Guernsey Jersey and Isle of Man ISO 3166-1 Codes

John Cowan cowan at
Mon Apr 3 17:01:09 CEST 2006

Luc Pardon scripsit:

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

I am quite prepared to believe I am wrong about this, and I can no longer
trace down the chain of evidence that led me to this conclusion.

>    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 
> West-Vlaanderen.

It doesn't say "only".  The text of the Ethnologue is not edited as such,
but is assembled out of fragments taken out of a database.  I suspect that
West-Vlaanderen is rather the present center of the language, the place
where the tradition is most nearly unbroken, the area with the largest
number of people who speak Vlaams as distinct from (local varieties of)
Standard Dutch.

Of course this distinction will be hard to draw in any regional-language
situation where the RL is closely related to the standard; there are
probably a whole chain of dialect mixtures from essentially pure Vlaams
to essentially pure Dutch, with different varieties spoken by people
under different circumstances.

(I'm not speaking out of particular knowledge of this situation, merely by
analogy with other related situations around the world, notably Scottish
English and Scots.   Please correct me if I have it wrong.)

I would say the presence of the named dialects of Vlaams is a clear
indication that the language is spoken to some degree in every part of
the Flemish Region.

>   b) Then it goes on to list the inhabitants of all five Flemish 
> provinces, including West-Vlaanderen (!), 

Remember that to a linguist "dialect" just means any variety, not
just a local or stigmatized one.  The purest ABN out of the mouth of a
highly trained television announcer is just another dialect of Dutch,
different only in social ways from the most peculiar local patois.
Thus there is nothing inconsistent in saying that West-Vlaanderen is
the center of Vlaams language use on the one hand, and saying that its
usage is a dialect of Vlaams on the other.

>    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.

The question then is how many of those two millions actually speak Vlaams
as distinct from local Dutch, something which will never be subject to
an entirely objective answer for reasons given above.

>    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.

That seems to be because Ethnologue, for whatever reasons, treats the
Dutch varieties of Low Saxon as the separate languages Achterhoeks,
Drents, Gronings, Sallands, Stellingwerfs, Twents, and Veluws.  It also
dubs them all "official languages", perhaps of the respective provinces,
or perhaps in error -- I don't know.

>    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.

True enough, but for better or worse it's about to become the ISO 693-3
standard for such matters, as the U.S. Library of Congress's list of
useful languages and language groups for bibliographic purposes became
the ISO 639-2 standard.  It's not perfect, but it's the best available
balance between accuracy and comprehensiveness.

And through this revolting graveyard of the universe the muffled, maddening
beating of drums, and thin, monotonous whine of blasphemous flutes from
inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond Time; the detestable pounding
and piping whereunto dance slowly, awkwardly, and absurdly the gigantic
tenebrous ultimate gods -- the blind, voiceless, mindless gargoyles whose soul
is Nyarlathotep. (Lovecraft) John Cowan|cowan at|

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