proposed ISO 639 change for "arn"

Peter Constable petercon at
Fri Dec 14 07:28:09 CET 2012

SIL doesn't make assessments wrt genetic groupings but uses other sources. It does make assessments as to what should be deemed to be "individual languages" and what should be deemed dialectal variants of the same language. It generally coordinates cataloguing activities with Linguist List; if there's a discrepancy in how Huilliche is assessed in relation to Mapudungun, it's not clear to me why that's the case.


-----Original Message-----
From: ietf-languages-bounces at [mailto:ietf-languages-bounces at] On Behalf Of Doug Ewell
Sent: Thursday, December 13, 2012 9:57 AM
To: ietf-languages at
Subject: Re: proposed ISO 639 change for "arn"

Caoimhin O Donnaile <caoimhin at smo dot uhi dot ac dot uk> wrote:

> I see, for what it is worth (and I am no expert so I don’t know), that 
> the Linguistlist Multitree Composite Tree, “South American Isolates”:
> 5937
> has Hulliche included within Mapudungu (code arn) as one of 11 named 
> “dialects”.

Experts do disagree on the relationships and groupings between languages (or dialects). This always has been a controversial area, and always will be.

BCP 47 has thrown in its lot with ISO 639-3, which (for better or worse) means that for living, "natural" languages such as these, it is tied to the judgment of SIL instead of Linguist List in this regard. About the best that could be done, if one prefers the Linguist List interpretation, would be to file a change request with ISO 639-3/RA.

However, this discussion would not be happening if not for the suggestion to change the three-letter code element for Mapudungan, because the existing one is based on a name that is considered offensive. That clerical matter should have no influence, zero, on whether Mapudungan or Huilliche is considered a language or a dialect, or whether or not the two are regarded as belonging to the same group.

Doug Ewell | Thornton, Colorado, USA | @DougEwell ­

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