"Century" variants (was: Re: What to do with Gaulish ?)

Doug Ewell dewell at adelphia.net
Sun Nov 19 09:33:29 CET 2006

CE Whitehead <cewcathar at hotmail dot com> wrote:

> Of course, an ordinary user looking for a French text might not want 
> Middle or Old French.  Middle French would be readable probably to the 
> ordinary user, though different from Modern French.  The documents 
> would be literary anyway and should not interest the ordinary user and 
> probably would not come up in a search for business and shopping; they 
> would come up in a search for French literature.  Only in a search for 
> French literature I would think (hopefully, if the search engine 
> works, if no one has put all kinds of fictitious stuff in the meta 
> content information).

Even scholars of French literature, looking for (say) Voltaire or 
Rousseau, may not necessarily want to pull up works in Old or Middle 
French such as the chansons de geste.  The scholar who will accept 
material in any of the three languages, like the businessman who will 
accept English or French or Japanese, needs to specify this preference 

> In addition, should the pages come up, the second part of the tag 
> indicates the date of the language.

Here you are talking about the suggested "12thc" variant subtags, not 
the ISO 639-based subtags "fr" and "frm" and "fro".

I stand by the caveats I mentioned about the arbitrariness of tagging 
language as "12th century."

> If your pages are inserted into the body of a page created by the 
> host's application, there is no place to list more than one language 
> at a time; you can of course list different text processing languages 
> in the various subsections delineated by html or xml or xhtml  (such 
> as p for paragraph, div for division, span for still another section 
> heading); but only one at a time.

Yes, that is how it is done with existing technologies.  Most text, even 
multilingual text, is in only one language *at a time*.  For text that 
is truly in multiple languages simultaneously, such as "she has a 
certain je ne sais quoi about her," the solution is for the 
language-tagging structure of the text format -- HTML or PDF or 
proprietary word processor or whatever -- to allow multiple language 
tags, NOT for a single language tag to represent more than one language.

> There is no way to identify a single language as both fr, French, and 
> frm, Middle French.

I assume you mean "identify a single text."

> I'd like to say further that the option of having tags for say the 
> European languages labelled: 12thc, 13thc, 14thc, 15thc, 16thc, 17thc 
> would help those who needed to clarify the exact date of a language or 
> language variant.
> I feel these would be useful tags!

Then go ahead and fill out the necessary forms from RFC 4646 and send 
them to this list.

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

More information about the Ietf-languages mailing list