proposed ISO 639 change for "arn"

Gordon P. Hemsley gphemsley at
Tue Dec 11 20:46:24 CET 2012

On Tue, Dec 11, 2012 at 2:42 PM, Doug Ewell <doug at> wrote:
> 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.

I was under the impression that "macrolanguage" was for languages that
were genetically related and "collection" was for languages that are
commonly grouped together for reasons other than genetic relationship
(e.g. location of use). That understanding does not coincide with the
way you just explained it.

Am I wrong?

Gordon P. Hemsley
me at

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