Adding variant subtags 'aluku' and 'nduyka' and'pamaka'fordialects

Debbie Garside debbie at
Sun Aug 23 12:01:01 CEST 2009

Pascal wrote:

> Yes, we totally agree there. As linguists, we're used to such
> apparent contradictions or tautologies, which hide different
> levels, or facets, of reality.  That's what I termed in my
> previous message "not making a fuss about it". That's what
> you also express two paragraphs later as "From my research, I
> see many occasions where there is a language continuum where
> linguists appear to have grouped entities under the most
> important/prevalent entity name for ease of reference". We
> can cope with ambiguity. But in some circumstances and types
> of use (like when deciding how to tag a segment of a digital
> language corpus), we also need to clarify things. After all,
> we are here discussing about terminology and standards,
> aren't we? And from the reactions of other people on this
> list, it is also clear that ambiguity is not welcome in all contexts.

Quite so...

> > May I suggest that the three variants are registered here
> as per the
> > original request and that the requestor apply to the ISO
> 639-3 RA to
> > add "Nenge" or "Busi Nenge" as an alternative name for djk
> if so desired.
> >
> Good idea. That is next on my to-do list.


> > I have only looked into this very quickly but I don't see that
> > Ethnologue have got anything wrong here.  It would appear that the
> > language has only been referred to as Nenge since 2003 and yet the
> > records/references within Ethnologue would seem to go back to 1973.
> Ethnologue has nothing wrong on this issue, they only have
> some kind of inaccuracy of description. Their present state
> says that there is one language with regional variants, and I
> think we all agree on that point. The only thing we object -
> as I said in my message of January 14th - is the fact that
> the whole language is referred to by the same term as one of
> the three variants, which *in a context of establishing a
> terminological standard with the aim of avoiding ambiguity*,
> is a problem.


> [BTW. Ethnologue is the result of the work of many different
> people in many different historical layers, so it is quite
> logical that such inaccuracies occur, and there is no
> intended blame when I mention that. For the point of view of
> the first SIL linguist who studied Ndyuka -I think it was
> George Huttar- it was quite logical to name what he was
> describing by the term "Ndyuka".
> For the point of view of those who added later reference to
> Aluku and Pamaka, it was quite logical to file them under the
> same language tag as Ndyuka...
> I simply think it is a good thing to brush up the room a
> little from time to time].

I agree...
> Everybody will likely be ready to assume that linguists (like
> those I mentioned in the references of the registration form)
> do not invent names (like "Nenge") just for the pleasure of
> coining a new fancy word to replace an old one with the same
> denotation. They are proposing terms in order to have clear
> reference to the empirical objects they are talking about. I
> am not going to get into a lengthy justification of the terms
> "Aluku", "Boni", "Ndyuka", "Aukan", or "Bushi Nenge", unless
> I am enthusiastically asked to do so, but I testify that they
> all have their reason to exist. Simply, to be short: the
> speakers themselves refer to their languages as "Aluku" and
> "Ndyuka". "Boni" and "Aukan" [resp.] are alternate names, a
> little bit outfashioned these last decades because they
> actually are more ethnies names than language names. "Bushi
> nenge tongo", literally "the language [tongue] of the bush
> negroes" (short: "Nenge"), is the way those people would
> refer to what they would agree they are all having in common.

I bow to your greater knowledge... :-)
> For the sake of clarity, then, and if nobody objects, it is
> good that IANA should adopt the three variant subtags in the
> last version suggested by Doug Ewell, and that we
> simultaneously file a change request in ISO-639-3 to make "busi nenge"
> appear as the main description of tag "djk" (thanks to Joan
> for the practical suggestions on this point, I am getting back to it).


> > From my research, I see many
> > occasions where there is a language continuum where
> linguists appear
> > to have grouped entities under the most important/prevalent
> entity name for ease of
> > reference.
> >
> Again you are perfectly right. But again, the point is that
> we sometimes are forced to clarify concepts. These are all
> very complicated and fascinating questions, especially when
> it comes to concepts and relations whose definitions are not
> so clear cut in reality than they would ideally have to be in
> a neat ontology. For example, we often come across questions
> such as "is Picard a dialect of French, or is it an
> independant language?", which raise heated discussions among
> lots of people having an interest in the issue, when in a
> linguists point of view the question simply has to be asked
> with more precision. In fact words like "dialect of ...",
> "independant language", or even "French", do not have such an
> obviously clear meaning than most people would think at first
> glance... Picard, as a linguistic system, has no reason to be
> considered as subordinate to any other linguistic system,
> French or anything else; BUT Picard certainly is part of a
> linguistic continuum, along with Norman, Lorrain, Wallon,
> Francien, of northern
> ("oil") French; AND moreover, the question is obscured by the
> fact that what we call standard French is an Ausbausprache
> which has taken something of Picard, as well as from the
> original rural dialect of the outskirts of Paris, but
> actually is neither of those... Sorry, this might seem a
> diversion, but it is just to shed a light on the difficulty
> to answer such questions as: "Is Aluku a different language
> than Ndyuka, or is it not? if it is, simply put a new entry
> in ISO-639; if it is not, then leave 'Ndyuka' as the description".

Not my field of expertise so I cannot comment...

> Thanks again to all those who took part in the discussion. I
> think I have now understood that the general consensus is
> that we adopt the three variants in the version of Doug Ewell:
> and that I file a change request to ISO-639-3 to have the
> language itself called "busi nenge". Is that so?

Seems a reasonable course of action to me...

Best regards

> Best regards,
> Pascal Vaillant
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> Ietf-languages mailing list
> Ietf-languages at

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