Phonetic orthographies

Peter Constable petercon at
Tue Nov 28 20:57:02 CET 2006

Re "Montenegrin", I don't know what the sociolinguistic situation is there, but Doug has a valid point: sometimes political, religious or ethnic divisions can lead to language split, but sometimes the only difference wrt the language is what name the different communities use to refer to it. 

IMO, a name difference should not result in a coding difference. Even though the title of ISO 639 "Code for the representation of names of languages", I view the role of names there has having to do with a subtle technical issue: in a metadata registry, concepts are coded, but formally documenting the concept is done via a name for the concept. It is really the concept that is being coded, but formally the name is the thing we associate with the coding. By comparison with character coding, U+0041 is the coded representation for "LATIN CAPITAL LETTER A" -- or rather the concept that we refer to as "LATIN CAPITAL LETTER A".

As for Romanian vs. Moldavian, I've been inclined to deprecate one, but there is legacy usage that remains a reality (and since this isn't something that needs to be fixed prior to publication of 639-3, it's not a priority for me to get it changed).


-----Original Message-----
From: ietf-languages-bounces at [mailto:ietf-languages-bounces at] On Behalf Of Doug Ewell

Clearly there are at least some in Montenegro who would like 
the language to be known as "Montenegrin" more for reasons of national 
identity than linguistic accuracy.  This is similar to the situation 
with Serbo-Croatian magically splitting into two languages, Serbian and 
Croatian, at the exact same time that the Yugoslav nation was dissolved. 
This is not to say that the language spoken in Zagreb and Belgrade and 
Podgorica is identical, but that the differences might be considered on 
the order of dialects rather than separate languages, and indeed were 
when there was only one country.

Some months ago there was a discussion about the Romanian and Moldavian 
(Moldovan) languages.  These are generally considered to be the same 
language, with minor dialect-level differences amplified by Russian 
influence and historic use of the Cyrillic script in Moldova.  There is 
some controversy today whether to use the two names "Romanian" and 
"Moldovan" on equal footing or to call the language "Romanian" 
regardless of where spoken.  Without the political factor, there would 
have been no controversy, but this has not been the case historically 
and both names continue to exist.

In the first case, ISO 639 has not yet assigned a separate code element 
for "Montenegrin," while in the second case, the separate code elements 
for "Moldavian" ("mo" and "mol") continue to exist and have not been 
withdrawn.  Both represent a politically influenced reality.  It is not 
our place to try to second-guess such decisions.

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

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