Tracey, Niall niall.tracey at
Mon Aug 4 18:54:28 CEST 2008

From: John Cowan
Sent: 03 August 2008 22:31

> Most uses of "Pinyin" refer to Hanyu Pinyin, the official transcription
> system (both national and ISO) of the official language of China (another
> ambiguous name, but I'm sure you know what I mean by it).
> We're following that lead.

I'm pretty certain that if anyone was to count, we'd find that most uses of the word "alphabet" refer to the Latin alphabet. Does that make "Alphabet" a valid alternative to "Latn"? 

What the native speakers call their language and orthography have to be taken into account, but it is impossible to be ruled by it: there will always be clashes of terminology across borders. I'd always suggest being explicit, even if that means being more technical than a native speaker would be.

I mean, most people I know say they speak "English", not "EN_gb" or whatever, but we make that distinction. We could follow this and set up a heirarchy of pinyin subtags (including Wade-Giles) but that would be cumbersome.

> Another point: we are neither a concensus organization nor a democracy:
> we are an advisory council to an absolute dictator.

Yet can a council not advise by concensus?

And besides, sometimes dictatorships can be a good thing: in a democracy, the advocates of "pinyin" as Hanyu might well win -- there's probably more literate Mandarin speakers than speakers of other languages with pinyins. Dictatorship of the majority and all that....


This e-mail and any attachment is for authorised use by the intended recipient(s) only. It may contain proprietary material, confidential information and/or be subject to legal privilege. It should not be copied, disclosed to, retained or used by, any other party. If you are not an intended recipient then please promptly delete this e-mail and any attachment and all copies and inform the sender. Thank you.

More information about the Ietf-languages mailing list