Suggestion: registration of variant subtags for Aluku, Ndyuka, and Pamaka

Lang Gérard gerard.lang at
Mon Jan 26 08:39:03 CET 2009

Dear Doug,

I am not completely OK with your arithmetic.

1-The number of possibilities for tags with three letters from the 26-letters Latin alphabet is  26.26.26= 15 576.
The number of reserved tags from qaa to qtz is 26.17= 442, so that 17 576 - 442 = 17 134 possibilities are remaining  available to assign codes to about 7 700 languages, if we suppose to take every alpha-3 ISO 639-3 code element (I recently concurred to reduce their number, by obtaining from ISO 639-3 the deprecation of the non-existent "europanto (eur)" !).
2-Nevertheless, this result says that the ratio of occupation from 7 700 to 150134 is less than 51 /100, that does not very much support  the thesis that a systematic visual association between the reference name of each language and the code element  for the representation of this language name is generally impossible (I do not write that this is always possible, maybe a few benign exceptions remain necessary). On the contrary, my position is that, by making sometimes astute choices, this task can be rendered possible.
3-ISO 3166/MA is exactly in the same position with alpha-2 code elements for the representation of country names, that is perhaps amuch more constrained task.
 Our today's situation is that we have 26.26 = 676 overall possibilities, with 43 reserved code elements. So that we have, in fact, 676 - 43 = 633 possible alpha-2 code elements. As we today have 246 active entries, the direct occupationratio is 40/100. 
But, moreover, 51 formerly used and now deprecated , or otherly specially reserved (like EU or UK), code elements cannot be reused (indefinitely or at least during 50 years from their deprecation).
So, we are left with 676 - (43 + 51) = 582 really available code elements, to be compared with 246 active entries, and 51 more not reusable code elements, that gives a ratio of 297/582 = 51/100 that is exactly comparable with the ratio for alpha-3 ISO 639-3 code elements !

Bien cordialement.
Gérard LANG

-----Message d'origine-----
De : ietf-languages-bounces at [mailto:ietf-languages-bounces at] De la part de Doug Ewell
Envoyé : samedi 24 janvier 2009 02:27
À : ietf-languages at
Objet : Re: Suggestion: registration of variant subtags for Aluku, Ndyuka,and Pamaka

Pascal Vaillant <pascal dot vaillant at guyane dot univ dash ag dot fr>

> ... The disagreement between specialists would rather lie in one 
> detail, namely the mnemonic chosen to name that language : 'djk'
> (language tag chosen by the SIL) is a reminder of Djuka, which is but 
> one variety of the language (though the most numerous). But this is 
> not a matter to be discussed here, I suppose.

It's not really.  But in truth, the ISO 639-3 people have to assign codes to 7,680 languages, and they only have 17,316 three-letter codes to work with ('qaa' through 'qtz' are reserved for private use), plus they quite rightly do not reuse codes that have been retired for whatever reason.  So it's inevitable that many of the codes will be less than ideal from a mnemonic standpoint.

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

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