Variant subtag proposal: Høgnorsk variety of Norwegian

John Cowan cowan at
Sat Jan 2 01:27:00 CET 2010

Thorgeir Holm scripsit:

> It's West-Scandinavian. And that's not just a nitpicking remark, but an 
> essential point, because 'nn' is West-Scandinavian and 'nb' 
> East-Scandinavian, meaning that the macro 'no' doesn't fit into this 
> scheme at all! The macro 'no' is simply a political creation, and people 
> fill it with whatever ideas they have about this concept.

Neither similarity nor perceived connectedness follow linguistic
genealogy.  If we had only the modern West Germanic and lacked all
evidence of earlier forms, it would be impossible to reconstruct their
genetic relationship: the attempt has been made, and the resulting trees
are extremely different from one another as well as extremely low-quality.

To take a simple example, the genetic grouping of {English, Frisian,
Dutch} is {{English, Frisian}, Dutch}, but the gross similarity is
{English, {Frisian, Dutch}}.  In recent years standard West Frisian
has moved further from Dutch, whereas urban West Frisian varieties
are so Dutchy that it's hard to say whether they are Frisian with a
Dutch superstrate or Dutch with a Frisian substrate.  No comparable
phenomena exist between English and Frisian, for obvious geographical
and political reasons.

In short, 'no' is political because the separation of Norway from the
rest of the Nordic countries is a political fact; it transcends the
political insofar as Norwegians treat one another as speaking the same
language, and as speaking a different language from Danes or Swedes.
(A Swedish net.friend of mine from central Sweden says he understands
his neighbors across the border better than he does Swedes from other
parts of his country; it's hardly surprising that many isoglosses should
run east and west on the Norway-Sweden peninsula.)

> It is vital that 'no-hognorsk' be valid, the practical circumstances in 
> Norwegian language tagging being as chaotic as they are. 

In no case will "no-hognorsk" be invalid.  The Prefix: field in a
variant subtag is essentially a soapbox: if we put a (partial) tag in
the field, we are saying that it is sensible to use this subtag with
that partial tag.  We are not saying even by implication that other
combinations do not make sense, and in fact we have no way to do so
(short of an explicit comment to that effect).

> and in the fear that what is not explicitly expressed, might one day
> no longer be valid.

Predictions are very difficult, especially about the future, but as long
as the current community remains in control of the RFCs and this list,
such a fear will never come to pass.  For example, there is no explicit
authorization to use "en" with "US", but the notion that that combination
would become invalid in future is preposterous.

John Cowan  cowan at
Dievas dave dantis; Dievas duos duonos          --Lithuanian proverb
Deus dedit dentes; deus dabit panem             --Latin version thereof
Deity donated dentition;
  deity'll donate doughnuts                     --English version by Muke Tever
God gave gums; God'll give granary              --Version by Mat McVeagh

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