proposed ISO 639 change for "arn"

Michael Everson everson at
Tue Dec 11 13:06:14 CET 2012

On 11 Dec 2012, at 06:08, "Phillips, Addison" <addison at> wrote:

>> No, it is better to re-assign "arn" to the macrolanguage and give the user community something they will actually use. Look, folks, we don't have a high moral ground here. We can't say "suck it up, lads, get over it". Because "arn" is clearly "araucano" and whether we like it or not, "araucano" is equivalent to "nigger".
> Are you sure that's the best solution, though?

We certainly need a solution that is better than "Live with this decision taken years ago without your input or consent by a committee of librarians even though it is completely unacceptable to you." :-)

> Saying it's a macrolanguage basically says that the Mapudungun language is "contained by" Araucano. If your characterization is correct, that actually seems just as offensive, and maybe more so. Further, it would create a new extended language subtag (or two).

Well, the macrolanguage is at present called Araucanian and not Araucano. I doubt anyone would use it for much of anything. 

> I agree with Mark that withdrawing the old code (and thus deprecating it in our registry) would be problematic for implementers (including the librarians) and should be avoided if possible: having only a small number of identified items using the code in one or another place doesn't mean that it's an easy fix.

Some changes were made back in 1998 to accommodate three-letter codes for Irish, Manx, and Scottish Gaelic. The codes that were accepted were "gle", "glv", and "gla". These replaced the Bibliographic codes "iri", "max", and "gae", and the Terminological codes "gai", "max", and "gdh". Regarding the change, John Byrum of the Library of Congress said "The number  of  records  is relatively small for  these languages (under 1000 records in  the LC files)."

> Changing codes is a problem because all implementations must deal with them as special cases effectively forever, not just as a one-time trip to the card catalog.
> Actually, Peter's other suggestion (of making it a collection code) starts to seem like the best idea to me. The code is still present, but represents a collection. No special casing or extended language subtags are created. If everyone ignores the collection code hard enough, it will be as if it went away.

A collection of what? The same two languages subsumed under "Araucanian languages"? (I'm not arguing against it, just not sure what the ramification is.)

On 11 Dec 2012, at 08:42, Peter Constable <petercon at> wrote:

> Changing the scope of "arn" to a collection was definitely not my idea. I consider it fairly problematic to change to or from a collection since 639-3 does not contain collections and 639-5 contains only collections. Moreover, I can easily imaging implementations that do not accept collections but that may already support "arn". And it doesn't solve the fundamental problem that existing implementations of "arn" still need to support it in its old usage.
> Windows has shipped support for Mapudungun using "arn" in around a billion PCs. I can't exactly make that go away.

I appreciate the difficulty, but once upon a time MS shipped a font with some Hindu swastikas in it. This caused offence to some users, and a patch was issued which replaced that font by a font without those glyphs in it. 

Nobody likes this situation. But in this case I think we have to do the right thing by the user community. 

Michael Everson *

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