One language, one subtag

CE Whitehead cewcathar at
Tue Feb 20 19:42:33 CET 2007

Hi, all, my comments are below!

>Doug Ewell wrote:
> > Ciarán Ó Duibhín wrote:
> > > But one of the reasons for suggesting a French macrolanguage is so
> > > that texts which fall on or near a language borderline (e.g. that
> > > between frm and fr), and which are not clearly one thing or the other,
> > > don't have to be arbitrarily tagged as one thing or the other.
> >
> > I understand this goal.  I'm not sure whether macrolanguages as defined
> > by ISO 639-3 are intended to solve problems like this.  I think the JAC
> > may see a fundamental difference between the concepts:
>OK, if that happens, we will be back to looking for a solution based on
>variant subtags!

Hi, I agree that we will need a variant subtag to clarify that a language 
variety is say somewhere between say modern French and middle French rather 
than somewhere between middle French and Old French.

(That was part of the purpose of my request for the variant subtags, to 
identify some specific variants that were neither truly modern French nor 
middle French;
one was a variant more typical of the 16th century and early 17th; the other 
a variant more typical of the 17th century perhaps because of its inclusion 
in it of New World names;
I figured these subtags were no more specific and no more less essential 
than some of the extant subtags for English)

Nevertheless, a macrolanguage can also be used with variant subtags, but as 
I understand it now, these are not part of our jurisdiction anyway.

--C. E. Whitehead
cewcathar at
> > > And further that texts which have a clear linguistic identity as frm
> > > or fr but which fall chronologically on the wrong side of the
> > > borderline won't have to be wrongly tagged from the linguistic
> > > viewpoint.
> >
> > This is not an issue.  If someone wrote or spoke Middle French in 1700,
> > or last week, it is still Middle French by the nature of the language.
> > Middle French is the language, the "version of French" if you will, that
> > was generally spoken within a certain time frame, but it is not
> > constrained to appear only within that time frame.
>It is good to know that, in choosing between language tags such as fr and
>frm, the chronology (and geography) is accepted to be secondary to the
>linguistics.  Thanks for this info.
>Ciarán Ó Duibhín.
Yes, but there are still more variants of Middle and Modern French than just 
Middle and Modern French.

For me, the date was not the problem; it was the fact that Middle French has 
several varieties and that some have clear elements of Middle and Modern 
French, from 1530-ish to 1670-ish;
in the New World (but the text is published in France), to at least 1683-85;
and even then it seems to me (on reading a handwritten version) that one 
element from Middle French that really comes from Old French (the use of the 
-s or -z ending to mark the nominative singular form) in one case, in the 
word 'enfans' (for a single child), appears in 18th century Louisiana slave 

There is variation within the texts dating from the 1530's to the 1670's 
that occur over time and that make it possible to have two subtags!

(The text from the 1530's alas would not be covered by the subtag 1606nict, 
because that dictionary does not include in it words like,
'aulcune,' 'aultre.'  But this variety could be included in a subtag, 


--C. E. Whitehead
cewcathar at

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