Principles of Operation

Jeremy Carroll jjc at
Fri Jan 25 19:10:37 CET 2008

John Cowan wrote:
> Ethnologue is notoriously a splitter (as opposed to a lumper) as language
> taxonomies go: that is, it sees languages where others see only dialects.
> That's something the international community (via ISO) has chosen to live
> with.  Fortunately, it is always easier to blur or ignore distinctions
> than to make them.


> Such national authorities are, unfortunately, not to be trusted in such
> matters: they have a hidden (or sometimes not-so-hidden) agenda, namely
> to claim that only the imposed standard language is a real language, and
> the other surviving varieties spoken in the country are "just" dialects.
> "A sprakh iz a dialekt mit an armey un flot."  Or, as we say in our
> funky dialect of Westernest Frisian, they have an axe to grind.

I note that Ethnologue's publishers also have a not-so-hidden agenda

My understanding is that:
- the quality of their linguistics is widely recognised
- everyone has agenda of some sort

So that the reliance on the ethnologue is not too much of a problem.

I guess this is a prod to discover whether that understanding might be 
mistaken and/or whether there are any known systemic problems arising 
from underlying conflicts between SIL goals and the goals of the 
language tagging community


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