Generic variant subtags in RFC 3066bis

Michael Everson everson at
Tue Apr 19 18:36:04 CEST 2005

At 09:06 -0400 2005-04-19, John Cowan wrote:

>Consider American English, en-us.  This comes in three basic dialect
>groups, normally called Northern, Midland, and Southern.

American English dialect boundaries are *far* more complex than that.

>People who need to label spoken content to that degree of 
>granularity would naturally wish to use tags like en-us-northern, 
>en-us-midland, and en-us-southern for the purpose, and could (when 
>RFC 3066bis becomes effective) register the subtags as such.

You second-guess them. New York English (which itself is more than 
one thing) differs markedly from Philadelphia English, and both 
differ rather a lot from Pittsburg English. "Southern" in Atlanta, 
Jackson, Houston, and Albuquerque differ rather a lot too. California 
has its own dialects. Hawai'ian English has its own features.

Your reviewer does not favour a range of portmanteau tags.

>But then come the students of Karelian (ISO 693-3 code krl) who note that
>their language is also divided into a Northern and a Southern dialect!

So? What's your point? Geg and Tosk are dialects of Albanian; 
Northern and Southern are not names normally ascribed to them. 
Further, there are lots of geographic configurations which can be 
applied to languages other than cardinal directions. Irish dialects 
cannot be subsumed in North/South/East/West, for instance.

A lovely new dictionary of Karelian is announced at

>What to do?  Well, we could use the words for "northern" and "southern"
>in Karelian (or Russian -- there's a lot of Karelian scholarship in
>Russian), if they aren't too long.  But that would require additional
>explanations, not to mention they would most likely have to be mutilated
>to fit into the draconian a-z restrictions of language tags.

I do not believe that we should allow dynamic registration of this 
kind of dialect difference. Way beyond the scope that we have dealt 
with previously.

>Then come all the other languages that have Northern and Southern

And all of those which don't but have Central and Peripheral 
dialects, and so on and on and on.

>I suggest, therefore, just short-circuiting this process by 
>registering -northern and -southern and a few more a priori, and 
>declaring them open for use with any language that has 
>geographically-labeled dialects, so that en-us-northern is 
>legitimate and krl-northern is too.

en-US-Maine and en-US-New York and en-US-Michigan and en-US-Minnesota 
and en-US-Alaska and en-US-Washington are all in the North.

>Of course it will be possible to produce rubbish like eo-western, but
>that's an unavoidable accompaniment of generativity.

This plan is, forgive me, John, rubbish.
Michael Everson * * Everson Typography *  *

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