Language Variant subtags for Sanskrit

Peter Scharf peter_scharf at
Mon Jul 19 20:06:14 CEST 2010

On the grounds that a language is something that occurs in various  
dialects that are mutually understandable to each other, I think that  
there should continue to be just a single language tag for Sanskrit.   
Panini, Wackernagel, and Whitney all described the language in single  
treatises and referred to different dialects (including Vedic) within  
their treatises.  While some modern linguists would not mind referring  
to Vedic as a different language from Classical Sanskrit, in  
traditional circles in India this would not go over well at all.  A  
nice vague term like 'classical' is just what is needed for the  
standard Sanskrit, even better than the term, 'standard', since it is  
what has been used for the past couple of hundred years.

Peter M. Scharf                           (401) 863-2720 office
Department of Classics             (401) 863-2123 dept.
Brown University
PO Box 1856                               (401) 863-7484 fax
Providence, RI 02912                Scharf at

On 16 Jul. 2010, at 7:16 AM, Michael Everson wrote:

> On 16 Jul 2010, at 11:23, Martin J. Dürst wrote:
>>> In this case, then, I should reject all four of these requests  
>>> (without prejudice) and encourage Peter Scharf to make an  
>>> application to ISO 639 for their consideration first. Only if they  
>>> fail to be accepted would subtags need to be assigned.
>> I think what Peter meant was not that you ask everybody, for every  
>> variant, to first go to ISO 639-3, but that for the list given, and  
>> for other variants that contain the adjective "classical", you ask  
>> the submitter whether such a variant might not actually be better  
>> seen as a language in its own right (and therefore be sumbitted to  
>> ISO 639-3).
> In this case, however, I think it is clear that Vedic Sanskrit would  
> probably merit a three-letter code of its own. That would give a  
> single code for Sanskrit, and one for Vedic Sanskrit.
> Then the question is, what is the relation between Epic Sanskrit,  
> Classical Sanskrit, and Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit to "Sanskrit"?
> I think that Peter Scharf should take this on board and make a  
> determination as to what he should ask ISO 639 for. Then if there is  
> anything left over we should consider what should be done in the  
> context of subtags.
> Michael Everson *

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