Doug Ewell doug at
Thu Jun 17 07:11:48 CEST 2010

Leif Halvard Silli <xn dash dash mlform dash iua at xn dash dash mlform 
dash iua dot no> wrote:

> I took up whether 'sh' is a macrolangauge because iso639-3@ said they 
> wanted input on Montenengrin and because 'sh' was discussed in that 
> context.

I know they wanted input on Montenegrin.  I'm not sure they wanted the 
issue of Serbo-Croatian as a macrolanguage to be reopened.

> That said: The general problem perhaps more is that many tend to think 
> that 'macrolanguage' is a term firmly rooted in linguistic theory. For 
> example, the Serbo-Croatian article on Serbo-Croatian language says 
> that "modern linguists" look at Serbo-Croatian as a "living 
> macrolanguage". [1] And as basis for this claim, the article points to 
> SIL. [2]
> Many Wikipedia articles on languages of course dutifully list 
> languages as "macrolanguage", but I find that if the term is _only_ a 
> term that is locked into ISO 639-3, [3] then, what use is it in 
> listing it as a macrolanguage outside the Language Subtag Registry and 
> similar places? What would be useful was an article that listed all 
> macrolanguages and explained why each of them was considered as such 
> by ISO 639-3.

I don't know what other writers and other sources use as their working 
definition of "macrolanguage."  I assume they can define the term 
however they please, for their purposes.  For purposes of the Language 
Subtag Registry, it means exactly the ISO 639-3 definition, which is 
available at .

Because parties other than ISO 639-3/RA may define this term 
differently, it is possible that some users of the Registry may get the 
wrong impression when they see "Scope: macrolanguage", especially if 
they are looking for a particular linguistic relationship.  However, 
there is nothing that this group can or should try to do about that.

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

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