Request for variant subtag fr 16th-c 17th-c

Doug Ewell dewell at
Tue Dec 12 16:03:49 CET 2006

CE Whitehead <cewcathar at hotmail dot com> requested two variant 
subtags for French.

There are a lot of mechanical problems with these two proposals that 
suggest C.E. may have filled in the blanks without understanding what 
some of them meant.  This post will mostly touch on the mechanical 
issues, although the semantics of subdividing French into clean 100-year 
periods is still also debatable.

>  Type: Variant
>  Subtag:  16th-c

Not well-formed because of the hyphen.

>  Description: 16th century French, also included in the tag Middle 
> French (frm)

Delete the portion after the comma.  The Description should only 
describe the language variant, not explain how it is used syntactically.

>  Prefix: fr (possibly also en to encompass Shakespeare's English 
> though perhaps the latter needs a more specific variant tag)

This line is supposed to go into the Registry verbatim.  It should 
simply be:

Prefix: fr

if that is intended, or:

Prefix: fr
Prefix: en

if that is intended.  Discussion can follow in the proposal, if 

>  Preferred-Value: 16th-c

This is not what Preferred-Value is for; it is for deprecated subtags, 
to indicate another subtag that should be used instead.

>  Comments:  (Alternate tag for frm so that literature in frm which is
> readable to modern French speakers can be accessed with requests for
> literature in fr ) variant tag for fr

Two problems:

1.  The parenthesized comment shows a real semantic problem: this subtag 
is meant to overload the meaning of "fr" so that it overlaps the meaning 
of "frm", to get around a perceived limitation in the requesting 
mechanism.  That is not a good use of variants.  It would be almost like 
creating a variant for "fr" that means English, so I can request French 
and English in one query.  If it is not possible for the requester to 
specify two or more languages, then two or more requests should be made.

2.  The text "variant tag for fr" is redundant; the request is obviously 
for a variant and the Prefix line says what language it is for.

>  Type: Variant
>  Subtag:  17th-c

Same problem as above.

>  Description: 17th century French--the first century of Modern French 
> (fr)

"17th century French" would be sufficient; the rest does not belong in a 

>  Prefix: fr (possibly also en)

See above.

>  Preferred-Value: 17th-c

See above.

>  Comments:  variant tag for fr

See above.

> 6. Any other relevant information:

This section contains lots of useful and fascinating information about 
the evolution of French, and C.E. needs to demonstrate that these 
changes are not adequately captured by "frm" versus "fr" and that the 
tidy "16th-century, 17th-century" boundaries are justified.  But the 
mechanical problems listed above need to be corrected.  I know RFC 4646 
is a long document, but it really is necessary to understand at least 
Sections 3.1 and 3.5 before submitting a request.

Doug Ewell  *  Fullerton, California, USA  *  RFC 4645  *  UTN #14

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