[OT] Re: [Ltru] UNGEGN definitions and UNICODe Glossary of terms
duerst at it.aoyama.ac.jp
Tue Oct 7 04:01:09 CEST 2008
At 21:44 08/10/06, Lang G$B".(Brard wrote:
>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 !
[co-chair hat on]
If this is a surprise to you, then this means you are not very familliar
with the IETF process.
First, the core goal of the IETF process is "rough consensus and running code".
Definitions are carefully considered when it is expected that they can contribute
to this goal, but are not a goal in and by itself. For getting more familliar
with the IETF process and culture, I in particular recommend you to read
Second, the overall focus of some specification work and the definitions
are usually discussed mostly at the start of some specification work (in my
experience, this is similar in other standards organizations). However, the
work of the LTRU WG on its current charter is reaching its end, at which
time it in general isn't such a good idea to go back to discussing definitions.
Third, the IETF mostly works by looking at actual documents. I have explicitly
asked you to tell us if you have any concrete change proposals for the current
documents (these would be
Also, please note that our charter
explicitly includes signed languages as an use case:
The working group will examine, and if necessary clarify or adjust,
procedures and guidelines with respect to extended language subtags
and variant subtags. Use cases include the identification of
signed languages, transliterations, and transcriptions.
>2- Concerning your "very easy different interpretation", I think that it is
>based on false premisses about "translation".
[co-chair hat off]
I have done translations myself (not too many, but some). I speak and
read various languages, among them English and French. I know that
translators, like anybody else, are human beings. I know that translations,
like any other human work, are prone to occasional mishaps.
>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.
That's fine. Based on this, you may try to claim (although after John's
email showing some 370,000 Google hits for "langue(s) des signes", it
will be difficult) that because the French version uses "langue",
sign languages should be excluded.
However, it still doesn't mean this was the original intent.
> Moreover, the most important ISO standards are not only bilingual, but
>their published form is a face-$B".(B-face english/french document (not two
>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.
This is fine, except that "accessible to everyone" obviously has to
read "accessible to everyone who reads both French and English".
>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.
Why is it impossible? Errors happen.
[By the way, Swiss law is also not only bilingual, but trilingual.
On a first level, all translations are equivalent. But when a court
has to look at an issue, things don't stop there. The actual history
of the translations (was it e.g. from French to German, or from German
to French) and so on is also considered, as well as the record of the
deliberations in parlament, to be able to reconstruct the most precise
interpretation where this is necessary. I guess this is rarely if ever
done in an UN or ISO context, but my guess would be that if a court
had to have a look at some of these things, it might be done, too.]
>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
>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.
[co-chair hat on]
If you want to complain about "sgn", please complain to ISO 639/RA-JAC,
not on this mailing list.
[co-chair hat off]
I think overall, what matters for the interpretation of the definition
in question is not only ethymological considerations ("langue" also
meaning "tongue" in French) or legalistic considerations (ISO defines
both language versions as equivalent, and uses one if the other turns
out to be ambiguous), but also social considerations. My guess is that
when ISO 639 was started (1967), considerations for accessibility issues
was very low, and the question "should we include sign languages or not"
may not even have entered the mind of the people involved. On the other
hand, these days, fortunately people are more sensitive to accessibility
issues. Technology also may have played a part in it; it's much, much more
common that libraries and computers store e.g. video with sign language
than in 1967.
>De : Martin Duerst [mailto:duerst at it.aoyama.ac.jp]
>Envoy$B".(B : lundi 6 octobre 2008 12:10
>$B".(B : Lang G$B".(Brard; John Cowan; CE Whitehead; Lang G$B".(Brard
>Cc : ietf-languages at iana.org; ltru at ietf.org
>Objet : [OT] Re: [Ltru] UNGEGN definitions and UNICODe Glossary of terms
>[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.
>At 17:27 08/10/06, Lang G$BqS(Bard wrote:
>>Dear John Cowan,
>>5-Coming back to the proper interpretation in french of the english
>>word "language", I verified that from the beginning (Recommendation ISO
>>639 [November 1967] "Symbols for Languages, Countries and Authorities//
>>Indicatifs de LANGUES, de pays et d'autorit$BqT(B", 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
>>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
>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.
>>"L$B!&(Bo$B!)(Bil n'y a pas de loi,
>>Il y a quand m$BsN(Be la conscience"
>> Publilius Syrus
>> (1er si$BoD(Ble avant J.-C.)
>>De : ietf-languages-bounces at alvestrand.no
>>[mailto:ietf-languages-bounces at alvestrand.no] De la part de John Cowan
>>Envoy$B!&(B: vendredi 3 octobre 2008 17:21
>>$B%?(B : 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
>>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
#-#-# 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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