"mis" update review request

John Cowan cowan at ccil.org
Fri Apr 13 20:07:04 CEST 2007

Peter Constable scripsit:

> The semantic legacy is MARC, where mis is documented (in MARC 21)
> as encompassing the following:
> Ainu
> Andamanese
> Burushaski
> Chukchi
> Etruscan
> Gilyak
> Hattic
> Hurrian
> Iberian
> Indus script
> Kamchadal
> Ket
> Koryak
> Nancowry
> Nenets
> Nganasan
> Nicobarese
> Palan
> Yugh
> Yukaghir

In the 14th edn. of Ethnologue, one can find a similar list, of
genetic language groupings this time:

    * Andamanese
    * Basque (excluding Basque proper)
    * Cant
    * Chukotko-Kamchatkan
    * Hmong-Mien (excluding Hmong)
    * Japanese, Ryukyuan
    * Language Isolate (excluding Korean, Kutenai, Selkup, and Zuni)
    * Mixed Language
    * Tai-Kadai (excluding Tai)
    * Unclassified
    * Uralic (excluding Finno-Ugric)
    * Yenisei Ostyak
    * Yukaghir

> Keep in mind a couple of things: First, this list is defined by MARC,
> not ISO 639. Secondly, mis was defined in the context of entries
> included in ISO 639-2; ISO 639-5 will likely introduce new collections,
> and clearly that has potential impact on how mis might be used.

Indeed.  However, the present concern is with RFC 4646, which allows
only ISO 639-2 (and 639-1) code elements.

> The intention clearly was for mis to be used when no individual-language
> or collection entry was applicable.

Thanks for clarifying this.

> Equally clear is that that is a vague semantic that is subject to
> change as ISO 639 is maintained and that could also get interpreted
> differently in different application contexts.

Nevertheless, my argument stands: it would be inappropriate to use
"mis" to tag Low Saxon or Tarifit just because your tagging process cannot
recognize them as such.  In that case, "und" is the appropriate tag.

John Cowan    cowan at ccil.org    http://ccil.org/~cowan
Rather than making ill-conceived suggestions for improvement based on
uninformed guesses about established conventions in a field of study with
which familiarity is limited, it is sometimes better to stick to merely
observing the usage and listening to the explanations offered, inserting
only questions as needed to fill in gaps in understanding. --Peter Constable

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