Phonetic orthographies

CE Whitehead cewcathar at
Tue Nov 28 22:01:02 CET 2006

I suppose that it's possible that a name like Romanian could offend a 
speaker of Moldavian.
Myself, I am all for more variant tags when they encode subtle dialectical 
differences, rather than more language tags--if two languages are mutually 
comprehensible then it makes little sense to have a new language tag where 
not existed if a variant subtag would do;

if the variants were Romanian and Moldavian however I do not know what I 
would choose for the overall language tag.

Just the same I'd say new variant subtags are preferable to new lanuage 
subtags when possible.

(Interestingly, not always is there a real single parent language for 
multiple variants.

For example, certain features in Black English (U.S.) are clearly African 
not English in origin, such as the elision of "be" and the use of "be" then 
only as a stative or something.  Thus both English and African languages 
have affected the dialect but it can be classified as a variant of English.

Similarly, in Romance, not all features are from Latin; I'd wager that the 
verb be in French (etre) and the Spanish verb be (estar; note that there is 
another Spanish verb ser which probably is from Latin) are both related to 
maybe something non-Latin such as the Basque word eta.


>From: Peter Constable <petercon at>
>To: <ietf-languages at>
>Subject: RE: Phonetic orthographies
>Date: Tue, 28 Nov 2006 11:57:02 -0800
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>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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>Ietf-languages at

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