The "not-language" identifier (was: RE: Mandarin Chinese, Simplified Script)

L.Gillam L.Gillam at
Thu Jun 16 15:47:57 CEST 2005

I can see both sides of this at present. 

AGAINST: If you have a language identifier for "not language", 
can I have one for "not French"? "not English"? "neither French nor English"?
Perhaps Debbie's floodgates?

>From a 639 perspective, where could it sit - 639-4 as a general 
principle? 639-5 as the family of all not-languages? And what 
kind of documentation does one use to justify it, or is it a pure

If it's not language, why use a language tag and then tag it to
say that it isn't? And, hence, need to create a tag amongst 
language tags that represents not being a language? For some 
reason, identifying something as "language = it isn't" feels odd 
to me, as would doing the same with a lot of other identifiers.
"gender = it hasn't"; "country = doesn't exist" etc.

FOR: On the other hand, some applications may have enforced
this need: in the world of xml:lang, you need some kind of override if an
xml:lang has been described on an element at a higher level; the
empty value doesn't really do it as I recall. Essentially, though, 
isn't it xml:lang that should be suppressed/negated rather than the 
self-negating value? There may be other such examples.

It's that ideal/real divide again, I believe.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: ietf-languages-bounces at
> [mailto:ietf-languages-bounces at]On Behalf Of Peter
> Constable
> Sent: 16 June 2005 14:05
> To: ietf-languages at
> Subject: RE: Mandarin Chinese, Simplified Script
> > From: Debbie Garside [mailto:debbie at]
> > You miss the point Peter... 639 is about language identifiers
> With a ratio of roughly 2500:1 language-related IDs to 
> special-case IDs
> if this one were added, I think it would still be pretty obvious that
> 639 is about language identifiers.
> Peter Constable
> _______________________________________________
> Ietf-languages mailing list
> Ietf-languages at

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