[Ltru] Alemanic & Swiss German

Peter Constable petercon at microsoft.com
Fri Dec 1 19:10:57 CET 2006

The claim in Ethnologue is that the language “Schwyzerdütsch” (aka “Swiss German”) is also spoken in Austria, France, Germany and Liechtenstein although the name “Schwyzerdütsch” is not generally used in those places; that the name “Allemanisch” is sometimes used in reference to this language; and further, that this language is distinct from languages known as “Swabian” and “Walser”. 
That is the semantic that ISO 639-3 and ISO 639-2 assume. I think this is consistent with your understanding and usage.
Now, I hear Mark saying that the name “Alemanic” is not used to refer to Swiss German / Schwyzerdütsch but rather is only used to refer to a range of varieties of broader scope (a genetic sub-node, perhaps) of which Swiss German is but one language. (Ethnologue shows Schwyzerdütsch as being classified genetically in a branch of Germanic called “Alemannic”.) The ISO 639 identifier “gsw” is *not* intended to refer to such a collection of languages.
The only debate I see here is whether “Alemanic” is ever used to refer to the specific language denoted by “gsw”.
On the one hand, we see Ethnologue use “Alemannic” in reference to the genetic subnode. On the other, we see Ethnologue indicate that “Alemannisch” is a name used to refer to the specific language also known as “Schwyzerdütsch” or “Swiss German”. It appears to me that Mark’s comments amount to one of the following:
-         questioning the claim that “Alemannisch” is used as a name for the specific language denoted by “gsw”, or
-         a request to clarify that, in listing “Alemanic” as an English name for “gsw”, the intended denotation does *not* encompass Alemannic languages other than the one known as “Schwyzerdütsch” or “Swiss German” (and perhaps other names)
If it is the case that “Alemannisch” is used in some places to refer to the specific, individual language denoted by “gsw”, then this is a good example for a problem that Gary Simons and I identified in a paper back in 2000: the problem of clearly documenting what is the intended denotation of a given language identifier. For, if “Alemannisch” is used in this way, then it would seem that “Alemanic” might actually be used in two different senses: one referring to an individual language, and one referring to a collection of languages corresponding to a genetic subnode of Germanic. But, “gsw” does not denote either of those semantics according to the whims of a given user; it denotes just one of those semantics, viz. the former. 
(This is also a good example to show that the objects of codification are not merely names but rather specific concepts that are referenced by a given name – terms, not lexemes.)
So, then, how can the intended semantics of the identifier “gsw” be clearly documented in ISO 639?
In the past, for parts 1 and 2, all that was provided was a list of names. In developing part 3, the RA and I both felt that this was not adequate. Formally, we could not include the various kinds of encyclopedic information that might actually be needed to make it clear what the intended denotation of a given identifier actually is (machine-readable tables need to have a well-formed structure with clear semantics for each data category). What we could add formally are attributes, of which we added two: scope and type. So, the data tables for 639-3 show in particular that “gsw” has a scope of individual language. That at least makes clear that the intended semantic for “gsw” is not a collection of languages. 
But even that is not sufficient: perhaps the range of language varieties under the Germanic/../Alemannic classification are being treated as a single, individual language. 
To overcome such limitations and to provide clear documentation of the intended denotation for each identifier, the ISO 639-3 Web site gives, for each entry, a “more…” link to a page that shows additional information for the given identifier, and that additional info includes not only the formal attributes of scope and type but also links to external sources, including sources of an encyclopedic nature such as Ethnologue, specifically for the purpose of documenting the denotation.
So, if you want to know an ID in ISO 639-3 is intended to mean, don’t just look at the list of names associated with that ID since names alone cannot guarantee that the intended semantic is clearly communicated. Rather, go to the ISO 639-3 Web site, get a report listing the given ID, follow the “more…” link to the documentation for that particular ID and look at *all* the information provided there, including the links to external sources. (You can get to these documentation pages directly using URLs such as the following example, for “gsw”: http://www.sil.org/iso639-3/documentation.asp?id=gsw.)

From: Karen_Broome at spe.sony.com [mailto:Karen_Broome at spe.sony.com] 
Sent: Thursday, November 30, 2006 5:55 PM
To: Peter Constable
Cc: Håvard Hjulstad; ietf-languages at iana.org; iso639 at dkuug.dk; iso639-2 at loc.gov; LTRU Working Group; Mark Davis; zaiitov at gmail.com
Subject: RE: [Ltru] Alemanic & Swiss German

Are we reading the same Ethnologue page? Ethnologue seems to include the Austrian forms and mentions that certain dialects within this language family may not be intelligible to speakers of other dialects. 

I'm not trying to be difficult  -- today :) -- and certainly appreciate your previous help in sorting out these issues, but I have circulated the codes gsw-CH and gsw-AT to a fairly wide audience based on assumptions that seem to be fairly well-documented on Ethnologue, my application, ISO's approval, and various other resources that lump these regional dialects together. Does 639-3 should have a macrolanguage for this? If not, should it? 

I'd appreciate it if you could review your notes before acting on this suggested change. 

Best regards, 


Peter Constable <petercon at microsoft.com> 
11/30/2006 05:34 PM 
<Karen_Broome at spe.sony.com> 
Håvard Hjulstad <HHj at standard.no>, <ietf-languages at iana.org>, <ietf-languages-bounces at alvestrand.no>, <iso639 at dkuug.dk>, <iso639-2 at loc.gov>, ISO 639 Joint Advisory Committee <ISOJAC at loc.gov>, LTRU Working Group <ltru at ietf.org>, Mark Davis <mark.davis at icu-project.org>, <zaiitov at gmail.com> 
RE: [Ltru] Alemanic & Swiss German

I’ll have to check email to be sure, but my recollection was that I had suggested to you that the category that was already in the draft table for 639-3 might meet your need, and that category was the one coded “gsw” with semantics defined in Ethnologue. Definitely the JAC was incorporating into part 2 the item in the draft code table for part 3; I believe that all along the JAC understood that to have the semantics of “Swiss German” (or “Schwyzerdütsch”) – certainly I did, but again I’d need to review discussions to be more certain. 

From: Karen_Broome at spe.sony.com [mailto:Karen_Broome at spe.sony.com] 
Sent: Thursday, November 30, 2006 4:51 PM
To: Peter Constable
Cc: Håvard Hjulstad; ietf-languages at iana.org; ietf-languages-bounces at alvestrand.no; iso639 at dkuug.dk; iso639-2 at loc.gov; ISO 639 Joint Advisory Committee; LTRU Working Group; Mark Davis; zaiitov at gmail.com
Subject: RE: [Ltru] Alemanic & Swiss German 


I'm not quite sure your take on this represents what was on my ISO application. The application draws attention to other regions where Alemanic dialects can be found (see: "addinfo" section). I believe the French name typically indicates a broader range of dialects as well: 

> > This data was submitted on: Wednesday, June 15, 2005 at 19:08:00
> > 
> > lang_in_eng = Swiss German, Alemanic
> > lang_in_fre = alémanique
> > ref_where_found_1 = http://www.ethnologue.com
> > lang_in_vern = Schwyzerdütsch, Schweizerdeutsch, Schwiizerdütsch, 
> Schwyzertütsch, Schwizertitsch
> > ref_where_found_2 = ISO 639-3 DIS, http://www.ethnologue.com, http://www.wikipedia.com
> > trans_lit = 
> > evidence = AGICOA, the Association of International Collective 
> Management of Audiovisual Works (Association de Gestion Internationale 
> Collective des Oeuvres Audiovisuelles); 428 documents (audiovisual)
> > 
> > http://www.agicoa.org
> > addinfo = 4,215,000 in Switzerland (1990 census). Population total all 
> countries: 6,044,000. Central, south central, north central, northeast, 
> and eastern cantons. Also spoken in Austria, France, Germany, 
> Liechtenstein.


Karen Broome
Metadata Systems Designer
Sony Pictures Entertainment
Peter Constable <petercon at microsoft.com> 
Sent by: ietf-languages-bounces at alvestrand.no 
11/30/2006 02:59 PM 
Mark Davis <mark.davis at icu-project.org> 
LTRU Working Group <ltru at ietf.org>, zaiitov at gmail.com, iso639-2 at loc.gov, Håvard Hjulstad <HHj at standard.no>, ISO 639 Joint Advisory Committee <ISOJAC at loc.gov>, ietf-languages at iana.org, iso639 at dkuug.dk 
RE: [Ltru] Alemanic & Swiss German

I can tell you that the intent of “gsw” is specifically Swiss German, and that the assumption of having “Alemanic” listed as a name is that some people use that label to refer to specifically to Swiss German. If the latter assumption is incorrect (which appears to be what Mark is saying, then that is a change that the JAC should consider. 
But if Martin’s comment is the supporting evidence, then I still find Martin’s comment to be unclear. It’s clear to me what Mark is saying; it’s not clear to me if Martin is saying the same thing. 
Peter Constable 

From: mark.edward.davis at gmail.com [mailto:mark.edward.davis at gmail.com] On Behalf Of Mark Davis
Sent: Thursday, November 30, 2006 11:07 AM
To: Peter Constable
Cc: Håvard Hjulstad; iso639-2 at loc.gov; LTRU Working Group; zaiitov at gmail.com; ISO 639 Joint Advisory Committee; ietf-languages at iana.org; iso639 at dkuug.dk
Subject: Re: [Ltru] Alemanic & Swiss German 
Alemanic refers to a broader group of dialects than "Swiss German" (aka Schwyzertuesch) does. So listing them as it does is problematic; it's like listing

ar Arabic; Egyptian Arabic

Personally, I don't care whether it is resolved to be 

Alemanic (including Swiss German) 
// which is what 639-3 seems to be pointing to


Swiss German (a particular variant of Alemanic)
// which is what the code (gsw) seems to be pointing to

But we need some clarity as to what is meant by the code. 

On 11/30/06, Peter Constable <petercon at microsoft.com> wrote: 
Martin's comment is somewhat vague: varieties spoken on either side of the border are very similar, et "as soon as you cross the border it's very clearly no longer Swiss German". Does that mean that what is spoken across the border is clearly a different language, or that the label "Swiss German" is clearly not used? 

From: Mark Davis [mailto:mark.davis at icu-project.org <mailto:mark.davis at icu-project.org> ] 
Sent: Thursday, November 30, 2006 9:00 AM
To: Håvard Hjulstad; iso639-2 at loc.gov <mailto:iso639-2 at loc.gov> 
Cc: LTRU Working Group; zaiitov at gmail.com <mailto:zaiitov at gmail.com> ; ISO 639 Joint Advisory Committee; ietf-languages at iana.org <mailto:ietf-languages at iana.org> ; iso639 at dkuug.dk <mailto:iso639 at dkuug.dk> 
Subject: [Ltru] Alemanic & Swiss German 
ISO 639-2 (on http://www.loc.gov/standards/iso639-2/php/code_list.php <http://www.loc.gov/standards/iso639-2/php/code_list.php> ) lists the following:

gsw             Alemani; Swiss German      alémanique 

However, there is a "c" missing from Alemanic, and Swiss German is not the same as Alemanic: Swiss German is a type of Alemanic, but there are other types that are not the same as Swiss German.

Quoting Martin Duerst: 

"Yes, Swabian is clearly Alemanic. Alemanic and Swiss German are not
the same. There are very close similarities between some dialects in 
the north of Switzerland and across the border in Germany, but as
soon as you cross the border, it's very clearly no longer Swiss
German. A label such as "Alemanic; Swiss German", assuming that 
both are the same, is clearly wrong. If it's something like
"Alemanic; includes Swiss German", that would be okay."

Can this be corrected so that it does not continue to mislead people? 

Mark Davis 
Ietf-languages mailing list
Ietf-languages at alvestrand.no
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