Language Variant subtags for Sanskrit

Peter Constable petercon at
Wed Jul 14 18:44:55 CEST 2010

IMO, "classical" absolutely should NOT be coded as a variant subtag.


-----Original Message-----
From: ietf-languages-bounces at [mailto:ietf-languages-bounces at] On Behalf Of Doug Ewell
Sent: Wednesday, July 14, 2010 12:21 PM
To: ietf-languages at
Subject: Re: Language Variant subtags for Sanskrit

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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