ID for language-invariant strings

Peter Constable petercon at
Thu Mar 13 06:04:47 CET 2008

What are people's thoughts about language tagging for language-invariant strings?

I'm working with a group on an application scenario in which we have a table of strings in various languages that name entities, but we also need to support entries that have a reference name that is considered a language-neutral form of a name for a given entity.

Strictly speaking, these would be strings intended for programmatic operation and not human consumption, and so, some might argue, are not in scope for IETF language tags. However, these are exceptional: almost all of the strings in the same table are intended for human consumption, and RFC 4646 is the spec being applied for identifying the language of strings in the table. Moreover, the strings in question *are* (in general) in a human language; they are just the values that are adopted to be used for language-neutral referencing.

The "i-default" tag is not appropriate for this: these are not default display strings. And "zxx" is not appropriate since, in fact, there is linguistic content. The "mis" tag doesn't seem like the right choice: we do not want an ambiguous ID that could be applied to other entries intended for a different purpose (strings intended for human consumption that happen to be in an uncoded language.)  The "und" tag might be usable, though that doesn't seem quite right to me: we're not intending to say that the language is (as yet) undetermined (and might be determined later); rather, we want a value indicating 'this is special content used as a referential key - the language of the content is irrelevant'.

That's leaving me a bit inclined to think that we should establish a special-purpose tag for the language-invariant semantic. I'd submit a request to the ISO 639 JAC (it would be another special-purpose-ID request as I did for "zxx".)

What are others thoughts?

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