Language Variant subtags for Sanskrit

Doug Ewell doug at
Wed Jul 14 18:21:04 CEST 2010

Mark Davis 🎆 <mark at macchiato dot com> wrote:

> This is not a feature of BCP47, nor do I see any *practical* value in
> it, beyond making tags hard to read.

I know Mark supported non-generic variant subtags with generic-sounding
values back in 2006, when he proposed 'western' and 'eastern' for
Armenian (the subtags that were eventually registered as 'arevmda' and
'arevela').  From 12 years participating on the Unicode list, I'm
accustomed to the problem of defending a strongly held viewpoint with
which most participants disagree.  While there is no specific wording in
BCP 47 that forbids such a generic-sounding subtag value, many
participants on ietf-languages have opposed this unless the subtag is
truly meant to be generic, like 'fonipa'.  See the August and September
2006 archives.

Now, Elizabeth Pyatt argues that the word "classical" really does have
essentially the same meaning for multiple, diverse languages.  If that
is generally held to be true, *then* perhaps a generic 'classic' subtag
would be appropriate.  In that case, the question might be whether
'classic' should be registered with no prefix, implying it is
potentially relevant to all languages (which can never be proven), or
whether we should start with a short list of prefixes (Elizabeth
mentioned Sanskrit and Latin) and add more as evidence comes to light.

I don't have a problem with the other subtags, since I don't think words
like "epic" and "Vedic" and "Buddhist" are used quite as commonly with
reference to other languages.  I do feel that shoehorning subtag values
into the minimum possible 5-character limit at the expense of human
readability, simply to reduce the number of characters in an XML tag, is
a false economy.  The difference between 5 and 8 isn't that great, even
when multiplied by a lot of tags.

Doug Ewell | Thornton, Colorado, USA |
RFC 5645, 4645, UTN #14 | ietf-languages @ is dot gd slash 2kf0s ­

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