Macrolanguages, countries & orthographies (RE: ISO 639 name change: Songhai languages)

Don Osborn dzo at
Sun Feb 11 20:11:55 CET 2007

Doug Ewell wrote:
> John Cowan <cowan at ccil dot org> wrote:
> >> So, Pulaar in western Mali uses the Malian orthography for
> >> Fulfulde/Pulaar along with other varieties of the language, while
> >> Pulaar in Senegal (several dialects) use the Senegalese orthography.
> >
> > And so we code them ff-ML and ff-fuc-SN respectively.
> We will be able to code the latter that way as soon as RFC 4646bis is
> approved.

Thanks, John, Doug. The main thing I'm thinking about is flexibility in use of ISO-639 codes. So, "be able to code" sounds great. Fula (Fulfulde/Pulaar/Pular) is perhaps an extreme case, but the general issues I brought up are not unique to that tongue.

I am hoping that it will be possible in the next year or two for people working with African languages in ICT to look more systematically at how ISO-639 can and might best meet African needs (this could involve applications for some new codes as well). I certainly don't pretend that my rambling is sufficient, let alone definitive, in this area.

In this context it is encouraging to note that ISOC will sponsor some participants from the South in IETF meetings. Hopefully there will be some African participation (although there is a hidden linguist-technician divide there that might not be readily bridged by such participation, it is still a step in the right direction). Along these lines, some of you may have seen this item last September:


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