[Ltru] 639 coding wrt historic varieties (was RE: Request forvariant subtag

CE Whitehead cewcathar at hotmail.com
Thu Jan 11 20:38:52 CET 2007

>Thanks for the detailed responses, which all sound sensible. Can you put 
>"crucial question" to the JAC, so we can get some clarity on how to 

I guess we could question the JAC
>I'm inclined to agree with your inclination "to say that all the coded
>entities in 639 should be understood to be the modern variety unless
>explicitly indicated otherwise".

>> > I take it from your discussion that "fr" means *only*
>> > modern French, and that if I want to have a tag for any
>> > French, modern or not, I would have to use (fr OR frm
>> > OR fro). Similarly, if I wanted any English, I would
>> > have to use (en OR enm OR ang).
>>That's my understanding.
>>Since 639-1/-2 only provide English and French names as a guide to the
>>semantics of each coded entity, it isn't always clear from a given entry
>>what it means. To gain a more complete idea of the semantics of entries,
>>there are a couple of things we can look at: what distinctions are made
>>within the coded set, and how a given ID been used. (For the latter, MARC 
>>particularly relevant since it was the source from which most of the
>>entities coded in 639-2.)
>>As I mentioned above, "fr" was originally used by terminologists, in which
>>context it very likely has meant the modern variety only. The 
>>alpha-3 ID "fre" was originally used by librarians. While in that context
>>it's more likely that the ID potentially could have been used in a way 
>>encompassed historic varieties, the contrastive coded entities "frm" and
>>"fro" that they also used clearly suggests that that was probably not how
>>they used it. The MARC Code List for Languages (
>>http://www.loc.gov/marc/languages/) is consistent with that: in describing
>>how "fre" is used, they document it as encompassing varieties from 
>>regions, but not historic varieties.

Two things:

In my French studies we used Old French to refer to Old French.  It is 
semi-comprehensible but not completely so to speakers of modern French.

We rarely talked about Middle French however although the term is there.

However all these could be encompassed (albeit somewhat loosely, laxly, or 
something) under the larger term French but this is an extension of course 
of the meaning of French which actually means a very specific modern 

The regional varieties sometimes can be as different as the historical ones. 
  I guess I need to find out which regional varieties were encompassed by 
fre, by checking the document at http://www.loc.gov/marc/languages/ (can I 
find out there?) and getting back to you.

I suppose one option would be to have a tag
and then that would be more like a macro tag for an extended meaning of 
and then you could have

but that is bizarre and the variant form ext extending the French would be 
nesting (I guess, or something?) which I understand is not to be done.

So we might need some new tag but not fr with a variant ext then;
and not fre which aready means something else; fra I do not like either; and 
fr by itself of course has only its specific meaning perhaps

frx?  I'm not sure what I think of that.

--C. E. Whitehead
cewcathar at hotmail.com

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