Phonetic orthographies

Peter Constable petercon at
Wed Nov 22 18:42:34 CET 2006

I'm not so sure about this. I suspect that often there are differences of orthography that readers can cope with (even if they have strong feelings about orthography differences). 

For example, there are probably no English readers for whom differences such as colour/color are an obstacle to making effective use of documents. The same would apply to change in German orthography, and I suspect much the same would be true in many more cases of alternate, practical orthographies for language.

I don't think the same is true in general of the difference between practical orthographies and phonetic transcriptions. The average English speaker would not recognize as English a phonetic transcription of English using any commonly-used transcription -- make such a document effectively useless to them.

That, IMO, is comparable the effective usefulness of getting a document in a language that as known but in a script that is not known.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: ietf-languages-bounces at [mailto:ietf-languages-
> bounces at] On Behalf Of Eric Muller
> Sent: Tuesday, November 21, 2006 11:26 PM
> To: Doug Ewell
> Cc: ietf-languages at
> Subject: Re: Phonetic orthographies
> Doug Ewell wrote:
> > I hear the following two lines of argument:
> > [...]
> >
> 3. In the context of (written) language identification, we don't really
> care about scripts per se, we care about orthographies. It is true that
> for those languages where there are multiple orthographies we care to
> distinguish, it is often the case that each orthography uses a different
> script (Mongolian in Cyrillic vs. Mongolian in Mongolian vs. Mongolian
> in Latin), so scripts look like the "primary" attribute. But that is
> just an illusion; witness the fact that pretty soon we are forced to
> treat as separate scripts Hans and Hant to maintain that illusion (no to
> mention that there is no way to account, using scripts, for the two
> modern written forms of modern Greek).
> Rather than fight about what a script is (Mark), or equivalently what
> ISO 15924 is about (Ken), and since the world of language tags is
> isolated of other standards via its registry anyway, why not just say
> that the four-chars subtags are orthographies and be done with it? That
> does not preclude to use (and reuse) the subtag "Latn" as a convenient
> name for those situations where there is just one (or a single dominant)
> orthography that uses the Latin script.
> Eric.
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