Celtic Macrolanguages in ISO 639-3?

John Cowan jcowan at reutershealth.com
Wed Jan 5 16:31:43 CET 2005

Elizabeth J. Pyatt scripsit:

> Since I was away from e-mail for a few weeks, this may not be 
> relevant, but I did want to comment on whether some Celtic language 
> codes should be designated as a "macrolanguage" or not. Specifically

The term "macrolanguage" has a somewhat different sense in ISO 639-3
terminology; it refers to a cover term for language varieties that are
normally classified as separate languages but need to be treated as a
unity for certain purposes.  The Sinitic languages are about as diverse
as the Romance languages, but share a common written standard form
usually called just "Chinese"; Chinese, therefore, is a macrolanguage
covering Mandarin, Cantonese, Wu, Min-nan, etc. etc. (each of which has
many dialects, of course).  Dungan, however, is a Sinitic language with
its own distinct written form, and it is not normally called "Chinese";
therefore, it is not part of the Chinese macrolanguage, even though in
some respects it is merely an extreme variety of Mandarin.

> Breton linguists distinguish a KLT  ("standard") Breton from
> Vannetais/Gwened Breton [...].  Similarly, Irish differs significantly
> from Gaeltacht to Gaeltacht  [...].  Finally, Welsh is in a diglossic
> situation [...].

These sound like dialect and register differences, which are most
appropriately handled using the "language variant" machinery of
the RFC 3066bis draft.

Ambassador Trentino: I've said enough. I'm a man of few words.
Rufus T. Firefly: I'm a man of one word: scram!
        --Duck Soup                     John Cowan <jcowan at reutershealth.com>

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