Variants of Japanese (was: Re: Unilingua)

John.Cowan jcowan at
Tue Sep 20 15:42:47 CEST 2005

Harald Tveit Alvestrand scripsit:

> the rather obscure sami language has 4 generally recognized variants, none 
> of which has an area of use that precisely conforms to the national 
> boundaries of the region.

Fortunately for us, the Ethnologue (and therefore ISO 639-3) treats the
eleven Saami languages as distinct languages, not as regional varieties.
ISO 639-2's code "sme" is mapped onto North Saami, the big one, with about
21,000 speakers in Norway, Sweden, and Finland.

Then there's Lule Saami (smj) with 2000 speakers in Sweden and Norway,
Kildin Saami (sjd) with 800 speakers in Russia, South Saami (sma) with
600 speakers in Sweden and Norway, Skolt Saami (sms) with 320 speakers
in Finland and Russia, and Inari Saami (smn) with 250 speakers in Finland.

The other five Saami languages that have Ethnologue codes are extinct or
nearly so.

I suppose in some situations a country subtag might be justified on any of
these, but in practice it's not going to matter.

> I won't even mention Norwegian.

I note that the Ethnologue disclaims any population estimates for either
Norwegian language, and doees not scruple to use the term "constructed"
to describe them.  Norway, of course, also has Kven Finnish (fkv), three
kinds of Romani languages (plain Vlax Romani, a Romani-Norwegian mix,
and a Romani-Swedish mix), and Norwegian Sign Language.

I don't know half of you half as well           John Cowan
as I should like, and I like less than half     jcowan at
of you half as well as you deserve.   

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