dewell at adelphia.net
Mon Nov 13 08:00:17 CET 2006
Gerard Meijssen <gerardm at wiktionaryz dot org> wrote:
> My appreciation of the RFC 4646 is very much that it aims to preserve
> backwards compatibility. However, many of the old codes are old. They
> have been ditched with reason in the ISO-639-3 and the insistence to
> preserve the outdated codes will imho prove to more of a hindrance
> than of a benefit when you want to make the Internet more multi
> lingual. It would have been better to allow for the use of the old
> codes and advise as best practice to move to the later codes when and
> where practical.
Without reiterating too much of what others have said, I'd simply like
to point out the difference between macrolanguages, which exist in ISO
639-3, and collective language codes, which don't.
A macrolanguages is an entity which is sometimes considered a language,
and sometimes an umbrella term for a group of closely related languages,
depending on the context. ISO 639-3 includes these, and lists the
individual languages that fall within the umbrella, but it does not
attempt to abolish or deprecate the "single language" interpretation.
Chinese is the classic example; there are millions (if not billions) of
people who consider "Chinese" to be a single language, at least for some
A collective language code can *only* be an umbrella term for a group of
languages, some of which may not even be linguistically related, but
only geographically or in some other sense. "Australian languages" is
an example. There is not a person anywhere who would claim that
"Australian languages" is a single language, unlike Chinese. ISO 639-3
does not include these because all the languages under the umbrella have
their own code element, at least in theory.
Quite a few people seem to confuse macrolanguages with collective
language codes, but it's important to keep these concepts separate to
avoid misunderstandings and inappropriate assumptions.
Doug Ewell * Fullerton, California, USA * RFC 4645 * UTN #14
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