Guernsey Jersey and Isle of Man ISO 3166-1 Codes

Luc Pardon lucp at
Mon Apr 3 09:47:13 CEST 2006

John Cowan wrote:
> Only Picard and Walloon are treated separately, because they are recognized by
> the Belgian government as regional languages. 

    I would appreciate a reference here, because to the best of my 
knowledge this is plain wrong.

    As far as I know, there are only three offically recognized 
languages in Belgium: Dutch, French and German. I am not aware of any 
government-recognized regional languages in Belgium, other than these 
three. And, although the Etnologue says there was a recognition in 1990, 
I have not been able to find any reference in the Belgisch Staatsblad 
(the Government Gazette). This is quite normal because, as far as I can 
tell, Belgium has not even signed the European Charter for Regional or 
minority languages (of 1992!), let alone implemented it. Anybody who 
knows the situation here in Belgium will not be surprised.

    Note that very little of the Etnologue's entry for Belgium makes 
sense to me. For example, the number of speakers of Vlaams is listed as 
1 million and it says it is spoken (in Belgium) only in the province of 

   a) This would make sense only if this Vlaams is considered a synonym 
for West-Vlaams, which is an interpretation that is different from any I 
have seen (except maybe that of the West-Vlamingen themselves <g>).

   b) Then it goes on to list the inhabitants of all five Flemish 
provinces, including West-Vlaanderen (!), as speakers of a dialect of 
this "Vlaams". That would correspond to the colloquial use of "Vlaams" 
as being the language of Vlaanderen, which is officially (standard) 
Dutch. But in that case the number of speakers would be about six 
million, including me. Five million of them would be deeply offended if 
told they were speaking a dialect of (West-)Vlaams <g>.

    c) In linguistic circles, "Vlaams" seems to refer to the language 
spoken in both Oost and West-Vlaanderen, which would still bring the 
total speakers over 2 million, and in that case Oost-Vlaanderen should 
be listed among the regions where it is spoken.

    Not having seen the University of Ghent publication they cite as 
reference, I can only conclude that the Ethnologue authors must have 
interpreted it wrongly. (Note that I am not arguing the figures by 
themselves, but only as a means to determine what the Ethnologue may 
have had in mind when they wrote the entry for "Vlaams".)

    As an aside, I found it also interesting to see that Low Saxon is 
listed as "a language of Germany" but there is no trace of Nedersaksisch 
in the Netherlands, although I am told that Nedersaksisch was recognized 
in 1996 as a regional language by the Dutch government.

    All of this to say that the Etnologue should not always be seen as 
gospel when judging about language tags, and that it is, in any case, 
probably wrong to treat Picard and Walloon separately because of what 
the Etnologue says. I can write short mails as well, sometimes.

    Luc Pardon

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