proposed ISO 639 change for "arn"

Doug Ewell doug at
Tue Dec 11 20:42:04 CET 2012

Michael Everson <everson at evertype dot com> wrote:

> I don't follow you. A macrolanguage is different from a collection? 

Wow, OK, hold on. A macrolanguage is *completely* different from a
collection. Please read RFC 5646, Section 3.1.11, then come back here.

ISO 639-3/RA created the concept of "macrolanguage" and gave it that
name; I quoted their definition in my earlier post. The best way to look
at it is to think of Chinese. Sometimes one needs to distinguish between
Mandarin, Cantonese, Wu, Hakka, etc. etc., and sometimes it's all just
"Chinese." Exactly why one way of viewing "Chinese" might be correct and
not the other (e.g. common writing system) is not the point; the point
is that neither view is correct all the time. Many people have trouble
with this concept.

A collection is something like "Romance languages" or "Austro-Asiatic
languages," a general categorization that serves some users fairly well
(like certain researchers) but is poorly suited for things like tagging
or searching Web content (which is probably what Addison meant by
ignoring it so hard it would go away). These are encoded in ISO 639-5; a
few are also in 639-2. Most people who are familiar with language
studies understand this concept, though they often disagree on the
categories themselves.

It isn't possible to have the collection vs. macrolanguage discussion,
nor to understand why "macrolanguage" would be a poor choice for
Mapudungun, without understanding this.

Doug Ewell | Thornton, Colorado, USA | @DougEwell ­

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