ISO 639 name change: Songhai languages

Don Osborn dzo at
Tue Jan 9 03:18:21 CET 2007

Hi Peter. It may indeed be unfair to pick on them, but it was one example.
Another problem may be if the designer/contributors of a keyboard are not
clear on the concept - how is the site owner to know better? Ultimately the
problem is that third parties (users) come along and assume what they see
online is authoritative. 

So aside from someone like me (in this case) taking the time to pass on some
suggestions, is there any way that the listings can give caveats? Such as -
"this language is also part of a macrolanguage x" (the individual language
pages on the 639-3 site do this; Ethnologue might do similarly). And "the
writing system of this language may be determined in each country it is
spoken." (or some such). 

If popups hadn't been so abused one could actually consider some sort of use
of that feature to give pertinent added info to alert users in the case of
more complex language/macrolanguage situations (I should perhaps suggest
something along these lines for Ethnologue 16 online).

Maybe in addition to the more extensive RFDs there could be somewhere a very
simple boilerplate intro to language tags that also includes the (perhaps
discouraging at first) caveat that we all know: describing languages by tags
however useful is also reducing a complex phenomenon to very simple

There are other ideas too, but it's probably best to leave it at that for
now. In the end maybe no degree of caveats and alerts will avoid some kinds
of misuse, but some might help.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: ietf-languages-bounces at [mailto:ietf-languages-
> bounces at] On Behalf Of Peter Constable
> Sent: Monday, January 08, 2007 8:09 PM
> To: ietf-languages at
> Subject: RE: ISO 639 name change: Songhai languages
> > From: ietf-languages-bounces at [mailto:ietf-languages-
> > bounces at] On Behalf Of Don Osborn
> > So, to say a Keyman keyboard like the AFRO one is appropriate for the
> > Fulfulde of Western Niger (fuh) is not really accurate or helpful.
> > Anything that is good for the west is good for the east (fuq) and
> > you'd be better off referring to just Fula macrolanguage (a locale
> > would be ff-NE). And as far as keyboards for that language go, they
> > would probably cover several country locales, but that is getting
> offtopic again...
> A problem for a small company like Tavultesoft is that they have no way
> to ?know up front when a category from ISO 639 will capture the right
> distinctions and ?when it won't. They just don't have the resources to
> gather all the necessary info and process it. And so, a very easy
> solution for them -- albeit one that makes some ?compromises -- is to
> simply adopt a comprehensive coding set like 639-3 and ?assume it's
> good enough for the given application. In such a case, maybe it is good
> ?enough, and maybe it isn't.
> Peter Constable?
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