ISO 639 name change: Songhai languages

Doug Ewell dewell at
Sat Jan 6 18:32:25 CET 2007

I wrote:

> These changes are initiated by changes to a core ISO standard, so 
> there's no need for anyone to provide input, unless they can show some 
> conflict within the Registry that would result from adding them. 
> "Conflict" in this case means a drastic error such as two identical 
> subtags, or two different subtags with the same meaning, not something 
> subjective like "I don't agree with the way ISO defines languages."
> This is different from the procedure for evaluating user-requested 
> subtags, such as the ones CE proposed for Late Middle and Early Modern 
> French.  In that case, the Reviewer makes a decision and may take the 
> view of other list members into consideration.

Actually, I think this is likely to be another frequently misunderstood 
point, one which bears reiterating.

We have long, often high-profile debates about variants proposed by 
users.  Sometimes, as in the case of Reşat Sabiq and his Central Asian 
orthographies, the debates can go on for months.  But when an ISO 
standard adds or changes a language, script, or country code element, we 
automatically make the corresponding changes to the Registry, without 
any debate or review period.  We presume the ISO people have adequately 
reviewed their own action, and we do not wish to introduce any 
unnecessary deviations in the Registry.

The only exception to the automatic approval of an ISO-based subtag is 
if it "conflicts with existing registry entries" (Section 3.3).  Here 
are three hypothetical examples:

1.  ISO 3166/MA approves code element "UK" with the exact same meaning 
as "GB", and does not withdraw "GB".

2.  ISO 3166/MA approves code element "M2" for the 
soon-to-be-independent Sint-Maarten, conflicting with the "language" 
production in the RFC 4646 ABNF.

3.  ISO 3166/MA approves code element "CS" for yet another entity.

Note that none of these exceptions has anything to do with the ISO MA's 
judgment of whether the entity deserves a code element.  This is 
important.  We may choose, as individuals, to protest to the relevant 
ISO agency if we don't like their judgments, but we do not manipulate 
the Registry to reflect those protests.  We do not omit ISO-based 
subtags because we don't like them, and we do not add "ISO-like" subtags 
that aren't in the core standard because we feel they should be there. 
In the latter case, what we do is add variants.

Doug Ewell  *  Fullerton, California, USA  *  RFC 4645  *  UTN #14

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