Last call: Latvian (and Bontok) extlang subtags

Peter Constable petercon at
Tue Feb 9 03:15:32 CET 2010

In LTRU, the number of cases in which extlang *could* have been used was filtered to a short list. Thus, from that precedent, it is certainly the case that we are not compelled to create extlang subtags for languages associated with both lv / lav and bnc -- indeed, we can choose to do so for neither. The precedent doesn't automatically determine that we should do it for one, the other, both, or neither. We are, though, given some principles -- Doug referred to some relevant text, which I'll quote here for convenience:

   "Selected languages have been provided
   with both primary and extended language subtags.  These include
   macrolanguages, such as Malay ('ms') and Uzbek ('uz'), that have a
   specific dominant variety that is generally synonymous with the
   macrolanguage.  Other languages, such as the Chinese ('zh') and
   Arabic ('ar') macrolanguages and the various sign languages ('sgn'),
   have traditionally used their primary language subtag, possibly
   coupled with various region subtags or as part of a registered
   grandfathered tag, to indicate the language."
   (RFC 5646, section 4.1.2)

Bontoc doesn't seem to me to follow either of the precedents described here. Therefore, since use of extlang doesn't have particular benefits when there isn't a large amount of prior usage of the primary subtag and it can create certain problems, I would definitely argue for not creating extlangs for "bnc-*".

The situation for Latvian is a little different. It is not like the Arabic / Chinese precedents, but it is somewhat similar to the Malay / Uzbek cases. There is one respect in which it may not be like Malay etc.: in those cases, most or all of the varieties were known (at least, in some language) by the same name as the dominant variety; but Latgalian is known by a distinct name -- it's not only called "Eastern Latvian". But that may not be crucial in our decisions.


-----Original Message-----
From: ietf-languages-bounces at [mailto:ietf-languages-bounces at] On Behalf Of Michael Everson
Sent: Monday, February 08, 2010 1:26 AM
To: ietflang IETF Languages Discussion
Subject: Re: Last call: Latvian (and Bontok) extlang subtags

On 8 Feb 2010, at 09:18, Kent Karlsson wrote:

> Indeed, my position is that **NO** more *extlang* subtags should be 
> registered. (That is easy for the reviewer too...)

Yes, Kent. I know. It has been explained to me that in the LTRU discussions Doug (for instance) took the view that

* the total set of extlang-able macrolanguages should be open to expansion when ISO 639-3 decides to convert an existing individual language code element to a macrolanguage

(in which case I should approve both lv and bnc)

and that you took the view that

* that the total set was intended to be fixed and not expandable

(in which case I should reject both lv and bnc)

Now John is saying that I should not be using *linguistic* judgement at all, but approve one and reject the other on the basis of knowledge which I did not have.

It seems to me that a hames was made of this by the LTRU. There's little to guide me, and the judgement I'm to make it isn't *linguistic*. So I'm afraid this group is going to have to rehash the basics of what extlangs are for, so that some sort of coherent policy can be set.

I would now like to call on Peter Constable for his opinion.

Michael Everson *

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