Language X within scope of language Y

Doug Ewell dewell at
Thu Jan 27 17:37:31 CET 2005

David Clarke <w3c at dragonthoughts dot co dot uk> wrote:

>> I don't think England as a country is included in ISO 3166, which I'm
>> not that happy about since "English English" is a valid construction,
>> and it means you can only have a "UK" pan, which has been made
>> synonymous with Great Britain, which ignores Northern Ireland.
> Strange, my passport's cover includes the words : United Kingdom of
> Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
> That suggests UK includes GB and Northern Ireland.

ISO 3166 has a stated policy of avoiding "generic" and frequently used
words like "Republic," "Kingdom," "United," "Federal," and "Democratic"
in determining their code elements.  Thus the United Republic of
Tanzania, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, and the Hashemite
Kingdom of Jordan do not use any of the "generic" words in their code
elements.  Even the code element for United Arab Emirates does not
include a U.

Clearly this policy has been bent several times, most obviously for US,
but also for CD, FM, KP, and UM (perhaps the greatest bend of all, as
the U came from US).

One could argue that UK is the best-known symbol for the United Kingdom,
more so than GB.  However, ISO 3166/MA points out that GB is also the
code used on the oval stickers on the back of cars from the United
Kingdom.  There clearly does not appear to have been any political
agenda in ISO 3166's choice of GB over UK.

Therefore, the ISO 3166 code element GB includes Great Britain and
Northern Island.  And, therefore, so does the region subtag GB derived
from ISO 3166.

As Michael pointed out, this is a separate question from whether English
and other languages as spoken in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern
Ireland differ sufficiently to be encoded distinctly.  I've heard, but
can't verify, that English as spoken in Northern Ireland is essentially
the same language as English spoken in, well, southern Ireland.  We
could always create variant subtags -- oops, sorry, registered
whole-tags -- if anyone needs to draw these distinctions for language
tagging purposes.

-Doug Ewell
 Fullerton, California

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