How to represent Dgèrnésiais and Jèrriais (was: Re: LANGUAGE SUBTAG MODIFICATION - GB)

John Cowan cowan at
Fri Apr 21 20:30:31 CEST 2006

Doug Ewell scripsit:

> >Not all users, unfortunately, have such easy 24/7 desktop access to a 
> >John Cowan.
> I was going to make a humorous remark spinning off "24/7", but Lee's 
> point is well taken.  Not all users know how to get onto this list and 
> Ask the Experts, nor should they need to.  They should have enough 
> publicly available information to make an informed decision on their 
> own.

It's not an easy matter: nobody (not even a John Cowan) can pretend to
be an expert on everything, nor is all publicly available information
necessarily correct (including my remarks).  I think the underlying
point is not "Is Norman French really just a dialect of French, or a
separate language?" but "Is the existing tagging system adequate
to its current purposes?"

> You know where this is really headed, right?  Perhaps an effort needs to 
> begin to get code elements assigned for Dgèrnésiais and Jèrriais, or 
> generally for "Norman French," in some part of ISO 639.  (I'll bet there 
> are 50 documents in 5 places already.)  Or, failing that on 
> philosophical grounds -- John said ISO/DIS 639-3 considers them all 
> dialects of French -- maybe we should consider registering them 
> ourselves.  I know this latter approach is "discouraged" (Section 2.2.1, 
> item 5) and I merely throw it out here for discussion.

I would be VERY STRONGLY opposed to this unless and until a Real User
shows up with a demonstrated need for such tags.  Until then, all this
is better treated as exemplary rather than actual.

Even then, I would try very hard to persuade a Real User to go for
fr-normand-jerriais and fr-normand-dgernesi (or some such, I'm no
expert on "natural" French abbreviations).  Wikipedia says, and I
have no reason to disbelieve it, that mutual intelligibility exists
between both dialects and mainland Norman French, so they clearly
don't meet the normal criterion for being separate languages.

Whether Norman French as a whole meets that criterion is something
that the Ethnologue, as registration authority for 639-3, should
probably consider.

John Cowan   cowan at
I come from under the hill, and under the hills and over the hills my paths
led. And through the air. I am he that walks unseen.  I am the clue-finder,
the web-cutter, the stinging fly. I was chosen for the lucky number.  --Bilbo

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