REQUEST for registration of variant subtag 'grabar'

Peter Constable petercon at
Fri Sep 8 19:41:40 CEST 2006

Often, historic language varieties are significantly different from there modern descendents. For that reason, ISO 639 allows for historic languages to be recognized as distinct individual languages with their own alpha-3 identifier.

Thus, I assert that the appropriate procedure in a case like this is that, before any variant subtag is considered for the historical variety, the proposer should first submit a request to get the historic variety added to ISO 639, or should provide this list with evidence explaining why a variety attested in documents more than a few hundred years old does not need to be, and should not be, distinguished from the descendent modern language.

I see no reason why Classical Armenian would not be accepted in ISO 639-2 if somebody submitted a request with the requisite 50-doc evidence.

Peter Constable

> -----Original Message-----
> From: ietf-languages-bounces at [mailto:ietf-languages-
> bounces at] On Behalf Of John Cowan
> Sent: Friday, September 08, 2006 10:03 AM
> To: ietf-languages at
> Subject: REQUEST for registration of variant subtag 'grabar'
> [Poster's note:  I received this from JFC Morfin; the final paragraph
> shows that it is intended for this list.  I have made very minor
> corrections to the English prose parts.  It has been suggested that
> Classical Armenian is sufficiently distinct from modern varieties to
> warrant a separate 639-2 code element; I leave proposing that up to other
> interested parties.  I am posting this proposal as a public service.]
> 1. Name of requester: JFC Morfin
> 2. E-mail address of requester: jefsey at
> 3. Record Requested:
>     Type: variant
>     Subtag: grabar
>     Description: Classical written Armenian
>     Prefix: hy
>     Comments: Used for all Armenian writing, 5th-18th centuries
> 4. Intended meaning of the subtag:
>          Specifies the written form of Classical Armenian,
>          used for all purposes from the 5th century (the
>          Armenian Bible) until the 18th century, and since
>          then as the liturgical language of the Armenian
>          Orthodox Church.
> 5. Reference to published description
>    of the language (book or article):
> 	Dictionary of Grabar (Classical Armenian)
> 	by Ruben Ghazarian
> 	Language: Grabar
> 	Published by: Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia, Lebanon, 2004
> 	Format: Hardcover, 1330 pages
> 	Dimensions (in inches): 8.75 x 5.5
> 6. Any other relevant information:
> St. Mesrop Mashtots in 405 invented the Armenian alphabet. Classical
> Armenian (Grabar) dates from the 5th - 12th centuries, and is still
> employed as the scholarly and liturgical language, medieval Armenian
> (12th - 17th centuries). Classical, medieval and modern Armenian use
> the same alphabet, which originally had 36 letters but now has 39. There
> are two main spoken dialects, Western Armenian and Eastern Armenian.
> The Catholicos Sahak the Great and St. Mesrop, encouraged by King
> Vramshapuh formed a school of translators who were sent to Edessa to
> procure and translate Syrian and Greek copies of the scriptures and
> other important works. Much of the literary activity of the 5th century,
> the golden age (oskedar) of Armenian literature, was devoted to such
> translations and original works. The formation of national bibliography
> records is being dated to these times.
> Since the 5th century thousands of manuscripts and printed materials have
> been created all over the world by Armenian writers. The Matenadaran
> is one of the oldest and richest book-depositories in the world. Its
> collection of about 17,000 manuscripts includes almost all the areas of
> ancient and medieval Armenian culture and sciences - history, geography,
> grammar, philosophy, law, medicine, mathematics-cosmography, theory of
> calendar, alchemy-chemistry, translations, literature, chronology art
> history, miniature, music and theatre, as well as manuscripts in Arabic,
> Persian, Greek, Syrian, Latin, Ethiopian, Indian, Japanese and others.
> The Armenian Church fostered literature, and the principal early works
> are religious or hagiographical, most of them translations. The first
> major Armenian literary work is a 5th-century translation of the Bible;
> its language became the standard of classical Armenian. Early Mesopotamian
> influence resulted in Syriac translations (Aphraates and St. Ephraem
> Syrus). Armenia then turned to the West for literary inspiration,
> producing translations of many religious works (Athanasius, Basil the
> Great, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory Nazianzen, and John Chrysostom). Among
> secular works are renderings of Aristotle and of the romance of
> Alexander. The original writings of the Golden Age are confined to saints'
> lives and histories. The 5th-century history of Moses of Khorni contains
> practically all that is known of pre-Christian Armenia, its folklore and
> epics. Later historians include Thomas Ardzruni (10th century), Matthew
> of Edessa, who described the Crusades, and Stephanos Orbelian, who wrote
> of the Mongol hordes (13th century). A tradition of nationalistic epic
> poetry, influenced by Muslim forms, emerged; the best-known example is
> David of Sassoun. The principal figure of the 12th century is Catholicos
> Narses IV, a prelate and poet notable for his literary style.
> ensemble d'outils (polices, pilote pour modifierle clavier, etc...)
> pour naviguer, communiquer et écrire le grabar (arménien classique).
> A set of tools (font, keyboard driver, etc.) to browse the Internet,
> communicate and write Grabar (Classical Armenian) online since: 2004/04/18
> 20:00:00 , downloaded 922 times by 2006/09/07
> Note: This registration is to be reviewed by the Language Subtags and
> Extensions Reviewer, Moderator of the ietf-languages at mailing
> list according to the RFC draft-ietf-ltru-registry-14.txt.
> --
> John Cowan   <cowan at>
>     "Any legal document draws most of its meaning from context.  A telegram
>     that says 'SELL HUNDRED THOUSAND SHARES IBM SHORT' (only 190 bits in
>     5-bit Baudot code plus appropriate headers) is as good a legal document
>     as any, even sans digital signature." --me
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