Generic variant subtags in RFC 3066bis

John Cowan jcowan at
Tue Apr 19 19:30:37 CEST 2005

Michael Everson scripsit:

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

I know that.

> 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.

I know all that too.  It does not undermine my claim that Northern, Midland,
and Southern are generally recognized names for en-us dialect groups.
Any introduction to en-us dialectology will say as much.

> So? What's your point? Geg and Tosk are dialects of Albanian; 
> Northern and Southern are not names normally ascribed to them. 

I never claimed that these subtags are universally applicable, just that
they're applicable to a wide range of languages.

> 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.

Granted.  So these subtags ought not to be used with Irish.

> 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.

That's an objection of a different sort, and I'll take it up separately.
I don't really see why Midland en-us is any different from Scouse en-gb.

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

Very good.  So register -central and -peripheral, and don't use them
with en-us or with ga.

> >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.

You are forgiven, but I am not convinced.

John Cowan  jcowan at
If a traveler were informed that such a man [as Lord John Russell] was
leader of the House of Commons, he may well begin to comprehend how the
Egyptians worshiped an insect.  --Benjamin Disraeli

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