Language Variant subtags for Sanskrit

CE Whitehead cewcathar at
Thu Jul 15 00:46:29 CEST 2010

Hi.  I have made some quick comments on some of the varieties that might be covered with a generic subtag 'classic' which I do tend to oppose.  (Sorry to any who favor the generic subtag 'classic'.)

Michael Everson everson at 
Wed Jul 14 19:58:53 CEST 2010 
> On 14 Jul 2010, at 17:21, Doug Ewell wrote:
>> 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.
> • Classical Sumerian (literary language of Sumer, ca. 26th to 23rd c. BCE)
> • Middle Egyptian (literary language of Ancient Egypt from ca. the 20th century BCE to the 4th century CE)
No knowledge here.
> • Old Babylonian (The Akkadian language from ca 20th to 16th c. BCE, the imitated standard for later literary works)
No real knowledge; perhaps this would work.
> • Classical Hebrew (the language of the Tanakh, in particular of the prophetic books of ca. the 7th and 6th c. BCE)
Yes but there is a tag for ancient Hebrew in existence -- [hbo]; are you narrowing it?
> • Classical Chinese (based on the literary language of the Zhou Dynasty from ca. the 5th c. BCE)
O.k. I guess -- but is this the same as [lzh] 'literary Chinese' or are you narrowing it (in any case, without guidelines, it will be confused with literary Chinese I think).
> • Classical Greek (Attic dialect of the 5th c. BCE)
> • Classical Sanskrit (defined by Pāṇini's grammar, ca. 4th c. BCE) [3]
> • Classical Tamil (Sangam literature ca. 1st c. BCE to 4th c. CE, defined by Tolkāppiyam)[4]
No real knowledge
> • Classical Latin (literary language of the 1st c. BCE)
Yes, but what we really need in this case is a variant subtag for medieval Latin.  The tag [la] covers Classical Latin and Classical Latin as it has been revived as a language for reading and for the Church;
Medieval Latin is quite different and is not well covered in the subtag [la]. 
>. • Classical Mandaic (literary Aramaic of Mandaeism, 1st c. CE)
Insufficient knowledge.
> • Classical Syriac (literary Aramaic of the Syriac church, 3rd to 5th c.)
> • Classical Armenian (oldest attested form of Armenian from the 5th c. and literary language until the 18th c.)
Insufficient knowledge.
> • Middle Persian (court language of the Sassanid Empire, 3rd to 7th c.)
Unsure, perhaps.
> • Classical Telugu (Dravidian language]
Insufficient knowledge
> • Classical Arabic (based on the language of the Qur'an, 7th c.)
O.k.; but it could have one of two prefixes, [ar] and [ar-arb]/[arb]  -- I think you need to document the prefixes so that it's not used with the tags for the non-standard regional varieties. 
> • Classical Kannada (language of the Rashtrakuta literature, 9th c.).[5]
> • New Persian (language of classical Persian literature, 9th to 17th c.)
Oops I don't support two uses with Persian.  This is confusing.  Supposedly New Persian, in part because of the many Arabic loan words,
is no longer the same language as Middle Persian -- that is these two are not mutually comprehensible; if they are to be treated as a continuous variety it's going to have to be specified as 3rd to 17th century and it's going to definitely need a comment I would think.
> • Classical Japanese (language of Heian period literature, 10th to 12th c.)
> • Classical Icelandic (the language of the Icelandic sagas, 13th c.)
> • Classical Gaelic (language of the 13th to 18th c. Scottish Gaelic literature)
As for Japanese and Gaelic I think there are some list members with considerably more expertise.
> • Early Modern English (language of KJV Bible and Shakespeare, 16th to 17th c.)
This sounds awful to my mind.  I would not classify any period in English as classical but I suppose Shakespearean English would be the best choice . . . 
But we just do not use the term 'classical' to refer to English.  
> • Classical Ottoman Turkish (language of poetry and administration of the Ottoman empire, 16th to 19th c.)
> • Classical Maya (the language of the mature Maya civilization, 3rd to 9th c.)
> • Classical Quechua (lingua franca of the 16th c. Inca Empire)
> • Classical Nahuatl (lingua franca of 16th c. central Mexico)
> • Classical K'iche' (language of 16th c. Guatemala)
> • Classical Tupi (language of 16th -18th c. Brazil)

That's my two cents on this.  (I did this quickly, no research; sorry.  Thus I did not look up every single one of these to see what the current language subtags were or what was considered to be 'classical'; but I did at least briefly check any I thought I knew something about and commented on and I think I've made my point.)

Again I oppose the creation of a generic subtag with 'classic';
however, if we do opt for a more generalized subtag 'classic', I would at least seek a comment with some guidelines on prefixes  -- if not a list of prefixes and additional comments about use.

C. E. Whitehead
cewcathar at

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