[Ltru] [OT] Re: UNGEGN definitions and UNICODe Glossary of terms

Debbie Garside md at ictmarketing.co.uk
Mon Oct 6 15:17:51 CEST 2008


1. Martin is quite correct, this is off-topic for LTRU and ietf.languages (IMHO).  

2.  This is not ISO.

3.  If you have a suggestion to make with regard to the ISO 639 family of standards take it to TC37/SC2/WG1 or the ISO 639 JAC.  Nobody here can help you.

With regard to sign languages, the horse has bolted and the stable door is now closed.  They are in ISO 639-3 and will remain (quite rightly) so.




-----Original Message-----
From: ltru-bounces at ietf.org [mailto:ltru-bounces at ietf.org] On Behalf Of Lang Gérard
Sent: 06 October 2008 13:44
To: Martin Duerst; John Cowan; CE Whitehead; Lang Gérard
Cc: ietf-languages at iana.org; ltru at ietf.org
Subject: Re: [Ltru] [OT] Re: UNGEGN definitions and UNICODe Glossary of terms

Dear Martin Duerst,

1- I cannot hide that it is a surprise for me to receive a message, coming from the co-chair of a list whose title is "Language Tag Registry Update" interested in particular in "Tags for Identifying Languages", that is explaining that a discussion about the definition of the term "LANGUAGE" is "off topic" [OT] for this list's members !

2- Concerning your "very easy different interpretation", I think that it is based on false premisses about "translation".
Like it is the case for United Nations, where all six linguistic versions of an official text have equal validity and power (so that there is no "leading" linguistic version, whose all others would only be translations), so that an ambiguity or interpretation based on one linguistic version can be verified or falsified by inspecting another linguistic version, the same is true concerning ISO standards.
 Moreover, the most important ISO standards are not only bilingual, but their published form is a face-à-face english/french document (not two independant documents With an and a french version  english version), so that the equivalence is immediately accessible to everyone and that ambiguity is maintained at the lower possible level and that the fact that no one of the two linguistics version is "leading" is rendered evident.
So, it is impossible to consider that the permanent choice of the french word "langue" as an equivalence to the the english word "language" inside ISO 639 could be an error or a misinterpretation. The choice of the more precise word "langue" inside ISO 639 is evidently completely voluntary, and perfectly in line with UNGEGN's Manual M 85.
In particular all three parts of  ISO 3166, as well as ISO 15 924 (2004), ISO 639 (1988), ISO 639-2 (1998), ISO 639-1(2002) and ISO 639-5 (2008) are so bilingually presented. As an interesting matter of fact, ISO 639-3 (2007) is the only exception in the ISO 639 series, and this could explain that !.

3-I think that we could act that the "(original) intention" not to cover "Sign languages" inside ISO 639 lasted from 1967 to 2000, that is a long time enough to ensure its coherence. And as the scope of ISO 639-2 (2002) does not seem to have been revised by an official vote of the ISO TC 37 national body members, as should be the case to modify such an important interpretation, it is not so evident that ISO 639/RA-JAC decision to add "sgn" inside ISO 639-2 can be fully considered as correct.

Bien cordialement.
Gérard LANG  


-----Message d'origine-----
De : Martin Duerst [mailto:duerst at it.aoyama.ac.jp] Envoyé : lundi 6 octobre 2008 12:10 À : Lang Gérard; John Cowan; CE Whitehead; Lang Gérard Cc : ietf-languages at iana.org; ltru at ietf.org Objet : [OT] Re: [Ltru] UNGEGN definitions and UNICODe Glossary of terms

Dear Gerard,

[co-chair hat on]
Unless you have a concrete suggestion re. one of the two LTRU documents being worked on, please refrain from cc'ing ltru at ietf.org (or at least mark your postings with [OT] (off topic)). Thanks!

[I'm not responsible for ietf-languages at iana.org.]

See below for a different interpretation re. sign languages.

Regards,    Martin.

At 17:27 08/10/06, Lang G駻ard wrote:
>Dear John Cowan,

>5-Coming back to the proper interpretation in french of the english 
>word "language", I verified that from the beginning (Recommendation ISO
>639 [November 1967] "Symbols for Languages, Countries and Authorities// 
>Indicatifs de LANGUES, de pays et d'autorit駸", and with strictly no 
>exception, ISO 639 systematically translated the english word 
>"Language" by the french word "langue" and not by "langage". This is 
>also the case for UNGEGN's Manual M58, that never uses the french word "langage".
>So, I have absolutely no doubt that "langue" is the proper french 
>interpretation for "Language" inside ISO 639, as the general title of 
>this standard  and as UNGEGN interpretation both prove.
>And I maintain that, under this clear interpretation, "Sign languages" 
>should not be taken inside ISO 639.

[technical hat on]

I think it's very easy to come up with a different interpretation.
[For the sake of exposition, I'm assuming that the documents were translated from English to French, but much of the stuff below also works in other scenarios.]

When translating from English to French, 'langue' seemed the most obvious and precise term, and the translator simply either forgot about the existence of sign languages or checked the then-current actual list and didn't find any.

The ideal thing to happen when a standard gets translated is that the translation detects some ambiguity. This could have happened in this case, the French translator asking back "Is this supposed to include sign languages or not; I have to know that in order to be able to translate correctly." As a result, there should have been some explicit text saying either that sign languages are included or excluded, which I guess doesn't exist.

I think it's inappropriate, in this case, to conclude from the French translation 'langue' that this excludes sign languages.
The chance that this translation was in essence the result of an oversight (not to blame the translator; it's essentially an oversight by everybody involved) is in my opinion at least as big, and leads to the (in my opinion) much more desirable result of including sign languages.

>This is also reinforced by the fact that no "Sign Language" was present 
>inside the publications of ISO 639 (1988) or ISO 639-2 (1998), or even 
>639-1 (2002).

That may explain the choice of word by the translator, but doesn't prove any intent of coverage.

>But, a collective "Sign Languages", with alpha-3 code element "sgn" was 
>added by ISO 639/RA-JAC inside ISO 639-2 on 2000-02-18 only, with no 
>corresponding alpha-2 code element.
>This addition does not seem in line with the scope of ISO 639-2, whose
>"1 Scope" writes :
> " This part of ISO 639 provides two sets of three-letter alphabetic 
>codes for the representation of names of languages, one for TERMINOLOGY
>applications, and the other    for BIBLIOGRAPHIC applications...."
>Moreover, ISO 639-5 (2008), that also uses "familles de langues" and 
>"groupes de langues", recognizes "sgn" as a group of languages, so that 
>ideally "sgn" should be  suppressed inside ISO 639-2 to be only 
>mentionned inside ISO 639-5.

I guess ideally, yes, but apparently the need to code sign languages was so strong (at a time when 639-5 didn't exist yet) that the relevant committees ignored this "detail". This may be taken as strong evidence that once the parties involved got aware of sign languages, they really thought they should be covered.

>And in this case, there would be strictly no mention of any form of 
>"Sign languages" inside ISO 639-1 or ISO 639-2.

That would make the French translation more 'correct' on paper, but it's still not clear whether it would match the (original) intent.

Regards,    Martin.

>Bien cordialement.
>G駻ard LANG
>"L・o?il n'y a pas de loi,
>Il y a quand m麥e la conscience"
>  Publilius Syrus
> (1er si鐵le avant J.-C.)
>-----Message d'origine-----
>De : ietf-languages-bounces at alvestrand.no
>[mailto:ietf-languages-bounces at alvestrand.no] De la part de John Cowan
>Envoy・: vendredi 3 octobre 2008 17:21
>タ : CE Whitehead
>Cc : ietf-languages at iana.org; ltru at ietf.org Objet : Re: [Ltru] Ltru 
>Digest, Vol 44, Issue 15
>CE Whitehead scripsit:
>> However, "le tresor de la langue francaise" online
>> (http://atilf.atilf.fr/tlf.htm) seems to largely agree with your 
>> definition of "langue" -- as something pertaining to the "tongue" or 
>> to things that remind one of a "tongue" (such as a "the tongue of a
>> flame")
>Etymology is not a key to meaning.  "Verbal communication" is 
>communication in words, and although sign languages don't involve the 
>tongue, they definitely have words.
>John Cowan    cowan at ccil.org    http://ccil.org/~cowan
>Nobody expects the RESTifarian Inquisition!  Our chief weapon is 
>surprise ... surprise and tedium  ... tedium and surprise ....
>Our two weapons are tedium and surprise ... and ruthless disregard for 
>unpleasant facts....  Our three weapons are tedium, surprise, and 
>ruthless disregard ... and an almost fanatical devotion to Roy Fielding....
>Ietf-languages mailing list
>Ietf-languages at alvestrand.no
>Ltru mailing list
>Ltru at ietf.org

#-#-#  Martin J. Du"rst, Assoc. Professor, Aoyama Gakuin University
#-#-#  http://www.sw.it.aoyama.ac.jp       mailto:duerst at it.aoyama.ac.jp     

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