Macrolanguages, countries & orthographies

Mark Davis mark.davis at
Tue Feb 13 19:23:54 CET 2007

> I wonder if there is, or is going to be, a public forum to discuss ISO
> 639-3 and its structure and policies.  This list really isn't it; we
> take what the external standards give us, and synthesize and arrange.
> We don't directly influence what the external standards do, though there
> are list members who can do so indirectly.

That would be very useful. We are very dependent on the interpretation of
the codes. In particular, there is a key item that we need a response for,
and that is the temporal scope of ISO language codes. For example, we have
french broken up into fr, frm, and fro, plus various creoles. So  tagging
old French data with fr is incorrect, and requesting a variant subtag to
apply to fr to indicate French of say (1100-1200) is out of scope and will
be legitimately rejected.

For most other languages, on the other hand, we do not have that granularity.
So that means what a document that is tagged with cs (Czech) represents is
completely unspecified. We do not know what the !#$@ to do with a request.
We are faced with an unknown situation which the ISO committee doesn't
respond to.

Assume that old Czech is as different from modern as fro is from fr. There
are the following two alternatives:

   1. The subtag 'cs' means any Czech, modern or old, and therefore
      1. cs can legitimately be used to tag a document with old Czech.
      2. a request for a variant-subtag applying to cs indicating old
      Czech is perfectly reasonable, and SHOULD be granted.
      3. ISO can only add another subtag that means old Czech if cs is
      treated as a metalanguage, since otherwise that would invalidate old
      2. The subtag 'cs mean only modern Czech, and therefore
      1. cs cannot be correctly used to tag a document with old Czech,
      so the only recourse is to use a private use code or 'und'.
      2. a request for a variant-subtag applying to cs indicating old
      Czech is illegitimate, and MUST not be granted.
      3. ISO can and should add a different subtag that means old

I've requested a response from the JAC (through Peter Constable on Jan 11)
to clarify this, but have gotten nothing. His opinion was number 2, which
seems reasonable, but we really have to know what the situation is for RFC


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