ISO 639 - New item approved - N'Ko

Doug Ewell dewell at
Mon May 22 05:21:51 CEST 2006

Håvard Hjulstad <HHj at standard dot no> wrote:

> The ISO 639 RA-JAC has approved the following:
> Alpha-3 identifier (ISO 639-2): nqo
> English name: N'Ko
> French name: n'ko
> Indigenous name: n'ko

This brings up several issues related to the Language Subtag Registry:

1.  Adding a new subtag

A new primary language subtag, corresponding to this new ISO 639 code 
element, needs to be added:

Type: language
Subtag: nqo
Description: N'Ko
Added: 2006-05-21

This subtag is an automatic, guaranteed addition to the Registry, not 
subject to the discretion of the list or the Reviewer, as per Section 
3.3 of draft-registry.

(Incidentally, code element "nko" was not chosen because it is already 
assigned to "Nkonya" in ISO/DIS 639-3.)

2.  Spelling of "N'Ko"

In the ISO 639 RA-JAC announcement, the name "N'Ko" is spelled with an 
ordinary, ASCII apostrophe (U+0027).  There is already a script subtag 
(Nkoo) for the script called N'Ko, taken from ISO 15924, and in that 
standard the name is spelled with a so-called "smart" apostrophe 
(U+2019), as "N’Ko".  This is rendered in the ASCII-only Registry as 

I really don't like the idea of spelling "N'Ko" two slightly different 
ways, one for the language and another for the script, simply because 
the source standards happened to differ in their use of apostrophes. 
Section 3.1 says, "Most descriptions are taken directly from source 
standards such as ISO 639 or ISO 3166," but there is no requirement to 
follow them precisely, right down to the style of apostrophe.  I would 
much prefer one of these two courses of action:

a.  Adopt the "smart" apostrophe, U+2019, for both language subtag "nqo" 
and script subtag "Nkoo".  This requires a tiny modification to the 
Description field in item (1) above.  It means that neither name can be 
typed directly from ASCII-only keyboard layouts, but remember that the 
Registry already uses non-ASCII characters in 13 other places, including 
two that are not in Latin-1 either.  (Expansion of the Registry in the 
future to include subtags based on ISO 639-3 will introduce hundreds 

b.  Adopt the "dumb" apostrophe, U+0027, for both subtags.  This 
requires us to modify the Description field of the existing script 
subtag "Nkoo", replacing "N&#x2019;Ko" with "N'Ko", in addition to 
approving the new language subtag.

In private communication, the Reviewer has indicated he prefers option 
(a).  Either (a) or (b) is acceptable to me, as long as one of the two 
is chosen.

The list needs to decide on this, and the Reviewer needs to make a 
ruling in two weeks' time.

3.  Suppress-Script

Michael has also stated, "The N'Ko script is overwhelmingly used to 
write the N'Ko language."  The question, then, is whether the record 
proposed in item (1) above should also include the following field:

Suppress-Script: Nkoo

I would suggest that Michael has done more research on the N'Ko language 
and script than all the rest of us put together ever will, and if he 
says that "Nkoo" is overwhelmingly used to write "nqo" then I have no 
reason to doubt him.  However, this is a matter for the whole list.

The list needs to decide on this, and the Reviewer needs to make a 
ruling in two weeks' time.

I will submit one or more modification forms to the Reviewer after items 
(2) and (3) have been resolved.

Doug Ewell
Fullerton, California, USA

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