Orthographic tags for dummies

John Cowan cowan at ccil.org
Sat Nov 11 19:10:48 CET 2006

Don Osborn scripsit:

> My understanding was that for (1) the country code was the only
> way to make the distinction - since many countries have established
> "official" orthographies. One possible use of an orthographic tag here,
> if I understand correctly, is when a language is used in >1 country
> with the same orthography - i.e., one could dispense with the country
> tag in favor of the orthography tag (mention was made for instance
> of es-americas; is there anything similar for other international or
> regional cross-border languages?).

The generation of language tags has been greatly extended by RFC 4646.
It was always possible to register whole tags (like the proposed
es-americas) to cover such things.  This capability was not widely
understood and often incorrectly implemented -- there are still many
resources around the Net that will tell you a language tag consists of
a language code followed by an optional country code, which has *always*
been less than the whole truth.

In the RFC 4646 regime, there are two extensions.  First, a small but
useful set of supranational region subtags is now available to supplement
the country subtags.  These regions are assigned by UNSD (the same
authority that decides what is and what is not a country for language
tag purposes).  Thus the concept behind the es-americas proposal may now
be expressed by the valid tags es-419 (Latin American Spanish) or even
es-019 (American Spanish, including the Spanish of the U.S. and Canada).

Second, the generalized capability of adding ad-hoc tags has now
been replaced by a generalized capability of adding variant subtags.
These can express orthographical, dialectal, temporal, or any other kind
of language variety (written or spoken) without limitation.  These must
be registered, but the registration process is fairly easy: fill out a
form, post to a mailing list, interact with the list for a minimum of
two weeks to iron out difficulties, and the subtag is registered.
Such subtags may be used with or without region subtags.

> For (1) & (2), is there a threshold of use or anticipated use that
> must be established for proposing a tag?

There is not; however, a list of references is required, so that in
future someone may verify that two subtags have not been allocated
for the same thing.

Mark Twain on Cecil Rhodes:                    John Cowan
I admire him, I freely admit it,               http://www.ccil.org/~cowan
and when his time comes I shall                cowan at ccil.org
buy a piece of the rope for a keepsake.

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