Generic subtags (was: Re: LANGUAGE SUBTAG REGISTRATION FORM (R4): pinyin)

Doug Ewell doug at
Wed Sep 24 15:04:04 CEST 2008

Peter Constable <petercon at microsoft dot com> wrote:

> A generic variant subtag is one that denotes some general kind of 
> variation potentially applicable to any language (or, at least, a wide 
> variety of languages) -- things like "western" or "ancient". We have 
> two generic subtags registered to date, "fonipa" and "fonupa"; these 
> were approved as an exception to our conventional preference against 
> generic subtags because they do refer to some very specific forms of 
> linguistic expression; they just happen to be generic because those 
> are systems of writing that can be used for a wide variety of 
> languages.

But once again, I claim that this latter point needs to be well 
understood.  We have a conventional preference against generic subtags, 
not because they are a bad idea per se, but because they are a bad idea 
when the variation doesn't apply consistently across languages.  For 
cases like phonetic alphabets that do apply consistently across 
languages, we can and should register generic subtags, and not be put 
off by the belief that they are to be avoided in all cases.

Peter is spot on with the rest of his post: we need to be very careful 
about overloading the word "generic" in discussing the difference 
between subtags that reference a year and those that do not.  As with 
other words like "redundant" and "deprecated," this word has a specific 
meaning in our context.

Doug Ewell  *  Thornton, Colorado, USA  *  RFC 4645  *  UTN #14  ˆ

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