Criteria for languages?

Kent Karlsson kent.karlsson14 at
Mon Dec 7 11:15:10 CET 2009

Note that "gem" and "gmw" are collection codes, and they
are not suited to be made "macrolanguage" codes. See

I also see that "de"/"deu" is given as "Standard German"
in Ethnologue, not "any kind of German"... Ethnologue lists
19 languages as "German", 41 languages as "West Germanic"
('gmw'), and 48 languages as "Germanic" ('gem'). See
I know, this hierarchy is not formally bound to ISO 639,
but it is still indicative.

    /kent k

Den 2009-12-07 06.08, skrev "Randy Presuhn" <randy_presuhn at>:

> Hi -
>> From: "CE Whitehead" <cewcathar at>
>> To: <duerst at>; <ietf-languages at>; <iso639-3 at>
>> Sent: Sunday, December 06, 2009 3:47 PM
>> Subject: Criteria for languages?
> ...
>> For possible macrolanguages there's not only gem and de but also gmw.
> As a germanist, I'd consider gem or gmw to rather inappropriate choices for
> Walliserdeutsch.  I believe de would also be wrong, because even though it is
> the
> most likely fallback language choice, this is due to diglossia rather than a
> "variety of"
> relationship.
> This is one of the situations where having a macrolanguage *per se* available
> provides limited value.  It's relatively easy for a speaker of German to say
> "that sounds like gsw."  And that's a useful bucket for classifying material.
> However, there are a lot of mutually more-or-less incomprehensible varieties
> of gsw,
> and a typical speaker of German (or even gsw) isn't necessarily going to be
> able
> to tell you which of these a given sample of gsw is.  (Rather like asking an
> inexperienced American to identify the dialects of rural England.)  This is
> what makes having a gsw tag useful, not the availability of a form of gsw
> that would serve the same function as zh-cmn. Knowing that these are
> closely-related languages is interesting, but not always helpful.  When
> the need arises for a speaker of one communicate with a speaker of a
> non-adjacent one, the likely choice will be de rather than gsw.
> Randy
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