(iso639.2708) RE: ISO 639-2 decision: "mis"

Kent Karlsson kent.karlsson14 at comhem.se
Sat Jun 16 08:52:34 CEST 2007

Milicent K Wewerka wrote:
> The usage of "mis" won't necessarily be narrower over time.  

That assumes that some codes are actively removed (not just
deprecated), for some language (or "language collection") that
actually exits. I doubt that will happen in ISO 639, though that
make happen in some application (like MARC) that pick up just a
subset of the ISO 639 tags.

> At least in
> the MARC code list it is possible that languages could still 
> be added to the scope of "mis."

MARC is just one application of 639, not THE application of 639.

Note also that you erroneously conflate two issues here:

1) Which languages are covered by 'mis' in the MARC application
   of 639, and
2) which of those languages that are explicitly mentioned in
   some list for MARC.

For the first one, that is most likely quite a lot of languages
(every language not having a code in MARC).

For the second one, it is just a matter of making explicit
a few of the languages covered by 'mis' in the MARC application.
You can make explicit quite a few more languages without changing
which languages are covered by 'mis' in the MARC application
(i.e. a change of no actual consequence).

> The scope of "und" as I understand it would be when you 
> cannot identify which language you have.

No, it is for use when the language *has* not been identified.
Not at all the same as *cannot* be identified.

> That is a quite different concept than to say
> I know what language it is but there is no coded identifier for the
> language.

Yes, but from a coverage point of view, 'und' covers all languages
as well as 'zxx' and 'mul'. Not a far cry from what 'mis' used to
cover (namely all (natural, and natural-like) languages). And you
have not given any other option than 'und' (and private use codes)
as a replacement for what 'mis' used to cover (as a collection).

With this change you have turned a fairly logical system into one
that has an illogical and quite unnecessary exception. I fail to
see why that would be a good thing.

And with this change, an application of ISO 639 that requires
stability over time, like IEFT language tags, unstable tags
(w.r.t. coverage of languages) are highly detrimental.

With the "old mis" one could correctly apply 'mis' as a language
code for any language (though one should apply a more specific
code if one is "available"), and stably so. With the "new mis" that
is not possible.

IIUC, for all other collections there are plans do make a
clarification (not a change) in the opposite direction,
removing the confusing (but in ISO 639 context, meaningless)
word "other" in some of the collection names.

	/Kent Karlsson

> Milicent Wewerka
> Library of Congress

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