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

Ciarán Ó Duibhín ciaran at
Sun Dec 17 05:50:15 CET 2006

Doug Ewell wrote:
> While I have no blanket objection to defining two Prefix values for a
> variant, as long as the variant applies to both, CE has defined both
> "fr" and ""frm" as the Prefix for these proposed subtags with the
> express goal of flattening the distinction between these two languages,
> which he views as one language, for searching and retrieval purposes.
> It is not our job to reverse the decisions of the ISO 639 experts as to
> "one language or two"; I doubt anyone can find a previous instance in
> the past 11 years where we have done so.  I do not favor starting now.

My view would be that any list of languages (such as ISO 639) necessarily
involves some arbitrary simplification of reality, and consequently there
will be situations for which it is not ideal — the present discussion being
a case in point.  I think it is fortunate that subtags have the potential to
achieve cross-classification (by being associated with more than one
prefix), and I don't think this use in well-motivated cases should be
disallowed on ideological grounds.  Far from representing a reversal of ISO
639 decisions, I would see such use of subtags as consolidating ISO 639 as
the formal first-level classification, while allowing its imperfections for
specific purposes to be repaired at the subtag level.  Personally I cannot
foresee practical ill-effects in such usage.

Ciarán Ó Duibhín

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