Milos Rancic millosh at
Wed Jun 16 17:56:05 CEST 2010

2010/6/16 Leif Halvard Silli <xn--mlform-iua at>:
> 'sh' *is* treated as macrolanguage, in the Language Subtag Registry:
> %%
> Type: language
> Subtag: sh
> Description: Serbo-Croatian
> Added: 2005-10-16
> Scope: macrolanguage
> Comments: sr, hr, bs are preferred for most modern uses
> %%

I know for this. This was the last time when I was frustrated with the
fact that ISO 639 organizations don't quite understand the situation.
And, of course, it was quite clear to me why it has been done.

> You and I agree that it is questionable whether it is correct to
> consider 'sh' a macrolangauge. However, we should not ask the 'domestic
> population' about whether this is correct, but instead concentrate on
> 'macrolanguage' as understood by BCP47 etc - in combination with a
> understanding of what 'sh' historically has referred to.

To be honest, I would be very happy to see ISO 639 out of the
influence of Balkan nationalist (no matter if they are separatist
[Serbian, Croatian...] or unitarian [Yugoslav]) simplifications.

> That it is an ambiguous term is not an argument against the very
> existence of the language subtag 'sh'.
> ...
> To be clear: the disappeared political support that you talk about, is
> not the political construct that made us all consider
> Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian as one language, but the political support
> which tried to include more than that/those language(s) under the
> Serbo-Croatian umbrella.
> I believe that the more constructed it is, the more is is correct to
> consider it a macrolanguage. Thus, if 'sh' has been used to refer to
> (2), then it is correct to continue of the Language Subtag Registry to
> say that it is a macrolanguage.

Political construct is putting different language systems under one
umbrella. It is not about putting one language system under one
umbrella. Thus, (1) is not a political construct, while (2) is.

Dialect continuum between South Slavic dialects spoken from Alps to
the Black Sea forbids any kind of stricter grouping. For example, it
is a straight forward process to make all South Slavic languages from
Old Church Slavonic. And just a couple of glosses are different from
the rest of Slavic languages (group -or- was already -ra-, group -dl-
was already -l- and similar). Just one gloss is specifically East
South Slavic.

So, if there are needs for grouping languages at the higher level of
Neo-Shtokavian standards and at the lower level than Slavic languages,
it is hard to group languages in any other way than South Slavic
group. And inside of that group, it is possible to define that there
are analytic and synthetic language systems which roughly corresponds
with West and East South Slavic area; which is not, however, a genetic
classification. (Even spoken Serbian in Belgrade, which is de facto a
spoken standard, has a number of analytic tendencies. Even Bosnian
standard includes some analytic features.)

At the other side, the fact that Kaykavians and Chakavians identify
themselves as Croats and Torlakians from Serbia as Serbs, has made
possibility to call those languages politically Croatian and Serbian.
For the time while common state was existing, it was [politically]
acceptable to put them into the "Serbo-Croatian diasystem". Today,
such political support doesn't exist.

My point is not to that (2) is incorrect because of the term itself,
but that we need a lot of imagination to treat such construct as
reality, no matter of its name.

> However, the reason why I question whether it is correct to consider
> 'sh' a macrolanguage, is based on the understanding that
> 'Serbo-Croatian' refers to (1) - the standardized Neo-Shtokavian
> form(s). It may still be correct consider it a macrolanguage - I don't
> know - but it doesn't fit my understanding of how 'macrolanguage'
> should be used.

By all linguistic reasons (1) is a language, not a macrolanguage. But,
again, Neo-Shtokavian or just Shtokavian are better terms.

> Part of John's justification for a separate language subtag for
> Montenegrin, was - as I understood him - that 'sh' would then cover
> them all - as a macrolanguage.
> I don't think that it is necessarily is necessary to keep 'sh' as a
> macrolanguage in order to support a separate tag for Montenegrin. My
> point here, was only and solely to question whether 'sh' is a
> macrolanguage.

If I could dream for a little bit, a proper tag of, let's say, Serbian
language could be for example:
indo_european-slavic-balkan-synthetic-shtokavian-serbian and for
Pidgin (a creole language, not a type of languages)
or similar. Probably, with some numbers in one repository which would
describe closeness inside of the hierarchical group or, better, with
more descriptive explanations inside of the repository.  But such
notification is not supported by any system.

The problem with "macrolanguage" tag is its ambiguity. Is it (a)
genetically related dialects; (b) genetically related standard
languages; (c) genetically related language groups; (d) genetically
relatively close languages; (e) genetically relatively close languages
with the same cultural background; (f) ... with different cultural
background; (g) ...?

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