sikkim
and "DY" for Dahomey -- we will need to provide a reference to ISO
3166-3, Country Codes That Used To Exist But Don't Any More, which isn't
available both publicly AND officially on the Internet.  As far as
language codes are concerned, I know the ISO 639 Change Notice list
includes "iw", "in", and "ji", but should these really be the places to
look for allowable RFC 3066bis codes?

I know the RFC can't include lists of all allowable codes, but the list
of deprecated codes *as of the release of RFC 3066bis* is small and
fixed -- about 40 country codes and 4 language codes.  I'd like to see
the list of deprecated codes maintained in an IETF registry of some
sort, similar to the list of registered subtags.  Otherwise it will be
very difficult to conform with point 7(b) of Section 2.3 without having
to look in obscure places and/or purchase ISO 3166-3.

9.  The section about registering subtags states:

"Note: The purpose of the 'published description' is intended as an aid
to people trying to verify whether a language is registered, or what
language a particular subtag refers to."

I think this should be augmented with an explicit statement that the
"published description" requirement is *not* intended to exclude tiny
minority languages or dialects, or those without standard orthographies.
There seems to be quite a bit of misunderstanding about this (one of
Linguasphere papers dragged it out again to show that ISO 639 is
inadequate to represent spoken-only languages).

-Doug Ewell
 Fullerton, California

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